HC Deb 02 July 1962 vol 662 cc2-3
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the diminution in certain species of useful and edible fish in the customary North Sea fishing grounds; and if he will set up a commission of inquiry into the cause of this, with a view to restoring the productivity of these fishing grounds.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

Haddock and herring are the only species of commercial importance which have diminished in the North Sea in recent years. We shall continue to support the efforts made to deal with these problems internationally through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Permanent Commission set up under the 1946 Convention, and I see no advantage in setting up a commission of inquiry.

Mr. Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the causes of this diminution go much deeper than is indicated in his answer? Does he not agree that the diminution is due largely to the policy of the present Government in giving undue encouragement to foreign fishing fleets in competition with British fishing fleets? Will the hon. Gentleman have the matter further investigated with a view to getting at the root causes and seeing that justice is done to British and particularly Scottish fishing fleets?

Mr. Vane

My original answer did not go into the causes, which are a combination of natural causes and over-fishing. The hon. and learned Gentleman will be pleased to hear that, as a result of proposals made by the United Kingdom, the Permanent Commission agreed at its recent meeting on measures to be introduced next year for the closer regulation of the use of small-mesh nets, which is one of the things the hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind.