§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The House has considered numerous Bills dealing with fishery matters in recent years, but the question of fishery limits, with which this Bill deals, has not been the subject of legislation since, I believe, the Sea Fisheries Act, 1883. That Act, in giving statutory effect to the principle of a three-mile limit, introduced no innovation, but merely confirmed a situation then generally accepted in international law. The small size of the present Bill, in terms of the number of Clauses, is, therefore, no measure of its importance and historical significance.
The problem of fishery limits has a long history. The three-mile limit became generally if not universally established during the last century. Since the last war, it has become more and more challenged with an increasing number of States claiming wider fisheries jurisdiction for themselves. The United Kingdom has consistently favoured the doctrine of narrow limits, that was the traditional view of international law and it was also in accordance with the interests of our fishing industry as a whole.
The trawling section of our fishing industry, which provides by far the greater proportion of our supplies of fish, reached its present level by progressively extending the sphere of its operations and by fishing more distant grounds, many of them close to the shores of other countries. So long as the three-mile rule was generally observed by other countries, the gain to our deep-sea industry far outweighed any disadvantages which there might have been—and there undoubtedly were—at home. But in recent years, as we all know, there has been a steady trend towards wider limits by other countries. Today, practically all the countries off whose coasts there are fisheries of 945 importance to our trawling fleets have extended, or are about to extend, their limits.
We have had to change our thinking about our own limits, keeping in step with what was in the wider interests of our fishing industry as a whole and our national interest. On the one hand, the practice of States showed that it was no longer realistic to regard three miles as the limit beyond which fisheries jurisdiction could not be recognised in international law. This is because so many States have extended their limits. On the other, it could not be said that the restriction of the United Kingdom limits to three miles was any longer helping to safeguard the major part of our fish supplies from off foreign coasts.
It was in these circumstances that Her Majesty's Government came to the conclusion that some extension of limits should no longer be denied to our own fishermen, a conclusion welcomed by many hon. Members who have consistently advocated it in the past. To that end we took steps, a little more than a year ago, to terminate certain treaty obligations, dating from the last century, so as to gain freedom of action for ourselves in this respect.
Here, let me say that our sole motive in taking this decision was to secure more scope for our own fishermen in the waters around our coasts. I stress this because some countries have claimed to be extending their limits in order to secure better conservation of fish stocks. This is an argument which we have never accepted. The proper way to conserve fish stocks is by international action, equitable to all, in the Conservation Commissions which have been set up and in whose work, incidentally, the United Kingdom plays a leading part, and not by unilateral action to restrict the activities of some fishermen so that others may reap the benefit.
We have not accepted conservation as a justification for other countries extending their limits, and we do not claim it today in justification of the Bill. Our concern can be simply stated. It is to secure for our inshore fishermen a wider area in which they can conduct their operations without interference from foreign vessels.
946 Her Majesty's Government have always felt that action over fisheries affecting the interests of other countries should be taken, if at all possible, by agreement, as we have shown by the strenuous efforts which we have made at the two Geneva conferences to reach world agreement on a new rule of international law in this respect. We therefore hoped that the extension of our own limits could take place as part of a more general settlement covering a range of fishery problems in production and trade. With this in view, we invited the countries concerned to the Fisheries Conference which took place a few months ago.
The conference was successful in reaching a very wide measure of agreement on fishery limits, expressed in the draft of a Fisheries Convention. I know that the House would like to join with me in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the able way in which he chaired and guided the conference to a successful conclusion. The Convention has since been signed by 12 countries, including the United Kingdom. The purpose of the Bill is to establish the fishery regime in our waters for which the Convention provides.
Under this régime the coastal State will have a 12-mile fishery zone measured from baselines, and within this zone power to regulate the fisheries. In the inner six miles the fishing is reserved to the fishermen of the coastal State, subject to a short transitional period for foreign fishermen who have traditionally fished within it. In the outer six miles the fishing is, in principle, reserved for the fishermen of the coastal State and other parties to the Convention who have habitually fished in that area. In this way, such foreign fishermen will be restricted to the stocks and grounds which they have already fished.
Before I turn to the Clauses of the Bill I should like to add a few words about third parties, that is to say, countries who are not parties to the Convention, but who, nevertheless, have some interest in the fisheries round our coast. There are only two or three countries in this position and the extent of the fishing they do close to our shores is not very great. Nevertheless, we should 947 like to feel that in their case, too, we were proceeding by agreement, and we shall need to consider with them what their position will be. Apart from this, it will be necessary to agree in detail with the countries who have signed the Convention about the exact extent of their traditional fishing in our waters. Taking these points into account, we hope that the new arrangements can be brought into full operation in the course of September.
