§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)
I beg to move,That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1961, dated 29th June, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th July, be approved.Perhaps it would be convenient to the House, Mr. Speaker, to discuss also the two other Motions:That the Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1961, dated 29th June, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th July, be approved.andThat the White Fish and Herring Subsidies (Aggregate Amount of Grants) Order, 1961, dated 29th June 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th July, he approved.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
My right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House are agreeable to that. Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Soames
The debate on the subsidy Orders each year gives us an opportunity of reviewing the general state of the fishing industry. When we started giving financial help to this industry, to the near and middle water trawlers, some eight years ago, everyone hoped that by about this time the industry would have been sufficiently modernised to be able to stand on its own feet without Government support.
The replacement of the old coal-burning boats by modern diesels has gone on apace. There are now 440 diesels and only 80 coal-burners in the near and middle water fleets, compared with 62 diesels and 675 coal-burners when the subsidies were first introduced. But substantial subsidies are still needed. 750 The distant water fleet, which was paying its way without any thought of Government help when we first introduced these subsidies for the near and middle water fleets, is now also to receive a substantial subsidy.
Earlier this year, the Fleck Committee reported that it would, in its view, be some more years yet before we could hope to see an industry capable of managing without financial support from the Government. Our debate today is limited to the Schemes before the House, but, as I said in a Written Reply yesterday, the Government expect to publish a White Paper with its conclusions on this Report before the House rises for the Summer Recess. I refer to the Report only to underline that earlier estimates of the way in which the finances of this important industry would go have proved to be too optimistic.
What is it that has belied our hopes? There are a number of reasons. Where the near and middle water fleets go there has been a decline in the total catch in recent years. There is no simple explanation of this. The catches of some species of fish and in some areas have been good. Others have been disappointing. Haddock, for example, has declined, but this seems to be largely because of a series of bad brood years. Better conservation measures would undoubtedly help, and we are doing all we can to introduce more effective measures. But the House knows what a difficult and slow business it is to get international agreements on these matters.
On top of these difficulties, we have had the trend towards wider fishing limits, and the industry has had to face the consequences of this. In 1959 we had the agreement over the Faroes, which reduced the area available to our middle water vessels. Then, following the failure of the 1960 Geneva Conference, we have had to make bilateral agreements with Norway and Iceland, which have already reduced considerably the traditional fishing grounds available to our fleets and which will reduce them still further over the next ten years.
It is against this kind of background that we have had to look at our financial help to the industry for the coming year. I want to mention first the new subsidy for the distant water fleet, since this 751 arises directly out of the loss of fishing grounds for our boats through the agreements with Iceland and Norway.
I want to explain in some detail how we arrived at the figure of£17 per day, because I know that there has been a good deal of concern over the apparent discrepancy between this rate and some of the rates for the middle and near water boats. This section of the industry was not doing particularly well even before the agreements, and the accounts of the distant water fleet show that they were operating at a loss in 1958 and 1959. Last year, they did a little better, although the average profit worked out at only about ½per cent. of the cost of a modern distant water vessel. Those conditions were obviously going to be fundamentally worsened by the agreements with Norway and Iceland.
No past figures of performance could serve as a guide to the probable losses. We had to make the best estimates we could and we had to make certain assumptions. We calculated that the gross loss of fishing per year off Iceland and Norway represented some 25 per cent. of the total distant water catch and amounted to the formidable figure of£5½million. Plainly, quite a bit of that loss could be made up by the vessels fishing elsewhere, but we doubted whether it would be possible for them to make up more than two-thirds of the loss in that way.
This meant that the distant water fleet would still face net losses of about£2 million a year, if our premises were correct. We did not think it would be right for the Government to make up the whole of that, but we agreed with the industry to provide£1¼million, that is to say, roughly two-thirds of the net loss. Translated into a rate of subsidy per vessel per day, that works out at£17. It will provide on average about£5,500 per vessel per year, which will be available to meet part of the estimated loss of£8,000 per vessel per year. Our estimates may turn out to be a miscalculation one way or the other. Time alone will show. But we had to make some assumptions and it is hard to see what others we could have made.
I know that this subsidy rate has been compared with those for the near and middle water trawlers. The industry 752 made proposals about those vessels which bore no relation to the existing rates. It asked for£20 a day for the smaller diesel vessels and£30 a day for the larger. That is anything up to 14 times the present rate, and it could not have been justified or explained unless one were setting out to fix subsidy rates at a level which would completely cover the possible losses of the worst group of vessels or ports showing the worst returns. Hitherto, as the House knows, we have always determined our subsidy rates on a national basis for all ports and by length groups, and our estabished practice has been to follow the trend in the different sections of the industry and to adjust subsidies upwards or downwards to take account of those trends.
Our picture of the situation this year in the various sections of the industry depends on the information which the industry itself gives us. I must, therefore, deal with fairly broad groups to avoid disclosing confidential information about the results of individual companies. The group of vessels between 70 ft. and 100 ft. made a profit in 1960 as against a small loss in 1959. Costs are expected to rise slightly next year, but proceeds are also likely to go up on the whole and certainly for some categories of vessel. So we are proposing a decrease in the subsidy rates for two of the 10-ft. length groups and an increase for the other.
The 100 ft. to 130 ft. group made an average profit in 1960, but there were rather wide differences within the group according to where the vessels were fishing. Costs are expected to increase slightly in the coming year and the average estimate of changes in proceeds covers considerable variations between one group and another and one port and another. Taking all that into account, we are proposing an overall increase of about 20 per cent., which means no change for one of the 10 ft. length groups and increases of 58 per cent. and 75 per cent. for the other two.
The 1960 results for the 130 ft. to 140 ft. group showed an increased profit for that group compared with 1959, but the prospects for 1961 are very mixed, again according to where the vessels fish. We are proposing to raise the subsidy rate for this group from£2 to£5 a day, because, although the outlook for the 753 majority of boats in this group is reasonably good, for those who are fishing most of the time off the Faroes the situation is quite different.
I know that the industry feels that the rates proposed for this year are too low, particularly for certain classes of vessels, but it is the substantial fall in the daily catch off the Faroes in recent months which has bedevilled all our discussions about subsidy rates this year. This has affected same, but by no means all, of the boats in the three length groups from 110 ft. to 140 ft.
As I said, we have always paid subsidy sates by length of vessel, and so we have had to face these conflicting trends of vessels fishing different grounds. We have put up the rates for those groups which, include those vessels which fish in the Faroes, 110 ft. to 140 ft., very substantially, by 58 per cent., 75 per cent. and 150 per cent.
I think that the industry as a whole would agree that for the trawlers not fishing at the Faroes these rates are adequate, to say the least. But the Faroes boats have had declining catches per vessel for several months and their proceeds have dropped by up to 20 per cent., or as much as£30 to£40 a day, as compared with the corresponding period of last year.
§ Mr. Soames
The percentage increase in subsidy this year is an increase over the subsidy which was given last year. I am talking of the three 10 ft. length groups in the group 110 ft. to 140 ft.—that is to say, 110 ft. to 120 ft., 120 ft. to 130 ft. and 130 ft. to 140 ft.
The industry argues that this decline in catches of up to 20 per cent., or£30 to£40 a day, is due to the extension of the fishery limits off the Farces under the 1959 agreement and says that the Government have a duty to compensate the industry for those losses. It has reminded me of the promise given by 754 my predecessor that if the industry suffered losses as a result of the 1959 agreement we would look at the position sympathetically.
What are the facts? For the first year or 18 months after the agreement results off the Fames were very good. Catches were actually 13 per cent. higher than in the three years before the agreement. Since last October things have got worse, though the total catch off the Faroes by the middle water fleet is still as great as it was before the agreement.
What has happened is that there has been a notable increase in the fishing effort in these waters. For the 11 months from May to March of this year, inclusive, the total number of fishing days spent off the Farces was already 21 per cent. above the annual average for the earlier years. About the same amount of fish has been caught and divided between more vessels, and this is the main reason for the drop in the returns per vessel.
What we need to do urgently—and this I think is of paramount importance for the middle water fleet—is to find new fishing grounds for these vessels. Some exploratory work has already been done at Rockall with some success, but much more is needed, and I have asked the Advisory Group on experimental fisheries work to get on with this urgently. I assure the industry that the Government will give all the help they can to do this.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The Minister has said that one of the things which it is necessary to do is to find new fishing grounds. Surely one of the things to be attempted is the maintenance of the traditional fishing grounds of the British fishing industry? What is he doing about that?
§ Mr. Soames
We want to hang on to the fishing grounds so far as we can. These are matters for international negotiation and we do our best to maintain what we can. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows the difficulties that we are up against and the pressures which have been mounting in the past. We do not wish to give up any more grounds than we have to. I am facing the facts. I am sure that what we have to do for this fleet is to try to find fresh fishing 755 grounds. But this will not help the fleet in the coming year. What we are doing for this section of the fleet for the ensuing 12 months is to give the vessels which fish at the Faroes very substantial help.
Let us consider the diesels. On the assumption that the diesel vessels will be fishing for the same amount of days off the Faroes this year as they were fishing last year, they will be receiving in subsidy£150,000 this year compared with about£90,000 which they would have received last year, and about£60,000 on the basis of the rates in 1959–60. In other words, they will be getting two and a half times as much as they would have been getting in 1959–60 on the basis of that number of fishing days.
What does this amount to per vessel? It means that this year the average amount of subsidy per vessel fishing at the Faroes will be£2,500, which is an increase of£750 over last year. On the evidence before us, taking the groups of 100 ft. to 130 ft. and then the bigger ones of 130 ft. to 140 ft., and the profits they made in 1960, I do not think that we would have been justified in increasing the rates any more. But I agree that if the present trends were to continue, even with this considerable increase, these vessels fishing the Faroes could be in for a nasty time. This was the main message which the industry gave me when I met it. I was told that what has been happening in the Faroes has hit a number of owners very hard, and some are worried about being able to meet their loan repayment commitments to the White Fish Authority. If this happens, the White Fish Authority will have to consider the individual cases if and when they arise. But it may not happen; we all know that fishing is susceptible to violent ups and downs, and no one can tell what the daily rate of catch is going to be. If the present trend continues, and experience over the next few months shows that the industry's worst fears are being realised, and if it should become evident that a critical situation is arising, that is something which will have to be considered by the Government as and when it arises.
For the coal-burners and the old oil-burners, we are proposing, as suggested by the industry, to group all the coal-burners together and all the old oil- 756 burners together. In both cases we are continuing our policy of reducing the rate of subsidy, but only substantially for the coal burners.
I come now to the inshore and herring fleets. Prospects for the inshore fleet are not good, and earnings have fallen in the last year both far the owners and for the crews, and this is an important side of our whole fishing industry. We are proposing a substantial increase in the subsidy rates, from 10d. to 1s. 2d. on each stone of fish landed.
As regards the herring drifter fleet, proceeds have continued to fall and costs are still rising. For these reasons we have decided to put up the rate by£2 for the larger vessels over 60 ft., which seem likely to be the most hardly hit, but to leave the rate for vessels under 60 ft. unchanged. The ring-net fleet, which includes most of the herring vessels under 60 ft., had a good year in 1960, and their earnings appear to be still on the increase.
We estimate that the new proposals for the herring, inshore and near and middle water fleets will involve Exchequer payments of about£3 million this year, compared with£2.7 million if the present rates had continued. To this must be added£1¼million for the distant water subsidy, making a total of£1¼million.
This substantial increase in the rate of Government expenditure explains the reason for the third Order which is before the House. The White Fish and Herring Industry Act, which the House passed earlier this year, allows us to seek authority by Order to increase the subsidy expenditure by up to£3 million, and as the rates of subsidy now proposed would mean that the money already authorised by Parliament will have been spent by about the end of October, we are asking for authority for a further£3 million under that Act.
These are our proposals, and I put it to the House that as a whole they are not ungenerous. To sum them up, what we are doing for the three sections of the fleet is that the distant water fleet is receiving an operational subsidy for the first time, subsidies for the near and middle diesel trawlers are being increased, and both the inshore and herring fleets are getting substantially more. In total, we are making a considerable financial 757 contribution to this industry, and an increased one. In 1959 the subsidy bill was around£2½million. In 1960 it was slightly higher. This year we shall be paying£4¼million, of which£3 million will be to other than the distant water fleet, and this to help an industry which, vital though it is, is small in numbers. No one looking at the total sum could call it niggardly.
Of course, one can argue about the details. Looking at the problem from one port or another, people naturally see the matter in a different perspective. One interest may feel that it has not done well enough compared with another. I doubt whether anyone could find a division of the cake that would not be criticised on those lines. But the Government have to look at the picture as a whole and strike what they believe to be a proper balance between the different sections of the fleet. This we have done, and it is in this spirit that I commend these Orders to the House.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
I listened with great interest to what the Minister has had to say. He delivered his speech this morning with a great deal of vehemence, but I think that he was trying to justify a very poor case. His last sentences, about the industry being a small one, will carry no weight in this country. The industry may be small in numbers but it is a very important one for our food supplies.
§ Mr. Hoy
Yes, but the Minister also spoke of it as a small industry. It is amazing that when the men who man these ships are required for the defence of the country it becomes a very important industry. To me it remains an important industry, and, as such, with its record of service for the country as a whole, it is entitled to better treatment.
The Minister gave us some figures which may be literally true but which conveyed the wrong impression. He spoke about certain subsidies being in- creased by 75 per cent., but what he was really saying was, "We are going to give you 1s. 9d. instead of 1s." That is the proper perspective, because this increase will cover only a small number of boats. It will not cover that class of vessel which 758 is so common in the Faroes fishing grounds—the vessel which sails from Granton, Aberdeen or North Shields. There is no change in the rate of subsidy for those vessels.
The Minister says that this will average out at£2,500 per annum per vessel. The middle water fleet owners will say, "That may be all right, but you have put up the interest rates on the loans we get from you to 6½per cent. and as a result we have to pay the White Fish Authority£2,300 per annum on the same vessels to meet those interest charges." We must put the matter in its proper perspective.
The Minister is always saying that we cannot pay subsidies to guarantee the industry against losses. We have never asked him to do that. But I must remind him that only yesterday, in this House, he had to announce that in respect of one section of the agricultural industry he would be faced with a deficit payment on barley alone of£40 million. Even with the increase in subsidies that he is giving to the fishing industry, it is receiving only one-tenth of the amount that he is paying to keep up the price of barley. That is the perspective through which the fishing industry will see the situation.
There are two real changes in the subsidies. We must remind ourselves that we are discussing these proposals at a time when the middle water fleet finds itself in what must be one of its worst situations. We must consider whether the new rates of subsidy meet the situation. The first change was not mentioned by the Minister. For the first time, subsidies will be paid in respect of fish to be used for other than human consumption. Secondly, the limitation to inshore, near and middle water fleets is removed for the first time, and the distant water vessel is included. It is on the second change that I want to make some observations.
This departure from the terms of previous Orders should be regarded not so much as a subsidy but as a form of compensation. I do not think that the Minister would disagree about that. With the loss of certain fishing grounds off Iceland the Government felt compelled to pay not so much a subsidy but a sum in compensation to the distant water fleet, and they felt compelled to do that because those fishing grounds 759 had been lost not as a result of any action on the part of the industry but because of an agreement reached between the British Government and the Icelandic Government.
If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that this agreement was reached not here but in Geneva, at the Law of the Sea Conference. If, at that conference, we had succeeded by one vote instead of losing by one vote this sum would not have appeared in the subsidies.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
Will the hon. Member make it clear that he does not object to what he has called compensation for the distant water fleet?
§ Mr. Hoy
I am not objecting to it; I am merely putting the matter in its proper perspective. I have raised no objection, but I thought that we should have the situation right to begin with, in order that mistakes will not be made later.
