§ 5. Dame Irene Ward
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking financially to reimburse trawler owners for loss of fishing gear owing to the lack of proper patrols to prevent substantial damage by foreign vessels.
The correct procedure in these cases of civil damage is for the British owner to lodge his claim against the owner of the offending vessel. Reimbursement from public funds is not appropriate and could not be justified. My Department is glad to give what advice and assistance it can in cases of difficulty.
§ Dame Irene Ward
In view of the fact that the fishing industry has to bear the brunt of civil expenditure owing to the failure of the Government, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether, if an action is brought, the Ministry will be prepared to give evidence and say that it was its fault, and thus help the fishing industry to get the reimbursement which is its due?
I cannot possibly accept the implication behind the supplementary question of my hon. Friend that the Ministry or the Royal Naval Fishery Protection Squadron is at fault. On the contrary, the Squadron gives all possible help—
—and I am grateful for the efficiency and enthusiasm with which it carries out its duties.
§ Dame Irene Ward
On a point of order. May I not be allowed to say that there was no reflection on the Fisheries—
§ Mr. Willey
In view of the great difficulties about taking civil proceedings against foreign persons, will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether any better procedure would be appropriate? Could it be by international agreement?
I do not think that any other procedure would be appropriate in these cases. But we try to give what assistance we can to our fishermen. When they consider that their activities have been interfered with, we give them all help in taking up their case in the right quarter in the country concerned.