The kernel of the Bill is in Clause 1. It provides for the extension of our limits and for our control of access by foreign fishermen to the fisheries within the limits. The limits which the Bill extends to 12 miles from baselines are divided into two belts—the "exclusive fishery limits" which form the inner six miles, and the "outer belt" from six to 12 miles. Within the exclusive fishery limits, as the term implies, the fishing will be reserved to British vessels just as it is today within the three-mile limit. In the outer six miles foreign vessels can be allowed to fish in accordance with a "designation Order", otherwise they will be excluded from this outer belt as well.
The Convention provides that to qualify for recognition to be able to continue to fish between six and 12 miles this foreign fishing must have been carried on habitually during the 10 years up to and including 1962, and that it must not be directed in future towards new grounds or new stocks of fish. We can, therefore, exclude fishing of recent origin and we can exclude stocks and grounds which have not been habitually fished. In drawing up the designation Orders, which we shall do after discussions with the countries concerned, we shall, of course, need to take account of the fact that fish move around and that many species are often found on the same grounds. But we shall be able, for example, to distinguish between herring fisheries, fisheries for white fish and shell fisheries.
The power of designation is not limited to the vessels of countries who are parties to the Convention. For example, when we made our Fishery Agreement with Norway we agreed that if the United Kingdom established a fishery zone we should be prepared to make for Norwegian vessels arrangements corre- 948 sponding to those which that agreement made for British vessels off Norway. The amount of fishing done by Norwegian vessels off our coast is, however, very limited.
Then again, Poland and Russia are interested in the herring fishery off some part of our coast. We are in touch with them about the possible effect of the extension of our limits on their interests and we hops soon to conclude arrangements with them.
The new baselines which we are drawing afresh are in conformity with the 1958 Geneva Convention. A map setting these out has been in the Library for some time. We shall be able to close bays with straight lines up to 24 miles in length whereas at present 10 miles is the maximum length for a bay closing line. This will have some effect in England and Wales and on the East Coast of Scotland. Off the West Coast of Scotland, however, with its indentations and islands, the new baselines will enclose much more substantial areas of waters, notably in the Minches and the Firth of Clyde.
§ Mr. Soames
It is on the map. Solway is enclosed by a bay closing line, as opposed to the indentations and islands further north, but there will be an increase in the amount of water for our own fishermen there as well.
Hon. Members may be surprised, therefore, at the absence from the Bill of any reference to baselines, except incidentally as the lines from which our limits are measured. The reason for this is simply that the promulgation of baselines is an exercise of the Royal prerogative which, accordingly, does not require the authority of the Bill. But it was understood during the making of the Convention that we would be altering our baselines according to what was possible and proper within the 1958 Convention. It is the Government's intention—and we must give some notice of this to foreign fishermen—that the new baselines should become operative in September, when we are hoping to bring in the new fisheries régime as a whole under the Bill.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Before the right hon. Gentleman 949 leaves the important question of the baselines, may I point out that there is nothing in the Bill to indicate that there will be any international agreement on them? There may, therefore, be international complications and even violence—and there have been some episodes—over the drawing of the baselines. What agreement has the right hon. Gentleman arrived at to fit in with the other nations affected?
§ Mr. Soames
The baselines will be drawn under the 1958 Geneva Convention, to which a large number of countries have appended their signatures. They are not being made under the Bill. The alterations which we shall be able to make to our baselines will be in accordance with the 1958 international Convention. This is something on which I do not think that anybody envisages having any trouble. This enables us to extend the closing lines further out from the bays and to draw straight baselines rather than follow the indentations and islands. This is an international agreement in which we and a number of countries are partners.
I have dealt so far with the provisions governing fishing within our new limits once they become fully effective. Meanwhile, there is to be a transitional period.
§ Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)
The right hon. Gentleman has explained the baselines, but may I ask what is meant by a "median line"? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House which are likely to be the designated countries?
§ Mr. Soames
The median line applies in the case of two countries that are so close together that the 12-mile limit from one country might extend into the 12-mile limit of the other. The limit should not cross a line which is equidistant from the two countries—in the Strait of Dover, for instance, where there may not be a full 24 miles between our coast and the coast of France.
