§ 32. Sir D. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the difficulties of Scottish trawler 971 owners who are operating on overfished grounds and are unable to catch enough fish to pay their way; and if he will authorise a moratorium on interest charges due to the White Fish Authority for three years while new fishing grounds are found and proved.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Noble)
I am aware of the difficulties facing the Scottish trawler owners. The Government have already announced that they will make arrangements to enable the White Fish Authority to grant a moratorium on loan repayments to the Authority to those owners in default who can establish after independent examination that they have a fair chance of overcoming their financial difficulties within a reasonable period of time. A number of owners have already applied to the Authority for such a moratorium and their financial affairs are being investigated. I think we must first see how these arrangements work out before considering any fresh proposals.
§ Sir D. Robertson
Will the Secretary of State realise and appreciate the very acute difficulty which these trawler owners are in because the Government induced them to dispose of their old coal-burning vessels, which were paying, and to purchase high-cost modern trawlers which are not paying and are losing anything from £4,500 to £6,000 a year'7 If something is not done quickly this industry will grind to a stop.
§ Mr. Hoy
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that his last reply is not borne out by the facts of the situation? Is it not true to say that fully 50 per cent. of what is owed by trawler owners to the White Fish Authority has not been met at the last payment date? In view of this will the right hon. Gentleman look at the matter further, in view of the condition in which the industry finds itself and which is ever worsening?
§ 33. Sir D. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will impose similar restrictions on foreign trawlers fishing in the Moray Firth, Minch, and Clyde, as are imposed on British trawlers.
§ Mr. Noble
The restrictions imposed on British and foreign trawlers in the Minch are the same. The only areas where restrictions applying to British trawlers are not imposed on foreign vessels are the Moray Firth and the Firth of Clyde: the general ban on trawling in these areas is not enforced against foreign vessels outside territorial waters since successive Governments have held the view that it would be contrary to international law to do so.
§ Sir D. Robertson
In this age, when nearly all the fishing nations have already extended their limits to anything from six miles to forty miles, is it not time we began to protect our own grounds?
§ Mr. Hoy
But is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that when I raised this matter some two years ago, and that when the present Deputy-Speaker's father raised it fifty years ago, the replies were both the same—that it was under active consideration by the Scottish Office? If it has been under active consideration for fifty years, cannot we now be told what is to be done?
§ Mr. John MacLeod
This is a ludicrous situation which must come to an end. British fishermen are becoming more and more despondent about it, when they see foreign vessels coming into their areas. It is quite ludicrous