There is a difference of opinion within the industry in respect of the extra£1¼million. A constituent of mine has built three factory vessels of the Fairtry class. These vessels are three times the size of the distant water vessels, and catch about three times as much fish, but the subsidy for them will be exactly the same as for the small standard vessel. This owner now says, "If I had not gone in for this experiment and had not spent this money, but had contented myself with the standard vessels, I should now collect£51 each on them, but as a result of my initiative all I get is£17." Representations have been made not only to the Minister but to the Scottish Office. If it is not a contradiction in terms to say so, these representations resulted in the usual positive inaction on the part of the Scottish Office in fishing matters.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
Would it not also be correct to say that these three ships of the Fairtry class are doing an extremely good job by going to the experimental grounds, which is just what everybody wants?
§ Mr. Hoy
Certainly. They are also meeting fairly fierce competition as a result of the movement of certain fleets away from Iceland. They are doing a good job, and they feel that they are 760 getting very little of the£1¼million for it.
I now turn to the position of the middle water fleet, because it is here that the main trouble arises. That is the section of the industry which will do worst of all. I understand why the Secretary of State for Scotland is not here today, but that does not absolve him from his responsibility for the Scottish fishing industry. If the reasons given by the Minister for handing£1¼million to the distant water fleet because of the loss of the Icelandic fishing grounds are correct—end I am not objecting—surely the same argument can be made in respect of the loss of the fishing grounds at the Faroes. That is what has caused most of the trouble.
There is no great mystery about it, as the Minister would have us believe. These fishing grounds have gone, and the middle water fleet feels that it should be compensated for that fact. The Anglo-Danish agreement, which came into operation on 25th April, gave the Faroese exclusive fishing rights within the 6-mile limit around the coast, and only those countries which have traditionally fished at the Faroes were allowed to fish within the area between the 6-mile and the 12-mile limits.
This concession seemed to apply to Great Britain alone, but a further restriction was imposed, in that three areas between six and twelve miles were then delimited by the Government of the Faroes, so that British vessels were also prevented from going into those areas. As a consequence of that, the fishing grounds for the middle water fleet have contracted so much as to produce the catastrophic results shown in past returns.
It is not good enough for the Minister to say that he does not have the figures to show what is taking place. If he has not got the figures, the Scottish Office has and can tell him what the results were for last year for this section of the fleet. The losses were simply appalling.
§ Mr. Soames
The figures which we have for the year 1959–60, which is the year after the agreement was made, when we were fishing outside the Faroes, show that, in fact, the catch off the Faroes was 13 per cent. higher after the agreement was made than it had 761 been, on average, during the years before.
§ Mr. Soames
I am talking here essentially about the catch of the middle water fleet—nothing to do with the distant water fleet.
§ Mr. Hoy
The Minister cannot differentiate between boats. They used to fish Iceland and went to fish the Faroes. I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to tell the House that in 1959–60 the fleet fishing the Faroes from Aberdeen to Granton showed substantial losses. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny that. He has his own figures to prove it. This is the section in which we are interested. The Minister cannot deny that in the first six months of this year not only has the position worsened for these two sections of the fleet, but, in fact, it has affected those boats fishing from Fleetwood, Grimsby and all over the country.
§ Mr. Soames
The figures which have been agreed with the industry for the calendar year 1960, taking the broad group, which one has to, of 100 to 130 and 130 to 140 showed a profit for those vessels fishing from England and Wales, and, therefore, for Great Britain as a whole.
§ Mr. Hoy
The Minister cannot have it that way. I said to him, and I repeat, that as far as the Scottish section of the fleet is concerned considerable lasses have been made. He cannot deny that. It is true that there may be other vessels which have paid their way, but I am talking about this considerable section of the fleet. When the Minister remembers that Aberdeen alone is responsible for providing 60 per cent. of the fleet that fishes the Fames he will realise how serious the problem is.
These are the hard facts of the situation, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot get away from them. According to the Minister's own figures, there will be 762 no change in the subsidy rate at all for vessels of that class. That is the one section that the Minister did not single out. There will be no change at all in the subsidy rate for that section which is the section of the fleet which has made these losses.
§ Mr. Hoy
I do not know how often I must tell the Minister where the Aberdeen fleet fishes and where the Granton fleet fishes. That is the section about which I am talking. So we have this effect, which has been catastrophic for the Scottish industry. Indeed, the Grimsby trawler fleet which fishes this area estimates that its losses during the first six months of the year will not amount to the sums of which the Minister has been speaking but to something like£5,000 or£6,000 per annum. I do not think that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland would deny that for the Scottish middle water fleet these figures have been proved, certainly for last year and for the area which I represent. That is the problem with which we are confronted.
It is not only the trawler owner who is affected by these reductions. There are the men who man the fleet, and their association has made it quite clear—in fact, it has circularised every Member of the House and the Ministers themselves—that as a result of these falls in catch their earnings have fallen by one-third. The men who man the fleets ask, "What right have the Government to reach decisions with a foreign Government which cut our earnings by one-third without giving us compensation?" Therefore, this affects not only the trawler owner but the men who get a livelihood out of the industry That is another of the important things of which we must take cognisance.
I say to the Minister, and particularly to the Scottish Office, that Scotland is absolutely dismayed by these latest proposals. I know that there are certain people, perhaps looking for a way out of the matter, who are trying to find an excuse not to oppose the proposals, but the trawler owners of Scotland have said to us quite clearly that unless we get certain assurances today, which we have not got, we ought to go into the Division Lobby against these Orders. I think that they are right.
763 I said this at a meeting some ten days ago because I felt that the Orders did not meet the situation. It may be that some people are beginning to get a little weak about it and are prepared to play the part of the jelly fish. All I can say is that when we divide—
§ Mr. Hoy
If that is the best reply that the Minister can make, it would be better if he held his tongue.
All I can say in reply is that if we have to divide on the matter, I hope that we find no kilted jelly fish in the Division Lobby, because Scotland would not have much admiration for that kind of fish.
These proposals do not meet the Scottish situation. I do not believe that the Minister knows what this means. However, I would say to him that when these negotiations were taking place he felt so convinced by the arguments put forward by the Federation that he was prepared to go to the Treasury to ask for something more, but that the Treasury said "No, you will not get it." Therefore, what the Minister is saying today is repeating what the Treasury told him, not for the good of the industry but because the Treasury did not want to be affected. I believe that this will only land the fishing industry, certainly in my part of the country, in greater trouble, and I do not think that it would be right for the House to allow the matter to pass without making this protest.
§ Mr. Soames
The hon. Members knows perfectly well that this is a corporate decision by the Government. It is a Governmental decision, and not a question of only one Department.
§ Mr. Hoy
I do not differ from the Minister on that. Not a bit. I thought that I was being fair to him in saying what I said. I know that this is the decision of the Government and that the right hon. Gentleman is only the mouthpiece for the Government. Very often he will have to say things on behalf of the Government in which he does not believe, and certainly this is one of them.
Even the provision of subsidies will not solve the problems of the fishing fleet. I welcome the intimation by the Minister that very soon we shall have a 764 Government statement on the Fleck Report. I believe that only when we have had that shall we be able to tackle the problems of the industry in the comprehensive manner which is called for. Only if we do that, at any rate in relation to the Scottish industry, will what the Minister has proposed today prove at all helpful.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
From the conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) I did not gather whether he would oppose the Orders officially or not, or whether he proposes to wait to see whether there is a further reply from the Treasury Bench. I propose to develop the arguments and the reasons why I shall support them. We had a pleasant little exchange about jelly fish and got thoroughly mixed up. I did not know whether the hon. Member was talking about a Portuguese man-o'war or some other form of jelly fish.
For many years, when debating these Orders it has been the custom to have a discussion ranging over the fishing industry as a whole and for that we are extremely grateful. Generally speaking, when there has been fairly fierce opposition to any of these Orders it has generally resulted from the fact that the total sum available to the industry has been reduced. Today that is not the situation. In fact, the total sum has been raised. Yet, owing to the complex nature of the industry and the position in which certain parts of it are placed due to factors outside the control of those in the industry, one knows that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry.
I think that the hon. Member for Leith was not quite fair to my right hon. Friend when he criticised him for referring to a small industry. As I feel strongly on this point I should like to clarify it. The vital importance of this industry is recognised by people throughout Britain, including people who live far from the sea. We are all aware of how the men who man the fishing fleet have come to the aid of our country again and again when our security has been endangered. I thought that my right hon. Friend made clear that this was a vitally important industry not only from the point of view of food production but, because of the part it plays in the nature 765 of the life of this country. But also one must admit that the numbers employed in it are small compared with the importance of the industry.
I do not intend to discuss the difficulties arising from the protracted negotiations with Iceland or the fait accompli with the Fames, because already my right hon. Friend has said one thing which at any rate pleased me; that realising the difficulties confronting that part of the industry, it is impossible to determine the future with exactitude and that in the next few months, if there is a turn for the worst, the Government will look at the matter again.
§ Mr. Marshall
I wish to deal—this is the principal reason why I am taking part in the debate this morning—with the inshore fishing industry.
Mr. Frederick Pearl (Workington)
Surely if there were a turn for the worst, if there were a crisis, it is obvious that the Government would have to do something. I cannot see why that is a pleasing thought to the hon. Member. I should have thought it was obvious.
§ Mr. Marshall
The obvious, I am afraid, has not always been apparent to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). I remember attempting to move the Adjournment of the House in 1947, when there was an absolute crisis owing to the fuel situation and it was impossible for anyone to sail from our ports. The then Government, of which the hon. Member was a supporter, did nothing at all about that. Therefore the observations made by the hon. Member today do not ring any bells for me.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Will the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) also agree that it was a Labour Government in 1950–51 who introduced the white fish subsidy?
§ Mr. Marshall
That is perfectly true. We could continue this for ever. The first inshore fishing Measure which was of any real value to inshore fishermen was introduced by a Labour Government in 1945. But it had been on the stocks since 1944 and was brought in by 766 that Government only because they happened to be in power in 1945.
I think that we must recognise the enormous number of men, out of the total number engaged in the fishing industry, actually employed in inshore fishing. We must realise also that the total number of people employed in the industry has during the last twenty-five years been reduced by 50 per cent. Never at any time has the inshore fishing industry had the capacity or even perhaps the opportunity to earn for the crew, for the skipper and, in some cases, for the owners, amounts which have any resemblance to the amount earned by those who serve in the larger vessels, and who are responsible for catches of greater quantity but not of the quality of the prime fish secured by the inshore fishing industry. I consider that that has been recognised on this occasion by the Minister and is reflected in what he has done under the Order for the inshore fishing industry.
Hon. Members will notice from the Statutory Instrument—it always puzzles me why these Statutory Instruments have not numbers—the Sea Fisheries White Fish Industry Statutory Instrument, on page 4, paragraph 16, that payments for fish landed have gone up from 10d. a stone to Is. 2d. a stone. That will not solve anything, but it will prove extremely helpful and it is a recognition by the Minister of the position of this industry.
Many of us think—the White Fish Authority has come to a conclusion about it—that the best way to treat this subsidy with regard to the pilchard industry would be to transfer it from the quantity of the catch to the actual boat, I am aware of the various arguments which may be advanced about the difficulties of such a procedure. The White Fish Authority went exhaustively into the subject and the Minister has always said that after the Fleck Report has been presented to the House he would consider this matter. The Fleck Report has not yet been considered by the House, but no doubt it will be and a discussion will take place. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will still reserve his final judgment until the Fleck Committee's Report is discussed and decisions taken with regard to it. I believe the other method would be the better way.
767 When we are talking about the inshore fishing industry, it is sometimes rather difficult to get people to realise not only its importance but its effect on the fishing industry as a whole. It may be that in the part of Cornwall which I have the honour to represent the total number of vessels engaged is not very large. For the crabbers at Looe there are ten, for the trawlers and drifters in the summer there are six, and in the winter fourteen, and long liners five. That is the kind of number which exists in the small ports engaged in fishing, but they are important. They are important because of the prime fish caught and the importance of the people engaged in fishing and their usefulness to the nation. There will never be a moment when they will earn vast sups of money, but the raising of the subsidy from time to time is extremely helpful to them.
It seemed to me that the Fleck Committee dealt extremely casually with the inshore fishing industry. It seemed to take the point that because 95 per cent. is got from one angle the other 5 per cent. need not be dealt with in quite the same way. When they went to Europe to consider the different conditions there, the members of that Committee visited Ostend, Bremerhaven and Hamburg, but never a Breton port. It is important to visit a Breton port if one is to make a report on the inshore fishing industry in comparison with ports in Europe.
One of the great difficulties within the inshore fishing industry concerns those engaged in the pilchard industry. Strangely enough, the pilchard industry has been discussed in this House in recent years probably just as much as in the days of Elizabeth I. There was tremendous discussion about it in those days. One of its great difficulties is that the 1s. 2d. will not solve the problem of competition from abroad. The Report says on page 84:The imported pilchards come almost entirely from South and South-West Africa at present and, as Commonwealth goods, are exempt from import duty;South Africa is no longer a member of the Commonwealth. I sincerely press on my right hon. Friend that he should discuss this matter with the President of the Board of Trade and try to get a 768 new look on it because imports of pilchards are rising considerably. In 1951 the value of the imports of canned pilchards was£32,022, and in volume they were 4,513 cwt. In 1959 the value was£1,343,799, and the volume was 196,167 cwt. They mostly came from South Africa. Unfortunately, that country does not come within the grouping of the British Commonwealth.
Although my right hon. Friend has no doubt studied all the figures and the crabbers are covered by the provisions about shellfish, it is a pity that he has come to the conclusion that as yet no subsidy is required there.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is interesting, but I cannot understand how the hon. Member supposes it to be in order in this discussion.
§ Mr. Marshall
Naturally, Mr. Speaker, I understand that it is not mentioned in the Order and I should not discuss it, but I thought we were going rather wide in this discussion and that therefore I could mention it. No doubt the Minister heard those few words which are out of order and will take note of them.
Without doubt my right hon. Friend will have looked very keenly at this position and have realised the difficulties of those with vessels which in the past have fished off the Faroes. He will have realised not only the economic difficulties but the difficult agreements which have to be reached outside his own field. I could not understand the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) saying that this was all wrong. I do not know whether he wanted us to go to war about it. After all, one has to get an agreement in the end. I think the hon. and learned Member was posing the question, but he did not actually answer it. It is all bound up with the problem of helping this industry when certain things happen outside the control of the Minister. That is what has happened. I hope the Minister will look again during the year to see how this money should be paid out.
I thoroughly support the Order. It would be strange if at the end of his thinking the hon. Member for Leith came to the conclusion that he should divide the House. The inshore fishing industry would realise that he was dividing the House against the payment 769 of a very great increase, from 10d. to Is. 2d., which matters a great deal to the industry. I realise that he has always had a great interest and affection for the industry which, so far as I can see, is more than the Liberal Party has, for there is not a single member of that party present so far today.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Jelly fish were mentioned earlier in this debate although they are not the kind of fish which trawlers seek. When I listened to the Minister seeking to explain this mean set of subsidies, I asked myself to what section he belongs. He said that the subsidies were fixed by the corporate decision of the Government and thereby apparently sought to divest himself of responsibility for them.
§ Mr. Soames
If the hon. and learned Member thought that, I must tell him immediately that I in no way said that, and I think he knows it. Nothing was further from my mind.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Minister is blowing hot and cold. The words which appear in HANSARD tomorrow will show that that apparently was his excuse for venturing to introduce these mean subsidies. He gave me, and I think the House, the impression that he is the victim of his colleagues. I have some doubt about which class he falls into. I do not think that it is the jelly fish. I do not know whether it is the cod or the eel. But I am inclined to think that it is the little guide fish which precedes the shark in its journeys.
