§ 3.42 p.m.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. D. Heathcoat Amory)
I beg to move,That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) No. 2 Scheme, 1955, dated 14th December, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th December, be approved.I am very glad of the opportunity of saying something about this Scheme, in view of the anxiety expressed in some quarters lest the Government have changed their attitude or policy regarding the white fish subsidies. I assure the House that we have not done that.
I need not spend long explaining what the Scheme does, because, fortunately, we have many hon. Members on both sides of the House who are well acquainted with the affairs of the fishing industry, who take a great interest in them, and who have no doubt already studied the proposals.
This is the fourth statutory Scheme and continues the white fish subsidy, with certain alterations, for the period from 1st January, 1956, to 31st July. The present Scheme expires on 31st December and if this Scheme is not passed tonight, we should have no authority to pay any white fish subsidy after the end of this month.
The main changes proposed in the Scheme are these. The first concerns the payment to vessels not exceeding 70 feet in length. Those are vessels which we generally know as inshore vessels. At present, they get a flat rate subsidy of 10d. per stone of fish landed or 8d. for ungutted fish. Under this Scheme the rates are to be reduced to 8d. and 6d., respectively.
The second change applies to vessels between 70 feet and 140 feet in length. Those are vessels to which we generally refer as near and middle waters vessels. The flat rate subsidy for those vessels at present is 4d. per stone, or 3d. for ungutted fish; and the new rates proposed are 2d. and 1d., respectively. The third change is in the voyage payments for steam vessels. Those are to be substantially increased, and the new rates are 1664 set out in Part I of the Schedule to the Scheme.
Motor vessels between 70 feet and 140 feet also receive voyage payments, but, except for certain minor changes, the rates are to be continued at the existing levels. The effect of all these changes is that the steam vessels will get more subsidy than at present and the motor vessels will get less. The justification for the increased subsidy for steam vessels is the higher rate of increased costs to which they have been subjected, mainly owing to the rise in the price of coal.
The total subsidy paid at the new rates will, of course, depend on the landings and on the price of fish during the seven months in question. It might, however, help the House to see the changes in perspective if I say that on the basis of actual landings of fish during the 12 months up to the end of October the result of the new rates would be an increase in the subsidy to the steam vessels of about £325,000 in a full year; for near and middle water motor vessels a decrease of about £40,000; and for inshore fishermen a decrease of about £135,000. Overall, they add up to an increase in the estimated cost of the subsidy of about £150,000.
It is important when we are considering these changes that we should bear in mind that the total cost of these subsidies is estimated to be going to be more and not less in the year to come than in the current year. The total cost in a full year at new rates we estimate will be £2½3 million.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The right hon. Gentleman omitted the decrease in the prospective landings payments amounting to about £120,000 a year in the case of steam trawlers.
No. In my calculations I allowed for that. I will check my calculations in view of what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has said and, if I am wrong, I will ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to say so at the end of the debate; but I believe that I have allowed for that in full.
Before explaining the economic background against which our decisions have been taken, I should like to say a word about the history—
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry to interrupt, but on Thursday, in answer to a Question, the Minister's last sentence was:The landings payment to steam vessels will be reduced by £120,000 and their voyage payments increased by £330,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1955; Vol. 547. c. 223.]He gave us the £330,000 figure, but not the other.
I am sorry. I agree with the hon. and learned Member that the figures do not seem to be entirely clear. Perhaps the answer is that the wording is a little ambiguous. I think that the answer is a gross increase in the voyage payments to the steam vessels is £325,000 plus the reduction in the landing prices. I will check on that. Substantially, what I say is true. I think that the words are capable of two interpretations. The figure I gave on Thursday was for England and Wales and the figures I am now giving are for the United Kingdom. When hon. Members later see the figures for middle sea fishing, they will see that there is no muddle. Hon. Members will recollect that the scheme of subsidies started in 1950 as a temporary measure.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry to interrupt again, but we might as well get this straight. Exactly the same Question was asked of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and his Answer was:Flat rate payments for steam vessels are expected to be reduced by approximately £107,000 and voyage payments increased by about £220,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 224.]How those figures make the £330,000 which the Minister has mentioned I do not understand.
As soon as I have finished my speech I will do some sums and tell the hon. and learned Gentleman the result. In the meantime, the figure I want to leave with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is one of a net increase to the coal burners of the figure I have given—£325,000.
In 1950, as a temporary measure, necessary owing to a sudden fall in the prices of fish, subsidies were started. Originally, they ran for six months and then they were extended again and again, always for short periods, until the 1953 Act which placed the matter on a firmer basis. The subsidy provisions of that Act are part of a composite policy aimed 1666 at establishing an independent and healthy industry by improving both the fisheries and the fishing vessels.
The Government have taken a leading part in international conservation measures which, we hope, are improving the stock of fish. Also, the grants and loans under the Act have been producing a steady replacement of old boats by new ones. The subsidy is there to help the fishermen tide over the period while these other measures of conservation and rebuilding are achieving their effect.
The Act leaves no ground for believing that the Government contemplated at that time the necessity for a permanent subsidy. There were limits set on the amount of money which would be available both for rebuilding and for subsidies, and also a limit on the period for rebuilding during which proposals could be approved and the subsidy paid.
It is against that general background that we have given very careful consideration to the present economic circumstances of the industry. It has been suggested that our action has been mainly determined by the precise statutory limits set by the Act. That is not so. The alterations included in this Scheme are, on the evidence we have, completely justified by the current economic facts of the industry in the light of the principles of the Act to which I have referred.
For the near and middle water vessels we have had regularly from the industry complete trading accounts each spring. We have also collected for the inshore section of the industry, through our fisheries officers, the best information we have been able to obtain about the earnings of the inshore fishermen.
I should like to deal first with the steam vessels. The facts show a very substantial improvement in 1954, amounting to £622 net a vessel, despite the substantial increase in the price of coal during that year. The steam vessels represent a section of the industry where the problems are perhaps most intractable, as these vessels are, on the average, very old ones indeed. The improvement to which I have referred has been due primarily to an increase in earnings amounting on the average to about £2,000 a vessel. That has resulted from the efforts of the fishermen, on the one hand, and from the better prices obtained from the market on the other.
1667 The evidence is that this improvement has, over all, continued throughout the current year, 1955. The summer of 1954 was cool, and that perhaps stimulated a demand for fish and raised prices; but it is encouraging that in the quite different conditions of this year prices in England and Wales have been maintained in face of increased supplies, and earnings have continued to improve. In Scotland, prices have fallen appreciably this year, but up to September, when there was a strike in Aberdeen, the landing in Scotland increased by 6 per cent., and total earnings were maintained at the level of the previous year, 1954. But for the substantial increase in costs which have occurred during the present year for the coal burners, it would have been our duty to have reduced the subsidy.
Unfortunately, the costs of the steam vessels have continued to rise, and it is estimated that the increased cost of coal alone this year may add about £600,000 a year to the costs of the steam fleet. We recognise that if the steam vessels are to be kept in operation it is necessary to increase the subsidy to them. In order to give aid where it is most needed we propose to reduce the flat rate, as I have said, from 4d. to 2d. per stone, and to increase the voyage payments which are a kind of insurance against particularly bad trips, by a substantially greater amount. It is estimated that the subsidy to be paid to the steam fleet will be increased by a net amount of £325,000.
Hon. Members may say, "But are not you leaving many steam vessels, when you have done that, with a net loss as shown by their accounts?" The answer is that the white fish subsidy was never intended to indemnify all vessels against making losses. The older steam vessels, as hon. Members will agree, are most of them extremely uneconomic, and we could not visualise a permanent subsidy which would turn them permanently into an economic proposition.
Their results vary enormously one from the other. For 1954, 169 boats showed profits averaging just over £1,500 a vessel, and 383 boats lost on average over £2,000 a vessel. These results were struck after allowing almost £1,000 a boat for depreciation, whereas in most instances these old boats were in fact written off many years ago. Certain other expenses also are charged which, in some instances, 1668 would have the effect of turning a cash profit into a book loss. What would be quite unjustified would be to subsidise the old, uneconomic boats to the point where the incentive to replace would be removed. What is important is that, taking the United Kingdom over all, the net results have improved substantially during the past two years.
I turn to the motor vessels of 70 feet to 140 feet; they are the near and middle water vessels. The improvement in net earnings for 1954 compared with 1953 amounted to an average of £860 a vessel. I do not say that in all cases the level of profits that we should like to see as a reward for the enterprise of the owners in re-equipping their fleet has, in fact, been realised.
But it would be disappointing, and I think contrary to the aim and purpose of the Act which the House endorsed in 1953, if these modern vessels had to depend on a subsidy as a permanent feature in their earnings. If we thought that, I think it would cast a doubt on the soundness of the policy, which we believe to be sound, of giving grants for these new vehicles. We believe that, with an up-to-date fleet, with improved catches which should result from the international measures in which we are taking a leading part, and given the usual enterprise which has always been shown by its members, the position of the industry should continue to improve.
Here again, the evidence shows that the usual improvement has been experienced so far since the end of 1954, taking the motor fleet as a while. I am sure that the House will find very encouraging, as we do, that so far under the Act, loans and grants have been approved for 101 near and middle water vessels, and 218 inshore boats, and a further number of them, between 30 and 40, are at present under consideration. The yards are full of work, and, in fact, the objects of the Act seem to be working out. At the moment, we are looking sympathetically at the possibility of extending grants to the conversion of boats from steam to oil in appropriate cases.
Before I leave fie near and middle water vessels, I wish to emphasise that the reduction in the landing subsidy means an average decrease in the total subsidy of about 15 per cent., or 2 per cent. on the gross earnings of that section of the 1669 industry. This reduction which we are proposing is substantially less than the improvement which has taken place in net earnings in the past two years, after allowing in full for increased charges.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
As, before a subsidy is given, accounts have to be produced by these owners, may I ask the Minister why he did not have the exact figures before he produced the first Scheme? What has led to this alteration in his mind in the space of the last fortnight?
There has been no alteration in the Scheme dealing with the section of the industry for which accounts are received.
I wish to turn now, because I think it relevant, to the question put by the hon. Gentleman, from the near and middle water to the inshore vessels. These are those under 70 feet in length. I realise there is a feeling in some quarters that we reached a conclusion here on inadequate data about the financial results of this section of the industry. I wish to stress that we made the fullest use we could of the best information we have been able to obtain. In the case of the near and middle water vessels, as I have said, we get accounts of the results of each vessel each year, and that gives us full information.
But with the inshore fisheries we are not so fortunately placed. We know the gross earnings fairly accurately, but we receive no comprehensive figures of the expenses from the industry and we have to make the best estimate we can on average experiences. I wish to emphasise, and I think hon. Members will agree with me, that when we come to the inshore boats there are very wide variations indeed between the experience of one port and another and the experience of different vessels operating from the same port.
Representations referring to these wide variations which we received after the announcement of these proposals—and a number of instances have been given—caused us to look again at our computations, with the result that we decided to give a further benefit of the doubt to the inshore fishermen and reduce the cut proposed. On the average, we believe that the original proposals which involved, in the case of the inshore fisheries—
§ Mr. Mitchison
Before the right hon. Gentleman deals with that, may I ask whether we are to understand that that is the reason he issued one Scheme, withdrew it, and issued another?
Yes, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to finish my sentence, I will tell him.
On average, we believe that the original proposals though they involved a higher percentage cut of subsidy for the inshore fisheries than for the near and middle water section, were, in fact, justified. But it was a higher percentage cut. We have admitted all along that in the case of the inshore fisheries our information is less complete—because we do not get audited accounts of each vessel—and, therefore, the proposed cuts might well have borne hardly on some individuals. Taking those things into consideration, the representations that came to us from the inshore fishermen led us to decide to give a further benefit of the doubt to them in this case and limit the cut to the same amount of percentage as applied to other sections of the industry.
§ Mr. Mitchison
So far as Scotland is concerned, this information was given to the Secretary of State for Scotland before the Scheme was issued on 1st December. I wish to know what further information was obtained between the two dates.
As regards Scotland, I will leave my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary to give details of what happened. Naturally, the information which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland received from the inshore fishing industry was passed on to my Department. It does not amount to what I have referred to previously as comprehensive information.
§ Mr. Amory indicated assent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Then may I put it to the Minister that this is an unfair way to treat the House? We shall have no way at all of examining what the Joint Under-Secretary has to say in reply to the very pertinent point put by my hon. and learned Friend. If the Government have changed their minds in a fortnight—I do not deny that there may have been good 1671 reason for the Minister presenting the Scheme—should not the right hon. Gentleman reply, and not unload it on to the Joint Under-Secretary, leaving him to tell us the answer to my hon. and learned Friend's question.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Government have made a mess of this. We all know it, and we are entitled to ask why they made the mess. The Minister has this question to answer. My hon. and learned Friend says that all the figures, information and data were given to the Minister before he made his first Scheme. Is that so? If not, what further information and data has the right hon. Gentleman since received which justified him in changing his mind?
The answer to the first part of the question is that the information which came into the Scottish Office about the inshore fishermen was what might be called the result of samples. It was not comprehensive information which could be compared with the amount of information we obtained about the near and middle waters. Information we have had since from various sections of the inshore fishermen called attention to the effect of these cuts and the results on particular ports and particular types of vessels. It is this information, which was supplementary to what we had before, which led us to believe—as the percentage of the proposed cut on inshore fishermen would be higher than on the remainder of the industry—that we should be justified in mitigating the effect in the way we have done.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North) rose—
§ Mr. Mitchison
The right hon. Gentleman was speaking for England and Scotland. I am asking what further information was obtained about Scottish inshore fishermen between 1st December and 14th December to justify the excellent change, so far as it went, which was made by the second Scheme? May I tell the right hon. Gentleman beforehand that my information, which I have taken some trouble to obtain, is that the information from local people was sent to the Minister of State, Scottish Office, as he asked for 1672 it, before, and not after, the first Scheme was made.
I never said that the information was received from Scotland after the Scheme was made. The point I was making was that the written information on the trading results of the Scottish inshore vessels consisted of samples and not comprehensive statements covering the whole industry. The information which has come in otherwise has come from various quarters.
§ Mr. Callaghan rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The Minister has been very much interrupted in presenting this complicated Scheme. We are not in Committee. There will be plenty of opportunity, if hon. Members keep their speeches to a reasonable length, for every point of view to be expressed; and it is far more convenient if it is done by way of speeches.
§ Mr. Hughes rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order. The position is that the Government have introduced two Schemes on the same subject within less than a fortnight, one of which drastically amends the other. We have been told that we are not to get a detailed explanation why the change was made until the Joint Under-Secretary of State concludes the debate. There will then be no opportunity for us to deal with the points in detail.
I understood from the Joint Under-Secretary, who nodded, that he would wind up the debate. If he is to wind up the debate, and if, as the Minister said, he will deal with the question in detail, we shall be placed in a difficulty. I agree that this makes for more interruptions than would be desirable on this matter, but that is the position. It would be of great assistance to the House and would save us from trying to interrupt the Minister if he would tell us what further information he has had since 1st December which has enabled him to reach this much more satisfactory conclusion.
I have already given the hon. Member that information. As I have said, we have had illustrations of what the proposed cuts would have amounted to in the case of particular vessels in particular ports. After considering that further information, we have 1673 decided, rightly or wrongly, to give the further benefit of the doubt to the inshore fishermen, bearing in mind that the percentage cuts proposed to be made on them were higher than for the rest of the industry.
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order. I have twice risen to intervene. Once the Minister politely gave way and my place was taken by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) from the Front Bench. On a second occasion I rose, and again the Front Bench intervened. As I represent a fishing constituency, surely I am entitled to put a point to the Minister and to ask for a polite reply.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Member must argue that matter out with the hon. Gentlemen on his own Front Bench. It is not a matter which I can control. I was putting the general point to the House that we should make far better progress if hon. Members allowed speeches to be delivered and made points of criticism later.
§ Mr. Hughes
Further to that point of order. I am sorry to press the point and I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I always do, but when I rose to put my first point and asked the Minister to give way, he politely did so; but before I could ask the question which I rose to ask, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering put a question. That happened a second time, too, when my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) rose.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that; that is what the hon. and learned Gentleman said the first time. He has repeated his complaint. I have dealt with it as well as I can. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is patient and allows the debate to proceed, I hope he will have an opportunity later to catch my eye on this matter. Then, if there is time, he can put his points, but we had better get on with the debate and not have so many interruptions.
In the case of inshore fisheries, the evidence shows that there has been an improvement during 1954 and, so far, during 1955. The catch on which the subsidy is based increased over those two years by 20 per cent. In addition, higher average prices by about 1674 6 per cent. have been realised over the whole country. These are on the earnings for white fish. In addition, some inshore fishermen in some areas have enjoyed a considerable improvement in their earnings from shell fish. That applies only to some fishermen in some areas.
Taking the increase in gross earnings over the past two years and applying the best estimates we have been able to make of increased costs, leads to the definite conclusion that the average net earnings have improved more than sufficiently to justify the proposed reduction in the subsidy, which, in the case of the inshore fishermen, amounts to about 2½ per cent. of their gross earnings.
The new Scheme is intended to cover the period 1st January to 31st July. In the normal way we shall be receiving the trading accounts for the near and middle water vessels in February and March for the year which is shortly to end. I hope that when we collect them we shall also receive improved information and fuller information about the fortunes of the inshore fishermen. After getting that information we shall be bringing to the House another new scheme within six months.
I want to deal with a view which I have heard expressed in some quarters that we have rushed these changes without sufficient consultation. I will deal with this as quickly as I can, giving the main dates. Our officials met the British Trawlers Federation and the Aberdeen Association on 8th July and told them that but for the big increase in the price of coal, which had been announced on the same day, we should have had to make a cut of 2d. in the landing subsidy.
The scheme was then continued to enable us to work out the effects of the higher coal prices. On 9th November these organisations were sent our new proposals with the justification for them. On 24th November the Secretary of State for Scotland and I saw the representatives of those bodies and subsequently another meeting was held with our officials. The Scheme was then made, on 6th December. There has been no change for the near and middle water fisheries in the Scheme since then.
I will deal next with the inshore fishermen. On 11th November the Fisheries Organisation Society and the Federation of English and Welsh Inshore Fishermen 1675 were informed of our proposal and asked whether they would like a meeting. A copy was also sent to the Association of Sea Fish Authorities. We received written representations from the Society and representations from the Federation through the White Fish Authority. The Federation did not want a meeting. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary saw a delegation from the Society on 8th December. In Scotland a meeting was held, and, as I have said, the figures were presented.
I am a strong believer in prior consultation, within the limits feasible and appropriate, before the Government take a policy decision, and if the arrangements which we have for consultation with each section of the industry can be further improved, particularly with the inshore fishermen's organisations, I am very anxious to see it done.
Turning to the future, first we are anxious to do everything we possibly can to make sure that we get every bit of relevant information and all the relevant figures which the industry can give us to enable us to compute their results accurately and fairly. I should be very unhappy indeed if I thought the industry had a feeling that we had neglected any possible source of reliable information. So if the inshore fishermen's organisations believe that they can supply us with useful figures which we have not got at present, the Secretary of State and I will be glad to arrange for discussions to be started straight away. I certainly undertake that the Secretary of State and I will give the fullest consideration to any further information that may be made available to us. Should that further information show that the conclusions upon which this Scheme is based have been too optimistic in any way, we should clearly have to take that fact into consideration when we come to the next Scheme in a few months' time.
In any case, next year we shall have to start thinking about the future in relation to the general objectives of the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953, because by this time next year the £7½million authorised under the Scheme will have been used up and we shall have to ask Parliament for an Order for the further £2½million permitted under that Act. I would remind hon. Members of 1676 the object of that Act. Its purpose was to help to improve both the fisheries and the fishing fleet; to insure an efficient, prosperous and independent industry. That aim is being realised. Encouraging progress has already been made in the modernisation of the fleet, and we must see that continuing steady progress takes place until that goal is reached.
The principle of the Act is clear and sound. Whether the limits which were fixed in 1953 will be found to be the right ones—that is to say, a total of £10 million, and March, 1958, as the terminating date—remains to be seen, but we shall soon have to take stock and look ahead to see how best these objectives can be secured. I am not prejudging that issue, but I can assure the House that it is the Government's intention to see that the purposes of the Act are achieved, and we shall not have closed minds about the steps that the future may call for.
I apologise for detaining the House rather longer than I had intended, but I wanted to explain that the Government have not changed their attitude to the principles of the Act, or their policies in giving effect to them. I wanted, too, to ensure that hon. Members were informed fully as to the reasons why we are satisfied, upon the best evidence that we have been able to obtain, that the proposed changes are reasonable and fair, and in accord with the spirit of the Act. The fishing industry is doing a first-rate job by the country. It is grappling energetically with the current and ever-changing problems of the industry, and it deserves prosperity. We mean to do everything we can to see that it gets it. We shall, by following and applying the sound principles of the Act of 1953, continue our efforts to help the industry in the progress it is achieving in steadily improving its efficiency and prosperity. I commend the Scheme to the House.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
When the House last discussed fishing, on 25th July last, we were considering the Scheme which the present Scheme—or, perhaps I should say, the series of Schemes—is now designed to displace. At that time hon. Members were very much circumscribed by the rules of order. I believe that the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) made an urgent 1677 plea to the Government to give hon. Members who were interested an opportunity to debate the whole scope of the industry.
All through this year we have been skirting the periphery of the rules of order, some of us with some success, but I want to reiterate the feeling of those of us who have the interests of this industry at heart that it is time that we had an opportunity to debate the industry in all its aspects. It is a great pity that by the rules of order much of what hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to say cannot possibly be said, because we know that you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow it.
I do not propose to take a long time over my speech, because many other hon. Members are desirous of making contributions. On behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, however, I must express the greatest disappointment with the statement of the Minister, plausible—although muddled—as it was, that the Government are to persist in putting this Scheme through the House. We believe that it is unfair, that it hits the industry at a time when it is least resilient, and we hope that before long the Government will see the error of their ways, so that, even if we cannot get this Scheme revoked tonight, it will not be long before a better one is introduced.
The Minister has touched upon the history of subsidies for fishing. Hon. Members on this side of the House take pride in the fact that we realised the great difficulty which the industry was in in 1950, when we introduced subsidies. Under the operation of those subsidies, from July, 1950, until now about £8½million has been spent. A new Bill in 1953 followed the principles laid down by the Labour Government and has already provided for subsidies of £7½million which the Minister informs us will run out by next year. That can be increased to £10 million, of which £5 million has already been spent.
These subsidies have been of inestimable value to the industry. Their object was to give an incentive to fishermen to keep their ships at sea. In 1950, conditions were so bad that the prospect of keeping vessels at sea was, in a great many cases, the most difficult task the industry could face. We also had to compete 1678 with agricultural products which were then coming in in a greater variety and quantity, and which were themselves very highly subsidised. I know that the agricultural industry does not like the word "subsidy," but I think that it is a fair description. Then, we wanted very much to encourage a switch-over from steam vessels to the new dieselengined motor vessels, which have proved such a great success and which the Minister has mentioned today.
How far have we been successful in that endeavour? In some ports we have been very successful. In my own port of Lowestoft—and I speak with some knowledge of it—there are now 82 motor vessels and only 19 steam vessels. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) cannot speak of such good results. Aberdeen has only 72 motor vessels, compared to 180 steam vessels. But the fleet has been maintained, and fishermen get a decent standard of living and some reward for their efforts.
I want to add my protest to those received by the Minister at the hurry in which this Scheme has been produced. It is no use the Minister saying that he was having the consultations last July. I will refer to that in a moment. This is the 19th December, and the new Scheme comes in on 1st January—that is hardly a fortnight. Surely this Scheme ought to have been before Parliament for a much longer time, and this second Scheme is a contradiction of the first. On 25th July, I congratulated the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on the introduction of that Scheme in these words:I am happy to be able to congratulate the Government on following so assiduously the pattern of the schemes laid by the Labour Government when they introduced these subsidies, which have a most beneficial effect on near-shore and inshore fishing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 883.]I cannot do that today. I only wish that it were my duty on behalf of the Opposition to congratulate the Minister, but I am afraid that my duty is to tell him plainly that he has failed to realise the real position of the fishing industry today and by this cruel, ill-timed cut in the subsidies he has performed a very great disservice to the industry. I thought then that the idea of terminating the Scheme on 31st December was a lack of prevision on the part of the Government. 1679 I misjudged them; I did them an injustice. It was a real prevision, but it was the wrong sort. They kept the right to terminate on 31st December up their sleeves in order that they could implement these cuts straightaway on 1st January.
It is clear that the aim of the Government, as laid down by the Act, is to taper off the subsidy payments so that they will disappear entirely by 31st March, 1958. One cannot complain about that if they take a realistic view of the matter, but when the global figure of £7½million was decided on in 1953, with the provision that it could be raised to £10 million, it was envisaged then that prices would fall. That was the idea. The £7½million was worked out, and it was thought that after, let us say, five years, when the Scheme came to an end, five years of Tory rule would mean that prices generally would fall and the industry could take in its stride the tapering off so that, in the end, we could do away with subsidies. But not only have prices failed to fall; they have actually risen.
Periodically Questions are asked in the House about the rise in cost of living, and every time we find that the index figure goes up the cost of living of ordinary people goes up, added to which we have the latest imposition by the Government of Purchase Tax, which not only affects the crews in their purchases of domestic things, such as clothing, but many pieces of gear as well.
Mr. Croft Baker, President of the British Trawlers Federation, said a week ago:Conditions are different now. Costs of near and middle water vessels have risen by £1 million in the last few months.Let me give the House a few items of increased expenditure—crews' wages, 10 per cent., which means 10s. 6d. per man per week; fitters, weekly wage increased from £9 2s. 6d. to £11 1s.; shipwrights, weekly wage increased from £9 12s. 6d. to £11 1s.; platers, weekly wage increased from £12 5s. to £14 15s.; sheet metal workers, ships' riggers and electricians, weekly wages increased by 11s. per week.
It is estimated that repair costs have increased by 30s. for every day a trawler spends at sea. Dock dues have been increased by 21 per cent., fuel oil has been increased by over 30s. per day at sea. All spare parts, of which a good supply 1680 is necessary to operate diesel vessels, have been increased in cost. The Bank Rate increase of 1 per cent. on a 100-foot motor trawler costing £70,000 means that the owners have to pay £700 a year in increased loan charges. These are vital figures, and I should like to ask the Minister whether these increases were taken into account when it was decided to cut the subsidies, and whether all these increased costs were measured up against the so-called higher prosperity.
If that is not enough, I would point out that there have been three successive rises in the White Fish Authority's interest on loans, on 19th August, 2nd September and 7th September. The new rates of interest on loans for not more than five years are 4¿ per cent., and on loans for more than five years 5¼ per cent. There is also the Bank Rate increase of 1 per cent. This means that a 100-foot trawler has to pay increased loan charges of over £700 a year. The tightening of credits makes it more difficult to raise loans in the market.
I put that point, on 21st July, to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and it did not seem to worry him at all. He brushed the whole thing aside, as if money and capital charges had no effect whatever on costings, and he said:The small man and the rate of interest on loans was referred to by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans). That point was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short). I do not know. I can only say that the rates of interest for the loans that are given to fishermen have not yet been brought to my notice as a matter of complaint."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 939.]If they have not been brought to his notice, I am doing so at this moment. I hope that the Government will take note of the tremendous charges imposed on the industry for the mere use of money in building and repairing its vessels.
I do not propose to touch on inshore fishing today, because I know that many of my hon. Friends on this side and hon. Members opposite want to deploy arguments about inshore fishing. At the same time, in spite of what the Minister said, I want to contradict him concerning the catches in the southern North Sea affecting near and middle water fishing. It was pointed out that the catches had not substantially increased. In fact, the catch from the southern North Sea for the first 1681 nine months of this year totalled 102,931 cwt. as against 113,226 cwt. for the same period in 1954. The catch per day at sea at Lowestoft shows a considerable decrease this year, particularly the catches of the smaller motor trawlers under 90 ft.
I do not know whether the Minister has resources at his disposal to get figures to bolster up his case for cutting the subsidy, but figures are derived from the men who actually go to sea. These are the fellows who catch the fish, and they surely ought to know something about it. So alarmed has the industry become by these rumours of tapering off and decreases in subsidies that they naturally put the strongest possible case to the Minister. Instead of a reduction, they asked for an increase of £1½ million more per year to meet increased costs. That was before the last Scheme. I am talking about the Scheme before the one issued a fortnight ago.
In this period of difficulty, the Minister sees fit to give the industry a rebuff, a very nasty clout. This is not the Scheme of a Minister who has the interest of fishermen at heart. This Scheme is a Treasury document. It reeks of it. I almost said "stinks of it." The right hon. Gentleman has withdrawn his first Scheme, in view of the pressure which came from hon. Members on all sides of the House, and particularly from his own back benchers, who are, after all, very knowledgeable on this subject. There is no gainsaying that. The big volume of opinion he has behind him ought to have made him not only reconsider the stonage part of the Scheme, but the whole lot, and take it back altogether.
We remember how, at the beginning of the year, the National Farmers' Union reacted against the Government's proposed alteration in subsidies for them, and how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was called in to placate the farmers. The fishing industry might not be so powerful as the agricultural industry, but the Chancellor can do for fishing what he did for agriculture. The two industries run parallel and are subject to the same fluctuations. They are the victims of climatic conditions and in both industries men get right down to Nature. I should have thought that the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland 1682 would have put up a bigger fight for this industry than they have done, and would not have taken so submissively what the Chancellor of the Exchequer decided that they should do.
It is customary in these debates to pay a tribute to the daring and heroism of the fisherman when his ship meets disaster. This has been a sad year for the fishing industry, and for my own part of Lowestoft, where we have lost three trawlers and many brave men. It is usual, too, to talk of the strategic importance of the fishing fleet and of its work in wartime. We are fully aware of that. We have the beautiful national memorial to those who lost their lives in the small patrol boats manned chiefly by fishermen, and whose burial place is the North Sea. We are constantly deploring the difficulty in retaining and recruiting crews.
To point to the beautiful memorial to the ships lost in the North Sea is, however, no answer to the demands of the fishermen now. We know very well that during the last few years, very largely because of the subsidy, the fishermen have had an incentive. The actual working fisherman shares in the subsidy. When the Government reduce the subsidy they reduce the rewards paid to our working fishermen and thus they hinder recruitment. We have the greatest difficulty in manning our trawlers. I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I am taking rather longer with my speech than I intended to take, but I must attempt to deploy the case.
I tried in the debate on 25th July and earlier on a point of order at Question Time to discover what the Government proposed to do to implement their promises to help to set off the increased price of coal. The answer seemed to be—for like the Minister's speech today it was not very clear—that some arrangement would be made in the future. The proposals have now come to light. We see them embodied in the new schedules for steam trawlers, six months after I tabled that Parliamentary Question. The price of coal has gone up steadily in the last six months. We pressed for help, but never, in our wildest dreams, did we imagine that the increase had to be paid for by other sections of the industry, the inshore, and the near and middle water, motor vessels. It is a fantastic situation that 1683 one section of the industry should be asked to bolster up another section of the industry.
There is nothing like that about it whatever. In my speech I tried to make it clear that the changes in the landing subsidy stand on their own feet quite distinct from the voyage payments.
§ Mr. Evans
I do not think that the Minister's intervention will persuade many hon. Members on either side of the House. Obviously, there was a part of the proposals of the Minister in which he suggested some payment to the steam drifters which operate in the North Sea. Good luck to them, but the middle water and inshore fishermen have to bear the brunt of it. That is a monstrous solution to the problem. It is the very negation of a progressive subsidy policy. I am not against the increased grant to the steamers, but I am strongly opposed to that grant being made at the expense of the more progressive elements and in most cases by those least able to afford it.
I shall not interrupt the hon. Gentleman more than once again. I must remind him of what I said in my speech. In July, quite apart from the increase in the price of coal, we warned the trawler owners when my officials saw them that a cut of 2d. in the landing subsidy would be required on the basis of the accounts we had seen.
§ Mr. Evans
When we look at the results, we see that precisely what I said happened. We want incentives to encourage the industry to change from the old-fashioned, costly, unhygienic and difficult old vessels to modern motor ships. This scheme announced by the Minister will maintain those old ships. It is not an incentive to the owner of an old-fashioned ship to change if he is to be subsidised at the expense of the owner of a modern vessel. Naturally, the application of the new rates means a loss of several hundreds of pounds a year on motor vessels fishing from southern ports, of which my own port of Lowestoft is one.
The Government must remember that not long ago British vessels fishing in the near and middle waters—I wonder whether this point has been taken into account by the Government—were compelled by regulation to acquire new nets 1684 of smaller mesh to comply with the terms of the International Convention on Over-fishing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Larger mesh."] I beg pardon of the House. It was a larger mesh, of course. This was not a popular operation. Nothing that makes a fisherman spend money is popular. It was very costly. It became very irksome when we saw foreign vessels openly flouting the Convention to which their Governments had been parties. This change was made by an Order of the Minister, but no compensation in any way was paid to the owners for obsolete nets, although the owners were liable to heavy fines if they were caught contravening the regulations.
This change has been extremely costly for almost every vessel going out of every port in this country. This is one of the factors that ought to be taken into account. Inshore fishermen have made the strongest representations to the Minister against the new cuts. I am sure that in the course of the debate a great many hon. Members will put the case for them. We claim that if it had not been for the subsidy, the 1954 fishing season would not have cleared costs.
One question further to the Minister before I sit down is this: is it proposed to enforce the proposal that vessels should not qualify for subsidy on any day when six hours' fishing has not been performed? I hope that the Minister will let us have an answer to that question.
We feel bound to oppose this scheme as being against the best interests of the industry in general. It is proposed in a period of rising prices. It makes an economic unbalance in placing the burden of the cuts on those least able to bear it. It induces a marked disincentive towards progress. I very much hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House who have been vocal in their condemnation in the cuts will follow us into the Lobby to vote against them.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Duthie (Banff)
It must have become clear to each hon. Member, and to all those of the public who are identified with the fishing industry in general and the white fish industry in particular, that a subsidy is necessary. Were the subsidy to be abolished and the fishermen to insist on the extra equivalent being paid at the quayside, its effect would be multiplied several times before the fish reached 1685 the fishmonger's slab. It being accepted that a subsidy is necessary, the question is—how much?