§ Mr. Soames
This Bill relates only to our coast and not to the Norwegian and Danish coasts. This point specifically refers to the Channel. The 950 12-mile limit for France, were she to adopt it, and for ourselves could not extend beyond the median line, which is the line mid-way between the two countries.
§ Mr. Soames
The designated countries are those countries which are designated by Order as being able to fish within the six to 12-mile belt. This will apply, as I have explained, to those countries which have had traditional fishing over the last 10 years in certain parts of our waters, and they will be designated as being enabled to continue to fish, but only between six and 12 miles.
§ Mr. Soames
No. This is a matter which was dealt with at the conference. It is a matter for negotiation between the different countries to the Convention, as to what are the traditional fishery interests of individual countries fishing off other countries. We have not yet reached the point of being able to say what exactly the designated Orders will be for different countries fishing within the six to 12-mile belt, but this will be done in accordance with the principle which I have enunciated.
Meanwhile, until the régime comes into full operation there is to be a transitional period for traditional foreign fishing between three and six miles from baselines. This is dealt with in Clause 2. Where the baselines remain the same, which is the case around most of our coast, the transitional period will come to an end at the end of the year 1965.
On the parts of the coast where we are drawing new baselines the transitional period will last for a further year because the new baselines will themselves have the effect of immediately widening our exclusive fishery limits. So we are there giving one extra year of transitional period, although, of course, from the time that our baselines are put out our fishermen will gain from the difference as between the old baseline plus three miles and the new baseline plus three miles.
951 So much for the new régime where it concerns the access by foreign vessels to fishing grounds within our new limits. Apart from this, the Convention also gives the coastal State the right to regulate the fisheries within its limits and to enforce the regulations on all who fish within them. The only restriction on this power is that the regulations must not discriminate, either in form or in fact, as between our own vessels and those of other countries.
The right to enforce conservation measures on British and foreign vessels alike is one to which we attach great importance. To do it we do not have to ask the House for new powers. It is simply a question of adapting the powers which we have under our existing legislation to apply conservation regulations to British vessels, and this is done in the First Schedule to the Bill. It means that once the Bill is passed, new Orders can be made which will apply conservation measures to foreign vessels when they are fishing within our fishery limits, as well as to British vessels. In other words, we shall be applying to foreign vessels exactly the same rules that we apply to our own, and we shall also be taking power to enforce them.
This country has for long taken the lead in promoting conservation through international co-operation. We now have a modern instrument for this purpose in the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, of which all countries fishing in the North-East Atlantic, without exception, are members. It is the job of this Commission to take all the measures that conservation demands, and this is our own purpose and intention. At the meeting of the Commission last month, on the initiative of the United Kingdom, a special committee was set up to examine the problems involved in making collective arrangements for enforcing conservation measures on the high seas.
It has long been a matter of complaint among our own fishermen that internationally agreed conservation measures are not equally observed by everybody. Collective international enforcement would, of course, be the ideal remedy, but this will take some time to come about. Meanwhile, within 952 our own 12-mile limit we now have the power under the Bill to enforce internationally agreed conservation measures on all who fish within our limits.
There is one other provision in the Schedule to which I should draw attention, and that is the reference to the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act, 1888.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but he says that Her Majesty's Government will have the power to enforce conservation measures. Does not that statement disregard the powers of other nations which may dispute these measures and which have, indeed disputed our powers in the past. Denmark, Finland and Norway have been responsible for incidents of this kind. Surely, under the Bill Her Majesty's Government cannot enforce a power of this kind regardless of the other Governments' interests.
§ Mr. Soames
Indeed we can. This has been agreed as between ourselves and the greater proportion of other countries engaged in fishing off our own coasts. Where other countries are concerned, we are satisfied that in moving our fishing limits out to 12 miles we are entitled to take this power, and this power is widely exercised by other countries. This is not a matter about which the hon. and learned Gentleman need feel any anxiety lest we might be imposing some arrangement which is not internationally agreed.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
On the question of enforcement, can my right hon. Friend give some encouragement that he will be able to police the areas more effectively when they are extended? A great deal of damage has been done, by one foreign country in particular, to fishing vessels off the Yorkshire coast.
§ Mr. Soames
This, I know, is a matter which has been exercising the mind of my hon. Friend for many months. From time to time he has spoken to me about these incidents off the Yorkshire coast, and there have been many others off different parts of the coast. It will be for the Government to see that there are sufficient vessels available to do the job. Of course, there is now a bigger job to do in that we are taking 953 on our own enforcement, as opposed to the past, when all that could be done was to inform other countries of our suspicions. This will be a matter for deliberation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy.
As for the number of vessels which will be necessary to implement the Government's policy—
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Can my right hon. Friend say that we have the approval of the Treasury for the necessary amount of money to provide a sufficient number of fishery protection vessels? I am always suspicious when Treasury approval is required. How far have we got?
§ Mr. Soames
Surely my hon. Friend would not expect me to bring a Bill before the House without the necessary money being forthcoming to implement it. I think that my hon. Friend can rest assured. I would not like to give the impression to the House, or to people outside, that this means the Navy having a great job to do round our coasts. We shall have the power to regulate our own fisheries and see that our regulations are enforced within our own waters. I would not expect this provision to mean a great additional burden for the Fishery Protection Squadron. The fact that we have the power will in itself have the desired effect.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what estimate he has made of the cost of this additional fishery defence, and what figure he gave the Treasury?
§ Mr. Soames
This will not mean additional expense. It will merely mean that a ship and her crew who have been paid to do one job may be required to do this duty instead. This is not a question of a large increase in Admiralty Votes.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
Surely, as the area to be protected is increased, so the area of potential depredations is increased. We must, therefore, increase the amount of protection. Surely it is not possible to load all that on to the already overburdened and inadequate fishery cruisers.
§ Mr. Soames
It will not have escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention that there will be a considerable area of water in the Minches, between the islands and the mainland, into which it will not be possible for foreign vessels to come. I would not expect it to be necessary to give any greatly increased protection, but, to the extent that it may be necessary to take on additional fishery protection vessels, my noble Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy is well aware of what will be necessary for this purpose.
The 1888 Act, to which I was referring, provides for the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Committees who, as hon. Members know, are responsible for the regulation of fisheries within our existing three-mile exclusive fishery limits in England and Wales. In most of these areas there are byelaws prohibiting or severely restricting trawling. When the Government decided to extend our limits, it was no part of our intention that British trawlers should thereby find themselves excluded from any of the grounds around our coast which at present are open to them. An assurance to that effect has been given to the British Trawlers' Federation, and I can tell the House that the Sea Fisheries Committees, whom we have consulted, were fully in agreement with that decision.
To implement that, the 1888 Act is amended in the Bill so that in future the limits within which the Sea Fisheries Committees may be given jurisdiction will not be exclusive fishery limits, but territorial waters which will continue to extend only to three miles from the baselines. It is not the Government's intention to make any change in existing Committee areas.
I began by referring to the frequency of fisheries legislation in recent years. I am glad to say that if it has been frequent it has also been comparatively uncontroversial. I believe that this Bill will be no exception. The European Fisheries Convention was welcomed by both sides of the House, so I am confident that they will equally welcome the Bill, which enables us to put into effect the system for which the Convention provides and gives our inshore fishermen wider limits within which they will be able to fish free of the presence of foreign vessels.
955 I know that that will be a matter of great satisfaction to hon. Members representing fishing ports, who have been consistently putting forward the case of the inshore fishermen, and who have been looking forward to this day, when it is both right and possible to achieve the extension of our fishery limits for which the Bill provides.
I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
There is one question which is fundamental from the point of view of the inshore fishermen. Is it a fact that no additional protection is to be afforded to inshore fishermen, apart from the extension of the limits within which foreign vessels cannot fish?
§ Mr. Soames
Not in respect of British trawling. This is an extension of the limit to 12 miles for foreign vessels. As regards our home fishing, it was agreed and understood among all sections of the fishing industry that the object was not to exclude our fishermen from waters, but merely to have that effect on foreign vessels.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
We are grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the Bill. It is true that most of our fisheries legislation has proved non-controversial. I thought that the Bill was of a similar character, but, having heard some of the Minister's explanations, I must say that a certain amount of controversy is bound to arise.
To take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), there is certain to be a considerable amount of perturbation amongst the inshore fishermen if we allow trawling right up to the limit round our coasts. I think that this will lead to trouble between the different sections of the industry.
I agree that when other countries have extended their limits they have always used the argument that one of the main reasons for doing so was to conserve the fishing grounds. The Minister said that the Government were having none of that nonsense, that the Bill would permit all sections of the British fishing fleet to fish inside these limits. He makes no pretence about conservation, and says that these grounds will be open to all sections of the industry.
§ Mr. Hoy
The Minister did not say that before. Everything will depend on the Orders. They will be very important, not with regard to the countries to be allowed into the six to 12-mile band, but to the type of fishing that is to take place in it.
Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey), I am disappointed that the Minister did not tell us which countries would be allowed to fish within that band.
I was glad to hear the Minister say that unilateral action would not solve this problem. Together with some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and two of my hon. Friends opposite, if I might so refer to them, I made a similar point in connection with salmon fishing.
I think that we must be frank and say that the Bill has not been carefully thought out. I add my thanks to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the way in which the negotiations leading up to the Bill were conducted. This procedure was urged on the Government a long time ago, when the International Law of the Sea Conference failed by only one vote to get an international agreement to provide for a six-mile limit all over the world. Had that conference succeeded, this Bill would not have been necessary. But, the conference having failed, it was urged on the Government that we should have a European Fisheries Convention, and that is what we have.
The Minister said that 12 countries had signed the Convention, and he named a few of them. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the countries who have not signed are those which are most important to us from the point of view of fishing and trade. These countries have the fishing grounds which we traditionally fish and it is they who have not signed this agreement, which is to be regretted.
I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland, if he replies to the debate, will define more clearly—and this is not a criticism of the Minister—what it is intended will take place up to the six-mile limit, who will fish within these waters, although they are reserved to us, and 957 what type of fishing will take place. This is an extremely important matter to both the trawler and inshore fishermen. It must be remembered that the inshore fishermen are depending on this ban for their livelihood. It is important that they should be in no doubt about the type of fishing that will take place within the six mile limit.
This information should be given to them not merely for the transitional period, but for all time, because it should be remembered that the grounds could be trawled to such an extent that there would be a danger of destroying the fish life in them. It is equally important that the trawlermen should know what they are permitted to do without contravening Government regulations.
I am grateful for the explanation the right hon. Gentleman gave about the six to 12-mile ban, although I do not know which foreign countries will be allowed to fish within that territory. I suppose that we will have to wait until an Order is laid before the House before having this information. I realise that this will be a difficult decision to take, because many other countries must be taken into consideration on this problem. I appreciate that we cannot unilaterally make a decision and simply say to other countries, "There it is and we do not want your opinion on it".
If the Bill is to work successfully it is important that these consultations should take place now, before decisions are made, for we do not want to be faced with recriminations later. The Minister said that there would be baselines and an agreed convention, but baselines are important in this scheme and the matter needs clarifying because it is all very well to say that certain things will be done for one's own country—and say, for example, that it could be 24 miles; that the 12 miles could become 24—and all this sounds interesting, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this was one of the complaints we had against Iceland and the Faroes.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that we complained about the position from which they drew their baselines and which denied to the British trawling fleet traditional trawling grounds well outside the 12-mile limit. We must consider this matter and ensure that it does 958 not have further repercussions on an important part of our fishing fleet, because if it is good enough for us to draw our baselines in this way we obviously cannot deny the same right to other countries. We must be extremely careful in the way we intend handling this matter.
I was interested in the intervention made by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) who, I regret, has left the Chamber. He asked what protection there would be for the fishing fleet and the Minister said, in effect "I know that for some months you have been expressing an interest in this matter". I hope that the Minister knows that a lot of interest has been expressed on this issue not for some months, but for many years, by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I have been studying the map which the right hon. Gentleman placed in the Library for the convenience of hon. Members. This might interest you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for I wish to show that this matter has been discussed in the House on many occasions and for many years. One of my earliest recollections is of Parliamentary Questions which were asked about the Minch and Moray Firth. I recall my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles asking Questions about those areas. Indeed, I had an Adjournment debate on the subject in 1961.
In doing some research into these problems I have discovered that there was a great debate in another place in 1907, and that the issue was vehemently raised in this House in 1908. Such a great issue was it considered to be that the then Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Scotland both took part in the debate. I was particularly interested in the contribution made by the hon. Member who at that time represented the St. Andrews Burghs constituency, listed in the OFFICIAL REPORT as Major Anstruther-Gray. He had a lot to say to the Government of the day. What was wanted, he declared, was a little backbone in the administration of Scotland. He went on to say that "all this flabby work" would not do and that he did not think that a decision of the judges of the High Court of Scotland should be upset by a telegram from England.
959 Those were fighting words and I am sure that you have experienced those words in another capacity, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have taken the House back all those years to show that debates on this subject were going on even then. The Foreign Office spokesman of the day replied saying that, on behalf of the Scottish Office, he was allowed to say that the matter was continuing to receive the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland. This shows that for all these years this problem has been discussed. We might make it clear today that the Minch and Moray Firth are now protected and that no longer will foreign fishermen be able to fish in waters that were denied to our own fishermen.