The Minister has attempted, with a singular lack of persuasiveness, to recommend these subsidies to the House. His speech bore all the marks of disbelief in the brief which had been supplied to him. He appeared to have no confidence in the figures which had been supplied to him, nor in the conclusions which were drawn from those figures. I can tell him that the practical men in the fishing industry, who know the figures and have considered them in relation to these subsidies, know how inadequate they are for the purpose suggested, and recognise that these Schemes provide no solution for the problems of the industry. Those practical men say that we should not approve these Schemes because they are inadequate and even 770 insulting in their meanness to one of Britain's great industries. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) said, it is an industry which has served Britain in war as well as in peace. In both it has made vast contributions to Britain—to her protection in war and to her welfare in peace.
The Minister stigmatised it as a small industry. I remind him that it provides a living for tens of thousands of workers all round our coasts, that it provides nutritious food for millions of our citizens and that it is an essential industry entitled to just as fair and generous treatment as other great industries, such as agriculture, shipbuilding and coalmining, are given. But it is not given that treatment, and it is not getting that treatment in these Schemes which we are asked to approve.
Today the Fishing News has expressed its opinion on these subsidies as follows:The Government in its subsidy proposals announced last week is handing out a raw deal to owners and crews of middle water trawlers. They feel that if the Government continues with these suggestions it is doubtful whether the majority of middle water trawlers will be able to meet their capital and interest payments to the White Fish Authority.Schemes such as this have been presented to the House at intervals designed ad hoc to tinker with with the needs of the passing moment, but one difference between these present Schemes and earlier Schemes is that, while earlier Schemes made a reasonable and fair attempt to deal with the needs of the passing moment, these Schemes are quite inadequate for the purpose. The Government always fail to present a long-term and co-ordinated plan, and the result has been all along that the evils and disabilities from which the fishing industry suffers have never been properly tackled, and they have certainly never been resolved. But these Schemes are worse than usual because, apart from failing in the long-term, they are quite inadequate in the present emergency—and there is an emergency—which confronts this great industry and, through it, Britain's food supply, employment for thousands and the welfare of the country.
One may reasonably ask why the Government have introduced these Schemes, so inept in their manner of tackling the 771 current problems. One thought that the Government knew what were the evils and disabilities of the industry, but it is evident from the Minister's speech that the Government do not know. Numerous Committees have been appointed to find out what are these evils and disabilities. They have spent years in doing so. They have made valuable recommendations which have not been fully implemented. The Fleck Committee is one of the latest, but apparently the Government do not know what to do with its recommendations, some of which are good and some of which are bad. The Government's ineptitude and ignorance would be ludicrous if it were not tragic and culpable—as it is.
Last January we had a debate on the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill, in the course of which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food expressly declined to discuss the Fleck Report, for the following absurd reason:…the fishing industry…is faced with entirely new conditions which may affect its whole basis of operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1961; Vol. 633, c. 795.]What on earth has that to do with it? If the fishing industry is faced with new conditions, why do the Government not deal with them? These Schemes do not fit into these new conditions. They do not solve the relevant problems, they do not provide a secure basis for operating the industry or even maintaining, much less developing it. During the Minister's speech I ventured to interrupt him. He said that one of the current problems was to find new fishing grounds, and with that I agree. But I asked him what the Government were doing to maintain the traditional fishing grounds of the British fishing industry. What have the Government done to maintain them, and what are they doing now? The answer is that they are doing nothing.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Minister was correct in saying roundly that the industry is faced with new conditions, but he gave no details. I shall do so. The Minister's statement was a platitude and easy to say, but neither he nor any other Minister, apparently, in this Government knows the full force and definitions of these new conditions. Still 772 less do Ministers give any evidence—certainly not in these subsidy provisions—of any knowledge of solutions for the problems which these new conditions present.
What are these new conditions? They are many, and they are a catalogue of the Government's failures. The Government have failed to maintain the traditional British fishing grounds. They have failed to secure alternative fishing grounds. They have failed to find a remedy for the extended fishing limits in an adequate subsidy for a new type of fishing vessel such as the "Lord Nelson" which I visited at Hull the other day. Above all—and the subsidies do not deal with this problem—they have failed to deal with the inflation which affects the fishing industry in respect of its fuel, fishing gear and indeed in every phase of the fishing industry. They have failed to do anything to conserve the fisheries in the relevant waters. There are many other problems which they have failed to tackle.
The outstanding feature is the fact that other nations have taken adequate steps to solve these problems, and indeed have solved many of them, while this nation under the Conservative Government is failing to do so. These Schemes do nothing to provide solutions for any of these problems. These Schemes were considered by officers and crews of experience—the practical men who run the industry—who manage and work it. Only yesterday I received a telegram from the Aberdeen Trawler Owners' Association which includes these words:North Shields, Gramon, Aberdeen, Grimsby, adversely affected by declining catches.They want us to oppose these Schemes.
Today I have received a letter dated 11th July from the president and secretary of the Grimsby Trawler Officers' Guild. The letter says this:The proposals contained in the Statutory Order"—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) may think this is a laughing matter. He thinks this is a very funny debate, but I assure him that it is a serious matter for the thousands of fishermen round our coasts. 773 When he hears what the Grimsby Trawler Officers' Guild says, he may not continue his laughter. The letter says:The proposals contained in the Statutory Order have worked the utmost consternation in middle and near water vessels at both Grimsby and Aberdeen.The letter deals also with the Government's failure to maintain Britain's traditional fishing grounds and says:The result of these alterations"—these are the new features referred to by the Minister—has been catastrophic to the middle water trawler owners, and to the crews it has meant a decrease of at least one-third of their earningsIs that a laughing matter in Bodmin? It is certainly not a laughing matter in Grimsby, Hull, Aberdeen or any of the other fishing ports.
§ Mr. Marshall
I did not interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman before, because I did not want to delay the debate. I must tell him that it is his humour which has provoked laughter. I sincerely apologise to him. I was not laughing at the substance of the matter. I was slightly amused by the way he was rendering it.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member may seek to excuse his laughter in that way, but it will not carry weight with the electors of this country or the people in the fishing industry. It certainly will not carry weight, I hope, with the electors in Grimsby and Bodmin.
§ Mr. Hughes
No, but they have at least one cod there.
I am adducing evidence of what the fishing industry itself thinks of these subsidies. I have made some quotations. I shall not trouble the House with many more, but I want to refer to a statement made on behalf of the Aberdeen Fishing Vessels Owners' Association. Last Wednesday the Association held an emergency meeting to consider these problems. After the meeting, Mr. Byron Bellamy, a director of the organisation, is reported to have said that these subsidies are a "miserable pittance" and would lead inevitably to a decline of the modern fleet recently built at a cost of E12 million and they would prefer to 774 reject the subsidy altogether and have a "quick death". I certainly hope that our great fishing industry will not have a quick death. I hope that the Government will think again about these subsidies and devise some long-term way of assisting the industry, just as they have devised a long-term way of assisting the agricultural industry, the shipbuilding industry, the housing industry, and so many other industries which the Government have treated far better than they are treating the fishing industry.
I beg the Government at least to have the good sense to reconsider the outrage they are perpetrating on one of Britain's major industries. They should have the decency to take these Schemes and the Order back and re-examine them in relation to the needs of the industry. They should produce a better set of subsidies more in accord with the needs of the industry and more in accord with the knowledge of the experienced men who work in the industry.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Sir William Duthie (Banff)
I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) that this is an occasion of great seriousness. This debate on fish subsidies has become an annual affair. It occurs just before the Summer Recess and in a gunspointed-at-our-heads atmosphere. We are faced with this stark alternative. If we do not accept the Orders set before us, subsidies will come to an end on 31st July next—that is in a fortnight.
I, too, wish to protest most vehemently against the treatment being meted out in these Orders to near and middle water fishermen. I cannot refuse to vote for the Orders, because if I did so I should imperil my constituents. They represent the largest herring fleet in Britain and a major proportion of the inshore fleet in Scotland. The Orders have not been produced in time to permit hon. Members to make an adequate inquiry of their constituents or for any necessary alterations to be made. I am very disturbed about what these Orders offer to the near and middle water trawlers. I am completely mystified at how anyone could possibly produce the order respecting the rear and middle water men. I have already admitted that in these Orders justice is being done to the inshore 775 and herring men, but I remind my hon. Friend that justice is a relative thing and it is not being done to the near and middle water men.
We have the right to ask who is responsible for this. How has this Order come about? Who made the deductions which led to these figures for the near and middle water men being put in the Order? The figures which have come to my notice, which have been presented by the industry, would be enough to convince any worth-while board of directors that the case of the near and middle water men is proved up to the hilt. I am afraid that this is a return to the guesswork that has bedevilled all fishing legislation ever since I came to this House sixteen years ago. How in the name of common sense can a vessel of 140 ft. 6 ins. receive a subsidy of£17 a day, while another vessel of 140 ft. has to be content with£5 a day?
In all seriousness, in this as in other matters concerning the industry, the informed and considered opinion of those of us who have the practical knowledge is set at naught against the whims of individuals in the background who have never seen a net put into the sea, who are totally ignorant of the hazards, the discomfort, the hours worked, the uncertainty of the recompense; and of the fact that the avowed intent of every trawler man that none of his sons shall ever go to sea. They have no idea of the conditions under which those men work.
The Minister referred to the size of the industry, but I would say to him and to the House that this is not merely an industry; it is the lifeblood of the country. These men are food producers, who toil day and night to keep our food imports to the minimum, and they are the men who, in two wars, defeated the submarine menace. In saying these things, I am sure that I voice also the opinion of my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who, unfortunately, is not able to be with us today.
In July, 1957, the present Lord Amory, then Minister of Food, asked the House to save prolonged discussion then, to accept the subsidies then proposed as being a purely temporary matter, because he was setting up a committee to ex- 776 amine every phase and facet of the industry. The committee was, presumably, to report speedily, and its report was to be implemented. That Committee—the Fleck Committee—was set up in the autumn of 1957. It took three years to prepare its Report. That Report has been in the hands of the Government for seven months, and at this stage we have the right to ask what is happening to it. Has it been pigeon-holed?
All along the line, at each successive subsidies debate while the Fleck Committee was sitting, we urged that when its Report was forthcoming it would be implemented without delay. Now, again, I urge on the Government that it is high time they made known their intentions about the Report in the form of a White Paper. Meanwhile, in the absence of that White Paper, we must accept—I certainly do—the subsidies that are being debated today as being of more than an ordinary temporary nature.
It is no good our thinking that these subsidies for the fishing industry are of a transient or passing nature. They have come to stay. The industry must have assistance from the Government if fish is to be available on the fishmonger's slab at prices the housewife can pay. We must never forget that the products of our fisheries is competing against the most highly subsidised food of all—meat.
I am entirely in favour of subsidies being given for the home production of food. During the war, it was my privilege to be a director of the Ministry of Food, and I was responsible for part of the nation's food. In those years, one would have given years of one's life and untold wealth to be able to get more food from home sources. That being so, fishing and agriculture must be viewed in exactly the same light, and the idiosyncrasies of each industry be fully realised.
I appreciate the consideration shown in these subsidies to my constituents, the inshore fishermen and the herring men, and I have no doubt that the provision of a subsidy for the distant water trawlers was long overdue. The distant water men have sufferd a progressive loss of fishing grounds, and the onus is on them to discover and develop new grounds. But, whatever is being done for the other sections of the industry, what is happening to the near and middle water men 777 is most grim. The Scotsman yesterday was right when it used the headline, "Trawler Subsidy Crisis," for that is what it is in Scotland today.
The state of the near and middle water trawlers is the most crucial consideration we have in this debate, and I am relieved to a very considerable extent by my right hon. Friend's assurance that if things come to the worst they will be reviewed sympathetically. I would say, however, that the matter must be reviewed sympathetically long before we get to a position in which things have reached their worst.
One sees in all this the hand, the dispassionate hand, of the Treasury refusing to give more money for this most deserving cause. I urge on my right hon. Friend, for whom I have the highest regard and who, I know, has done his utmost for us in the industry, to bear in mind that if and when this review should become necessary, what is given should be retrospective; it should cover the time that has gone as well as the immediate cause for giving it.
My views on the position of the near and middle water section of the industry are not the result of figures that have been sent to this House and circulated amongst hon. Members, but are the result of my own personal contacts with my friends, both owners and members of crews, in Aberdeen, North Shields, Fleetwood and Grimsby. I know these men intimately. I honour and value their opinions, and I know perfectly well that right through the piece they have been telling me the truth.
There is a very good case for the near and middle water men at this time. One has only to look at the landings for 1959 and 1960 given in the Report of the White Fish Authority to see that the distant water people, the people who are to get£17 a day—and they deserve it—did relatively better than the near and middle water people. That report repays the most careful study. One very disquieting feature of it, and one that cannot be too strongly borne in mind by hon. Members, is the immense increase in landings from foreign vessels and the enormous increase in the imports of foreign fish. The House would do well to take note of that now that the shadow of the Common Market is upon us.
778 These friends of mine assure me—and I believe them—that the near and middle water vessels are not now paying their way and that still harder times can be expected. That is particularly true of Aberdeen, the port that, perhaps, I know best. Since the beginning of 1959 there has been a steady fall in catches, and the position would have been much more serious today had it not been that in the earlier part of 1960 prices reached a phenomenally high level.
We must also bear in mind that of all the vessels that fish the Faroes, the majority are from Aberdeen. The chart I hold shows the very best grounds in the Faroes have all gone by the board. It is not just a question of a 6-mile limit being imposed there; on account of the conformation of the coast and the various islands, very few of our vessels can fish nearer than twelve miles of land. All these prolific fishing grounds have gone.
Another consideration of which the dessicated official mind can never take account is that in the Faroes the fishery protection vessels are adopting new harrassing tactics. In the old days, a trawler would fish when the weather forecast was bad, and when a gale of strength 8, 9 or 10 was imminent. It would fish to the last moment, and then dash to shelter in the lee of an island. Our trawlers cannot do that today. The new conditions imposed by the protection vessels make it impossible. The skipper has to seek the open sea and probably his home port. All that cuts down fishing time and makes serious inroads into the eventual catch.
The figures concerning the industry are well known to the Ministry, but, as everyone knows, figures can be twisted to any purpose. I say with all the assurance of which I am capable, that the near and middle water trawlers have made a "good" case for extra support at this time. I must remind my right hon. Friend that the industry places the utmost reliance on the Government's promise when the Farces limit was extended from four to six miles in April, 1959. The Minister then in office promised that compensation would be given for loss of these rich grounds if the industry could demonstrate the need for it and provide evidence in support of it. I submit that both those conditions 779 have been met. I would tell my right hon. Friend that we on this side of the House will be on the qui vive to ensure that the promise which has been given from the Box today must be implemented whenever the need arises.
§ Sir W. Duthie
That is so. He also said that the matter would be looked at again, and I read into that that there would be sympathetic consideration, and that sympathetic action would be taken. That is the interpretation which I choose to put upon it.
There is one thing that we must not forget in this discussion on subsidies, because it is germane to the subject. It is that there has been a tremendous build up of catching potential in other countries, and we should not be in a position to defend ourselves from the catching point of view if anything of a Common Market nature ensued.
Then there is the question of new fishing grounds. We can look with confidence, I believe, to the part that the distant water trawlers will take in developing these grounds, as they have done in the past. All the distant water fishing grounds being fished today, at least in the North Atlantic area, the Barents Sea and elsewhere have been discovered and developed by our own distant water people. We can only feel a measure of admiration and gratitude to the Herring Industry Board that at long last it has taken its courage in its hands and sent some eight drifters to try to discover new herring grounds, with, I believe, some success.
Research is an important matter. One is almost tired of repeating, year after year, in fishing debates that we have to get on with our research. We are lagging behind other countries. That is not because of lack of scientists. We have the scientists and we are discovering new facts almost daily concerning this great industry. We have ultra-modern vessels, like the "Lord Nelson," just put into commission. Again, there are always changes in gear, and there we are, perhaps, seeing more development taking place in seine net fishing than in trawler 780 fishing. This new equipment is absolutely first-class and is taking the guess work out of fish movements to an extent that our forefathers never dreamed of.