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his assurance that, with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, he will take steps to obtain all the relevant information concerning the inshore fishing industry. I hope that that will be done soon so as to revise the subsidy at a date much earlier than July next; that my right hon. Friend in revising the scheme, will bring in something more in keeping with the actual facts. I had intended this afternoon to oppose this scheme, but having had that assurance I will not vote against the scheme, though I shall not support it. I regret the necessity for taking a view contrary to that of the Minister, for whom I have the very highest regard and respect, but I think that he has been badly advised here.
I feel it my duty to put forward the case—of the soundness of which I am absolutely convinced—for at least maintaining the present subsidy of 10d. per stone on gutted fish landed by inshore fishing vessels. With my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby), I share the representation in this House of the largest inshore fishing fleet in the British Isles. The vessels in that fleet are, in great measure, owned by their crews. In fact, not one single vessel puts to sea without at least some of its owners being on board, and almost invariably the skipper in the wheelhouse is the principal owner.
I submit that, as it stands, this revised Scheme is not in keeping with the economic circumstances of the inshore fishing industry, not only in the North-East corner of Scotland but throughout the whole of that country. My first complaint is that the figure of 8d. per stone is not based on costings. No costings inquiry whatsoever has been made. Again, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), the most unseemly haste has been shown. If an alteration were foreseen for the end of this year steps should have been taken much earlier. Here I am referring to the inshore industry. There should have been consultation with the representative bodies in that industry to arrive at an equitable subsidy for the white fish landed.
1686 What happened to the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers Association? In Scotland the inshore fishing industry is most adequately organised. It is the best, most efficient and far-reaching body representing fishing in Scotland. On 11th November the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers Association received a communication containing the new subsidy proposals, from the Scottish Office. The majority of the directors of the organisation are practical men, many of them are skippers of vessels, and they were then at sea. The earliest date on which a representative meeting of the directors of the Association could be convened was 18th November, when the Scottish Office was immediately asked to receive a deputation.
The Association, naturally, wanted some time to marshal its facts and to produce vital figures, but it was told that unless the deputation came to Edinburgh by 30th November it would be of no avail, as a decision would be taken then. The deputation went to Edinburgh on 28th November, taking with it all the information it could assemble in the time available. Here I must say that the figures produced did not constitute a costings inquiry. Figures relative to the landings, to wages paid and so on were given, but had more time been given a costings inquiry could have been possible. In the absence of an official costings inquiry, the figures submitted by the Association should have been accepted as conclusive that the subsidy should continue at 10d. per stone until it could be revised after the fullest type of inquiry.
The White Fish Authority, too, should have been playing its part in assembling the necessary data and information for the Minister. It is relatively easy to get the necessary facts because, in Scotland, the quayside salesman acts as the agent for the vessels whose fish he sells. He receives the money for the catch he sells, banks it in the vessel's name, pays all running expenses, pays for oil, nets and the rest. At the end of the week he divides the money—so much for expenses, so much for the vessel and so much for the crew. As I say, it would have been a relatively simple matter to have obtained figures in a very, very short time from the salesmen for a very dependable sample of vessels from one end of Scotland to the other.
1687 On 30th September the Scottish White Fish Producers Association asked the Secretary of State for an increased subsidy, and produced facts in support of that request. Nothing came of it, although I think that a costings inquiry should have then been instituted by the Secretary of State. It has been stated that, as more fish was landed in 1954, the industry was better off. That is a fallacy. It is true that more fish was landed, but weather and other conditions meant that a lot of the fish was sold at an unprofitable price. I say advisedly that there was no increase in the prosperity of the industry. Had there been, it would have been reflected in the wages of those participating in the venture. Landings by the Scottish inshore white fishing industry this year to date are down as compared with 1954.
It must also be borne in mind that the vessels engaged in inshore fishing in Scotland are very largely dual purpose vessels; that is to say, they are vessels which have been obtained through either the Herring Industry Board or the White Fish Authority, and fish for herring for part of the season and for white fish at other times.
The timing of this Scheme leaves much to be desired, following as it does the most disastrous East Anglian herring fishing season, not in living memory but in history. Many of these vessels, in order to obtain anything like a livelihood, have had to turn over to white fishing, and they are now met with this decrease in the subsidy. A subsidy is a basic economic factor in the life of these vessels. Few of these vessels are paid for yet. Nearly all have been obtained under the Grants and Loans Schemes. Loan interest has to be paid, and it is higher than it was before. The loans must be repaid, and therefore the trips of these vessels must be successful in order that the loans are repaid. The liabilities for these vessel have been incurred in the best of faith. One of the considerations that weighed with the fishermen in deciding to buy these vessels under the Scheme, and particularly white fishing vessels, was that a reasonable subsidy would be forthcoming.
There is another consideration which I must emphasise. Any subsidy decrease is met from the men's wages and from the boat's share in equal proportions. That is to say, after expenses are paid, 1688 the residue is divided between the crew and the vessel. A white fish producing vessel in the north-east of Scotland is not paying its way unless each member of the crew obtains an average of £10 a week. In 1952 the average wage of a fisherman for a period of nine months was £10 15s. 4d.; in 1953 it was £10 4s.; in 1954, £11 9s. 3d.; and for the relevant nine months in 1955 it is £10 ls.—28s. a week down on 1954.
Emphasis has already been laid on the dangerous type of occupation that these men follow. There is another vital consideration which had a great bearing upon the legislation which passed through this House when the Grants and Loans Schemes were authorised in the first instance. These men are the backbone of the Naval Reserve. These are the men who in two wars have manned the small vessels which in large measure have defeated the enemy submarine menace. These men are still with us, ready to perform their duty. Anything which detracts from recruitment or tends to reduce the number of active fishermen or to stem the flood of new people entering the industry is to be deplored, and if such a situation arises as a result of "money pinching" that is the most costly form of saving in which this country can indulge.
Let us translate the earnings of fishermen into hours. We have three comparative industries in north-east Scotland—ships' carpenters, engineers and fishermen. In the nine months up to the end of September, carpenters have been getting on average 3s. 7.625d. per hour for a 44 hour week. Engineers have been getting 3s. 8.125d. per hour for a 44-hour week, and fishermen have been getting 2s. 2.27d. per hour for a 90-hour week. It is vital that the fishermen should work those hours. They have to get away immediately after midnight and they have to be back for the afternoon market somewhere around five o'clock. Their work does not end there because Saturday mornings have to be devoted to the repair of gear and so forth. Their hours amount to something like 90 hours a week, and that point should be borne prominently in mind.
Another consideration which ought to be emphasised is the position of the small boats of 45 ft. and under, which by their size are constrained to fish in the waters immediately adjacent to their own ports. 1689 The larger vessels which the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire and I represent, can, when fishing stops in the Moray Firth, go to Shetland and Orkney, into the Minch, down the West Coast, to Northern Ireland and to Whitehaven, and on the East Coast they can go down to North Shields following the fish. But the little boats cannot do that. They have to stay at home. Fortunately, in the last two years fish have been plentiful, though in decreasing quantities, in the Moray Firth. The little boats have been able to make do, but I cannot be party to consigning the men in these little boats to future hardship, which is bound to arise unless an adequate subsidy is forthcoming.
The question of weather is important. One only has to consider what happened this last week. I was in Banffshire during the weekend, and I was informed that there was only one fishing day last week, on Monday, and that was only for the larger boats. Since then there had been a howling gale. Some boats were not able to go to sea at all on Monday, and that means no wages for the men. I saw Buckie harbour crammed with trawlers sheltering from the storm. These vessels are absent from their home ports and drawing their subsidy each day, while the inshore fishermen who are dependent on the catch get no subsidy at all. That is inequitable, and I appeal to the Minister when considering future subsidies or a future scheme to scrap this voyage payment and instead to pay upon landings only.
The Minister has promised the most searching inquiry, and I sincerely trust that such an inquiry will take place. I am very glad to hear the Minister say that, because I know that he is a man of his word. Had I not had an assurance of that kind, I would have gone into the Lobby in Opposition to this Scheme; as it is, I shall abstain from voting.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
I should like to associate myself, as I am sure would my right hon. Friends, with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie). I must, however, preface my further remarks by saying that I thought he was fairly easily satisfied when he said that the explanation which he has received from the Minister this 1690 afternoon prevented him from going into the Lobby and voting against this Scheme.
§ Mr. Duthie
I did not say that the explanation prevented me from doing so. Indeed, the whole course of my speech should have shown that I am not satisfied with any explanation. I referred to the assurance that I got from the Minister that the matter would receive attention and that a full-scale inquiry would be held.
§ Mr. Hoy
If things continue to be as bad as they have been, it is doubtful whether there will be any fishermen left in six months' time when the right on. Gentleman considers the matter.
I want to associate myself with the tribute which the hon. Member for Banff paid to the fishermen. We have depended upon them for many years, and anything we may do to injure the fishing fleets must inevitably fall upon our own shoulders when they need assistance.
The Minister in opening the debate painted a background which does not correspond to the background as we know it in Scotland. When this Scheme was made public on 6th December, it undoubtedly brought the whole of the industry, employer and employee alike, down on the head of the Minister. Nobody could see anything good in the Scheme, because, as has been said before, the cut in prices reflects itself in the earnings of the men who sail the boats and is tantamount to a cut in their wages. I am glad that emphasis has been laid on the fact that these men have had no guaranteed working week and least of all a guaranteed 44-hour week. It is rather unfair of the Minister to treat their earnings as if they were equivalent to the earnings of the ordinary person in industry working a 44-hour week. The men realised at a glance that this was going to mean a cut in their earnings.
I am bound to associate myself with the protests that have been made by the industry. The suggestion of the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers Association that there was undue haste is undoubtedly borne out by the facts as this House sees them, because the first intimation was given in a letter dated 10th November from the Scottish Home Department. That letter was not received until the following day. It stated that any comments had to be received by 30th 1691 November at the very latest. These dates must be looked at in connection with these Schemes because the Scheme was made on 1st December. It was signed by the Secretary of State for Scotland the day after the latest date for receiving objections.
With all due respect to the Secretary of State for Scotland, no one is going to tell me that between the last post on 30th November and 1st December the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give serious consideration to the objections of the industry and to sign a Scheme 24 hours later. I am sure that even the right hon. Gentleman himself would not ask the House to believe that that was the case.
The view of the Association was specifically clear. It said that this was an attack against the fishermen, and that it was so timed as to deprive them of an opportunity of defending themselves. It also made it perfectly plain that, while inviting observations on the new Scheme, the circular issued by the Department made it crystal clear that while it was prepared to receive representations from the industry, it was bound to point out that it considered that the proposals made in the first Order represented the maximum sum for which Parliament could be asked. In these circumstances, it did not seem very much use calling for observations.
Questions were asked, and there was such an outcry that the Minister withdrew the Order. Of that there can be no doubt. I wonder if the Scottish Office was informed about this, because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) put down a Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland on 13th December asking if the right hon. Gentleman had any statement to make with regard to subsidies paid or about to be paid to the white fish industry. In reply, the right hon. Gentleman said:New rates for the white fish subsidy are set out in the draft Scheme laid before the House on 6th December which, if approved by Parliament, will come into force on 1st January."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1955; Vol. 547, c. 158.]That means that 24 hours before the Scheme was changed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the 1692 Secretary of State for Scotland was assuring the House through his reply to my hon. and learned Friend that the Scheme promulgated and laid on 6th December was the one which was to stand.
This calls for some explanation, for, surely, if the Secretary of State did not know that these changes were to be made 24 hours before they were intimated, how does the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food seek to pursuade the industry that the matter has been given the serious consideration that it merits? From the facts and dates which I have given, I think that I have proved to the House, and certainly to anyone who cares to give the matter serious thought, that the Scheme has not had serious consideration. For an assurance to be given on 13th December that the Scheme promulgated on 6th December was to come into operation as arranged, and then for this tremendous change to be made 24 hours later will certainly not give confidence to the fishing industry in Scotland. It behoves the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland when replying to give a much better explanation than that which we have had so far.
I have received a letter from the Newhaven and Granton Trawler Owners Association which I know does not represent the whole of the industry in the area, because I have had some other difficult cases brought to my notice regarding the boats themselves. There is one case, about which I am in communication with the Secretary of State for Scotland, which very much bears out the last argument of the hon. Member for Banff. It concerns a father and son in my constituency who purchased a boat under the Scheme that came into operation immediately after the war. They invested what savings they had in the boat, but, as the House will well remember, not every boat at that time could get the particular engine that it wanted. Indeed, an inferior type of engine—and I say that quite advisedly—had to be accepted. Many fishermen rue the day that they accepted that engine.
The acceptance of the engine by my constituents has meant poverty for them. For years they have worked very hard to make a success of their venture, but, despite working hard morning, noon and night, they have failed to do so. The boat has now been sold and they are left 1693 with a debt of between £2,000 and £3,000. I must publicly assure the Secretary of State this afternoon that I cannot visualise these people repaying that loan to the Authority.
I now come to the trawlermen who are covered by the Newhaven and Granton Trawler Owners Association. I will not read the first part of the letter which I received from the Association which deals with the Scheme as it was first made, the rates of subsidy to be paid and the amended Scheme. I will only read to the House the concluding paragraphs which are pretty specific. They state:Thus, the amended proposals have had the effect of restoring to the Inshore fishermen 50 per cent. of the originally proposed deduction, whereas no such concession has been made to the Trawling Industry. It is recognised that the Standard Subsidy to the Trawling Industry has been increased to a degree, but this falls very far short of compensating for the loss of the Supplementary Subsidy. The reduction in Subsidy, therefore, will be very severe in the Trawling Industry, particularly in view of the fact that the Industry has had to accept, no later than last July, an increase in the cost of coal of approximately 12s. per ton, which has added about £1,250 to £1,400 per vessel per annum to the fuel costs alone. The Trawler Owners have also to face increasing wage costs and increased prices in practically all the materials and labour necessary to maintain the vessels and their gear in sound and safe working condition."—I am certain that not even the Minister would suggest that economies should be carried out on things which are really essential to the safety of the crew—Some of my Members have committed themselves for large capital sums by ordering new vessels for the fleet, to which higher interest charges now apply, and which will add very considerably to operating costs of new trawlers.I am bound to point out that since the war Ministers have been appealing to the industry to get rid of the old steam trawlers and to bring in diesel boats to make the industry up to date. Not even my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North would defend the condition of the fishing industry and the boats sailing from that port, but what encouragement will there be to it if the industry is faced with these new charges? Certainly, a few progressive owners in my constituency have really made an effort and new trawlers are being built in Aberdeen to meet the Government's demand. They have to meet all the added interest charges. It is a fairly sharp deal for them that having acceded to the 1694 Government's request to fulfil this function, they should now be faced with increased interest charges as a result of the action of the Government themselves.
The Association's letter concludes by saying:My members vigorously protest against the inequality of treatment in the matter of subsidy, which certainly undermines the confidence with which they view the future and must necessarily exercise a restraining influence upon their enterprise.That can be the only result of these Schemes made by the Government.
What have the Government to lose? Within a fortnight they have introduced a Scheme, cancelled it and introduced another. The Minister is bound to realise that this gives satisfaction to no one in this House, on either side. He will not get one Member to defend it. In these circumstances, even at this moment, why does he not call it a day, withdraw the Scheme, have some regard for, and adequate consultation with, the industry, and then present a new Scheme, which would give satisfaction not only to the owners, but to the men themselves?
I conclude with a small point which is peculiar to the port in my constituency. We certainly have difficulties, which are peculiar to Newhaven and Granton, with boxing and other charges, which are fairly substantial, and when average figures are being arrived at I wonder whether all these peculiarities are taken into consideration. Not only do I hope that these points will be considered, even if only for the future, but that the Minister will withdraw the Scheme and start afresh.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. H. Currie (Down, North)
This would appear to be a very cold and wet subject on which to make a maiden speech. This is indeed my maiden speech, but I have felt compelled to speak on this subject because of the very real concern of the inshore fishermen of my constituency in North Down. I have been advised of the need to be as non-controversial as possible. I am hoping, perhaps, to sail close to the wind on some occasions, but not to jibe the boat.
In North Down, we have at present to contend with a certain degree of unemployment. We are most concerned that it should not invade the ranks of our fishing fleet. That is one of the foremost considerations which has caused me to speak on this subject. We are a remote county 1695 having regard to the mainland and the markets of London, Glasgow and the Midlands. Our fishermen have to contend with freight charges to market which are not such a marked feature with fishermen of the mainland.
I do not know whether the Minister has had regard to the fact that in March freight charges across the Irish Sea rose by 10 per cent. and that an early further rise is visualised. Our fishermen have to convey the fish from the ports, which for the most part are remote from Belfast, to the Port of Belfast before it can be shipped over to the mainland for market. They have to pay freight charges in common with their English, Scottish and Welsh brethren in conveying the fish from the railhead to Billingsgate or to whatever other market the fish is sent. All these burdens and costs have to come out of such earnings as the fishermen make from their arduous and dangerous toil in the course of fishing at sea.
Another point which I do not know whether the Minister has considered is the increase in the cost of fuel oil, the essential commodity in the modern fishing fleet, particularly so far as the inshore fisherman is concerned. My information is that the cost of fuel oil has risen by 22½ per cent. since 1950. That is a substantial increase in the overhead expenses necessary to the fisherman so that he may land the fish.
I do not want to weary the House with figures or statistics, but, having referred to freight charges, I should like to give the figure so that my right hon. Friend may have it in mind when he has further regard to the undertaking which I was so delighted to hear him give in opening the debate. The freight charges on fish from Northern Ireland to Billingsgate Market amount to 14s. 7d. per cwt. for the carriage of the fish across the Irish Sea. That leaves aside the cost of transport from the port at which the fish is landed to the Port of Belfast, at which it is embarked for its journey across the Irish Sea, and leaves out of account also the delivery charge from the railhead in London to Billingsgate Market. In lots of three tons, the price is reduced to a minimum figure of 11s. 11d. These are burdens which are heavy upon the fishermen and burdens which, I know, my right 1696 hon. Friend will take into account when reviewing the subsidy figure for the future.
I suppose that in my constituency of North Down there is the largest part of the inshore fishing fleet of Northern Ireland. In County Down, the figures of our fleet are not as astronomical as mine were during the Election, but we have 59 vessels, employing 285 men. These vessels sail from the ports of Portavogie, Ardglass, Annalong and Kilkeel. Those ports have a population of about 4,500. There is no other industry in those ports. The shopkeepers and other people living there are entirely dependent upon fishing for their livelihood. Fishing ports are necessarily remote by virtue of the nature of the occupation carried on by the fishermen; they must be by the sea, and, for the most part, remote from the cities.
I earnestly appeal to my right hon. Friend, in giving the further consideration to this matter he undertook to do in his speech today, to have regard to the incidence of unemployment in these remote places. One of my hon. Friends referred to the part which the fishermen have played in the defence of the shores of this country in war, and to how the fishing fleets, and particularly the inshore fishing fleets, supplied the personnel who protected our shores from the ravages of the U-boat and the maritime forces of the enemy intent upon the invasion of our land. All that is very true, but if the fishermen are to be driven away from the sea by reason of their reward being so low that they can no longer continue to earn their livelihood at sea, it will indeed be a sorry day for the Royal Navy of this great old country of ours.
At Portavogie which is the largest fishing port in Northern Ireland, the Government recently invested approximately £250,000 in building one of the finest harbours we have in Northern Ireland for the use of the fishermen. The fishermen were indeed grateful. They felt that the Government were realising to the full the hazards of their occupation and the necessity of taking whatever measures were possible for the stimulation and encouragement of the fishing industry. At Kilkeel at the present time further expenditure is being incurred by the Government in the construction of harbour works. In the first port I mentioned, private industry is at this very moment erecting works to benefit the fishermen and to 1697 facilitate the sending of the fish to the markets of this country. Is all this expenditure, are all these works, to be wasted by reason of the subsidy's being cut off without proper figures having been supplied to justify its being cut off or reduced, so that the fishermen who would otherwise use those harbours will no longer be there to use them?
As another hon. Member has said; in the inshore fisheries there is a system of profit sharing amongst those who go to sea. Five or six men man a boat on each occasion. When they come home, after the expenses have been paid and the necessary deductions made, the profit is shared out on a percentage basis amongst the crew. I do earnestly appeal to my right hon. Friend to see that what profit is left is sufficient to provide a livelihood for the men and their families who are so dependent upon this one industry in those remote places.
This is my maiden speech, as I have said, and I do not want to mar my record by talking for too long, and so I will conclude, by asking my right hon. Friend if he would be so good as to answer a question, because his answer might afford some satisfaction not only to me but to those for whom I speak today. He said, "If the inshore fishery organisations believe that they can supply us with useful figures which we have not at present got, the Secretary of State and I will very gladly arrange for discussions to be started straight away." The question I would ask is whether in saying that he means business, whether he means that the discussions can start forthwith, as soon as the information is supplied, and whether he means that, having had those discussions, he will proceed to present to this House, in place of this Scheme, another scheme which will assure for these decent, hard working, clean living men an income which will be more than a bare subsistence.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am very glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Currie) in the debate. On behalf of the House, I must congratulate him most sincerely on a most admirable maiden speech. I do so for everybody in this Chamber. I have very happy memories of the kindness of the people of Down during the war. I have also some experience 1698 of their enterprise and industry. I remember putting down miles and miles of signal wire which they collected with the utmost agility, and put it to very much better use, no doubt, than we should have done ourselves. I have no doubt that they prosecute their fishing in the same spirit. I have no doubt, too, that when the hon. Member addresses us again on fishing or on freights we shall listen to him with attention. I felt my heart warm to him as he spoke of the intolerable burden which we who live across the sea have to bear in freight charges.
Like the hon. Member, I cannot understand why the Government ever introduced either of these Schemes. The Minister's speech made my confusion worse confounded. It took my breath away to hear him say the Government are now to start seeing whether they can arrange for better consultation with the fishing industry. I do not know about the Minister, but the Secretary of State for Scotland and the other Scottish Ministers are surely supposed to know about the fishing industry, and they are supposed to have adequate means of consultation with the industry now. It is hardly good enough for them to say, "We made a most frightful muddle of one scheme and we do not much like the second, but in future we are going to find out more facts and figures before we propose to wreck this industry and interfere with the lives of the people in it." For that is what all this amounts to.
Apparently there was no consultation in Leith, there was no effort to find out the situation in Down, and there was no consultation along the north or northeast coast of Scotland or in Shetland. A representative of the Shetland Fishermen's Association was in Edinburgh on 29th November talking about fishing, and not a word was said to him about this proposal. The first he knew of it was when he was going home and he read about it in the Press and Journal. We are told that it is important to have good relations with the fishing industry, but in my experience nothing has done more harm to the relationship of the Government with the fishermen than the introduction of the Schemes. The Secretary of State was writing, as I know, up to 9th December that it was impossible to alter the Scheme, which had been most carefully considered. Yet four or five 1699 days later the Scheme was completely altered. It is very difficult to persuade the industry that it is receiving the attention which it deserves or that there is a close grip on the situation when these things occur.
What arguments are put forward for the second Scheme? It is said that we must assist the steam trawlers because of the extra cost of coal, but coal is not the only cost that has risen. The hon. Member for Down, North drew attention to the rise in freight costs. Most of the inshore industry is in the more remote parts of the country. It is very hard hit all round the coast and in places like my own constituency by the rise in freight costs. The cost of ice in the Scalloway is £2 15s. a ton. The cost of fuel has gone up. We all know that as long as the inflation goes on at its present rate the subsidies automatically become worth less. Year after year, fishermen in particular are feeling the effect of ever-rising costs. To take one example: a boat which grossed £3,000 over a certain period made only £2,000 after paying freight and marketing charges at Aberdeen. I do not think it can be said that the cost of the industry has fallen so much that a drastic cut can now be made in subsidies for inshore vessels.
The Minister tells us that inshore vessels have been doing very well and that inshore fishing is now a prosperous industry. Where does he get his figures? Does he take only the best figures? I am told that one of the more successful boats in Shetland grossed £10,000 last season and of that £6,000 came from white fishing. After paying £500 per man in wages to the crew and other expenses, £1,200 were left. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), who knows the industry extremely well, has said that a boat cannot be considered to be paying averagely well unless it pays £10 per week in wages. Yet the best boats in Shetland only pay this.
We have another example of a boat earning about £3,000 gross and making a loss in the year. These fishermen will simply be put out of business. This reduction in the subsidy may kill all the smaller boats. Therefore, if it is properly costed, it cannot be said that the industry is making so much money that we can afford to slash a good deal off the subsidies. It must be remembered that this 1700 is the fishermen's life-work and entire livelihood, and that if this occupation goes they will have to move away from the ports altogether.
In Shetland, we have two outlets for white fish. One is Aberdeen. The cost and the dangers of running fish to Aberdeen are becoming prohibitive. Week after week the boats cannot sail to Aberdeen. It must be remembered that if they do not go to sea they receive no subsidy. There are times when either they cannot go to sea or, having caught the fish, cannot take it to Aberdeen. The other outlet is "Fromac." We are grateful for what is done by "Fromac." But it has paid on an average only 1s. to 1s. 9d. a stone. Does the House realise that that is the price that fishermen in Shetland receive for their fish? Is it on that basis that the Government have decided to cut down the subsidy?
This Scheme seems to be another blow at the smaller man, and I am afraid that that is the whole trend of the Government's present policy…The financial squeeze has not yet affected Imperial Chemical Industries or Vauxhall Motors, but it has already put into bankruptcy many of the smaller people. The Conservative Government, in six months, have done as much damage to the small men as the Socialist Governments did in six years, and I fear that the same thing is happening in the fishing industry. The bigger boats are receiving a higher subsidy. The old, worn-out Aberdeen trawlers will gain the higher subsidy, but the inshore fisherman is to be penalised.
I agree that there is always a case for not paying a subsidy at all. The Minister may say that it was not intended that the subsidies should go on for ever, but the right hon. Gentleman is not reducing but increasing the total. He is increasing them for the bigger boats. He is increasing the voyage payments. He is increasing them for the less efficient part of the industry in Scotland, but he is cutting down the subsidy for the very people who need it. Undoubtedly, the reduction will cause a great deal of hardship to many families in the North of Scotland. It will cause a great deal of distress in the small ports. There are no other outlets for the fishermen. They must go off to work on the hydro-electric schemes or in the beet-sugar factory at Cupar, and once we lose the fishing 1701 families they will never come back. That will apply to the Clyde, to the Highlands, to the north-east coast and Shetland.
What is all this talk about Highland development and the need to keep people in the Highlands and to encourage the kind of industries which employ people there? What is the good of Ministers going to the Highlands and saying that, to keep the population there, new outlets must be provided and new enterprises encouraged? The one industry in my constituency which keeps the people in the area is fishing. It is in Skerries, Whalsey and Burra that the people have remained, even although they have no proper harbours there. It is enterprising places like Cullivoe which have set their hopes on the future of fishing. Is this Scheme the kind of encouragement that is to be given to the people who have tried to remain in these areas?
It is said that next summer everything will be better, that the Government will have consulted the industry and that we shall have a new Scheme, but the result of the muddle of the last six weeks is such as to gravely shake the confidence of the industry in the existence of a fishing policy at the top in this Government. This muddle will make many families doubt whether it is worth while for them and their children to stay in this dangerous and extremely ill-rewarded industry which, nevertheless, is of vital importance to the nation.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)
I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will forgive me if I do not follow him very far in what he has said. I am anxious to bring the debate back to England. I agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member said, until he got on to political matters on which, I fear, we do not see eye to eye.
I want to talk about the near and middle water fishermen. The case for them was very ably put by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) who, I suppose, knows more about the subject than most people. He put the case very fairly. I should like to say to the Minister that at the beginning I was inclined to support him because it appeared that he was going to cut Government expenditure, something which some of us on these benches have 1702 been trying to force on the Government. Now, however, my right hon. Friend admits that he will not cut Government expenditure, but will actually increase it.
If the Government are to cut any of their expenditure, this is absolutely the worst case they could possibly find. It is a matter of dealing in comparatively small sums in relation to the global figure involved. The small extra sum which the Government could give would make a great deal of difference to the industry. I am certain that all hon. Members who know the industry, no matter on what side of the House they sit, will agree on that point.
Nothing has been said about why the subsidy was given in the first place. I know it was given to help fishermen other than distant water fishermen, but I also gathered that it was given so that the public could have prime and good fish to eat besides eating cod. Cod is all very well, but I cannot believe that we shall get many new recruits to the eating of fish if all they are to have is cod. If the Minister makes it harder for people to obtain good fish, he will also be doing a great disservice to the non-subsidised distant water fishermen, for they will feel the effects of this very much.
The Minister's reputation will not be enhanced if there is a great falling off in the amount of good fish available to people and he will become Public Enemy No. 1 against everyone unless they eat red meat. I hope he will bear that very much in mind when looking at the matter again.
It seems that in a debate of this sort one has to talk very much about one's constituency because all the ports, whether they be in England, Wales, Ireland or Scotland, appear to be very different.
§ Mr. Stanley
I thought Cornwall was in England.
My port, Fleetwood, is in a peculiar position. It is on the west coast and there is greater distance about steaming there than to some other ports because one has to go further to get there, and its activity fluctuates very much. During the war the people from Hull and Grimsby fished there because their ports were nearer the bombing. There was a very flourishing 1703 trade at Fleetwood during the war; later it fell off, but now the port is doing slightly better.
I want to say what the cut in subsidy will mean to the fishermen of Fleetwood. There are some distant water fishermen there, but I will talk only of the near and middle water fishermen. They have about ten new diesel trawlers. The loss to these people will be about £22,000 in the first nine months of this year. Any one who knows a smallish port like that will appreciate that that really represents a lot of the profit.
Some of the owners have been farseeing and have done what the Minister wanted and ordered some new trawlers. They ordered them thinking the Minister would definitely maintain the subsidy. Not only will they now lose on the price of fish, but every day that goes by their ships cost very much more. When they ordered their ships they were getting 25 per cent. of the £100,000 limit, and the vessels were going to cost about £120,000 each. Take the case of one vessel ordered about eighteen months ago. It will be delivered in six months' time, and it will then cost £145,000, which means another £25,000 more than when it was ordered, and when the man gets his vessel he will find that the subsidy has been halved.
It will be seen that from that point of view the people have no great faith that the Government are helping them. If the Government said, "You are having a very difficult time. Therefore, we will keep up the grant for the boat even over £100,000 because of the way expenditure is going up," the people would feel much better about it. But that is not happening. The subsidy is being cut on fish while the expenditure on the boat rises.
Other costs have been going up at the same rate, or even more so. The fact ought also to be borne in mind that there has been a very bad herring season. I do not know whether it is true, but many fishermen have told me that when there is a bad year for herring there is always a bad year for white fish as well. I do not know whether that is an old woman's tale, but it is definitely the tale which is going round. At any rate, some of the fishermen say that. I must confess that when I met them they were very gloomy. I hope that the Minister will bear all such things in mind.
1704 There is something else which I hoped would happen, but it is obvious that nothing is to happen. There are some ships over 140 feet long, and they have definitely gone beyond the stage when they can be used for distant water fishing—it would not be right to use them for it—but they are still perfectly all right for near or middle water fishing. We are told by the Minister that we have to maintain catching power. As long as these ships were absolutely safe for that although, because of discomfort and other reasons, it would not be right to use them for the longer trips, I hoped that they would get some subsidy, but it is obvious that when the subsidy on new boats is cut they are not likely to be helped.
Hon. Members have already spoken about temporary unemployment among fishing crews. I know that in my area, if there is any unemployment among the fishermen, the men can work elsewhere. However much they may like the sea and however much the sea may be in their blood, there is no doubt that after they have had a taste of working in, say, an I.C.I. factory at about £12 a week and working a five-day week, they and their wives sometimes are very much happier.
The Government ought not to disappoint these people. We must think of the economics of the matter. If the owners cannot send their vessels to sea, they will suffer a loss in money, but the industry will also suffer in losing the men who might leave the industry altogether. When things become more prosperous and subsidies are made available and the business starts up again, we shall have the ships to go to sea, but we shall not have the men to go in them.
When the Minister introduced his first cut in the subsidy, he had obviously thought it out very hard and for a long time with his officials. Then he made a change, and he helped the home water people. The people from my constituency, many of whom have not been helped, feel that pressure was brought to bear upon the Minister by very many people, particularly Scots. Not very many represent those in the near and middle water fishing, and these people cannot help feeling that pressure was brought to bear on the Minister by very great numbers of people. I hope that my right hon. Friend will review the matter before the end of July and will 1705 remember the difficult position in which he has put these people who will suffer now.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
The extraordinary thing about the debate has been that nobody has said a word in favour of the Scheme, except the Minister, and I am not sure that he spoke very strongly in favour of it. There has been a great amount of unanimity on both sides of the House in attacking the Government's proposals. Therefore, right at the beginning I should like to say one or two words in favour of the Minister because I feel that he is badly in need of some support.
First, I should like to place on record the fact that I am obliged to him for accepting the representations made to him about the special position of the Spanish Pair fishing, and, secondly, my constituency is obliged to him for honouring the promise which he gave in the House in July regarding the position of the older type coal-burning steam trawler. That does not mean that we accept the Scheme as a whole, or that we accept the cuts which have taken place in the subsidy per stone of the landings at the fishing ports.
I would like to say a word about the inshore fishermen. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), in a remarkable and sincere speech—we always listen to him with respect when he talks about the fishing industry, because he is one of the very few hon. Members who have had actual practical experience of the industry—made it clear that the inshore section of the industry is in a very serious situation. If the Minister is really concerned about the future of the fishing industry, he will have to come to the House immediately after the Recess and make a statement on what he means to do about the small people.
The fact is that they do not have the resources to carry on for a long period of time. In the context of the present economic position, with the credit squeeze, these people, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, are the most vulnerable. The right hon. Gentleman will have to give an assurance, if he is to have any measure of support, even from his own side, about what he intends to do about this particular section 1706 of the industry immediately after the Parliamentary Recess.
The second thing I have to say is to do with the near and middle water section of the industry. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who has a similar problem in his own constituency, I represent a port for the near and middle water sections of the industry. Vessels have to go around Southern Ireland and fish in the Irish fishing grounds and in mid-Atlantic. Since the present Government have been in office, there has been a grave deterioration in the Welsh fishing industry. The fishing fleet at Milford Haven has been halved since the Government came to power and if the present rate of decline goes on, at the end of this Parliament the fishing industry of Milford Haven will also end. It is as bad as that.
