HC Deb 01 May 1962 vol 658 cc943-7

Amendment made: In page 42, line 54, column 3, at end insert: and in subsection (3), the word 'new' in the first place where it occurs, and the words from 'and any such reference' to the end."—[Mr. Vane.]

Mr. Vane

I beg to move, in page 43, line 17, column 3, at the beginning to insert "of".

This is a very small point. It is to correct what must be admitted is a minor drafting error in the Fourth Schedule. The words "this Act" appear twice in a Section and in order to distinguish exactly how many words are repealed we want to make sure to which of the two phrases "this Act" has reference. By the insertion of the word "of" in front of one of these phrases the meaning is clear and ambiguity is disposed of.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Vane

I beg to move in page 43, line 18, column 3, at the end to insert: In section eight, paragraph (b) of subsection (2)". This is a somewhat similar Amendment, but this Amendment has a history. The original omission was in the 1948 Act, for which we were not responsible. It was in fact put right in 1959, but it is now deemed more appropriate that we should have the procedure for dealing with Orders under the 1948 Act in a Clause in this Bill and not carried forward in a reference to the Schedule. At present, without this small Amendment, we should have the same provision repeated twice, once in the Schedule of the 1959 Act and again in this Bill, which, I hope the House will agree, is the right place.

Mr. Hoy

Every time we get an explanation from the Minister I cannot understand it. The hon. Gentleman said, first, that the responsibility for this lay with the Government of 1948, and then he said that it was corrected in 1959. I do not follow that, but I will accept his word for it.

Amendment agreed to.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. Soames

I beg to move. That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I should like, first, to thank all hon. Members for the considerable amount of work which has been put into the Bill. As a result of the combined efforts and knowledge of hon. Members, and with the thorough examination which took place during the Committee stage, the Bill has been considerably amended and improved.

The first purpose of the Bill is to provide financial assistance for the industry over the next ten years. Basically, the Bill stems from the recommendations of the Fleck Committee. It is an enabling Measure in that although a broad framework is laid down in which the Government will act, detailed schemes for subsidies or grants and loans will be made in Orders under the Bill. The first of these Orders will be presented for the approval of the House when the Bill is on the Statute Book. I believe that these financial arrangements have the approval, in principle, of hon. Members on both sides of the House and they have been discussed and agreed with the various sections of the fishing industry concerned.

To strengthen the economic position of the industry during the coming years, so that it may be capable of operating efficiently and profitably with less dependence on subsidies, the Government will help, through more basic research and experimental work, to find new fishing grounds and better ways of fishing. New and improved types of fishing boats and equipment will be developed and the Bill provides the means for doing this. It implements the conclusions of the Government on a number of other recommendations contained in the Fleck Committee's Report, particularly regarding the control of disease in shellfish beds and the strengthening of the powers of the White Fish Authority. Here again, discussions have shown that there is, in principle, wide agreement among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the policy embodied in these provisions.

I wish to say two things about Clauses 10 to 14. Besides giving the Government power to control salmon drift netting—about which I will say more in a moment—they extend the existing powers to regulate fishing in the interests of conservation. Adequate conservation measures are of first importance for the long term interests of fishermen of all countries. Largely on the initiative of the United Kingdom—we have an excellent record in this respect over a long period—the present conservation conventions on both sides of the Atlantic have been framed. It was mainly due to our efforts that the new North-East Atlantic Convention of 1959 was agreed upon.

I know that some hon. Members feel that progress has been too slow and I agree that we should have been pleased had it been possible to do more. But as it requires the unanimous agreement of fourteen different nations which have to carry their own industries along in the steps taken towards more effective conservation, it is inevitable that this process takes some time. Despite these difficulties, I think that we have made good progress and it looks as though the 1959 Convention will be replacing the 1946 Convention in the autumn of this year.

All but three of the fourteen signatory nations have ratified the Convention and of the three which are outstanding we expect one ratification in the next few weeks and the other two to follow in the summer. All being well, the new Convention should come into being in the autumn of this year and bring with it the possibility of applying the increased powers provided in the Convention. In addition, we shall do all we can in the international conservation conventions to strengthen the regulatory provisions and the ability to enforce them. I believe that with the original powers, as modified by the Clauses in the Bill, we are putting ourselves in the best position to tackle this problem by international agreement in future.

The next thing I wish to say on these Clauses 10 to 14 is that the subject of drift netting for salmon inevitably arouses strong feelings and it is possible to argue with considerable force both for and against it, as our debates have shown since Second Reading of the Bill. On the other hand, there is general agreement that it would be a tragedy if, for lack of precautionary measures, salmon stocks, which are of great value to this country were to be damaged. Most people would also agree that it is only fair that the interests of those who have traditionally fished for salmon, whether by rod on the rivers or by net in the estuaries, should be reasonably protected.

We must remember that drift netting for salmon on the high seas started only in recent years, but has grown very rapidly, and in the summer of last year spread to many areas beyond the Tweed. The Bill gives Ministers power to deal with the problem of drift netting for salmon in two different ways. They can either prohibit it altogether in certain areas of the sea, or alternatively, they can license it in order to control the extent to which it is carried on. In either case they can support any measure of prohibition or licensing by controlling the landing of salmon caught by driftnet. The Secretary of State for Scotland has appointed a committee which, among other things, will be considering this general problem and recommending what measures of control are necessary and desirable.

The committee has been asked to report on this particular aspect of its terms of reference as soon as possible. It is too early yet to tell how long its deliberations will take. Meanwhile, as has been already stated in Standing Committee—and there was considerable debate on Report about it—we are aiming at 15th September as the date when Orders under the Bill will come into effect. The Secretary of State has said that, subject to any views that he may have received from the committee, he intends to make an Order prohibiting drift netting for salmon off the coasts of Scotland and the mouth of the Tweed.

In England and Wales there has been for a long time now traditional salmon fishing inside territorial waters controlled through licences from river boards. With this traditional fishing I would not intend to interfere. I cannot yet say what the Orders will contain, but, in general, what is in my mind is that they should be framed in such a way as to ensure that salmon off the English and Welsh coasts shall not be menaced as in recent years they have been off the Scottish coasts. Since one of the changes we have made in the Bill on Report has been to require an affirmative Resolution for Orders of this kind, the House will have opportunity to debate the desirability or otherwise of any proposed measure when an Order comes before the House.

In general, I believe that the Bill will considerably strengthen our fisheries legislation and provide a firm basis on which the industry can plan for the future. I believe that it is something which the fishing industry itself welcomes and I confidently recommend the Bill to the House.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Hoy

We now come to the end of the rather protracted proceedings on the Bill. I think that we should have made very much greater progress. I do not want to go over all that has been said on Second Reading, or in Committee, but I must repeat that what we are dealing with here is two Bills, one dealing with the white fish industry and the other with salmon fisheries. This has meant that the debates have been a little longer than was expected. Responsibility for that must lie with the Government, because they injected into the Bill something which has nothing to do with the white fish industry. That is the sole reason why the committee took much longer than was expected and why we have had such a long Report stage.

In his Third Reading speech the Minister said that the Government have set up a committee to consider the question of drift-net fishing and what measures of control might be necessary. That is just what the committee has been set up to find out. Neither the Minister nor anyone else has the right to say that this menace is taking place. That is not much use—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.