I was discussing last weekend with a fisherman friend at Lossiemouth the subject of fish movements. I said that I had always held the view that the haddock was a completely migratory fish and did not, like the sheep, live on its own hirsle. We do not know where the haddock comes from but we do know that it is migratory. He mentioned the case of a haddock travelling 128 miles due south-west in 77 days. He had picked up a tagged haddock 30 miles north-east of Lossiemouth and the time and distance had been confirmed.
Another matter of the utmost importance is that of our own fishing limits. For generations foreign trawlers here come in to our so-called territorial waters and fished them with impunity, while our own trawlers have been excluded. It does not necessarily follow that I want our own trawlers to come into these waters, but there must be some degree of uniformity of treatment. What is the yardstick for middle distance trawlers and distant water trawlers? Is it the size or is it the area that is fished? If it is the area of the fishing, there are five trawlers in Fleetwood which will get£17 a day whereas hitherto they received nothing.
These are matters which may appear to be unimportant in a debate of this kind, but they are of paramount importance to the people involved.
I should like to mention one other matter, which may be out of order, and that is the controversy over drifting for salmon. That is engaged in by drift net fishermen and has achieved a tremendous amount of importance and notority.
§ Sir W. Duthie
My plea is that salmon is mentioned in the Scheme as being excluded. I hope that on another occasion I may be allowed to say something about that.
The near water and middle distance vessels, to use a colloquialism, are getting a distinctly raw deal in these Schemes. I hope that the Minister will 781 speedily have the position rectified and that he will seek to urge the Government to do something apropos of the Fleck Report and give a charter for this industry without which this country may not survive.
§ 12.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)
I support in general the speeches of preceding speakers, but I regret the exaggeration that some of those speeches have shown. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) referred to what he called the desiccated official mind. It is a great mistake for people connected with the fishing industry to think that all its troubles arise because some civil servant has never seen a trawler. I also support the general case of the industry—though not solely because of, but in certain respects in spite of, some of the representations we have been receiving from the industry. I received this morning in common with other hon. Members a memorandum from the Aberdeen Trawler Owners Fishing Association and I take the greatest exception to the tone of one paragraph in it.
Generally, I think that the fishing industry on this, as on previous occasions, does no good to its case by persistent exaggeration of language. If I hear one more reference to the industry being sacrificed to the interests of political expediency I shall go quietly out of my mind. There is an assumption in the industry that any agreement which the Government are compelled to make with some friendly democratic Western Government is an act of expediency implying something immoral, whereas when the fishing industry wants something on its own behalf, that is not expediency, it is morality. This kind of exaggerated language does no good at all and I wish that the industry would moderate the tone of its statements.
Having said that, I think that on the main point it has got an extremely strong case. The Minister said, quite rightly, that no one could design a scheme which would satisfy everybody. But I think it would be hard to find a scheme which would create more opposition than we have here. It is probably true that the Minister would like to have given some additional help at the last minute to the midde water fleet, but was 782 prevented by the Treasury; in this sense he is the victim of the economic crisis into which the Chancellor's policy has landed us.
I want to speak briefly and almost entirely on the question of the middle water section of the fleet. The distant water section, with the provision of£17 per day, does not have any legitimate cause for complaint. It has probably come off rather better than it expected. The main complaint in this debate revolves around the question of the Faroes fleet. That has been a problem section for some time, because although it made a modest profit for some years, the White Fish Authority Report for this year shows that there has been a steady decline in the average catch for some time. But now the situation has worsened catastrophically. I did not recognise the figures which the Minister gave for 1960 because I think he lumped the whole of the middle water fleet together, whether fishing in the Faroes or in the Western Isles, so that his figures did not isolate the problem relating to the Faroes.
I should like to quote one or two figures which I have obtained from a firm in Grimsby, a firm which I know particularly well because it was on one of its ships that I went fishing off the Faroes a couple of years ago. Comparing the first few months of 1961 with the first few months of 1960, the drop in catches and in earnings is catastrophic. That is the only word that one can use. Taking the average catch of the ships in this fleet, the drop in kits per day is of this order of magnitude: one ship 38 to 16, another ship 32 to 16 and another ship 42 to 25. If one takes it in terms of earnings per day, the drops are from£149 to£104,£181 to£156 and so on. These figures are not in dispute.
The Minister conceded that comparing 1961 with 1960 there has been a really serious drop in the profitability of the Faroes vessels. But he made the point that this drop occurred after a time lag and not directly after the extension of the limits. That is true. Although the results for the Faroes vessels in 1960 were much worse in terms of profitability compared with 1959, a number were making a small credit balance. I think it is often true of fishing that if something is done such as extending the limits, this is not reflected instantly in reduced 783 earnings. I think there is a time-lag effect. But it is the 1961 figures that we have to go on.
It is not, as one or two hon. Members have pointed out, only the trawler owners with whom one is concerned. There are also the skippers, mates and crews. The organisation of skippers and mates in Grimsby has calculated that the average earnings of skippers off the Faroes have dropped from£5,000 a year before the new limits agreement to£3,000 today. The position of mates has also become very serious indeed. Some mates are earning less than third hands, and are signing off as mates and signing on as third hands. This is a ridiculous state of affairs and is the consequence of the serious situation in the Faroes.
I agree that one cannot definitely prove that the very serious losses in 1961 are due solely to the extension of the limits, since there is this time-lag effect. All one can say so far as Grimsby is concerned is that it is the unanimous view of the skippers, from their experience in the Faroes, that by far the biggest reason for the drop is the extension of limits. This is not answered by the Minister saying that one of the reasons that the results per trawler are worse in the Faroes is that more trawlers are fishing a limited area. This fact itself is due to the extension of limits. As a result of the limits being extended, all the trawlers are pushed out towards the shelf and are forced to fish in a steadily narrowing corridor. Inevitably the catch per trawler will decline due to the narrowing of the corridor and due 4.1so to the fact that the quality of fish caught outside the 6-mile limit is inferior to the quality previously caught inside the limit—lots of coley but much less prime fish. This must be attributed to the extension of the limits.
If this is the background to the matter, it cannot be denied, in view of the figures with which we have been furnished, that the new subsidy rates are totally inadequate and particularly so in the case of 130-ft. to 140-ft. trawlers which are concerned mostly with the Faroes. I am not prepared to say that the figure of£30 a day, which the owners propose, is justified. I do not commit myself to that figure, but one can say that, bearing in mind the results which 784 we have seen, a figure of£5 a day is grossly inadequate and is in striking contrast to the treatment given to the distant water section. That section has been quite generously compensated for the loss of the Icelandic grounds, and, compared to that compensation, the treatment given to the middle water section of the fleet is ungenerous indeed.
It is rather ironic that, proportionately speaking, the middle water section of the fleet has probably lost more off the Faroes than the distant water section has lost off Iceland, and yet it is being compensated much less generously. I concede that when one deals with Government subsidies there must always be anomalies and apparent injustice but this seems to go beyond an anomaly and is really a tragic blunder.
What will the consequences be in a few months' time if the Minister does not change his mind. One consequence will be a very serious drop in the earnings of skippers, mates and crews. Another consequence, which has not been referred to, is that we shall have proved to have wasted a good deal of public money which, with the support of the House, has been put into the middle water section of the fleet, and which we are now turning into an unprofitable investment as a result of the niggardliness of Government subsidies. It is a gross waste of public money to create an investment and then to act in such a way that the investment becomes unprofitable.
By far the worst result to which I wish to draw attention is that I fear that some of the smaller firms connected with the middle water section will be driven out of business. This raises a most important point when we are considering subsidies. I admit that the Fleck Report says that there should be more rationalisation of the fishing industry. I agree that there may be some ports where there may be too many small firms. But this is not the case in Grimsby where we do not have a mass of very small firms. What we have is a number of small-to-medium firms whose existence alongside the large firms is vital to the health of the industry. It would be wrong if we got to the point where -the industry was monopolised by, say, three major units. It is essential that surrounding these large firms there should be a number of small-to-medium firms in a healthy condition constantly competing with them.
785 The people whom I am worried about in Grinisby—I am talking still of the middle water section—are those firms, for example, with seven trawlers, or four trawlers or two trawlers. There is a serious danger that at these subsidy rates those firms will be driven into bankruptcy in twelve months. They are very nervous that they may not be able to meet their commitments for loan repayments to the White Fish Authority this autumn. The only comfort that the Minister could give when he mentioned this point was that the Authority would consider each case when it arose. That is cold comfort indeed. The fact must be faced that the Minister is in danger of driving some of the small-to-medium family firms into the hands of the larger units of the industry.
This seems a curious policy for a Conservative Minister to pursue. After all, the Conservatives are always preaching about how they support the small man in industry and it is, therefore, curious that the Minister should pursue a subsidy policy which has the danger of concentrating the industry into a tiny number of very large units.
There are two things which the Government could do. The first thing—and this would alleviate the position and I hope that the Minister who will reply will refer to this—would be to remove or, at any rate, to relax, the present ban on middle water vessels fishing in distant waters. At the moment the authorities allow them two—although this year they will allow three—trips in a year outside the middle waters if they are grant-aided. Many people in the industry consider that the position could be greatly alleviated if that restriction was relaxed. We should improve the earnings both of the trawlers which went further a field, and of those which stayed at the Faroes, where there would now be less over-fishing.
But mainly I hope that the Minister will make it quite clear that, on the present figures, he will increase the rate of subsidy, particularly on the 130-ft. and 140-ft. vessels. In any case, the position cannot go on as it is. I do not feel satisfied with the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's assurances. He said that he would consider this again in the light of what takes place during 786 the coming six months, and I am not so happy with those assurances as the hon. Member for Banff appeared to be. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks certainly did not satisfy me about the future.
The fears and feelings in the industry would be better alleviated if the Minister, in replying, would give a quite definite assurance that this whole matter will be reconsidered during the coming six months and brought back to the House at the end of that period. Otherwise, hon. Members should vote against the Government.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) who brought a realistic note into the debate. I felt that before the hon. Gentleman spoke we had heard some rather exaggerated views. While some of those views are no doubt correct, I felt that some were rather exaggerated. The hon. Member for Grimsby mentioned that certain sections of the fishing industry were inclined to make too much of their case. It should be made clear that it is not so much the industry as a whole that does that but one or two of its spokesmen. Some of the letters that are sent out are exaggerated and it is often difficult to understand exactly what is the position.
Whenever we talk about subsidies we are inclined to think that the section of the industry about which we know most should have a bit more and that the others should have a little less. It is, therefore, rather easy to criticise the Government. On this occasion, however, we should not. Considering the economic position facing the country the subsidy position is not too bad on the whole.
We are to have the Fleck Report and the proposals that will emanate from it. We hope that they will be forthcoming in the near future. At the moment, I believe that we should take a much longer term view of what money is really needed to keep the industry as a prosperous going concern. I do not believe that changing things too much year by year will result in any good. There must be a long-term plan so that a proper basis may be worked out. I hope, therefore, that when we debate this matter 787 again next year, or whenever it is, a long-term plan for subsidies will be produced by the Government so that we can look forward to the industry being so arranged that it can carry on in a prosperous way.
One of the most frightening aspects at the moment is the question of catches going down. I represent Fleetwood and I must admit that we have not really suffered from the difficulties in the Faroes, and thus I am speaking from a point of view different from that of other hon. Members. Nevertheless, even our catches have gone down from the home waters. Comparing the first five months of 1960 with the first five months of 1961, the catch per ship has gone down by over 16 per cent. As I say, this is more worrying than anything else, especially when it is considered that the gross earnings from trips have gone down by over 3 per cent. When we were discussing this matter last January, the Minister stated that he hoped that catches would go up by 3.5 per cent. They have, instead, been going down—with all our modern equipment—and this is an extremely serious position.
I appreciate that there has been a gradual increase in oil and wage costs, and there has, equally, been an increase in running costs. The recent dock charges system in Fleetwood has cost the port an additional£45,000, and to a small port that is an extremely large sum. I hope that those who are concerned with these charges will remember that this is, after all, an industry which is being helped by the Government and that it should not be knocked too hard.
A question about which many people are rather muddled and to which the hon. Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) referred—and I have spoken to the Minister about this—is what subsidies are received by the different vessels that are doing the same jobs. There is a feeling that ships of under 140 ft. regularly fishing in distant waters should get exactly the same subsidy as larger distant water vessels. It is felt that anyone doing the same job should get the same subsidy, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will check to see whether anything can be done along these lines.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I wish to concentrate my remarks on the Fleck Report and the White Paper which the Minister has promised and to which he referred in a Written Answer to me yesterday.
What concerns me in the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Fishing Industry, because I represent a Cornish constituency, is the paragraph concerning sea fisheries committees. The Report states:The inshoremen in England and Wales however are less closely organized than in Scotland and probably stand to benefit rather than lose by their membership of the Committees;…If the Minister has already decided not to keep the sea fisheries committees in existence I hope that he will reconsider the position.
We have, in Cornwall, 300 miles of coastline. We may not have many fishing ports or a great many people engaged in the industry but, because it is small, that is no reason for saying that it is not important. The nation has come to rely on the fishermen of England in times of stress. Last Friday in the constituency of the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), the Duke of Edinburgh launched a new lifeboat near the Lizard. How are we to man these lifeboats if the inshore fisheries are allowed to wither and die?
Yesterday, there was a 80 m.p.h. gale off the North Devon and North Cornwall coasts—a long line of rugged coast where lifeboats are often called out. This is an aspect of the industry which must be fully taken into account when the fishing industry generally is considered, especially when it is remembered that the fishing industry has always provided the reserves for the Fleet in times of emergency.
I received a letter last month. I do not know the writer, but in his letter he said:I have written this letter because I have reason to believe that life for some of these men is pretty grim, and I am wondering whether something cannot be done to ease their lot financially. I hope you will give this matter your sympathetic consideration, as I feel that perhaps some of these men live a very precarious existence.We all know that that is true.
789 In his speech, the Minister admitted that part of the increase in the subsidy was due to the compensation he was giving for the loss of fishing grounds. Some months ago, the hon. Member for St. Ives and I raised in the House the question of compensation by the Admiralty for fishermen prevented from fishing in their usual waters because of naval exercises. In a letter to me dated 12th April, 1961, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty said:I think it would be a quite wrongful expenditure of Navy Votes to pay compensation to fishermen, or indeed anyone else, for the Navy's use of an area of sea, as though fishermen that an exclusive or prescriptive right to it".Good gracious—much of this increase in subsidy is going as compensation for loss of fishing not in British waters but in foreign waters. I do not grumble about that, but, at least, British fishermen should be given some compensation when they are denied the right to fish in their own waters by the Admiralty. I hope that the Minister will take a much stronger line about this in defence of the fisherman than he has hitherto.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) referred to imports of canned fish from South Africa and South-West Africa. The figures are given on page 25 of the Annual Report of the White Fish Authority published on 22nd June, 1961. We are there shown that the domestic production of canned pilchards, almost entirely from Cornwall, fell from 3,447 tons in 1958 to 1,840 tons in 1959 and again to 1,457 tons in 1960. To a great extent, the canneries in Cornwall have had difficulty in keeping going not because of a lack of fish but because of the vast imports of canned fish from South Africa and South-West Africa, which have averaged over 11,000 tans in the last three years. I hope that the Minister will discuss with the President of the Board of Trade the possible regulation of imports from what will now be a foreign country which act to the detriment of the fishing industry of Cornwall.
The shell fish industry is still without any subsidy. If the great, wealthy trawling concerns are to receive subsidies and compensation, why should the shell fishermen be left out? It is the shell fishermen of Cornwall who help to man the lifeboats and who will help to pro- 790 vide a reserve for the Fleet. I hope that the Minister will look at this matter again.
§ 1.14 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
Unlike the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), I shall not deal with the problems of the inshore fishing fleet. I shall concentrate on the problems of the near and middle water fleet, because I think that it is this section of the industry which arouses most concern at this time.
I listened with very great attention to the Minister's speech. While trying to justify the figures of subsidy which are to be given under these Schemes to the near and middle water fleet, he admitted—I took his words down—that "in 1961 there has been a substantial fall in the daily catch of boats from 110 ft. to 140 ft." He went on to admit that conditions, of course, vary constantly from day to day in the industry, and he said that he would look at these subsidies again—I quote his words—"as and when a serious situation arose."
I took his words to mean that he will, within the next few months, if necessary, bring amending legislation before the House to increase the subsidies for the near and middle water fleet. If he really means that he intends to continue consultations with the industry and examine its costs, he must not waste time. We cannot wait too long until things have become too difficult; they are fairly serious already.
Because the Minister has virtually admitted to the House that the near and middle water fleets are a very difficult section of the industry, I shall not vote against the subsidies. None the less, I cannot support the Government in the Lobby. I intend to abstain. I am glad that the Minister has just returned to his place. Perhaps I should just repeat that I took his assurance to mean that he will bring forward amending legislation, if necessary, for further subsidies for the near and middle water fleet and that, therefore, I shall not today vote against the Government, but I shall abstain because I do not think that the Government have really probed in depth the costs and problems of the near and middle water fleet.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
If the Minister does not feel able to do so now, no doubt whoever winds up will clarify the matter for us.
I want my right hon. Friend to realise that there is great depth of feeling on both sides of the House about this section of the industry. If debate here means anything at all, he should take to heart that we are not trying to put forward an exaggerated case. We are putting forward what we believe to be a reasonable case, and we ask him to take it into account. For us who represent fishing constituencies, it means the livelihood of our people and the future of a great deal of investment in new fishing boats done in part at Government expense.
The£17 a day compensation to the deep water fleet for the loss of the Icelandic fishing grounds was based not on need but on estimated loss. One should bear in mind that only a proportion of the Icelandic fleet actually fishes the Icelandic grounds all the time. The deep water fleet has the whole of the Northern waters to fish in. It has the Norwegian coast, the White Sea, the Barents Sea—admittedly, only at certain times of the year—Spitzbergen, the North Atlantic and Greenland.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I am not in any way protesting against the£17 a day subsidy given to the deep water fleet. I am only pointing out that this fleet does not fish all the time in Icelandic waters. I suggest that we should look even more carefully at the subsidies given to those who fish the Faroes.
In considering the position in the Faroe waters, we find that the inner and middle water fleets have lost more in proportion than has the deep water fleet in the Icelandic fishing ground. First of all, the base line means, in certain parts, fishing 792 at about 20 or 30 miles from the shore, and there is less value in the type of fish. There has been a 31 per cent. drop in the weight of the catch.
Then we have to consider the type of middle water boat. In Aberdeen we have 122 boats, of which 111 are between 70 and 100 feet, but only about 65 can fish in Icelandic waters, and then only in the summer months. Before the 6-mile limit came into operation, the middle water boats could fish the inner areas of the Faroe Islands, and in stormy weather could quickly change their grounds and take shelter in the lea of some of the other islands. That meant that they were able to continue fishing in almost any weather.
It will be seen, therefore, that if they are pushed outside the base line there will be many periods in the year when they cannot fish at all. All hon. Members have received the Memorandum from the Trawler Owners' Association of Aberdeen showing costs and losses. Presuming that hon. Members have read it, I shall only quote one figure. The motor trawlers form the largest element fishing from Aberdeen, with boats of between 70 and 140 feet. The Department of Agriculture for Scotland estimate showed that, in 1960, there was a profit of£364, but the estimate—and these are agreed figures—for 1961–62 is a loss of£4,022. That is why Aberdeen—where the large bulk of this type of fishing from Scotland is based—is extremely concerned.
I also draw my right hon. Friend's attention again to the promise given in 1959, when the Faroe Agreement was reached, that compensation would be paid if losses agreed between the Ministry and the industry could be shown. I believe that he is justified in saying "Well, are these losses due only to the Agreement, or are they due, for example, to over-fishing?" It is true that many of the boats which normally fish Iceland went to the Faroes during the long period of the Icelandic dispute, but it was agreed that they should do so. It may well be that there was a certain amount of over-fishing, and I suggest that these should be a rearrangement of the fishing areas for different types of boats. It is here that the Government should give a lead. For example, the boats which fish Iceland could go to more northerly waters with the new subsidy.
793 Again, the lifting of the restrictions on the three trips a year allowed by the White Fish Authority to Icelandic waters by near and middle water boats should be considered. I understand that my right hon. Friend has always said that if the British Trawler Owners' Federation will ask for an extension of these trips to more than three times a year, he will consider it.
I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) asking for this extension because, with all deference to my hon. Friends, and to him, I think that the British Trawler Owners' Federation has the bulk of its support in Grimsby, Hull and Fleetwood, and when we talk about the fishing industry as a whole we should ask the Government to look at the problem as it affects all the boats.
The effect of dispersing the fleets might result, in the opinion of many experienced fishermen, in the outside grounds around the Faroes becoming mare profitable because of a possible migration of fish from the areas now restricted. On top of that, of course, we have to find new grounds. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will tell us whether the Government have received any recommendations as yet from the advisory group on experimental fisheries work.
The White Fish Authority's Report draws attention to this in paragraphs 123 and 124, and I understand that this group met for the first time last April. It comprises representations of the trawler owners, trade unions, the fishery departments and laboratories, the D.S.I.R. and the White Fish Authority. Has this group come to any conclusions on the grants that could be given to fishing boars prepared to look for new grounds?
I think that part of the fishing industry in Aberdeen would be prepared to undertake this work if, for example, twelve boats could be guaranteed against loss, for, as will be readily understood, it is a difficult and long process to find new fishing grounds.
I also want consideration to be given to the question of new boats. Unfortunately, it appears that already the majority of the boats of the Faroes fish- 794 ing fleet are out of date. In Aberdeen, some owners have boats of which the oldest are only four years old, and very great efforts have been made to rebuild the fleet entirely. The White Fish Authority's approval was given to boats of a length of 100 to 130 ft. as being the most suitable for what was required at the time.
I have heard an interesting and constructive suggestion from one of the biggest fishing owners in Aberdeen, Mr. Bellamy, who is probably well known to many hon. Members. It concerns aid to under-developed countries. In the light of the economic situation, the Government are now considering what type of aid and how much can be given overseas. Must this aid always be in cash? Could not it be given in kind? Why could we not supply some of the recently built middle water boats to countries which are able to benefit from protein food along their coasts?
Mr. Bellamy's company would be prepared to write down the value of its fleet to a realistic second-band value and to guarantee the mechanical and fishing efficiency of these vessels, provided that the Government, in their turn, provide facilities under the Grants and Loans Scheme for it to start again—in other words, to build bigger boats which could go further overseas, and particularly to concentrate on boats with stern fishing, because many owners believe that this new type will be most successful in the future.
I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to all these suggestions, because conservation measures and the agreements which we have had to reach with Iceland and the Faroes are not due to any fault of the industry. Everyone appreciates that these agreements have had to come about, but it is not our industry's fault that so much of its livelihood has been taken away.
It may well be that the Faroe limits will be extended to twelve miles over a period of time. We welcome the fact that the Government are to make an announcement about the Fleck Committee Report soon. It is very important, in a time of so much swift change—due to variations in fishing limits, and in all things where nature takes a part—that Government policy should be flexible and the industry adaptable.
795 We do not ask for increased subsidies to prop up an inefficient industry, or one which does not have a great future if certain things are done. What we ask for is increased subsidies now, or as soon as the right hon. Gentleman can order them, in the next few months, for the near and middle water fleets, to tide them over what is undoubtedly a period of exceptional difficulty. For the industry as a whole, we ask for stability for an industry which everyone acknowledges to be of prime strategic importance to these vulnerable islands.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I agreed with much of what the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) said, although I have to confess that in these debates I am always interested in the mentality of hon. Members opposite and the manner in which they ask for subsidies and then disappear for the weekend to make speeches about free enterprise and the necessity for setting industry free. I find it difficult to reconcile those two attitudes. I am always willing and anxious to assist industry, provided that it serves the needs of the community. Indeed, I would go much further than that.
In present circumstances, the fishing industry is undoubtedly passing through an exceedingly difficult time, because of the losses of its traditional fishing grounds and because it is meeting increasing and serious competition. It is also faced with the fact that it is unlikely, so the Fleck Committee tells us, that its domestic market will expand. Indeed, it might get smaller. It is also faced with the necessity for the reorganisation and rationalisation of the fleets themselves. All that means that serious problems have arisen for the industry. What perturbs me about these Schemes, as with earlier Schemes, is that these sums of money are granted without anything being said about helping the industry to solve those problems.
I would like Government assistance to be given rather more positively. In other words, I should like to see some indication that the Government have some idea of where they are going. This morning, we have heard that the Government are to tell us what they intend to do about the Fleck Report. 796 I am sure that we all welcome the Report, but a number of hon. Members did so as though it would provide an answer to the problems of the fishing fleets. It will do no such thing. The Fleck Committee avoided the real problems of the fishing fleets, taking the view that the ordinary commercial processes of competition would assist the industry to solve them for itself. There is nothing very constructive about that.
I acknowledge that a number of the recommendations of the Fleck Committee are valuable, although some are bad, but it has failed to provide the answer to the question which it was asked to answer—what should be the shape of the fleet in the future. I do not believe that the Government have anything in mind when these subsidies are granted. These problems will not be solved easily and that is why I have some sense of dissatisfaction when I consider these proposals.
We could say a great deal about the details of the proposals and argue about them at great length, but the issues which they raise are very simple. Are we doing too much or too little for the various sections of the fleet? That is what it boils down to.
The subsidy of£17 for the distant water fleet is very generous. I am not sure that it is not rather too generous. We are dealing with a most powerful section of the fishing fleet, and when I find that Sir Hugh Fraser is entering this industry, I have my doubts about the extent to which the industry requires a subsidy of this magnitude. Those views were expressed in the minority report of the Fleck Committee and I am rather on the side of that minority report, as I have said before. I may be wrong, but I would like to see a much better case for a subsidy of this size than has yet been made, although I admit that the distant water fleets have lost certain fishing grounds in Iceland and should be compensated to enable them to tide over the period during which they are finding new grounds.
§ Mr. Willis
I admit that it is only 4 per cent. of the operating costs, but it is still considerable.
I am impressed by the fact that a great part of this fleet is owned by powerful financial concerns. I am impressed by the fact that Sir Hugh Fraser, who makes money by the million and who has made about£10 million or£12 million over Harrods, has entered this industry now. He was not in it years ago and I cannot see that a man with the mind and ability of Hugh Fraser would dash into an industry which was on the rocks.
That is why I am not certain that the case has been made out. Certainly the Minister did not make out the case. He said that we should compensate the industry for its losses. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) pointed out, compared with the subsidy for the boats of 130 ft. to 140 ft. there is a jump from£5 to£17.
The case for the middle water fleets has been made out today, and was made out by the industry, for rather more generous treatment. From the evidence available, there is no doubt that catches are falling catastrophically. That is the right word to apply in this case and the fall is of particular concern to the Scottish ports. I took down the Minister's words when he said that if a critical situation arose, it would have to be considered by the Government. What does that mean? If catches continue to decline and the industry's losses, or failure to make profits, continue, but not catastrophically, if there is no great crisis but a steady process of decline, does that mean that the Government will not consider it?
When does a decline become critical? The right hon. Gentleman said that if a critical situation arose the Government would consider it. Many people consider the present situation to be critical. The Government have a duty to say what they mean by a critical situation. How do they judge it? If the industry declines steadily instead of declining in a spectacular way, at the end of a certain period will the Government regard the situation as critical?
The Government must be more forthcoming about this. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby made the right suggestion, namely, that the Government ought to undertake specifically to review 798 the position again in three months, or perhaps even in six months. The Government ought to give an undertaking not merely that the situation will be reviewed if a critical situation arises, but that in any event they will undertake to review the position of the near and middle water fleets either in three months, or in six months and, as a result of that review, take whatever action is necessary to deal with the situation as it exists then.
The House has a right to ask for that undertaking before we pass these Schemes and the Order. Nobody wants to vote against them, but we should like a clearer undertaking from the Government than we have had so far, and I do not think that that is too much to ask. After all, the House could turn down these Schemes. If that were done, the great tragedy which the hon. Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) mentioned would not necessarily occur. The Government would then be compelled to introduce new Schemes which we should be asked to pass within a week or two. If we agree to these Schemes I think that we are entitled to a specific undertaking from the Government that they will review the position of the industry in, say, two months, three months or six months, and that they will then take whatever action is necessary to maintain this fleet until they produce the legislation which we are told is to be brought in as a result of the findings of the Fleck Committee, and which I hope will also seek to solve some of the wide problems which I have mentioned.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said. I assure him that having sat here since 11 o'clock this morning I certainly will not make a speech in my constituency this weekend. I shall, however, be there for other reasons.
My right hon. Friend mentioned that a White Paper was to be published on the Fleck Report. Does that mean that we shall have a full day in which to debate it? There has geen a good deal of discussion on the Fleck Report today, and it has been ruled to be in order, but I hope that we shall have an opportunity of a full day's debate so 799 that we do not have to take up the time allotted to subsidies discussing the Fleck Report and its implications.
Since 9th May I have been trying to bring a deputation of men from Cornwall to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Unfortunately, I have so far been unsuccessful, but I have heard that he has come to certain conclusions and made up his mind on certain aspects of the Fleck Report. Is this true?
My right hon. Friend said that one of the reasons for giving help to certain sections of the industry was the loss of fishing grounds, and a good deal has been said about the Faroes. I was in those waters during the war when I was in command of a destroyer. Some of the best fishing grounds are those shown on this excellent chart which we have been given. For instance, the area just south and east of the island of Sandö, is, I believe, a prolific turbot ground. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. The Government must show that they mean business when they say that they propose to help these fishermen. It is no good saying, "We cannot tell yet what we shall do."
The point has been stressed a good deal, and must be stressed again, that it is not merely a question of our fishermen being pushed out of their fishing grounds; it is not merely a question of weathering, and the fact that they cannot now get to places where they could weather before the limitations came in. The difficulty is that they are now getting fish which is not of the quality they used to get before. The Government must do something about this. Circumstances have forced us to give way in Iceland, the Faroes, in Norway, and it looks as though we shall have to give way off the coast of Russia, but what do the Government do for our fishermen? The answer is absolutely nothing.
Foreign trawlers are allowed to fish in the Moray Firth. This has been going on for years, yet our trawlermen are not allowed to fish there. The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) mentioned the wonderful occasion last week when the Duke of Edinburgh came down to the Newkilcobben lifeboat station to name the new lifeboat. I had something to do 800 with that, being on the committee of management, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said. While making arrangements for the Duke's visit, the previous evening in the course of half an hour three French crabbers came in to spend the night.
Our shell fishermen are denied a subsidy, and I hope that the question I have been asking for years will be answered today. These men are denied a subsidy, yet their gear costs as much as the gear of those who get subsidy. Frenchmen can come in and catch berried lobsters, which our men are not allowed to do. What do we do to help our fishermen? If we had base lines and a 6-mile limit, that would be a great help, but the Government say that they are tied by old Acts of Parliament, such as the Act of 1882. In 1951 the Hague Court conceded the right of countries to have base lines, and I think that the time has come for the Government to give notice that we intend to extend our limits and establish base lines.
Many Inshore fishermen take the view that the Government are not interested in them in peace time that they are interested in them only during times of war when they are needed to join the Naval Reserves, as many did in the last two wars. What do the Government care? They tell us the old story about this being a luxury trade. I received a letter today from the secretary of the Fisheries Organisation Society, of which, I am a governor, which says:With regard to the question of subsidies for the shell fishermen, the shrimpers on the Lancashire coast are having a disastrous time.It goes into details about the losses. Why should not these men come into the subsidy arrangements? Their earnings today are half or even a quarter of what they were a few years ago. I have never been given an answer on this matter.
Like other hon. Members, I am grateful for the increase in the subsidy to the inshore fishermen. The Minister said that this section of the industry is in a bad way, and I agree. It is up to the Government to give us more practical help. Mention was made earlier about the importance of using home food supplies if this country is going to face an adverse economic situation. In those circumstances, it is no good telling fishermen that theirs is a luxury trade and then 801 importing large quantities of tinned crab from Russia. It just does not make sense. The Government are quite rightly trying to help in the search for new fishing grounds and the use of new fishing methods for the inshore fishermen, but those men say, "What is the good of doing that if we cannot get rid of the fish when we catch them?" That is the sort of thing that the Minister must look into.
It must be obvious to anybody who has listened to the debate that many problems face the fishing industry. Many of us have been advocating for years the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary, whose sole job it would be to look after the interests of the industry. Before the Government say that that is impossible, I would draw their attention to the terms of an Act of Parliament passed last December, which makes it possible to appoint additional Secretaries.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I appreciate that the debate has gone rather wide, but we are getting a little beyond what is in order now.
§ Mr. Howard
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The point is that this industry is at present facing some rather complex difficulties, concerned with its changing pattern and the loss of certain fishing grounds. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) mentioned the Salvesen Fairtry factory trawlers, and the disparity between their subsidy and that of other ships. There is the "Lord Nelson", which some of us saw the other day, equipped to carry out a new kind of fishing. All these matters need looking into and coordinating. We need a man who can go round the ports and be known to the fishermen—a man who can talk to them in their own language. The fishermen will talk quite differently to a man who understands the sea from the way in which they will talk to the nicest of persons who does not understand their problems. I am sure that the Government will consider the question of the subsidy for Faroese vessels, but they must look into this as a matter of urgency, and must announce something within the next few months.
802 My next remarks are not directed at the Under-Secretary, but I must point out that the fishermen do not want to hear all this talk about men who go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters; they do not want to hear a lot of stuff talked about what wonderful men they are. They want practical help, to show them that the Government really mean business and will take steps to protect those sections of the industry which have been denied their traditional grounds as well as compensating them for their loss. Also they must prove to the inshore men that they really value them in peace time.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. George Deer (Newark)
I do not intend to comment on the remarks made by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard), because the part of his speech I would follow would probably get me as much out of order as it did him. I wish to associate myself with the speeches made by my hon. Friends the Members for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) especially in relation to the Faroese question, which seems to have been badly neglected in these schemes.
If the reduction in the number of fishing grounds caused by the increase in the coastal limits means less fish, and worse quality fish, it will be reflected not only in the profits of the owners but in the earnings of the men. It is with that side of the question that I want to deal. I need hardly explain that my association with fishing groups is not due to any constituency interest. In my constituency we fish with ordinary angling materials, in the Trent, and what we catch does not matter very much. But I have a longstanding interest in the industry. Before I came into the House I was a trade union official dealing with the industry. I made many agreements with it direct, and with its ancillary trades, and I claim to know something about its problems.
Before I go on to deal with the problems of the fishermen I must, in fairness, say that there has been a revolution in the accommodation and amenities offered. Those of us who saw the Lord Nelson "last week were especially interested in the crew's accommodation. It was remarkable compared with that which was available in my early days. In most of the modern trawlers the crews 803 are treated as human beings and are given reasonable amenities. This means that the cost of building the ships is increased. Nevertheless, no matter how much more pleasant we make it for people to go to sea, many prefer to sleep in their own beds.
In the Port of Grimsby recently there was a rather regrettable stoppage. I understand the motive behind it and the psychological urge which drove the men to act as they did, but my union did not take part in the stoppage, and tried to dissuade others from taking part. Nevertheless, it dragged on, and while the mates, skippers and engineers were carrying on their struggle, with little chance of success, the rest of the crews were slipping away to other industries. There are many new industries on Humberside, including chemical industries, and their workers are offered reasonable wages, with a five-day week and all sorts of amenities, including sports. The result was that when the strike was over and the men were expected to go back to sea many trawlers were delayed because they could not crew up. There was a great loss of manpower due to the stoppage. That is an important factor to bear in mind when discussing the fishing industry with all its risks and trials.
Some remarks were made about the tycoon coming in and bringing in a lot of money because he had a lot of interests. I would point out that trawler owners today tend to become something more than trawler owners. They have all sorts of interests outside of catching fish, and rightly so. I do not object to that. They have revolutionised the trade, salesmanship and all the rest of it. That means, of course, that what they lose on the swings they may sometimes gain on the roundabouts. But not so the fisherman. When he loses a proportion of his pay he has not the cushion which the owners have with which to recoup himself as a result of those difficulties.
In the interest of the industry, we must remember that a fisherman is not made in a day. We cannot press-gang people into going to sea as was done in the olden days, and we have got to have a new type of fisherman. Anyone who has looked into a modern wheelhouse knows perfectly well that the third hand, 804 the type of man who is left in charge of the bridge, has to be a technician such as has never been known before in the history of the industry. That being so, we must pay him appropriately and also see that the industry does not decline.
I suggest that the complaint of my hon. Friends regarding the inadequacy of the grants in certain cases has been made out. I hope that the reply which we receive from the Ministry will not drive us into the Division Lobby in protest against it.
§ 2.2 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
I am sure that the House has enjoyed the speech to which we have just listened by the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) as much as I have. It is a pity that a man with such a very deep experience of Grimsby should talk about the trawler owners being cushioned because of their ancillary occupations. I would point out that these ancillary occupations are all directed to helping the sale and increasing the price of the product at the cod's end, so that the men also benefit.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the tycoon. I presume that he was referring to Sir Hugh Fraser who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). I should like the House to know that I was a director of Associated Fisheries for many years. Sir Hugh Fraser was invited to join the company because the previous chairman died tragically and suddenly at my side in Sweden. The deputy-chairman was over 80 years of age. Sir Hugh was invited to become chairman. The company now has a very young managing director. I am quite sure that it was a good move and will succeed. Sir Hugh Fraser will remain a draper, but he will be able to bring with him the experience in getting capital and so on which is much required.
§ Mr. Wall
While agreeing with everything that my hon. Friend says about Sir Hugh Fraser and the need to have a man of his value and power in the industry, may I ask him whether he would agree that the tendency to develop monopolies in the industry might be dangerous—two or three large firms taking out the individualism which was the glory of the industry?
§ Sir D. Robertson
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says about monopolies, but Associated Fisheries was a very small business in Billingsgate Market in 1919 when I joined it. Within twenty years it expanded considerably. Nothing is more healthy than for a small concern to get bigger and more important. Associated Fisheries is a magnificent employer of labour.
The hon. Gentleman referred to crew accommodation on the "Lord Nelson". Is not that a desirable thing? It is something which does not exist in any other country. We must not penalise or find fault with success. That would be contrary to the traditions of Conservative policy. While I dislike monopolies—and we have plenty of them, heaven knows, of the nationalised variety—do not let us hinder that sort of progress.
The case was put very well by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) and by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister in opening the debate. Each showed a grip of this very difficulty problem. I should be very sorry indeed if any attempt were made to divide the House, because the Government's record since the subsidies were introduced by the Opposition, and the record of the Opposition too, in attempting to help the industry, are excellent records. It would be tragic simply to have a vote on this one issue, especially as the Minister has said that he will review the position, of whether it should be three months or six months. I do not think we need tie anyone down on this, because the economics of the situation will bring the matter to the point where trawlers will be handed back to the Government. I know that the Government will help all they can.
The case for the Faroes has been put by both sides quite fairly and I am confident it will be dealt with generously if the need arises. The inshore fishermen are being well rewarded and they greatly appreciate the rise in their subsidy. I feel the same about the distant water fleet which never wanted a penny from anyone. It never had a subsidy when it was producing food during the war equal to that produced by agriculture. It never asked for a halfpenny and never got it. It is only when we are being 806 deprived of fishing grounds that the distant water fleet is accepting a subsidy at all. So do not let us find fault with it for taking the subsidy.
The real problem here, which has been touched upon by some other speakers, is over-fishing. We have been over-fishing for years. We have been the predominant fishing nation in Northern Europe and we have done our fair share, quite legally, of over-fishing. But other nations reacted, with the whole world with them, at Geneva. Let us have no doubt about that. It is true that we lost by only one vote, but those who voted against us and those who abstained wanted at least six miles or twelve miles and many, of course, wanted much more.
We did not have a friend, and the Government put up a magnificent fight at Geneva. It was no use trawler owners suggesting that they were deprived of something because of political expediency. That is just not true. We put up the best show we could. But we have to correct over-fishing, and we must begin at home. The same problem and even a greater problem is afflicting us in the North Sea at the present time where there are 175 banks cheek by cheek, from the Channel to the Pentland Forth, all over-fished. They are the finest fishing grounds in the world with a variety of fish such as is to be found in no other area. We must set about the problem.
We sacrificed the Moray Firth and the Clyde for years, and the Minch. We kept our own trawlers out but let the foreign trawlers come in for the greatest good of the nation. The deep water fleet and the middle water fleet going to the Faroes were fishing on the shelves of Norway, the Barents Sea, the White Sea, Iceland and so on, and the poor inshore fishermen of Scotland had to pay a high price for that. I can assure the House that I am not standing for any more of it. We must protect our own fleet and put out the foreigners from waters closed to our own fishermen.
Why are the waters closed? They are closed to prevent over-fishing on breeding grounds. Surely, when we are talking so much about entering into a union with the European nations for a Common Market, we should talk to them about the common heritage in the North Sea. I know that the Coalition Government did that in 1946. They made all the 807 plans to hold an international conference with a view to bringing over-fishing to an end, but all that came out of that conference was that the mesh was made a little bigger. That was a very small thing to emerge after all the efforts that were put into the conference.
I am told that we have talked to other nations about protecting the North Sea. Some of them are agreeable that that should be done, but they will not have control. It is rather like the Russians with regard to the bomb. They say, "Yes, we will do this, but do not come and watch us". The case is so plain for every nation to see. A trawler owner in Denmark said that the North Sea will not stand up to this for another five years. I should give it a little longer that that.
I appeal to the Minister to recognise that this is most urgent. The subsidies now given are a palliative and I am grateful for them. But the only answer is to find new grounds and to give the North Sea a rest. In this connection all the craft, about which we have been hearing today, which are to be handed back to the Government are capable of doing the thing which they were built to do, which is fishing. They could fish anywhere and travel anywhere, wherever there was likely to be fishing banks.
I do not know what the Government researchers have been doing. I imagine that long before the formation of the research group which met for the first time in April the fishery departments for England and Scotland must have been looking at this matter over a long time. They will have ideas perhaps about grounds in the north, although I doubt whether there are any suitable grounds there. But there are grounds in the south, off North Africa and off the coast of South America and elsewhere. There are first-class fishing grounds to which the middle water fleet could go as an expedition with a mother ship. I have had some experience of that. I was connected with two companies which took part in an expedition to fish for halibut in the Davis Strait. The vessel concerned would be operating today but for the fact that she was captured by the enemy during the war.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East wondered what the Government were doing. The Opposition always wonder 808 what the Government are proposing to do, but here is something about which we have been talking for a long time. The North Sea has been in its present position with the same shape and size for over 2 million years. We have been trawling the North Sea for sixty years and we have got it to the state in which it is at present through over-fishing. If it be right to protect salmon, trout and grouse, it is a million times more right to protect the food of the nation.
When the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) became Prime Minister during the war one of the things which he did was to form a Committee which was given the task of controlling the fishing industry and doing everything possible to increase the supply of fish, because fish was very important to the nation when we were facing starvation. The right hon. Gentleman christened it the "Utmost Fish Committee." That was how important fish was at that time and for all the period of the war. I appeal, not only to the Minister but to this House—do not let us pass this by. The really important thing is to take steps ourselves to protect our own waters and then we can request all the other nations to join with us in a conservation conference.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I fully support the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) about the importance of preventing over-fishing. But I am sure that he will agree that the steps which are being taken to extend the fishing grounds of Iceland and Norway are in no degree motivated by the needs of conservation, but in order to preserve these fishing grounds for private use of the countries concerned.
The main point in this debate has been the question of the middle water vessels and the restrictions imposed upon them by the new limits off the Faroes. I fully support the views about the middle water fleet which have been expressed, particularly those of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), who is my neighbour across the Humber. But I wish to bring a sense of proportion into this debate. No one has really dealt with the problem of the distant water vessels. That is, perhaps, because 809 there is only one fully distant water port in this country, and that is the Port of Hull. Grimsby and Fleetwood also operate some distant water vessels and the House should not underestimate the fact that 50 per cent. of the catch of the whole of the fishing fleet comes from this type of vessel.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) complained that the distant water section had too great a say in the British Trawlers' Federation. I think that she can take heart from the fact that the small number of hon. Members who represent these distant water ports are rather overshadowed in debates in this House by the eloquence of such a large number of hon. Members who represent the smaller ports in different parts of the country from Cornwall to Caithness. We have, however, to recognise that the distant water section is the most important catching section of the whole industry.
I regret that I am able to talk about the distant water section in this debate. It is the first time that I have been able to do so and still keep within the rules of order. Previously this section was not affected by these subsidies, and I regret the fact that a subsidy has had to be asked for. Indeed, I regret the necessity for the British fishing industry to be subsidised at all. But we must face the fact that the reasons for the subsidy, as has already been said, are not due to any slackness or inefficiency on the part of the industry, but solely because of happenings which are outside the control of the industry, and, in many cases, outside the control of the Government. They include subsidised foreign competition, and the loss of fishing grounds which was referred to by the Minister and which affects something like 25 per cent, of the total catch of the distant water fleet which may be valued at about£2 million a year.
There is also the question of the agreement with the Seven, and any possible agreement we may have over the Common Market, which is bound drastically to affect our fishing industry. However, I take heart from the Fleck Committee which has stated categorically there is a good prospect that within the next ten years the industry will operate unaided.
A point which has not yet been mentioned in the debate is that the fishing in- 810 dustry has a right to expect some assurance that there shall be stability over a period of years such as is afforded to the agriculture industry by the 1957 Act; by which it was agreed that subsidies would not go up or down more than 2½per cent. or 3 per cent. in any year. Such stability of guarantees is what is needed more than anything else by the fishing industry. I wish to ask the Minister to ensure that so far as possible the grants and loans voted are similar for all sections of the industry and are based on the same percentage of the cost of building a ship or upon the purchase price paid. As far as subsidies are concerned, I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree that these should be based on the same percentage of the gross earnings for all sections of the fleet, which is on the lines of the majority recommendation of the Fleck Committee.
If we have the introduction of differing rates of grants and loans or subsidies the different sections of the industry will never know where it stands. One section may be treated in a manner different from another and in a way which may vary from year to year, and instead of having a progressive modernisation of the fleet which could be planned ahead by owners over the next ten years, we should be reduced to something like chaos. In the future, I believe that there should be far less difference beween the middle water section and the distant water section. I am not thinking in terms of cash or subsidies but in terms of operating and building and other factors affecting the balance of the fleet. It is a great pity when one section of the industry tends to play off another in order to get more subsidies. The hon. Member for Grimsby complained about this. I feel it is a pity that the Aberdeen Fishing Vessel Owners Association Limited should send a brief to hon. Members of this House in which it states:We feel Ministers and the Treasury will have acted most imprudently with public funds if a subsidy based on possibility of need is disbursed to one section of this industry whereas the just and proven claim of another section is completely ignored.I support the view which has been advanced that the middle water section needs a greater subsidy because of the loss of traditional fishing grounds. I feel that this claim supports my contention that the gap between the middle 811 water section and the distinct water section should be narrowed and that there is a case for the gradual amalgamation of both sections which now operate in much the same way and which are both affected by the modern nationalistic inclination of countries to increase their limits to six miles, or probably to twelve miles.
I wish to refer to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South on the question of middle water vesels operating off Iceland. At the moment they are allowed to make only three trips a year. If we follow the line of reasoning which I have advanced to the House, that restriction should be removed and I would agree to this in principle, but I hope that when my hon. Friend considers this matter he will bear in mind the danger of both the distant water and middle water fleets concentrating off the Icelandic Coast.
Year after year I have reminded the House that in 1948 the Icelandic Government passed a law which would allow them to claim jurisdiction up to the Continental Shelf. I believe they are waiting for a good excuse to claim that British trawlers are over-fishing the grounds outside the 12 mile limit so that they can then try to enforce this law in the International Court. It would be a great pity if we gave them any justification for advancing such a claim.
I should now like to say a word or two about the subsidy for the distant water fleet. It is£17 a day. The operating cost of a distant water trawler is in the region of£280 to£300 a day. Of the£17, 30 per cent.—£5 2s.—goes to the skipper, the mate and the crew. That is quite right. The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) referred to this tradition. I have no quarrel with it but must point out that out of the£17 the owner gets only£11 18s., which is 4 per cent. of his daily operating costs.
Although some of my hon. Friends representing ports from which middle water vessels operate say that the distant water fleet has been over generously treated, I do nott hink that this view can be advanced when the subsidy is only 4 per cent. of the operating cost per day. It cannot be said that that is over-generous treatment, and it should be remembered that in any case this is only an interim subsidy. I hope that 812 when the matter is fully thrashed out my right hon. Friend will appreciate the effect on distant water vessels of the further loss of fishing grounds with which we are now faced off the Russian coast and possibly off Denmark. It may well be that other countries will follow the national trend and push their limits out to twelve miles.
I believe the industry is reaching a crossroads. It can continue only if it is thoroughly efficient. An industry cannot continue if it has to be continually subsidised by the Government. The distant water section does not want subsidies but it was forced to ask for them because of factors outside its control. The point has been made indirectly by hon. Members on both sides of the House that this has been the most efficient section of the industry as it has been the only section which in recent years has operated without subsidy and at a profit.
That leads me to believe that the future of this section is brighter perhaps than that of any other section. I believe it is showing great courage in going ahead with such vessels as the "Fairtry" and the "Lord Nelson", which cost great sums of money. I think the future lies in that form of vessel or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland said, in some form of factory ship operating far afield with attendant trawlers. If this is so, the conventional distant water and middle water fleets should come much closer together in size, design and operation.
If we are to have many big vessels such as the "Lord Nelson", thought will have to be given to the question of ports and docks in this country, most of which are out of date and under-equipped compared with foreign fishing ports. This question and that of adequate slipways must be borne very much in mind. I hope that when the White Paper is issued giving the Government's views about the Fleck Committee Report it will cover some of the problems I have mentioned and many of the important factors affecting the future of the whole fishing industry which have been mentioned in this debate.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) is obviously pleased with the 813 Government. If I represented a distant water port I, too, would be satisfied with the amount of subsidy given for vessels which go to the Icelandic fishing grounds. My constituency, however, is a near water fishing port, and it has very little to complain of in this year's subsidies.
That shows how anomalous the subsidies can be. We had the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) quite rightly complaining that the 100 ft. to 110 ft. vessel owners of Granton showed a great loss and, therefore, should have a greatly increased subsidy, but the same type of ships fishing in the North Sea from my port of Lowestoft have had the most successful year ever. To take up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice, this again shows the difficulty of trying to rationalise the whole fleet. It shows that there are various factors other than just the straightforward percentage figure he would like which have to be borne in mind.
For example, if this year my right hon. Friend had not been able to see his way to give a£20 per day subsidy for boats of 100 ft. to 140 ft. and had given, as would seem right,£15 for those of 90 ft. to 100 ft., he would have been giving the Lowestoft fishing fleet a far greater subsidy than it would ever expect or deserve. On the other hand, by doing that apparently he would be only just satisfying Aberdeen and Granton.
There is a real difficulty here. When the White Paper is published and when the Government reviews the Fleck Committee Report giving us a chance to debate, I hope we shall not find that minds have been closed on that subject, because many of us feel strongly about the recommendations of the Report on how the operating subsidy should be arranged. I think the minority Report of the Fleck Committee is nearer the mark than the main Report. When these subsidies were introduced as a means of helping the near and middle water fleets they were far a reorganisation of the fishing industry. Other factors have come into consideration since then.
Those factors are partly compensation, partly social, partly for national interest reasons, partly for reorganisation and partly in the form of a definite payment in a rather similar way to agricultural 814 food subsidies nowadays. It is quite obvious that it will be very difficult in the next ten years to get the fleet into a proper shape so that it may stand on its own without any help. That may be possible for the distant water fleet, but much money will have to be spent in reorganising it before it can do so.
For the near water fleet one of the things we must do more than is done at present is to try to improve marketing of fish. I make only passing reference to this, but there is an analogy with the broiler industry. Those engaged in chicken production say that there is only one profit to be got out of a chicken the whole way through from hatching to processing. That is amply true of the fishing industry. The big companies such as the Ross Group and Associated Fisheries make a profit and should do the whole job from start to finish.
There seems only this one profit to be made and, therefore, they are making a profit out of the industry as a whole. Therefore, I hope that in the future management of the subsidy the Government will look more closely at the whole question of marketing. One does not wish to see fish merchants going out of business, but we want them to co-operate much more with trawler owners and to develop the whole processing business to marketing all the way through. That is happening in agriculture, and I am certain that it must happen in fishing. I hope that we shall look into it very carefully indeed.
I agree with almost everything said by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) in his extremely able speech—the type of speech which he always makes on these occasions. It would be madness at this stage, having built up the fishing fleet, particularly at Aberdeen, Granton and North Shields, and now at Milford Haven, for the Government not to give a sufficient operating subsidy, whether for operation or in the form of compensation. Not to look after the fleet would be throwing good money down the drain.
But the Government must be careful to ensure that they do not allow the fleet to expand in any port, fishing any ground, to an extent which cannot be supported by grants which are available. I hope that they will keep careful watch on that. But it would certainly 815 be economic and financial madness to allow the Aberdeen fleet fishing off the Faroes to decline. If that means, as I think it does—and almost straight away, not in a few months' time—giving extra support this year to the Faroese fishing, then I hope that the Government will not be afraid to do so, because it is economically and financially common sense to do so.
There is no doubt that it would have been much easier to have gone to the Treasury and asked for extra money this year for the Faroese fishing had the matter not been complicated at the same time by the fact that the distant-water fleet had to have a subsidy, too. Having to pay a subsidy which rose from£2.4 million last year to about£3.7 million, as it will be this year, is the factor which has prevented the Aberdeen owners and the fleet engaged in Faroese fishing from obtaining the extra subsidy which I believe they would otherwise have obtained.
I promised to be extremely brief, and I will conclude. The whole question of fishing subsidies should be considered very much on how each section of the industry fares. I have only one slight proviso on what has happened this year to the boats of shorter length. The subsidy for boats from 90 to 100 ft. has remained the same, but it has been cut by 10s. a day on the 80–90 ft. boat. The 90–100 ft. vessels fishing from Lowestoft have done extremely well and are quite happy that the subsidy should be cut, but the 80–90 ft. craft have suffered a big reduction in subsidy, and they have not done at all well this year and are losing a lot of money. It seems wrong that their subsidy has been cut. If one is doing well one expects a cut in subsidy, but if one is doing badly for one economic reason or another, it is reasonable that one should be expected to be looked after.
With that proviso in respect of my constituency and with the much bigger proviso in respect of the necessity for supporting the Aberdeen and Granton fishing and all those fishing on the Faroese ground, I support the Schemes. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into the matter extremely carefully and will tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we cannot afford to throw away£12 million. If it is neces- 816 sary to support the fleet a little more this year, then I am certain that we should do so, because it would be on sound financial and economic grounds.
With those provisos, I hope that the Schemes will be passed and that before long we shall have a debate on the Fleck Committee's Report and the White Paper. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not take up a rigid view until he has heard the opinions of the different sections of the industry as they are represented here. On this subject I never agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not close his mind until such time as we have discussed the subject.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
This has been an interesting day of debate on the fishing industry. The Minister has been under very heavy fire. Even though the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) spoke moderately, throughout his speech there ran a criticism of the Government about the subsidy. He was counselling the Minister about the subsidy and pointing out that it is no good giving a subsidy to any section of the industry if it is not effective.
He was thus repeating the main argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), who led for the Opposition today, and my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), that the subsidy must be effective not only from the short-term point of view but from the long term point of view.
I feel that some of the speeches should have been made in a much wider debate. I am not suggesting that we have not followed the rules of order, but in some speeches I detected matters which would have been the concern of another debate on the fishing industry. When we consider problems of over-fishing, such as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie), we are well outside the scope of this debate. Nevertheless, it is important. I remember ten or fifteen years ago listening to debates on fishing in which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and the hon. Member for Banff raised the very same problems.
817 The Minister reviewed the general state of the fishing industry. I am not over-exaggerating when I say that it faces a crisis. He mentioned reasons, such as the declining catch, the exclusion from the Faroes, and the Icelandic dispute. We all accept those as factors. Nevertheless, without those factors the fishing industry would still have faced a crisis.
One has only to read the Fleck Report carefully, although we are not debating it today, to appreciate that must consider at some stage the wider implications of the use of a subsidy. I know that subsidies have often been criticised in the House. I have always supported the agricultural subsidy in the sense that it will help the producers of food, and the fishing industry and fishermen are producers, or catchers, of food; they rank with agriculture in providing food for the nation. I believe that it is right to inject capital into the industry here and there, because if we do not do so, then in the end the consumer will suffer. I have always regarded subsidies, both for agriculture and for fishing, not as direct subsidies to the producers but as assistance which in the end affects the consumer. If we do not inject capital into certain sections of this industry, inevitably the consumer and the nation will be affected. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby and others behind me will agree about that.
On the other hand, it is right and proper to ask, as some hon. Members have asked, that we should look carefully into the administration of the subsidy. That was the main argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Leith. His main attack on the Government was that the present subsidy is inefficient and that it is not weighted heavily enough in favour of the middle water trawling industry. We can argue about different sections of the industry, and it may well be, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said, that some hon. Members play one section of the industry off against another. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby also stressed that point.
But a simple fact has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Leith and other hon. Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. Lady 818 the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), my hon. and learned Friend the Members for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who spoke from the distinctly Scottish point of view: it has been shown clearly that the middle water section of the industry is facing a very serious situation and that the present subsidy arrangements are not sufficient. Charges have been made. I have not for a long time heard a Minister so bitterly attacked by his own supporters.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South made a vigorous attack. She told the Minister that she would not vote for these Schemes and the Order unless certain assurances were given. The hon. Members for Lowestoft and Banff made critical speeches. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) made a critical speech; it was a strong speech against the Government. He said that he was tired of the Government offering platitudes to the fishermen. How much more criticism does the hon. Member for Haltemprice want? Perhaps he wishes that his hon. Friends would ask for the Minister's resignation.
§ Mr. Wall
The hon. Member must agree that the main reason for the criticism is the situation in the Faroes, which is beyond the Government's control. He must also agree that no one from these benches, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), has said that he will not support the Government.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member should pay more attention to the debate instead of paying attention to the brief with which he has been provided. He will see from the OFFICIAL REPORT that some of his hon. Friends with specialised knowledge of the industry who represent important fishing ports have been very critical of the Government today. The hon. Member need not argue with me about this. He should accept that fact. The real question is whether, if the Government do not assure the House that they will look again at the incidence and administration of the subsidy, those hon. Members will go into the Lobby if a Division is forced.
819 I have here details of the subsidy. I agree with one point made by the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley). I cannot see why the subsidy should be£5 per day for a boat with a registered length of 130 to 140 ft., whereas for a boat in the distant water section with a length of just over 140 ft. the subsidy is£17 per day. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East made the same point. I cannot understand why there should be this anomaly. This has been the main criticism made by some of my hon. Friends and by supporters of the Government. They have argued that there is no rhyme or reason in the formula contained in these Schemes.
There is undoubtedly a crisis in the industry. I know that documents have been quoted. The Scotsman of Thursday, 13th July, has this heading:Trawler-subsidy Crisis. Emergency appeal by Aberdeen owners to all Scots M.Ps. New£12 million fleet faces financial disaster.I should not call the Scotsman a Socialist organ or an organ of the Labour Party. It must be agreed that there is concern, and I put it no higher than that.
The Fishing News was quoted by my hon. and learned Friend the Member far Aberdeen, North. It states:The Government in its subsidy proposals announced last week is handing out a raw deal to owners and crews of middle water trawlers, say leaders of the industry at Aberdeen. They feel that if the Government continues with these suggestions it is doubtful if the majority of middle-waster trawler owners will be able to meet their capital and interest payments to the White Fish Authority.Undoubtedly this section of the industry in facing a serious position.
We as an Opposition are very glad to pinpoint this. I am very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Leith forcefully showed the Government that their proposals in no way meet the needs of the industry, particularly this section of the industry which has been hit so hard. Of course I accept that there are factors affecting the industry outside the control of the Government. There are matters which arise because of the international situation and the conclusion of bilateral agreements with countries in the E.F.T.A. If we are sucked into the Common Market, problems will arise from that. The Government are facing 820 a serious economic crisis. This affects not only the fishing industry, but will also affect other sections of the economy. The simple fact is that this section of the fishing industry today faces a crisis.
I shall not argue about general policy. Nor shall I quote the Fleck Report too much. Even the forward of the Fleck Report states:The fishing industry through the ages has long had periods of adversity when its conditions gave rise to much anxiety.We all accept that at different periods the industry faces crises, but we must meet them.
Today we want some specific assurances from the Government. The Minister said, "This is the difficulty. This is the problem about the subsidy. This is a crisis in the middle water section of the industry. I will produce a White Paper. I will wait for Fleck." As one hon. Member said, Fleck has taken a long time—in fact four years. In another section of the agriculture, fisheries and food industry when we were dealing with the major problem of drainage we had a report called the Heneage Report from the Minister's Department. We waited years and years before this Government took action. I am glad to say that when the present Minister came to this Department he took action. I hope that we shall now have some quicker response in relation to the fishing industry. I remind those hon. Members who have said that a promise has been made that we have not received a specific promise yet.
§ Mr. Marshall
The hon. Member and I have a great interest in the industry. I am very interested in what he is saying. Will he tell the House how many vessels have been laid up?
§ Mr. Peart
If the hon. Member means to suggest that all is well in the industry, he should read the memoranda and briefs which have been sent to many hon. Members. I hope that some of his hon. Friends will brief him. If he tables a Question, I am sure that he will get an answer. He should speak to his hon. Friend the 821 Member for Aberdeen, South. I have received, as I am sure that the hon. Lady has, a memorandum from the Aberdeen Fishing Vessel Owners' Association Limited. I hope that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) has received the memorandum. He should recognise that there is a crisis. I am rather surprised that he, with his love of pilchards, should be complacent about this industry.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am talking about the fishing industry in general. It is not right to overstate a case. There are anxieties about certain parts of the industry.
§ Mr. Peart
I am not overstating the case. The very fact that the Government have to set up an inquiry into the fishing industry is proof that there should be a long-term policy for the industry. We are dealing with the specific problem of the effect of the subsidy on different sections of the industry. The hon. Member for Bodmin may wish to score a debating point, but hon. Members representing our main fishing ports have spoken rather critically of the existing arrangements. The hon. Member for Haltemprice is an exception. He was a P.P.S. Perhaps he wants to be one again. The middle-water section of the industry is facing a crisis. I reaffirm that we want a specific answer. I am surprised that some hon. Members opposite, in their anxiety to justify one section of the industry, ignore the difficulties faced by another section. There is undoubtedly a crisis in the industry. That is why the Minister has had to increase the subsidy. We are merely arguing that it does not go far enough.