There were 90 trawlers in that port when the Government came into power and the number effectively fishing has now been reduced to about 40. That constitutes a serious social problem for the extreme west of Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East has undertaken a self-denying ordinance from the Front Bench, but his constituency has an even more acute position and the fishing industry in it may end not before the end of this Parliament, but before the end of next year, unless Steps are taken rapidly.
I want to know from the Government, even if we agree to the present Scheme, what will happen eventually about the near and middle water sections. We are asked to support the Scheme because the Minister is to undertake a full-scale inquiry in the course of next year. What about replacement of old vessels? It is no good talking about subsidies, unless they are adequate to lead to the inculcation of confidence in the industry to the extent of the building of new vessels. The present position is that the average cost of building new vessels and sending them to sea is about £1,000 per foot. A 125-foot vessel costs about £125,000. If the White Fish Authority grant of £25,000 is allowed for, that still leaves the owner having to meet a cost of £100,000, and the immediate costs which he has to face are interest and depreciation charges.
The interest charges at about 5 per cent. per annum come to about £5,000 and, if a 20-year depreciation rate is 1707 taken, the depreciation charges are another £5,000 a year. The other regular charge which the owner has to meet is insurance and at the rate of 2½ per cent. per annum, that is £2,500 a year; so the charge which has to be met by an owner proposing to build a new vessel is, at the outset, £12,500 a year, in addition to the heavy responsibility which he has incurred with a £100,000 vessel.
We have to ask ourselves whether the statement which we have heard from the Government this afternoon and this Scheme are sufficient to instil enough confidence into the industry to build new vessels. The only way we can decide that is to compare the costs which face trawler owners with new vessels and those with older vessels of the same class. The average cost of older vessels in loan charges, interest, insurance and depreciation and with perhaps a four or five years' life for the vessel is about £1,500 a year. Thus, the difference between the old and the new vessel is about £11,000 per year and there is no evidence to show that a new vessel catches any more fish. The Government must show that there is enough hope for the future of the industry so that it will lead to the building of new vessels, or eventually there will be no new vessels in the industry. As it stands, the Scheme is only a temporary ameliorative which will not meet the long-term problem of the industry.
We have heard nothing about supplies of fish. It is no good talking about subsidies and the costs of the fishing industry, unless we get more fish, or more for the fish. That is the practical problem. From time to time we have heard about research projects which have been undertaken by the White Fish Authority, but it is my belief that these research questions have been simply tinkered with. When can we have a statement about future research in the fishing grounds? Can there be a statement about what the new mesh will mean? Have we any comprehensive information about what the situation is likely to be in the course of four or five years, a sort of actuarial calculation on the future of fishing with the new mesh?
I see my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) in his place. There is the classic story—I do not know whether it is true—about the Belgian trawler which was caught in 1708 Lowestoft not using the new mesh. When representations were made to the Belgian authorities through the usual channels, the answer was, I am informed, that it was perfectly true that a law had been passed in Belgium to concur with the International Convention on Overfishing for the use of the new mesh, but it was regretted that nothing could be done because no penalties attached to the law to ensure its observance. I see that my hon. Friend nods his acquiescence. We want to know what is happening about the Convention and future supplies of fish, and where we are likely to be in four or five years' time.
Then there is the question of marketing. The position of marketing in the fishing industry is the most chaotic of any industry I know, with the exception of horticulture. The White Fish Authority has no powers at present to undertake an adequate survey into marketing. Until we can get a closer relation between the price paid for fish at the port and the price paid by the housewife on the slab, we shall get nowhere, and it is vital to the future of the fishing industry that we should have that closer relation.
I promised to be very brief, and I see several of my hon. Friends who wish to speak. I conclude by saying to the Government that I see no hope for the industry on the lines of the policy which has been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. It is a very important industry for a number of reasons and yet, as far as we can ascertain, at the end of four years in office Her Majesty's Government lack completely any kind of policy for the industry. We want a statement of policy, and perhaps we can get it this evening.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) has put his finger on the one problem which affects my constituency more than anything else, and that is where the Scheme will help Aberdeen to rebuild its fishing fleet. I find myself in a position very different from that of the majority of hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon in that, even if the cut in the landing rate from 4d. to 2d. is taken into account, nevertheless the bulk of the fleet in Aberdeen will qualify for the voyage subsidy, as they are steam vessels.
1709 We find that the result of the Scheme would be a net increase of £508 per boat, or, if the period of six months as proposed in the Scheme is taken, of £254 for the six months. Taking that into account and looking at the industry as a whole, I feel that the Minister this afternoon genuinely desired to get to the root of the problem and for those reasons I shall vote for that Scheme, and I hope that that will be of some encouragement to the Minister.
The Steam Vessels Association, in Aberdeen, welcomes part of the Scheme. Of course, it welcomes the increase in the voyage subsidies and is naturally very much against the cut in the landings subsidy. But again to encourage the Minister, I would say that not only are they satisfied with the increase in the voyage payments, but they are glad that their request has been met for the inclusion of the Shetland voyages in the Faroe class, and also that their representations were met for waiving the proposal to make a qualifying period for the subsidy.
I wish now to deal with those matters about which they disagree, and upon which I should like to put their views and to make some comments of my own. They are, of course, against the landing rate, for various reasons. The first is the question of cost. Even the known increases in fuel, gear and wages will result in an estimated loss, in 1956, of £1,400 per boat. As the Minister -has said, these figures include depreciation. This afternoon, my right hon. Friend gave a figure of £1,000 a boat, and I suppose one must take it that that is owing to the age of the fleet; some of the boats have already been written off altogether.
Nevertheless, taking the figure of £1,400 of estimated loss, if we set against that the increased subsidy of £500—these are yearly figures—we are left with a net estimated deficit of about £900 per boat. Apart from any increases in the cost of fuel or gear which may, or may not take place, there are certain known probable increases which will take place regarding wages. We have in this country a miners' pay claim of 2s. 6d. extra per shift. Even were that not met in its entirety, it is bound to mean an increase in the price of coal which, of course, is of prime importance to steam vessels and the reason for the voyage payment. The National Union of Railwaymen has a 1710 pay claim which, if met—and it is likely to be—may mean an increase in freight charges and that means a great deal to us in the North. Thirdly, there is a demand for a substantial increase in the wages of riveters, which may well cause an increase in the cost of shipbuilding.
If we take coal alone, the subsidy proposals for near and middle water fishermen, as estimated, will cover about 33 per cent, of the coal increase. I was given to understand that the Scottish Department had made quite clear that a much larger percentage of the coal increase would be met by the subsidy. If the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is to reply to the debate, I shall be glad if he will give a specific answer on that point. At present, the subsidy meets only 33 per cent. of the coal increase.
I should like to put various suggestions to the Minister which are worthy of consideration during the coming six months, either when my right hon. Friend puts a new Scheme before Parliament in July, or if he proposes an amending Scheme earlier. Surely a larger percentage of the coal increase is justified in view of the voyage payments given to the steam vessels. The trawler owners in Aberdeen would like the restoration of the landing subsidy of 4d., the proposal is 2d. They have asked for an increase up to Is., but I find myself unable to support that proposition at a time when we are trying to get back to a more realistic system of finance regarding subsidies. I am supported by Mr. Croft Baker, President of the British Trawlers Federation, who says that it is quite clear that subsidies must end. If they are not ended by 1958, they can be continued only in very exceptional circumstances.
I should like to put to the Minister the analogy of the Mercantile Marine. It does not want an operating subsidy, but it does want permission to keep more of its own earnings for the purposes of rebuilding, in spite of the fact that it has to face flag discrimination, which, of course, our fishing fleet does not. If we are trying—as the Government are—to return to a system of sound finance, it would be better for the Treasury, which, after all, is behind the subsidy, to look at the whole question of earnings in the industry in relation to taxation rather than to have a long period of uneconomic subsidies. 1711 One has to remember in this context that even if we try to have subsidies, as we are now doing, to help the rebuilding of the fleet, together with grants, loans have to be repaid over a number of years and the repayments are rather heavy for anyone who proposes to build today.
When this matter is reviewed before July, I suggest that something which, I know, has been carefully considered in the past and, so far, has been rejected should be examined again; that is, the question of regional differentiation. I cannot believe that it is impossible. After all, as the Minister said this afternoon in relation to the inshore fishermen, conditions vary very widely from port to port, and that is so particularly with the near and middle water fleet. Naturally, in this connection I make a special plea for Aberdeen. In view of the geographical situation of some ports, and also of the extra freight charges which some ports have to bear, would it not be possible to take into account this problem when arrangements regarding a subsidy are discussed?
So far as my own constituency is concerned, the reason behind any of these suggestions is to try to enable the Aberdeen owners to make a reasonable return for a number of years in order that, in their own words,they would play their part and see that Aberdeen's fleet was modernised at a much faster rate than is being done at present.I need hardly tell the House that it is absolutely vital for the Port of Aberdeen that its fleet should be rebuilt; not only because if we had a modern fleet we should, of course, have modern and ancillary industries on which one-third of our people depend for their employment, but because, of the present fleet of about 180 steam vessels, seven-eighths are 30 years old and half are over 40 years old. The costs of building have nearly trebled since before the war, and one of the problems is that of the 88 Aberdeen owners, 70 control only 87 trawlers between them. This large number of individual owners makes it difficult to rebuild unless several of them pool their resources.
This is gradually being done. Since the war six modern trawlers have been built without any assistance whatever, although one has been sold to Norway. By the first half of this year the White 1712 Fish Authority had received 17 applications for grants and loans. A leading shipbuilder in the constituency has said that 18 berths have been booked in his yard and expects several more, but that is not enough.
In the last week a new company has been formed, called Aberdeen Motor Trawlers, Limited. It is the result of the efforts of the fish merchants themselves, through a voluntary levy on all fish landed, to try to secure that 40 or 50 diesel-engined trawlers will be built over ten years. Only one-sixth of the merchants operating at the port subscribed to the scheme. However, the company has been formed, two orders have been placed and it is hoped to have two more, and, altogether, there will possibly be five or six vessels. All of us must admire the initiative and the risk being taken by those who are building boats for Aberdeen, but it is not enough.
One hon. Gentleman, I think it was the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, "Why should the inefficient fleet at Aberdeen be subsidised?" My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) went so far as to say that there should be no voyage payment at all. I could not disagree more with either of them. The whole point of the Scheme is to try to have a subsidy as long as one can so as to ensure the rebuilding of the fleet.
Nevertheless, we are considering public money, and the questions which we must therefore put to ourselves are these: should the subsidy be paid for a longer period than between now and 1958, should it be at a higher rate than the Scheme at present suggests or, on the other hand, should one simply take powers under the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1951, and ask the White Fish Authority to equip and order vessels, charter them for operation, but not operate them itself?
In both cases public money is involved, and that is the responsibility with which we are faced. Obviously, even with an operating subsidy and even with grants and loans for building, it is very much better from the taxpayers' point of view that the first method should be used. I have, therefore, suggested to the Aberdeen trawler owners that they should submit a very carefully worked out scheme to the Minister, giving a reasonable level of subsidy at which the industry thinks it 1713 possible to have a swifter and larger rebuilding scheme than that being carried out at present—remembering all the time that we are giving the subsidy for special reasons, including the strategic reason, since the fleet as a whole is in bad shape. We cannot entirely compare the industry with agriculture, for in many cases the problems are quite different.
I do not know whether it is practical to make an arrangement whereby the profits are definitely put aside into a building fund. I believe there are some in Aberdeen who hold the view that this should be done, but I need hardly say that it is highly controversial and that no agreement has been reached. As guardians of the public purse, asking for a subsidy for a definite purpose, I feel we should have some assurance that the boats will, in fact, be built.
I want to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State whether he can give me a reply to a second question. In its 1955 Report, the White Fish Authority said that it hadhad preliminary discussions with the Fisheries Departments on other means of bringing about more rebuilding of the Aberdeen fleet.I know that the Ministers have been very much concerned about this question and have spent a great deal of time on it, and I should like to know what progress these discussions are making and whether any conclusion has yet been reached.
When I look at this subsidy, what matters more to me than anything else is that the Aberdeen fleet should be rebuilt. I do not myself think that it will ever be as large as it has been in the past. It is estimated that one modern trawler is worth two which are out of date. A small, efficient fleet could therefore bring as much prosperity to Aberdeen, with better working conditions for all concerned.
Although Aberdeen is further from the main markets, it is also one day's steaming nearer some of the main fishing grounds. It is also renowned for its quality fish. I therefore feel that the Aberdeen fleet should always be a good investment. Some English capital has been introduced there recently, which I personally welcome very much, although I believe some folk say that, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Nevertheless, I hope that our own folk will make use of the opportunities which we have before us to try to secure a satisfactory 1714 livelihood in this industry, on which so many Aberdonians depend.
In supporting the Scheme, I must express the hope that the Minister will go into the matter from the long-term view, remembering that that was the original object of the 1953 Act.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has distinguished herself by being the only speaker in the debate to offer a meed of praise to the Minister for this poor little Scheme. She disagrees with the other hon. Members of this jury who find the Minister and the Government guilty of having brought in a bad Scheme at a bad time and in a bad way. I am sorry to find that when my colleague in the representation of the City of Aberdeen finds an occasion upon which to distinguish herself, she does so by taking the wrong side—a side which is inimical to the good of the trade and industry of Aberdeen.
Notwithstanding all this, and perhaps encouraged by the hon. Lady's support, the Government seem determined to go through with this wretched Scheme. They seem determined to ram it home. I wonder why. Are they doing it for political reasons? After all, this should not be treated as a political or a party matter; it is an industrial and an economic matter which should be dealt with on its merits.
The Government are not dealing with it on its merits. Only a fortnight ago they introduced another Scheme for much the same purpose and with very little difference except for a few figures, but they have abandoned that and thrown it away. Why? That is a sinister mystery, and the House is entitled to know the explanation of it. What was the first Scheme based upon? Was it based upon a fantasy which they were content to blow away in order to substitute a new fantasy? Was it based upon facts which have not been put before the House?
The Minister was asked today what were the facts upon which that first Scheme was based and where they differed from the facts upon which this Scheme, produced ten days later, is based. He was unable to give any facts. We therefore do not know whether the 1715 Scheme is based upon fact or whether it is a matter of opinion. If it is a matter of opinion, obviously the opinion of far and away the majority of speakers in the debate—except for that of the hon. Lady—is against this miserable Scheme. If the House is to be guided by majority opinion then it should, as I hope it will, vote against this Scheme.
This new white fish Scheme, like its unfortunate still-born brother, seems to be based not upon facts or figures; it seems to be part of the stupid and undiscriminating squeeze which the Government are inflicting not only on trade and industry but also on the culture and the social life of Britain. Is that the case? I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will tell us whether it is. Is it a fact that, after the teachers, the fishermen are the victims; and are the housewives to be the next victims? It seems to me that the Government are sacrificing the fishing industry for political reasons. If that is so, it is a thoroughly contemptible and wrong thing to do.
It seems that the Government, in a vain attempt to save themselves from the results of financial muddle, are making a many-pronged attack upon industry, labour, education, housewives, consumers, and schoolteachers—all to save a few pounds. Some of these the Government will kill outright; some they will only injure. But there is no doubt that British trade, industry, culture and home life are suffering from this policy of the Government, which they are now applying to the white fishing industry.
By the Scheme which the Government abandoned last week, and by this Scheme, the Government are attacking not only the white fish industry but also the shipbuilding industry. In attacking those two vital industries they are damaging all classes, ranging from shipowners, shipbuilders, merchants, distributors of fish, transport and freight workers, and fish market workers to consumers.
The Authority was set up by Statute to help the fishing industry, and that it has done very well, but it will be handicapped by a Scheme such as this. The annual reports of the Authority show the difficulties which it has overcome and those which are still to be surmounted. They indicate that this new Scheme is 1716 contrary to the interests of the Authority and of other national industries. The former of the two Schemes sought to reduce the flat rate subsidy available to vessels under 70 feet in length from 10d. to 6d. a stone for gutted fish, and from 8d. to 4d. a stone for ungutted fish. Upon what was that based? No facts, figures or reasons have been advanced. Then, this new Scheme was suddenly brought in, with slightly altered figures. Why was that done? No evidence has been laid before the House, and the House is entitled to have some before it can decide whether or not this is a good and proper Scheme.
I have had letters of protest from various sectors of the fishing industry. The Aberdeen Steam Fishing Vessels Owners Association Limited is, as its name implies, a shipowners' association. In a letter to me, dated 16th December, it says:It is clear that this is a political move and not in the best interests of the fishing industry. The vociferous protests of certain Unionist M.P.s have been listened to by the Government when the grounds upon which these M.P.s have been basing their case are not soundI ask the House to take the view that this is an industrial and economic matter, and not a political one. If the assertions in that letter are accurate the Government stand condemned by applying a political test to a matter which is not political but is industrial and economical.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
The hon. and learned Member now says that it is not a political matter. A moment ago he said that it was part of a many-pronged attack by the Government upon the culture of the country.
