HC Deb 16 December 1963 vol 686 cc828-9
12. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many companies in England and in Scotland are now in areas on their payments under the White Fish Authority grants to loans schemes; and, in each case, what is the total sum involved.

Mr. Soames

Eighteen companies in England and Wales owe the White Fish Authority £660,000. Thirty-nine companies in Scotland owe £640,000.

Mr. Wall

Do not the figures illustrate the difficult position in which the industry is being placed by the unilateral extension of fishing limits by foreign Governments? Is my hon. Friend doing anything special to deal with this default? Can he do anything further to assist these companies?

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend will be well aware that there are always considerable fluctuations in the fortunes of the fishing industry. They are not the same from one year to another. But there has been a considerable recovery in fishing in the North Sea during the current year. My hon. Friend will also be aware of the efforts that we are making at the International Fisheries Conference, convened on the initiative of Her Majesty's Government, to improve the whole position of fishing and trade in fish in countries off whose shores we fish.

Mr. Crosland

Is the Minister aware that these companies are typically the smaller family concerns in the industry, and that they are not going to float into the "black" simply on their own accord? Does not the Minister think that the Government will have to take additional measures if these companies are to survive at all in the next few years?

Mr. Soames

As the hon. Member will know, a moratorium has already been granted for a certain period in respect of loans to certain companies. The hon. Member will also be aware that a considerable number of amalgamations have taken place, or are in process of taking place.

Mr. J. Wells

Does not my hon. Friend consider that this large figure may be in part due to the incompetent underwriting of this Government agency, as opposed to the normal underwriting procedure of commercial firms offering marine mortgages?

Mr. Soames

These were grants and loans given to firms for the rebuilding of the fleet, which was necessary in view of the fact that at the end of the war the fleet was seriously run down.

Mr. Hoy

Can the Minister complete the picture by telling us how many firms applied for a moratorium on repayments and how many applications have been granted?

Mr. Soames

I could not give that figure without notice.