The Minister talks of this as a small industry, but it is a major one. The aid that we are giving to it is nothing compared with what will be paid to the farmers—the£40 million for cereal deficiency in respect of barley, or the main overall subsidy policy for that industry, which I believe to be right. Compared with that subsidy, this is a mere fleabite, but it is much more important than that from the point of view of the country's interest.
I do not indulge in clichés, I think, when I say, as other hon. Members have said, that the industry is vital because of the food it provides and because of its contribution to our balance of pay- 822 ments, but it is vital, too, from the point of view of the men in the industry, as was stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Deer) and others. These are the skilled men who in time of national emergency sail our vessels and who, in time of peace, as my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) said, man our lifeboats. It is a major industry, but the aid we are giving it is very small. In view of its rising costs and the interest rates charged by the White Fish Authority, and other increases, the aid is negligible compared with the value of the industry itself.
There are many hon. Members who speak with great interest on this subject, who have a specialised knowledge of it, and who have taken part in all our debates on the industry. In the time of the Labour Government, my privilege was to listen to these debates only as a very humble P.P.S., when I heard the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, though he was not then Member for that division, the hon. Member for Banff and my hon. Friend the Member for Leith arguing year after year for a long-term plan for the industry. Today, I am glad that another Tory, the hon. Member for North Fylde, pleaded for planning in this industry. It is good to know that Conservatives have now accepted the planning principles they used at one time so much to deride.
We think that, in the short-term, the subsidy falls unfairly on one section of the industry, and that the Government have failed to reveal any urgency in dealing with a serious crisis in various ports. We believe that, but we also believe that the Government must reveal their long-term views, and I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will give us a specific assurance that something will be done; that the Government will look at the incidence of the subsidies, not only from a long-term point of view but thinking of two or three months from now. We want a specific assurance.
I hope that if a vote is taken there will not be any of those whom one of my hon. Friends described as "kilted jelly-fish". I do not think that the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South is a kilted jelly-fish. I do not know whether she wears a kilt—I think that she would look very nice in one—but she 823 does not look like a kilted jelly-fish. There is in this debate a warning for the Government. They must recognise our criticism, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will give the assurance we seek. Otherwise, we shall be very critical, and will have to take a certain action.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gilmour Leburn)
As the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) has said, we have had an interesting debate. In many ways, it has been a stimulating debate, and it has certainly been a vigorous one. It has been made clear to me, perhaps not for the first time, that a Minister who produces a subsidy scheme is not always exactly in an easy position.
Before I go any further, I should like, if I may, to convey to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) my right hon. Friend's sincere apologies for not being present. I think that the hon. Gentleman understands the reason, but my right hon. Friend specifically asked me to convey his apologies to the House.
As the hon. Member for Workington said, many points made on both sides have covered issues in the fishing industry very widely, and issues which, I think, will be more appropriately discussed when we consider the Government's White Paper on the Fleck Committee's Report, which my right hon. Friend expects to publish before the Summer Recess. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) asked whether I could guarantee a debate on that Report, but he must put that question to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I know that all hon. Members who are interested in fishing matters will want very carefully to consider the content of the White Paper. I know that hon. Members complain that it has taken a long time to produce this Report, but very important issues are involved, and we are now coming to the stage when hon. Members will be able to look at the Government's proposals.
I think that the main criticism today has turned on our proposals for the trawling industry. A few hon. Members have suggested that there may have been unfair discrimination between the distant water fleet and the near and middle water trawlers, but I do not think 824 that that has been by any means the general view, and even the hon. Member for Leith acknowledged the position in which the distant water fleet finds itself.
We all know that by virtue of agreements on fishery limits which the Goverment, for political reasons, have found it necessary to accept, the distant water trawlers have been excluded from fishing grounds that would otherwise be open to them, and the proposed subsidy of£17 a day is compensation—and I admit it—for that loss.
The position of the near and middle water trawlers is somewhat different. Their difficulties are due, not so much to political decisions over fishery limits as to natural causes—scarcity of haddock and whiting in home waters—or to what has been described in the debate as the very complex situation at the Faroes.
On the last point, the trawler owners, and some of those hon. Members who have spoken on their behalf, ascribe the situation to the fishery limits agreement of 1959. I do not turn down that point of view out of hand by any means, but it does require examination. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, total catches at the Faroes have not fallen since the 1959 Agreement took effect, though I admit that does not in itself invalidate the argument. What matters is that both the catch per vessel per day and the money got for it have undoubtedly fallen. Where we differ from the industry, and I must be quite frank about this, is in our view of the causes of this development.
We do not think that it can be ascribed wholly or mainly to the 1959 Agreement, for the simple reason that the fall in average daily catches started well before the agreement came into force. Perhaps I may quote one or two figures to illustrate that. The catch per day of Aberdeen diesel trawlers at the Faroes in the period 1st May, 1957, to 30th April, 1958 —that is, starting two years before the agreement came into force—was 62.2 cwts. In 1958–59, the twelve months immediately preceding the coming into force of the agreement, that figure had fallen by 5.6 cwts. to 56.6 cwts a day. In 1959–60, that is the twelve months after the agreement, it fell by 5.4 cwts. to 51.2 cwts. per day. That is a fall 825 of the same order as had occurred in the year immediately before the agreement.
Again I make the point—and I am sure that Scottish Members know—that during the four years the total days fished by Aberdeen motor trawlers at the Faroes rose from 2,200 in 1957–58 to no fewer than 9,549 in 1960–61. There was a clear tendency throughout the whole four years for the catch per day to fall as fishing effort increased, and although the fall has been much greater in recent months, we think that this illustrates our point that, as it started so much earlier, it cannot be ascribed primarily to the agreement.
It is a well-known fact that an increase in fishing effort will in itself normally result in a fall in the catch per unit of effort. I do not deny that this fall in the catch, both in home waters and at the Faroes, has been to put a certain section of the near and middle water trawlers in serious difficulty, and the outlook for several ports, including Scottish ports, seems gloomy. We have taken these difficulties very fully into account in our proposals but we could not—and I must stress this—regard them as justifying the very ambitious claims of the industry.
§ Mr. Leburn
I admit that it aggravates it. All that I was saying is that it was not the primary reason in our view.
The subsidy rates we propose will give the near and middle water vessels about£1.6 million or about 8½per cent. of their total earnings in 1960. The industry has asked for assistance of over three times that amount to the tune of between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. of total earnings. I ask the House: Can we seriously regard proposals of this kind as realistic? What are the implications? They are that the fishing industry is so hopelessly uneconomic that it cannot survive except by getting up to one-third of its income from the taxpayer. Can any Government be expected to accept that conclusion, and, on the evidence of a very short period, be panicked into 826 assistance of quite enormous and completely unprecedented scale?
I want to make this point. The period of time over which these results have been very poor is comparatively short. I do not think that we can take our action on such a short sample of time. As it is, we have given substantial increases in the subsidy to most of the diesel trawlers and in the case of these classes in which most of the boats depend upon fishing in the Faroes, the increase amounts to£3 per day, which is somewhere between£750 to£1,000 per boat per year. I admit that for some sections of the fleet the estimated losses are very much higher.
On that I should like to make two points. First that we are talking about estimates and not actual losses and the trawlers were not for the most part in the red last year. I admit that the estimates are the best that we can make on the known facts and I am not trying to go back on any figures which were agreed with the industry, but they necessarily involve conjecture, and they can be wrong.
§ Mr. Leburn
I agree, both ways. We have had some evidence in the past of heavy losses being estimated when in point of fact at the end of the year they turned out to be profit.
There are at least some reasons for thinking that the forecasts may on this occasion be pessimistic. The scientists advise us, for instance, that the decline in North Sea haddock stocks should now be levelling off and the decline in whiting stocks should soon do so. Things may well improve in the next year or so, though this cannot be taken for granted. At the worst, the catches should not continue to fall at the rate at which they have been falling hitherto.
My second point is that, as my right hon. Friend explained, we must have regard to the situation over the country as a whole. We cannot guarantee profits to every individual boat or every individual port. In the case of the near and middle water diesel trawlers, while the Scottish and some English vessels are expected to do badly, others are expected to do well. I know that this is a difficulty which was brought out, and I thought brought out rather well by 827 my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior).
§ Mr. Leburn
All told, in the subsidy proposals which we have put before the House, our calculations suggest that the near and middle water diesel fleet should end up with a net loss of something like£350,000 or an average of£800 per vessel as against a subsidy of£1.6 million. I do not think that in the present very difficult circumstances it is unreasonable to expect the industry to carry a loss of that order itself. It is less than the loss that the distant water vessels seem likely to be left to carry, even with their subsidy. I do not think, therefore, that we are being unfair, either absolutely or relatively.
I think I have said enough on this point. If we are wrong, if a really critical situation should arise, that, as my right hon. Friend has said, will be a matter for further consideration but, in spite of having been pressed by the hon. Member for Workington, I am very sorry that I cannot go further on that point.
§ Mr. Hoy
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the use of conjecture. Is it not true that the Scottish Office replied to a question of mine about three weeks ago saying that the middle water fleet had had a very bad year last year and that the first six months of this year were even worse? Surely that is not conjecture. It is just hard fact.
§ Mr. Leburn
That may well be so, but we know that the position in 1960 was not that bad. The deterioration that has occurred has taken place in the last five months or so, and I say that that is a very short time in which to be panicked, if I may use that word, into giving subsidies to the tune of something like 25 per cent. to 30 per cent.
§ Mr. Willis
Surely the Government could go as far as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and say that they will definitely look at the position in so many months' time—in three or six months' time. Surely the Government could do that. It binds them to nothing but it gives us an assurance that the position will be looked at. We have no assur- 828 ance at all. All that the Government say is that they will look at it if it is critical. We do not know what "critical" means.
§ Mr. Leburn
We are watching the position not just in three or six months time but all the time. My right hon. Friend made that clear. He said that we would see whether the present trend continues, whether experience over the next few months shows that the industry's worst fears are being realised and if it should become evident that a critical situation is arising. I think that is perfectly fair and clear. I am afraid that I cannot go further than that.
A number of hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) and for Banff (Sir W. Duthie), emphasised the importance of exploratory voyages. We consider these to be of the utmost importance. I do not think I can today go into all the details, but I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) that the Advisory Group is considering this matter within days to see what can be done. Of course, certain projects are already under consideration by the Group and special attention is to be given, at a very early date, to possibilities for the middle water trawlers. At the same time, I would express the hope that the industry will itself not just sit back and wait for all the pioneering to be done by the Government. There is need for that initiative and enterprise which has always been a characteristic of the fishing industry, and I am sure that that response will be forthcoming.
The hon. Member for Leith asked me about factory trawlers. The hon. Gentleman, I understand, thought that it was wrong to give the same subsidy to factory trawlers as to conventional distant trawlers. The distant water subsidy for this year is intended specifically to compensate the owners for losses at Iceland and Norway. The factory trawlers concerned—that is, the Salvesen vessels—do not, for the most part, fish there—and it is fortuitous that they are included in the subsidy at all. We do not think that we could justifiably make any change or difference for them this year.
This year's proposals will not necessarily govern the pattern for the future. We shall consider this matter in the 829 light of the Fleck Report and take this whole question into consideration, together with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Leith.
§ Mr. Leburn
They are also getting£17 a day that they did not get before, but I will take the hon. Gentleman's point into consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives has again raised the important question of fishery limits. He knows, as well as I do, and certainly I am bound to tell him, that the Scottish fishermen are more involved in these difficulties than are the English fishermen. It is a difficult question which affects other interests besides fisheries. It has been stated on several recent occasions that Her Majesty's Government are keeping their policy on fishery limits under careful review.
In an interesting speech, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)—and this point was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives—asked me if it was not true that the quality of fish caught outside the Faroes is inferior to that formerly caught inside. I think that the hon. Gentleman suggested that there was more coley in the catch. I am assured that that is not so. The value of fish landed from the Faroes has risen from£3 7s. per cwt. in 1958 to£3 17s. per cwt. in 1960. In the same period the proportion of coley in the catch has fallen from 16 per cent. to 13 per cent., while the proportion of cod has risen from 36 per cent. to 47 per cent.
The hon. Member for Grimsby, and also my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South asked me whether the restrictions would be removed on distant water voyages by grant aided vessels. I think both hon. Members will appreciate that the reason for the restriction has been that building grants have not hitherto been available to the distant water vessels, and it would have been unfair to subject these vessels to unrestricted competition from vessels which had been 830 grant-aided. Whether building grants should now be made available to distant water vessels and whether, consequently, the restrictions on distant water voyages by these grant-aided vessels should be changed is, I think, a matter which we shall have to consider very carefully.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Marshall) made what I thought was a very helpful speech on behalf of the inshore fleet. As a Scottish Minister, I must say that it appealed particularly to my heart, considering that about half of the Scottish catch comes from the inshore fleet. My hon. Friend knows the difficulty, for administrative reasons, in paying a daily rate of subsidy. A great many boats are involved. We do not want boats to fish simply for subsidies. I repeat that we are considering the matter very carefully.
I hope I have dealt with most of the main points raised. Clearly, the subsidy Schemes have not given universal satisfaction.
§ Mr. Leburn
There have been criticisms from both sides of the House. I do not take any heart from not having had criticisms from the Liberal Party. Liberal Members have made no contribution whatever to this debate. I assure the House that we have done out best to weigh all the factors carefully and fairly. Taken over all, we are substantially increasing the scale of our assistance to the industry, and we think that our proposals are neither extravagant, on the one hand, nor niggardly, on the other. Notwithstanding what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives said, I certainly pay my tribute to the men who go down to the sea in ships.
I have no hesitation in asking the House to approve these Schemes.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
My hon. Friend got me wrong there. We all pay our tribute to the fishermen. Those of us who have been concerned with the sea for many years feel it automatically. We do not have to do it in words. But am I to go once more without any answer about shell fishermen—for one more year, the sixth year running?
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 82, Noes 26.831
|No. 251.||AYES||[3.18 p.m.|
|Aitken, w. T.||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Allason, James||Hobson, John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Holland, Philip||Renton, David|
|Batsford, Brian||Hopkins, Alan||Roots, William|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Seymour, Leslie|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Sharples, Richard|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Jackson, John||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||James, David||Smithers, Peter|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Jennings, J. C.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Talbot, John E.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Kirk, Peter||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Kitson, Timothy||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Leburn, Gilmour||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Critchley, Julian||Litchfield, Capt. John||Turner, Colin|
|Cunningham, Knox||Loveys, Walter H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||McMaster, Stanley R.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry||Maddan, Martin||Walder, David|
|Doughty, Charles||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Wall, Patrick|
|Duthie, Sir William||Marshall, Douglas||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Eden, John||Wise, A. R.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mills, Stratton||Woodmitt, Mark|
|Goodhart, Philip||Morgan, William||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gurden, Harold||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hastings, Stephen||Pott, Percivall||Mr. Pinlay and Mr. Wbitelaw|
|Heald, Bt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Prior J. M. L.|
|Abse, Leo||Hoy, James H.||Stonehouse, John|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Weitzman, David|
|Collick, Percy||Janner, Sir Barnett||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Lipton, Marcus||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Deer, George||MacColl, James||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Parkin, B. T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hayman, F. H.||Peart, Frederick||Mr. Redhead and Mr. Lawson.|
|Holman, Percy||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.)|
That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1961, dated 29th June, 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th July, be approved.
§ Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1961, dated 29th June, 1961832
§ [copy laid before the House 4th July], approved.—[Mr. Leburn.]
§ White Fish and Herring Subsidies (Aggregate Amount of Grants) Order, 1961, dated 29th June, 1961 [copy laid before the House 4th July], approved.—[Mr. Soames.]