§ Mr. Hughes
What I said was quite consistent. The hon. Member appears to have misunderstood me. I said that it appears that the Government are actuated by political motives when they should be actuated only by industrial and economic considerations. The letter from which I have quoted makes exactly the same point. I am sorry that the hon. Member who interrupted me appears to have been dormant during the first part of my speech. The letter continues:The Government's proposals to cut the flat rate has destroyed the confidence of owners not only in Aberdeen but throughout the country, to modernise the fleet and to reward the industry which produces the cheapest food in the market with such a cut is shameful to 1717 say the least. No thanks have been given to the industry for producing fish at such a low figure (in Aberdeen, 5.2d. per lb.) and the Government's action is a complete negation of the intention of the subsidy. The Government are being unrealistic in the assessment of the needs of the Aberdeen fishing industry"—so is the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South. The letter does not say that; I do. It continues—and their proposals are totally inadequate to deal with the situation in Aberdeen where fish prices are falling and operating costs are rising. The fishing industry is the only industry where higher costs cannot be met by extracting higher prices from consumers and it is equally clear that the fleets operating costs cannot be cut. The White Fish Authority's Scottish committee said a few weeks ago that Aberdeen still had the most economically run fleet in the United Kingdom.It is clear that this new Scheme is wantonly regardless of its effect upon the rebuilding of the fishing fleets, which is an urgent concern of the Authority and of the fishing industry. There is a close and clear link between the damaging effects which the reduced subsidy will inflict and the urgent need not only to maintain but to increase and extend the fishing fleets. The White Fish Authority expressed that view in its current Report when it wrote:Previous Reports … have described their concern … about the age of the Aberdeen trawling fleet, and their hope that the Grants and Loans Scheme would lead to a gradual replacement of the older vessels. So far these hopes have not been fulfilled.Later, the same Report said:… of the 186 near and middle water vessels now in it"—the Aberdeen fleet—seven-eighths are over 30 years old and over, half are over 40 years old.… The Transport and General Workers' Union, for their part, have urged the Authority to build vessels themselves and either operate them or charter them to private operators; and more recently the Scottish Trades Union Congress have made similar representations. The Authority are considering this proposal.Local efforts to rehabilitate and extend the Aberdeen fleet will be frustrated if the owners cannot be assured of a reasonable profit from their fish, and this scheme will tend to deprive them of that. In a technical matter of this kind I prefer to rely upon the advice of experts. An important firm of trawler owners and fish salesmen in Aberdeen—Messrs. Wood and Bruce Limited—has written to 1718 me a letter, dated 16th December, in which it says:No doubt you are fully aware of the difficulties with which we are confronted in the running of our vessels meantime due to the rise in costs of coal and fishing gear and any representations you make in order to have the subsidy cut restored will be a very valuable service to the community as a whole.In another letter the same firm says:The trawling industry in Aberdeen, as you are very well aware, is meantime passing through a most difficult phase in its long and varied career. The present fleet is diminishing and we fear that in a very short time, owing to the increase of running costs, many more steam trawlers will go to the ship breakers. Our policy now is to endeavour to replace part of our fleet with new vessels but the present building costs …"—
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. and learned Member to read such long extracts? The bulk of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech has consisted of reading extracts, and I always understood that it was the practice of this House that one should not read one's speech at great length.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that the hon. and learned Member was quoting from a document which he has. So long as it is not overdone, quotation is quite permissible.
§ Mr. Hughes
It was a quotation, Sir, and I was very careful to say on each occasion, "I quote," so that those who record our speeches would have no difficulty in knowing where the quotation began and ended.
The firm to which I was referring is in association with certain shipbuilding firms—the Minerva Fishing Company Limited, the Crusader Fishing Company Limited, and the Clova Fishing Company Limited. That firm, in conjunction with these companies, has planned to build a number of new trawlers for Aberdeen, but they say—and this is my whole argument—that unless they can be assured of a reasonable profit from the results of their fishing they will not be encouraged to build these ships.
So, as I said earlier, the two things are linked together. The building, the rehabilitation and the expansion of the Aberdeen fishing fleet depend on the possibility of the owners of the ships being able to get a reasonable profit from their fishing. It follows that if an 1719 injurious scheme like this one is passed, and is given the force of law, it will prevent the owners from getting a reasonable profit from their ships and will prevent them from building ships. This Scheme is inimical to the trade and industry of Aberdeen, it is inimical to the fishing industry all over the United Kingdom, and I therefore exhort the House to reject it.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
Many hon. Members in this House, including myself, have an affection for the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), but I trust that he will forgive me if I do not follow him minutely on this occasion in the many ripples that he has made over this Scheme.
I think that it would be true to say that, with the exception of an hon. Member who represents a certain number of vessels which are extremely interested in the question of coal prices, on the whole, hon. Members in this House have not exactly welcomed this Scheme or thought that it was particularly desirable for all concerned. At the same time, I think that it is right to say that the way in which this Scheme comes to be presented to the House is rather strange. It is infrequent that we have a Scheme presented and so shortly afterwards a reconsideration of that Scheme and certain fundamental points in it altered, as in this case.
I make these observations because I believe that they do in fact prove the point that I wish chiefly to make this afternoon. That is that those who were considering this matter did not give it sufficient consideration in the first place, nor did they obtain sufficient evidence upon which to base the Scheme. I believe the fact that part of the Scheme is now altered—and this has certainly made it a better Scheme than the first one—is proof that that is the case. What puzzles me is that the Minister, in opening the debate, admitted, as I think he will agree, that the evidence upon which the Government had to rely in regard to the inshore fishing industry was scanty. I think he admitted that. He went a long way, for which I was very grateful, in stating that in the coming months he would examine every form of evidence that he could to see exactly how earnings 1720 are related to costs in the inshore fishing industry.
The point that puzzles me is this. With the exception of the year 1955–56, for the four previous years the White Fish Authority had been obtaining from individual fishermen within the inshore fishing industry audited' accounts of their earnings, the costs of their landings and the profitability, where profit is obtained, together with—because individuals had been willing to supply them with it—the Inland Revenue receipts of the Income Tax paid upon those earnings.
The strange part about this is that although, as the Minister has stated, from last July this matter has been within the mind of the Ministry, the White Fish Authority, during the year 1955–56, has not for the first time asked individual men for that information or for the receipts, or examined their earnings, although they have done so in the four years previously. Either this is a criticism of the White Fish Authority or a criticism of the Ministry, or a criticism of both—it is certainly a criticism.
As I have said, I am extremely glad to know that this is not going to be the case in the future. I think that it is right to say here and now that I examined to the best of my ability, with the help of the fishermen concerned, the capacity of earning within the inshore fishing industry. It is upon that information that we are basing our views today as to whether we support or not this Scheme.
I propose to deal with one Inland Revenue account, and I am perfectly prepared to hand the whole of the papers to the Minister. The only reason why I am not quoting from it, as hon. Members will readily understand, is that to quote an actual income and to name an actual individual in this House is not exactly proper, but if any hon. Member—and I have the authority of the individual to say this—would like access to these documents, I am perfectly prepared to allow him to see them. In this case it will be found that in 1950 the amount of tax paid was about £128, which gives some idea of what was the earning capacity of the man. That has steadily come down—and this is a very good example of many cases—to a figure which in the year 1955–56 is estimated at somewhere in the region £5 15s. I have given that figure purely to show what the actual 1721 earnings have been. One of the major reasons is the steadily increasing rise in price of the articles and goods that the men of the inshore fishing industry have to provide in order to carry on their daily job.
If we take the costs of 1950–1951 up to 1955, we find a steady increase in practically every article which they had to purchase. To give some idea of these figures, a net of about 180 yards in 1938 was costing £7 5s. It now costs £42. The rise has been pretty prodigious even since 1950. I will not weary the House by giving a great number of items, but I will give one more, namely, cork. In 1951, cork cost £3 19s. 6d. per cwt. It is now £7 3s. 1d. All these things show the same increases. I cannot understand why the Minister has been unable to obtain all these facts. They were given to the White Fish Authority by the appropriate authorities.
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) was more or less right in suggesting that behind this Scheme is the hand of the Treasury more than the Minister. The matter should have been considered very much more thoroughly. Over the weekend, I thought it right to consult again the fishermen I have the honour to represent, and to gather what they felt about this Scheme and the immediate future. I have their authoritiy to say what they are prepared to do and to agree with.
They share with me the view that both the original Scheme and the Scheme in front of us were hastily conceived and rashly produced, and were not based upon sufficient evidence. On the other hand, they share with me approval of the fact that the Minister altered the previous Scheme and considerably improved it, presumably upon receipt of representations, and they hope he will be prepared between now and the end of June to give further consideration to the present Scheme. If the Minister is willing to go into the costs and find as much evidence as he can, we are prepared to give him every form of help in the shape of facts, costs and audited accounts upon which to base his calculations. The facts will speak for themselves.
We also hope that the Minister will go one stage further. This Scheme flows from the Act of 1953. Introducing the Second 1722 Reading of that Measure, the Secretary of State for Scotland said:Frankly, we do not sec at this moment the likelihood of being able to terminate this white fish subsidy in the very near future. Of course, it should be the ambition of any industry to be self-supporting, but up to date the money for this subsidy has been granted by Parliament under the Appropriation Acts, as it was the genuine hope at the time that it would be a temporary measure to assist the industry.Now we feel that it cannot go on in that way, and that the right and proper thing to do is to ask the House to extend the white fish subsidy by statute."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 57.]The principle underlying that speech was that the Minister was satisfied that inshore fishermen could not make a reasonable living without the payment of a subsidy to white fish, and that the subsidy would be paid and would not only he related to vessels which might then or in the future need reconditioning.
Provided that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who I understand is to reply, is prepared to state that that part of the speech made in January, 1953, by the Secretary of State' for Scotland still is the principle of Her Majesty's Government, together with what the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has stated about going into the facts and figures, the fishermen I saw—they were the majority of the fishermen in my constituency—will support the Scheme. I shall want an assurance to that effect from the Under-Secretary of State, and I trust he will give it to me.
§ Mr. Edward Evans
Before the hon. Gentleman conies to the conclusion of his speech, may I ask whether he is seriously telling the House that the hard-boiled, hard-headed Cornish fishermen that I know very well are going to take a nebulous promise from the Government that in future the Government will go into the figures, although they had an opportunity to do so in the past, and that the fishermen have asked the hon. Member in that case to support the Scheme? I hardly believe it, Sir.
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Member and I have known each other for nearly eleven years. I am satisfied that he sincerely believes what I have said to be true. His quarrel is that he finds it surprising. I can tell him, so did I. Had my fishermen felt the other way round I was prepared to vote against the Scheme. My hon. 1723 Friends know that well. I took the normal steps in case I found it necessary to do so. I hope that other hon. Members, who do not happen to represent fishing ports will not feel that all those taking part in this debate are only raising constituency points.
In an enormous number of cases the number of fishermen in a constituency is extremely small but many hon. Members feel that this matter is important because it affects an industry which produces some of our finest men who are an example to other men in the United Kingdom, and which, when our country has been attacked from without, has played a vital and dangerous part in the defence of the realm. Most of us who have been privileged to see how that part was played are not likely to forget it. From a purely economic angle, prime fish must be produced by the inshore fishermen in order to give variety to the diet of the people of the United Kingdom and to maintain the appetite for fish from the larger sources.
All these facts make this not a minor but very much a major debate. I sincerely trust that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to give me the further assurance in his winding-up speech. If he does so, I will support this Measure.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
The tone of this debate is very fitting for the closing days of this autumn sitting of Parliament. We have spent practically the whole of the autumn asking ourselves why the Chancellor brought in his Budget—and I think he surprised hon. Members on that side as much as those on this—and it is fitting that we should now ask why the Minister has brought in this Scheme. I do not think I have ever heard a Measure receive so little support from both sides of the House as has this one.
It is clear, judging from the balance of speakers, that it is particularly the smaller ports and those with the smaller vessels which feel most keenly about this Scheme. I represent Grimsby, a large port and one which contains both those elements which are relatively well- 1724 favoured by the Scheme, namely, the steam trawlers, and a considerable number of the smaller vessels—the seine netters—whose owners feel that they have had a raw deal. I suppose it is possible to have different opinions about this Scheme according to which interest one has and how one comes off under it but, after this debate, one thing is in no doubt at all—the Scheme is a proper muddle.
There has been this change of mind by the Government in the space of a fortnight. That, in itself, is strong evidence that they reached their original conclusion upon inadequate evidence. After listening to the Minister, I am still very uncertain just what evidence he had before introducing the original Scheme. I am even more uncertain as to what was the fresh evidence which induced him to change his mind. It is the popular belief in my constituency that he got virtually no additional evidence at all, but merely gave way to a certain amount of political pressure. Therefore, irrespective of one's views about the merits of the Scheme, one can have no doubt that it has been put forward in a most unconvincing way.
We have had complaints from Scotland, from Cornwall and from other parts of the United Kingdom about lack of consultation with those most concerned in the industry. Dissatisfaction has also been expressed to me by members of the British Trawler Federation, which body, as the Minister has told us, he consulted in July and again in November. One of the things I learnt was that, during those consultations, the impression was certainly created that the Minister could not possibly ask the House to provide any more money than that asked for under the original Scheme of 1st December. The Federation was, therefore, astonished when, without further communication, it found that the Minister was suddenly able to produce more money by 14th December. It feels somewhat aggrieved at that. It gives the Federation the impression that its discussions were, in fact, proceeding on quite a wrong basis.
I am not complaining—far be it from me to complain—about the concession which was made between 1st and 14th December. The figures and costings mentioned by many hon. Members today 1725 show quite clearly that the concession was badly needed, and that a figure such as the present one—or even a better figure—should have appeared in the Scheme all the time. What I say about the Minister suggesting that he could not provide any more money is relevant to one of his contentions, when he repudiated the idea that one section of the industry was being made to pay for the concession to the other. If it is indeed the fact that he has a certain ceiling of money at his disposal, and if, within that figure, he is to give additional concessions to one section and apply a reduction to the others, it is ludicrous to suggest that people will not assume that one section is being asked to pay for the concession to the other.
It is very hard to see the policy behind a decision of this kind. We all agree that there should be inducements to re-equip ships and build new ones, but this Measure will encourage those concerned to retain the oldest and most uneconomical ships, and make it less attractive for them to go in for the smaller, modern motor vessels. I can well understand the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) putting in her modest good word—almost the only good word the Scheme has had—because she represents a constituency from which sail a very large number of very out-of-date, old steam trawlers.
Unfortunately, we in Grimsby have our share of those old trawlers. We are not proud of them. We want to see them replaced by modern motor vessels as quickly as may be, and it seems an extraordinary policy on the part of the Minister, if he is operating under a ceiling, to choose to give that particular concession to one section at the expense of the other. If he feels it necessary, as it may well be, to give a concession to keep the old steam trawlers for a certain period, it should not be done—as I believe it is being done—at the expense of the section that needs encouraging.
It has been said that no fishing industry debate is complete without reference to the heroism of those who go to sea. I must say that I often find my lip curling at some of the fishing industry's advertisements, from which it would appear that every trawler owner and fishmonger daily faces the risks of gales at sea but this afternoon we really are concerned with those who actually go to sea. It should be remembered that those who go to sea 1726 in the very small ships are paid by shares, they are most dependent on the proceeds of their catch and get no remuneration in the form of fixed wages.
It is one of the unpleasant aspects of the Scheme that it seems to hit most those who actually do the job themselves, and to hit many of the owners who are seeking most earnestly to modernise their vessels, as against those who are content to cling to old-fashioned equipment. For those reasons, combined with the many complaints about inadequate consultation and representation, I hope that the House will reject the Scheme.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
After all that has been said in this debate, it is not necessary for me to detain the House for more than a few minutes to add a footnote, as it were, and to emphasise one or two of the points made by hon. Members on both sides.
I cannot believe that it is or ever was the intention of the Minister of Agriculture or of the Secretary of State for Scotland to damage the inshore fishing industry. I do not think they wanted to do that. Hon. Members opposite have asked continuously for explanations as to why this or that has been done, and why this Scheme was produced and modified and so on. The explanation is, I think, perfectly simple. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he always does, said to the Ministers concerned, "Cut the subsidy by £X." The Ministers said, "We cannot go quite as far as that." The Chancellor said, "Then cut it by a bit less—but cut it you must."
The Ministers then brought out this Scheme, without adequate consultation, I must say, with anyone concerned in the industry. There was a hell of a row upstairs. The Ministers then went back to the Chancellor and said, "The boys upstairs won't stand for this." And the Chancellor said, "I can't put it all back, but I will put back 50 per cent." That is where we are at the moment. I think that is a fairly accurate story, and the story that goes on in Government circles all the year and all the time. I do not think that there is any great mystery about it.
What I do complain about is that such a short time was given to the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers' Association to produce a case. It has been said, 1727 and it is perfectly true, that the Association first heard of the Scheme on 11th November. On 21st November—after it had called a meeting as quickly as it could on 18th November—that organisation was told that it had to have any case, and any deputation it was prepared to send, over and done with before the end of the month—otherwise the white fish subsidy would be abolished altogether. That was far too short a time. It gave the Association no opportunity to consult the industry, the fishermen, or to prepare a case. The whole thing was far too much rushed. I blame the Treasury for that—again. Indeed I blame the Treasury for almost everything that goes wrong with this country—and always have.
I want for a moment or two to deal in particular with the vessels under 70 ft. I am chiefly concerned with those because I have no trawlers in my constituency. The statistics have been taken by the Ministry from a sample based on a very few boats, and I claim that those statistics are not accurate. Even if they were, they reveal a net profit of only £200, or 2½ per cent., and that is not good enough. It certainly does not justify a reduction in the subsidy. If anything, it justifies an increase. Secondly, the alleged increase in gross profits takes no account either of the increase in expenses or the increase in the general catching power of the white fish inshore fleet.
