§ 41. Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the United Nations International Law Commission has approved ten articles dealing with and entitled, "Freedom of Fishing"; and if he will make a comprehensive statement indicating how this will affect the fishing grounds customarily used by Scottish fishermen.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
The International Law Commission has drafted certain Articles relating to fisheries on the high seas. These have been submitted to Governments for comment before the Commission prepares its final Report for submission to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The fishing industry will be consulted before Her Majesty's Government make their comments to the Commission. The Articles are, therefore, at a preliminary stage and any statement would be premature.
§ Mr. Hughes
In view of the importance of this matter to the fishing industry of 24 Scotland—involving thousands of families—will the Secretary of State issue a more comprehensive statement on the subject so that the fishermen may know where they stand—or where they sail?
§ Mr. Stuart
I have said that we shall consult representatives of the industry before any conclusions are reached.
§ 43. Sir D. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the failure of the Herring Industry Board to secure a market for the catch; the hardship caused by the Board's prohibiting fishing at times of abundance; and if he will take steps to overcome these difficulties and to make the Board financially independent of Government subsidies.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
The Herring Industry Board normally guarantees a market for all the catch by buying surplus herring for reduction to oil and meal. It would, however, be uneconomic to provide enough processing factories to deal with exceptionally heavy catches and at times, therefore, it is necessary to restrict fishing. The Board is, with Government aid, providing oil and meal factories at the principal herring ports in the expectation that it may be able to handle all but the most abnormal surpluses of herring without a Government subsidy. It is also considering proposals to assist private firms to handle more herring.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Is it not a complete failure to use this very fine food, herring, not for human consumption, but instead for reduction to oil at a price of 1¼d. a 1b. to the fishermen, which cannot pay fishermen in any part of Europe and which has to be subsidised by the Exchequer? Would it not be better to freeze the surpluses, as has been done in the horticultural industry with such success?
§ Mr. Stuart
Quick-freezing plants are expensive and only in times of glut would they be required. I am very anxious to see the normal consumption continue and, in cases where the catches are heavy, reduction to oil and meal seems to be the best outlet.