Finally, it can be shown that the average labour share—the individual earnings, in fact—has gone down by about 10 per cent. in the inshore white fishing industry over the past year. I repeat, the average labour share in the boats of the inshore white fishing industry has gone down over the last two years. None of us has had much time to produce any figures, but even if the earnings of these share fishermen have remained stationary—and nobody suggests that they have done more than that over the past 12 months—they are no longer competitive with earnings in industry ashore. There is a constant tug away from the fishing fleets of Scotland towards the hydro-electric scheme, towards the big industries in the central belt of Scotland and towards other factories in the South. Unless these fellows can be given a chance—it may be, only a gambler's chance—to make a decent 1728 living occasionally, they will chuck the sea and will go to industry where jobs await them; and, as has been pointed out already, once they get there they will never come back. That is what I am worried about.
As for the actual cuts themselves, as far as the inshore men are concerned—the under 70-ft. boats—the Minister's original proposal brought the subsidy down from 10d. to 6d. a stone. Now, after the row, we have gone back to 8d. But all this has happened within the space of a fortnight. Even this afternoon the Minister was not absolutely clear what it was all about. He said that he would have to go off and do some sums again. We shall all have to do that. I suggest, however, that we ought all to have done these sums, and the inshore fishermen ought to have been given the chance of doing them, before any Scheme was produced.
The fact is that, as far as I can make out, under the Scheme about £100,000 is to be clawed off the Scottish motor fishing fleet—
§ Sir R. Boothby
Very well, £91,000—for no reason whatsoever; and approximately £500,000 is to be dished out to obsolete steam drifters all round our coasts. That is very bad policy indeed, and not in the interests of the fishing industry. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will agree with me that the Aberdeen trawler fleet is a disgrace, and that the best thing that could happen to it would be for it to be scrapped or put to the bottom of the sea. If one goes around Aberdeen Harbour, one is ashamed that chaps should be asked to go to sea, very often in dangerous weather, in such ghastly vessels. Instead of bolstering up these obsolete things, as the Government now propose, they should have a scrap-and-rebuild scheme to compensate the owners for scrapping these vessels and building modern motor craft, which have already been a tremendous success, as every hon. Member knows, out of both Hull and Grimsby.
The future of the deep sea industry lies in modern, up-to-date—they are expensive, I admit—motor craft, and not with these obsolete steam trawlers, with 1729 their great smoke stacks, which with every year that passes are becoming increasingly dangerous. And yet these are the things which are being singled out by the Minister for subsidy.
I could not agree more about the desirability of replacing the old coal burners—that is absolutely our policy. My hon. Friend will remember that in my speech I emphasised that the yards were now full. These boats are being built as fast as they can be. We wish they could be built faster still. In the meantime, however, it is important that we should keep the old coal burners operating to ensure our supply of fish.
§ Sir R. Boothby
I suppose it is necessary, but it is a pity nevertheless. And it is even more a pity to take money away from my inshore fishermen to do it. If the Government had not done this, I should not worry quite so much. The sooner they bring it to an end the better; and the faster we can get on with the new boats, the better it will be.
Altogether, the Government have not given any cause for great confidence in their policy for the fishing industry as a whole. They do not seem to know where they are going, or where they are trying to get, or how to get there. The only hope for the inshore fishing industry lies in the development, for which some of us have striven for years, of diesel-engine dual-purpose craft. That is what we have now got in the north-east of Scotland. The purpose of these craft is that they can be converted from seine netting for white fish to drift netting for herring. I have had to fight for this for over twenty years, and now we are getting it. By and large the steam drifter has gone out, and we now have these dual-purpose craft.
Then, what has happened? The boats have just left the worst autumn herring fishing on record in the country's history. It has been an absolute catastrophe at Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The Russian market alone was waiting for 75,000 barrels, and we have been able to cure 8,000 barrels—that is all. Now, these fellows having gone North in great despair, every one of them with heavy losses, wondering where they are to get the money back, if they can get anything back. Supposing they decide to go over to the seine net white fishing, and try their hands at that during the stormy winter months, what 1730 will they find? As they steamed up from Yarmouth and Lowestoft to Scotland, the Government slashed the subsidy on white fish by 50 per cent. It is bound to take the heart out of these fellows. I ask the Government, what are they to do?
In thirty-one years in this House, I have never known a time when the inshore fishing industry gave cause for greater anxiety. It really is a worry, for it is now a question of survival. Unless something fairly drastic is done to keep these young men going to sea, the industry is likely to collapse altogether within the next three or four years. Once they go, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) told the House, they will not come back. And yet this is the moment that the Government have chosen to attack them.
I repeat what everybody else has said, that both these men and the fish they catch are essential for the security and welfare of the country. It is not an import. It is something for which we do not have to pay dollars. It is something we can produce ourselves; and if it is produced well, as it is, by the inshore men—I have said this often enough and I say it again—really good fresh fish is the best food known to man, nutritive and consoling in every way.
I beg hon. Members, and the Ministers particularly, to realise that we face a crisis in this industry. Had it not been for the assurance given by my right hon. Friend when opening the debate, that he was prepared to consider the representations which have been made unanimously, and from both sides of the House this afternoon, and to reconsider the whole question, I should certainly have had to go into the Division Lobby against the Government tonight. As it is, I will abstain, in hope—but with no undue sense of confidence.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I want to say a personal word at once. I am going to direct much of what I have to say to the Secretary of State for Scotland and those who work with him. I am no Scot, but I speak with the consent of my right hon. and hon. Friends from Scotland—and I am one of the vice-presidents of the Clyde Fishermen's Association. Moreover, I plead guilty—if that is the right word—to my wife's having a one-third interest in one of those small 1731 inshore boats. I consider I am no more debarred by that from speaking in this debate than an hon. Member would be debarred from speaking about agricultural subsidies by owning an undivided third of a cow.
This is a pretty kettle of fish if ever there was one. I am not going back through the long history of this matter, but I should like to take one date in what may now be called, I think, the inter-Budget months. It is very fashionable to talk about the inter-war years; let us have the inter-Budget months for a change. On 25th July, as usual just before a Scheme expired, the Government came down to ask for a new Scheme which was simply a continuance of the old one. At that time the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food promised another Scheme after the Recess, saying,… when we will take account of the coal prices increase and of any other changes that have taken place in the industry, in the past twelve months."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 881.]He had at the time in his possession, as one can see by the dates, though it had not yet been printed, the last Report of the White Fish Authority. Not a word was said then or in that debate about reducing payments to inshore fishermen. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), with so much of whose speech I found myself in entire agreement today, pointed out, quite rightly, that the subsidies at that time were only just adequate to provide the necessary assistance for inshore fishermen. He made then as he made today his suggestion that there should be a single flat rate per stone landed instead of the voyage subsidies and the day subsidies.
I call the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), to this. It was at that time that the Joint Under-Secretary of State promised to examine other rising costs, that is to say, other rising costs besides those of coal. The hon. Member for Banff had called pointed attention to the rise in the price of gear, net, ropes, and so on, which are just the things which concern the inshore fishermen. The Joint Under-Secretary of State said: 1732We do not get accounts from these little fishermen … we cannot follow what they do …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 892.]I ask the hon. Gentleman, what steps has he taken to carry out that undertaking to examine the costs of the inshore fishermen of Scotland? I am going to tell him now how the matter looks.
On 10th November, as we all know, the Scottish Office opened fire on the Scottish Inshore Fish Producers Association in Aberdeen, timing the first gun to go off with grisly inappropriateness on Armistice Day, and put before the Association what was substantially the first scheme, and its letter continued by saying:It is emphasised that Ministers regard the payments they now propose"—these are the payments in the scheme which has since been withdrawn—as the most that can be justified to Parliament.Under this threat the Scottish Inshore Fish Producers Association was compelled at very short notice to take the steps we have heard of, and so hardly was it driven by the Government that even in Aberdeen, the most Godly city, its final statement was prepared on the Sabbath, 27th November.
It was only one day before that, at one o'clock p.m., on Saturday, 26th November, that the Secretary of State for Scotland remembered that there are two sides to Scotland and that nobody had said a word to the Clyde fishermen about it, and a telephone call was put through at that remarkable hour calling their attention to the fact—this was on Saturday at one o'clock—that any representations they desired to make, in a matter which vitally affected their livelihood, had to be made by 30th November, that was, the Wednesday.
What was the reason? I should like to know the reason. Did the right hon. Gentleman, as I suspect, completely forget the existence of the Clyde fishermen? Or am I to suppose that he was taking a belated revenge for a spot of trouble in Inverary in 1752 when another James Stewart called James of the Glen, was hanged after a trial by a jury of Campbells—the right hon. Gentleman's letter was addressed to Campbeltown—and with the MacCailean Mhor there to see they dealt with him well and truly? Perhaps 1733 that was the explanation? At any rate, that was the information they had at that time.
Let us just see. They had the last report of the White Fish Authority—that carried the matter up to March, 1954—and such evidence as there was in that report was founded on a sample which the Authority said then was too small to be relied on. That was the substratum of what they quoted when called on for their evidence. As for the rest, they had some evidence, slight and insufficient, and, indeed, contradicted by other evidence, as to the gross receipts.
But what about the rise in costs that the Joint Under-Secretary of State had promised to look into in July? So effective had been his search, so protracted, they did not say a word about them, though they were obviously a most relevant factor in the whole business. If in a matter of this sort the Government do nothing, one can perhaps, be compassionate, but if acting on an entire lack of sufficient information, the more insufficient because that promise has not been fulfilled, they then proceed to order a Scheme which cuts into the very livelihood of these men, then indeed they have something to answer for.
During this debate only one speaker on the other side of the House has given any support to the Government, and that was very qualified support indeed, and it was given by the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), who represents a half of Aberdeen. If the Government bring forward a Scheme like that, there must be something wrong somewhere. I have listened to speech after speech from the benches opposite, all critical of it, and I agree with every word that was said not only by the hon. Member for Banff but by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby)—with only one exception, that at the end of their speeches they said that the Scheme was all wrong, it was doing the wrong thing in the wrong way, but they would not vote against it but proposed only to obstain. I would urge hon. Gentlemen opposite to have a little more courage when their constituents' livelihood is concerned, and to have the courage to vote against what they know to be quite wrong.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that the result of voting against this Motion would be that the fishermen would not have a subsidy at all?
§ Mr. Mitchison
No. I thought that would come from somebody. I expected that it would come from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, but I have taken the trouble to inform myself, and what requires to be done is this. The figures of the 1d. subsidies in various forms of landed fish require to be altered and put up by at least 2d. It is perfectly true that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may be somewhat inadequately staffed at this hour, but even they, I imagine, could manage to go downstairs, alter those figures in manuscript, put down a suitable Motion for tomorrow, and come here tomorrow to be greeted with acclamation over their repentance and over some measure of justice, at least. There is not the least difficulty about it.
I come next to what happened between this effervescence of Schemes and what I was talking about just now. There came the Budget. I find nothing to quarrel with in the diagnosis which the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire has just given us. Undoubtedly, the Chancellor had cast his spring optimism away and had assumed the cloak of anti-inflationary pessimism. Was he not about to rescue the country by imposing a Purchase Tax on pots and pans, on mops and brushes, and even on pedal-operated hygienic dustbins? Surely, the fishermen must pay their share. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman went to see him, reminded him that in July the Government had promised to do something for steam trawlers, that they had promised to do that after the Recess, and how were they to carry it out if the Chancellor insisted upon this unreasonable financial policy?
Here again I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire. The Chancellor no doubt said, looking as ruthless as he could manage, "Screw it out of one of the others." Who were the smallest, the ones most likely to make the least noise in this matter and at the same time the most numerous and most hard put to it to earn their living on the sea? They were the inshore fishermen.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That might be because they had most excellent help from the hon. Member, and if he would only vote at the end of the debate as well as he has spoken in it these people would have nothing whatever to complain about.
Now we are told that the effect of the Scheme is not to take the money out of the inshore fishermen to meet the claim of an increase in voyage and day subsidy for the steam trawlers, but that each must be considered separately. Somebody said that the Minister had gone away to do a sum. So he did, and he handed over to me the result. I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was an attempt to square an error by a little erroneous arithmetic. He will find that he was £13,000 out—no doubt quite a trifle in these matters; but that is the way it is. The right hon. Gentleman came here not even knowing the effect of his own Scheme in this matter. The effect is that it gives some additional assistance to the steam trawlers in Aberdeen, of which a great deal more than three-quarters, indeed I expect nearly the whole lot, are pre-1920 boats, over thirty-five years old.
These are the boats which it is the policy of the Government to have scrapped and replaced by modern boats. I entirely agree with the policy, but surely the right thing to do is to add to the grants for building. If there is not space enough in the shipyards now, the answer is not to come down on the inshore fishermen in order to keep the old crocks going until proper ships can be built for the job. Again, I would think it was unwise to send men to sea too often and too far in boats of that kind. I was not at all surprised to hear that some of these boats might not now be fit for distant fishing and would have to come nearer shore.
I turn now to the inshore fishermen themselves. We have been told already that the result of the past year, or of the past few months since this new promise was made in July, 1955, has been no improvement at all on 1954. On the contrary, men who could not make their living out of herring fishing have been driven now to try white fish and have got remarkably little out of it.
1736 Even if the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite lacked other things, they were at least presented with quite a number of accounts from different boats and different statements of what had happened. If they did not obtain any more it was entirely their own fault, since they did not give enough notice either in Aberdeen or Campbeltown. They could not obtain the figures they wanted. They made this Scheme without any idea of what the fishermen wanted and without any idea of the effect that these reduced payments might have on the fishermen.
Although the number of steam trawlers is quite considerable in Aberdeen, and of course they are larger boats, yet the number of men actually engaged in inshore fishing in Scotland is far larger than those engaged in the steam trawlers. Those are the men who will be affected by this Scheme. By now hon. and right hon. Members opposite have surely had enough evidence, not only from those who made representations before the Scheme was put forward, but from those hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken in this debate. Surely they have had enough evidence by now to know that what they are doing will break the backs of men who are already in the gravest difficulties.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite must know that in Scotland, as far as Stornaway, these men are working on loan and grant, some on herrings and some on white fish and some on both. At the moment those loans cannot be repaid. The interest on the loans cannot be repaid in many cases, and the Herring Industry Board and the White Fish Authority are already closing in on the boats. Men who have spent their lives in this business and have unrivalled knowledge of fishing are being driven to sell their boats for no figure at all, or to hand them over to the Board and the Authority to whom they have mortagaged them, and to give up that on which they have spent their skill and their lives.
These are small, hard-working men, but they have their pride too, and they get the best fish that the nation needs. They do it by going out in all weathers in small boats. They have experienced every kind of difficulty. Their nets and their gear are at risk. These go up and up in price, and modern methods of fishing make the use of them even harder and more risky. The result is that all 1737 these men are now facing the prospect of being driven out of their jobs.
What are the Government going to destroy if they carry out this Scheme? They will destroy not merely these inshore fisheries but these communities on the coast of Scotland which have their history and their pride. These communities have served their country in war as they have served it in peace, and they have wrestled with the sea for their living for years beyond memory. Are the Government really minded to wreck them? They will wreck them quickly if this Scheme is adopted. Why wait six months until the end of June? These men will be out of the picture by then. They may be in Glasgow by then, or in some other job locally or they may have cone south. They cannot hold on to this kind of fishing for another six months to allow Ministers to have consultations and rectify mistakes which ought never to have been made.
There are times when a Government should have some courage. There is not an immense amount of money involved here. The Government should withdraw this Scheme. They should tell us that they will withdraw it and bring in a Scheme tomorrow to bring back the 2d., or whatever it is, on the landing payments and, having done that, they should say that they will look at the whole matter again. Who or what ought to be put at risk? Should it be these men, or should it be the good name of a number of Ministers who have not consulted anybody, who have made a mess of the whole business, and who brought in a Scheme on 1st December which they could not defend and which they had to give up after they had appeared before one of those secret courts of which we hear so much nowadays—the 1922 Committee?
They came back at the very last moment with this Scheme and got their hon. Friends to say, "You can talk as you like. It is too late. We have left it so late that nothing can be rescued now." Are those the people who ought to be protected at all costs? Are those the people whose good name will be preserved? And at what cost? At the cost of driving out of their life's occupation hundreds of thousands of humble men 1738 round our coasts who have wrestled with the sea in peace-time, fought for their country in war-time, and made in their own villages a life and a community of which we ought to be proud.
I would say this to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Get up now. Spare yourself the business of handing out bouquets to your hon. Friends who so cordially disagreed with you. Simply get up and say, "We never make an error, or hardly never. This time we have made one. We are wrong. We are not going to sacrifice human beings and human communities to our obstinacy. We propose to withdraw the Scheme." Let the Government go downstairs and make a few pen and ink alterations, and they will get the new Scheme—not this one—by acclamation tomorrow.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Henderson Stewart)
Replying to a debate of this nature is not exactly an enviable job for anybody. It has been a case of cannons to the right of me, cannons behind me, and cannons in front of me. However, I must recognise that we had at least one friendly fusillade, that from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir).
I should like also to mention the friendly maiden speech by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Currie). I am sure we all enjoyed his contribution. He had some remarks to make which did not altogether coincide with the view of the Government, but he put his points with great delicacy and effectiveness, and I am sure that we shall listen to him with pleasure hereafter.
Loud noises have been made from various quarters, and there has been some exaggeration, as from the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), if I may say so, with respect, but, on the whole, it has been a friendly bombardment. My hon. Friends who have criticised have done so more in sorrow than in anger, and it is in that spirit that I shall endeavour to make an effective reply on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
When the hon. Gentleman remembers the speech of his hon. Friend 1739 the Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall), will he also remember that in Cornwall we have a song which runs:And shall Trelawney die?Here's twenty thousand CornishmenWill know the reason why!
§ Mr. Stewart
That is all very interesting, but I am not quite sure what its relevance is to the debate.
The debate seems to have been marked more than usual by questions from both sides of the House. We have repeatedly been asked: why have the Government made this proposal? Why must there be this Scheme now? What evidence have the Government considered in arriving at their decision, and, in any case, what is the Government's long-term policy? Is this an indication of some particular change? As I see it, my task tonight—I hope I shall not occupy very long, because I know that one or two of my hon. Friends would like to say a word or two before we finish is, if I can, to explain simply and frankly the reasons which led the Government to their present conclusion. I submit that they are reasons which would have led any Government confronted with present-day problems and the facts at our disposal to have acted in the same way.
Hon. Members may not agree with all that I am about to say. I am endeavouring merely to show them step by step how we arrived at our conclusions. As my right hon. Friend said most specifically at the beginning, we intend with regard to the inshore boats to undertake a new investigation. Our intention is to gather from all sources in the course of the next five or six months whatever fresh information is available, and to examine it sympathetically, urgently and with a genuine desire to incorporate the findings of all that in the new Schemes which must be brought about before the end of August.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point, I hope he will answer the question which I asked him. At column 894 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, on 25th July, 1955, he gave an assurance that questions relating to a rise in costs affecting the inshore boats would be examined. Has that undertaking been carried out? If so, with what result?
§ Mr. Stewart
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, I am coming 1740 to that. I am hoping not to detain the House too long.
It was said by someone that there has been a proper muddle. That is not true at all. It has been said that we have rushed into this. I admit that there is probably something in that argument—not that we have rushed into it, but, rather, that we have rushed other people into it. I think that was the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby).
I will tell the House exactly what has happened. I am talking now for Scotland, because I was asked particularly to deal with Scotland. We gave the Scottish Inshore White Fish Producers Association, which covers all inshore bodies in Scotland, the time limit which has been announced in the House. We wrote to the Association on 10th November. Its representatives came to us on 28th November. One may say that that is somewhat short notice, but it is not very short. Where we fell down here—I make a frank admission to the House—is that by mistake, for which I apologise, we did not, at the same time, notify the subsidiary inshore fishing associations, such as that on the Clyde, and that on the Forth, for which I have sometimes been asked to speak.
I apologise for the mistake, which was one made in our office, and I undertake that we shall not make that mistake again. However, I want to emphasise that the general body representing the inshore fishermen in Scotland had reasonable, if not over-generous, notice of the matter.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am prepared to listen to hon. Members, and to listen sympathetically, when they say that is not long enough. I give an assurance that in the future we shall recall that view and endeavour on every occasion to give longer notice.
I will come in a moment to the actual representations made to us by the inshore fishermen. However, the case has been put in the course of the debate for not only inshore fishermen, but for other sections of the industry. As the House know, in this matter we have three sets of boats to think about. We have the middle water steam vessels, the middle water motor vessels, and the inshore 1741 vessels. I do not wish to detain the House, but perhaps I might summarise the situation with regard to each of them.
In the case of the steam vessels, the subsidy, as every hon. Member has said, was never intended to eliminate all losses. The purpose has been to keep a reasonable number of these old vessels operating until they can be replaced by more efficient vessels, towards the cost of which replacement the Government, of course, have made and are making generous grants and loans. There is no dispute in the House about that. We all agree that in Aberdeen and elsewhere these older vessels should gradually be moved out of commission and they are moving out at the rate of about 70 a year and have been doing so over the last few years.
That is not an unreasonable rate of retirement for these older, uneconomic vessels. If that continues over the next few years—and as they are now being replaced at a considerable speed—in a reasonable time we shall have an efficient fleet.
§ Mr. Stewart
As the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) knows, here, as in every other matter affecting fishing, conditions vary at every port. In Aberdeen, they are not being replaced quickly enough, but the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) gave figures showing considerable progress and great enterprise in Lowestoft and elsewhere. One would hope that the enterprise in some areas can be copied everywhere, particularly in Aberdeen itself.
On estimates which the industry has not been able to challenge, steam vessels in the United Kingdom as a whole—in Aberdeen the figure is not quite so good—are expected to do no worse under the new proposals than they did in 1954, the rise in costs being compensated by the disappearance of a number of the most inefficient vessels and increased catches and earnings by the remainder. I said that that fairly favourable picture for the steam vessels in the United Kingdom as a whole is not quite reflected in the Aberdeen position. As my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South knows, two years ago Aberdeen had a much 1742 better year than was had by steam vessels in other parts of the country and again we see the conflict of experience, the change of experience in one area from another.
Surely the House will agree that in setting out a Scheme of this kind, despite the eloquent plea of my noble Friend, it is not possible to have regional arrangements. We must have a level scheme for subsidies for the various grades of vessels and to make it different would be very much to complicate it. Since it is a level scheme for all parts of the country, two years ago Aberdeen derived more advantage from it than other parts of the country and this year it seems that Aberdeen will do less well. It is a pity, but there are ups and downs whenever one is involved in subsidies. The best answer with which all hon. Members will agree is, if we can, to get the industry prosperous and so altogether to avoid subsidies.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
Does the Joint Under-Secretary think it is right to take 1954 as a year on which to base costing, because it was an exceptionally cold year? Equally, in referring to Aberdeen, should we not take account of the fact that it is the only port where prices are falling?
§ Mr. Stewart
My noble Friend is perfectly correct. Nineteen fifty-four was a year when the climate induced larger consumption of fish. This year, when the weather was very hot, consumption was less. Despite the unfortunate strike in Aberdeen, this year will not be so bad in terms of total landings as was first thought to be likely.
Motor vessels—I am talking about motor vessels generally—have never been meant to stay on subsidy for long. The whole purpose of introducing new motor vessels, with which all parties on all sides of the House would agree, was that we could quickly get rid of the subsidy, at any rate in that sector. It would be disastrous if any section of the House were to take the view, or were to press the Government with the policy, that we must continue paying subsidies to new and up-to-date motor vessels. That is not a tenable proposition and most of us would agree that it is not tenable.
It would be wrong to be giving grants and loans for the building of new vessels which could not operate without subsidy. Motor vessels over 70 feet in length made 1743 an average profit of nearly £300 per vessel in 1954; I am giving United Kingdom figures. Their gross earnings have steadily risen since then and they are expected to be better this year. I recognise that costs have risen and the figures which have been given today by several hon. Members, particularly by one or two of my hon. Friends, have been of great value and I assure them that those individual examples are being noted and will be most carefully considered.
I come to a matter which has exercised the keenest attention and, naturally, the warmest sympathy of the House, namely, the situation of inshore fishing. I speak here with a good deal of personal sympathy, because I have represented an inshore fishing constituency for 23 years.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Before the Joint Under-Secretary leaves the question of rising costs, will he please tell the House what he did to carry out his undertaking to investigate these costs? He seems unduly pleased with the scraps of information which he has received today.
§ Mr. Stewart
The question which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering has put refers directly and solely to inshore fishing. He will realise that I have got to that stage of my remarks when I am dealing precisely with that and I will, of course, answer his question.
Let me clear up the misunderstanding which was probably a slip of the tongue by one hon. Member. We do not have, as the House has heard today, properly audited accounts for every inshore fishing vessel. Why that should be so is quite clear. In Scotland, out of about 1,600 vessels, about 1,000 are under 35 ft. The great bulk are little boats, some of them working part-time. The proportion in England is roughly the same.
When, last year, the White Fish Authority proposed to make regulations requiring certain records to be kept—this is part of the answer to the hon. And learned Member for Kettering—the Authority issued draft regulations and the Fisheries Organisation Society, which represents certain inshore fishermen in England and Wales, objected on the grounds that the keeping of such records which prove unduly burdensome.
1744 Every one of us who represents a fishing constituency, particularly in Scotland, knows that the men with the little boats do not keep accounts, and to impose a regulation that they must keep accounts would be unduly burdensome. A large number of the little boats did not come within the accountancy survey. The thing to do, in practice, as the White Fish Authority attempted in 1953, is to cover the larger of the inshore boats.
§ Mr. Edward Evans
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) knocked the bottom out of that argument, because he based the whole of his speech on the Inland Revenue accounts of his constituents.
§ Mr. Duthie
Will not the Under-Secretary agree that in every Scottish port the fish salesmen's record of sales and records of the boats figures would give that information?
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, but I am sure that my hon. Friend knows, also, speaking again about Scotland, that about 90 per cent. of the total inshore white fish caught comes from the relatively larger inshore vessels, and that the great bulk of the other vessels, nearly 90 per cent., catch about 10 per cent. of the total landings. All I am saying is that the House should not expect this Government, or any other Government, to be able to get detailed figures from all the little inshore boats; but, clearly, we ought to be able to get better figures for the larger inshore boats. That is what my right hon. Friend today said was being done.
In Scotland, we have already taken action upon this matter. When we met the inshore fishermen's associations they offered to co-operate with us in getting fuller figures. We accepted their offer. We have written to them, and we are in contact with them now with a view to extending the range of our actual accountancy reports.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Gentleman has really not answered the question I asked him. He gave an undertaking to the House that he would investigate the rise in costs of nets, gears, and so on. I really want to know what steps he has taken to carry out that undertaking.
§ Mr. Stewart
All right; there is nothing for the hon. and learned Member to worry about. I am not running away 1745 from anything and I have an answer if he would only allow me to reach it in due course. I will gladly deal with costs, and I will deal with costs right away if the hon. and learned Member wants me to.
We made inquiries. As the hon. and learned Member knows, we have fishery officers all round the coast. I think I speak also for my right hon. Friend in saying that we have in the last few months been making very close investigation into these various rising costs. While it is perfectly true that the costs in a good many directions have risen and thus made the task of fishermen the more burdensome, it would not be proper, in a debate of this kind, were I not to indicate to the House that not all costs have risen.
May I just give to the House one or two facts which have emerged from investigations we have recently made? I am speaking for Scotland.
§ Sir R. Boothby
Is not my hon. Friend going to say where my tongue slipped? He said that I had made a slip of the tongue.
§ Mr. Stewart
It was a slip of the tongue, I think, when my hon. Friend said that the White Fish Authority had made a profit-and-loss investigation in 1954 or 1952, when, in fact, it was 1953. It was not very important.
Let me give the House some other figures, of costs. I do not attach too much importance to this, but on the other hand, I invite the House seriously to balance the one set of figures as against the other. The figures I am about to quote were sent to us recently by our fishery officers at various ports. At Scottish inshore ports the cost of diesel oil at 1s. 2d. to 1s. 6d. a gallon is the same now as it was at the beginning of last year. These are reports we have got from our fishery officers. If any hon. Member is able to give us information that in his port the figures are different, we shall, of course, examine it.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
These figures have already been made available. When I attended with the deputation from the Fisheries Organisation Society some time ago, the figures for diesel oil were given as: 1953, 1s. 4d. a gallon; 1954, 1s. 6½d. 1955, 1s. 8½d.
§ Mr. Stewart
I think the House will again see that this is not a matter on which anybody can generalise. It would be quite wrong for hon. Members to make the point, as some have done, that all costs are rising. I just make the simple statement to the House that there are ports in Scotland, in the North, where there have been compensating falls.
I was about to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), which was a serious one. He said that men in Shetland were in a particularly precarious position. Here is a fact about Shetland: Shetland boats have been landing at mainland ports white fish to a value of £78,000, compared with £26,000 last year, so that the total value of their landings, both in Shetland and on the mainland, is 23 per cent. greater than last year.
§ Mr. Grimond rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not want to detain the House any longer. May I be allowed to conclude, because I feel that we have had a long time on this—
§ Mr. Grimond
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to ask one question. He said several times that some things have come down in cost. Will he tell the House whether or not it is true that, overall, costs have enormously increased? Has he been in touch with the Shetland Fishermen's Association in any way whatsoever? I am told they were not only not consulted, but not even informed about this Scheme, and have not been even to this day.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am being perfectly frank with the hon. Member. I told the House a little earlier that we had been in touch with the main inshore fishermen's association, but we had failed to make contact with the junior ones—if I may put it in that way—and Shetland is one of those. It was too difficult for Shetland at a day's notice to come to Edinburgh. I apologise, and I say it will not happen again.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
The Joint Under-Secretary has repeated himself in saying he wants to be frank with the House. He has admitted that hon. Members on both sides have listed items which have gone up in cost in recent years; but he said there are compensating factors because the costs of some things 1747 has come down. He said that he wants to be perfectly frank with the House, yet so far he has not mentioned one item which has come down in price.
§ Mr. Stewart
I was about to mention them, but I thought the House was getting a little restive. I will mention them now. I have mentioned diesel oil. I am told, and I am confirmed in this, that the cost of diesel oil has been stable at the main ports over the past year—at Fraser-burgh, Wick and Lossiemouth.
I give another example. Seine nets cost between £54 and £68 now, compared with between £54 and £75 last year. The cost of Seine net warps—which is another way of talking about ropes—has fallen by between 9 per cent. and 10 per cent. in the last year. Those are examples of compensating falls to compensate for rises.
What is the general conclusion to which I think the House wishes us to come? It is quite clear that we cannot withdraw the Scheme, because we must maintain the subsidy. What is clear is that the House —and especially my hon. Friends behind me—wants to know whether we stand solid on this statement which was made
by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, when the Bill was introduced in 1953. The statement represents the considered view of the Government then, and it is that view upon which we stand today. It is:
Frankly, we do not see at this moment the likelihood of being able to terminate this white fish subsidy in the very near future. Of course, it should be the ambition of any industry to be self-supporting, but up to date the money for this subsidy has been granted by Parliament under the Appropriation Acts, as it was the genuine hope at the time that it would be a temporary measure to assist the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 57.]
§ My right hon. Friend has said clearly today that between now and the time when we have to ask the House for an extension of the £7½ million to £10 million we must make up our minds as to the future. That process is now starting. We are considering, and will continue to consider, all the facts brought before us, because it is our firm intention to maintain this great national industry in as high a state of efficiency as is possible.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 177.1751
|Division No. 86.]||AYES||[8.11 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hare, Hon. J. H.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Deedes, W. F.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Ashton, H.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hay, John|
|Atkins, H. E.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Doughty, C. J. A.||Heath, Edward|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Drayson, G. B.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Balniel, Lord||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Barter, John||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hope, Lord John|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Errington, Sir Eric||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Erroll, F. J.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Body, R. F.||Fell, A.||Howard, John (Test)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Finlay, Graeme||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fisher, Nigel||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Foster, John||Hurd, A. R.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Freeth, D. K.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bryan, P.||Gammans, L. D.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Glover, D.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Godber, J. B.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gough, C. F. H.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Gower, H. R.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Carr, Robert||Graham, Sir Fergus||Keegan, D.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Channon, H.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Kerr, H. W.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Kirk, P. M.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Lagden, G. W.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Neave, Airey||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Leavey, J. A.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Leburn, W. G.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Oakshott, H. D.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Page, R. G.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Partridge, E.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Pott, H. P.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Powell, J. Enoch||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ramsden, J. E.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley)||Rawlinson, Peter||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Redmayne, M.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Renton, D. L. M.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Marples, A. E.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Mathew, R.||Roper, Sir Harold||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Maude, Angus||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Sharples, R. C.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Mawby, R. L.||Shepherd, William||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Soames, Capt. C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Mr. Studholme and Mr. Barter.|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Speir, R. M.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Dye, S.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edelman, M.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Kenyon, C.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Benson, G.||Fletcher, Eric||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Beswick, F.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Blackburn, F.||Gibson, C. W.||Logan, D. G.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gooch, E. G.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Grey, C. F.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McLeavy, Frank|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mabon, Dr. J. D.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Grimond, J.||Mason, Roy|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hamilton, W. W.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hastings, S.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Healey, Denis||Monslow, W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Moody, A. S.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Herbison, Miss M.||Moss, R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Moyle, A.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hobson, C. R.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Holman, P.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Coldrick, W.||Holt, A. F.||Oram, A. E.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Houghton, Douglas||Orbach, M.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Owen, W. J.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Paget, R. T.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Hoy, J. H.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hunter, A. E.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Deer, G.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parker, J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Paton, J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Pearson, A.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Peart, T. F.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Janner, B.||Popplewell, E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Probert, A. R.||Snow, J. W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Reeves, J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Reid, William||Steele, T.||West, D. G.|
|Rhodes, H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)||Willey, Frederick|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stones, W. (Consett)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Ross, William||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Short, E. W.||Timmons, J.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Tomney, F.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Viant, S. P.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Warbey, W. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Weitzman, D.||Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Holmes.|
Question put and agreed to.
That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) No. 2 Scheme, 1955, dated 14th December, 1955, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14th December, be approved.