§ Sir John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
Is the hon. Member aware of the discussion which took place on this subject in 1905?
§ Mr. Hoy
Yes, and the High Court decision to which I referred was of that year. I have drawn attention to these facts to show that this is not a question of discussing something for a few months, but for over 50 years.
This Bill is before us as the result of other countries taking power to extend their fishing limits. It is this continual unilateral action which has produced the Bill. If it protects our fishermen we will be grateful for it, but certain problems arise, one of which remains despite what the Minister said. One of the complaints now being made is that international conventions are being flouted by fishermen from other countries and that there is a lack of supervision and protection by Her Majesty's Government for our fishermen.
One such complaint concerns the size of the mesh of net. This problem has been with us for a very long time. I want to know what steps the Government are taking, not only to protect us against any infringement of the new limits but also to prevent the use of a mesh which is illegal. This is important for the industry as a whole. There is no point the Minister saying that the existing vessels will be capable of enforcing the new arrangements. I understand that it is stated in this week's Fishing News that simply by adjusting our boundaries, as the Bill intends, we add about 20,000 square miles of sea to our fishing rights. 960 We cannot say that our present protection vessels are able simply to mop up, as it were, this additional water. More comprehensive action should be taken. We should not pretend to draw new fishing limits if, at the same time, we cannot take power to see that they are enforced. I hope that the Secretary of State will answer this question.
Flowing from the decisions taken in the Bill, there must be some responsibility for the consuming public, because we hope that we are not granting a monopoly while denying fish supplies to the consumer. We ought not to pass this Bill without mentioning what the repercussions might be. The Minister must know that there has been some considerable doubt among certain sections of the fish consuming interests about the decision of the British Trawlers Federation—and we can well understand it—to limit landings, Faroes landings in particular. We have this outcry from the Fish Fryers Association that supplies are being denied to them and that prices are moving up. Whenever we take action of this kind, we have to consider what the repercussions will be in other sections of the industry interested in fishing.
Perhaps I might make the suggestion that these difficulties might be overcome by a meeting between the respective industries arranged by the Chairman of the White Fish Authority, because it appears to me that this is more an internal than an external conflict and it might well be that he could use his good offices not only to smooth the working of this Bill but to meet the difficulties of the catching industry without sacrificing the interests of the consuming public. I make the suggestion to the Minister that he might well think of arranging a meeting or suggesting to the Chairman of the White Fish Authority that he might arrange a meeting of this kind.
But do not let us pretend that this Bill will bring a solution to the problems of the fishing industry. It will do nothing of the kind, because we cannot even conserve unilaterally. If countries are really interested in conservation and not paying lip-service to it, they have to act in an international manner. I hope that in passing this Bill, with the reservations that we can raise at a later stage, the Government will use their initiative once 961 more, even if they deal only with the problem of conservation, to gather the countries of Europe together if it is impossible to do it internationally, for at least we have waters of common usage to the European nations. Even if we get a conference on conservation only, I think that it would be a step forward, not only to preserve the fish life of the sea, but the livelihood of the people in the industry. This is terribly important.
So, from this side of the House, we certainly do not object to the Bill. We regard it as necessary to defend ourselves, because we have failed to get international agreement, but I hope that we shall not rest merely on the passing of this Bill but that we shall take steps to gather the nations together once more to see if we cannot from a European point of view give a lead to the rest of the world on the conservation of the fisheries of Europe.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)
Like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), I welcome the Bill. It is probably rather sad to have to give in, but as other countries have set the example, obviously, we had to follow. I was rather worried about what the hon. Member said. When I was in Fleetwood this weekend, I was warned that the Scotsmen might easily try in debating the Bill to get all the extended waters for their inshore fishing. In the past, the trawler fishermen from Fleetwood have gone up the west coast and done their trawling there. I hope, therefore, that now the limits are being extended they will not put any embargo on any English or British vessel.
§ Mr. Stanley
There is some suspicion that different things can happen. I did not quite make out what my right hon. Friend was meaning about the Clyde. I hope that it will be possible to stop foreign vessels going right up the Clyde, as they can do at the moment, and that a proper limit will be kept for British trawlers. I gather that the situation seems to be working out better in the Moray Firth. It seems to me that one of the best things that could come out of this Bill would be for the protection 962 vessels to have the right when they stop foreign vessels within the 12-mile limit to confiscate all gear which has meshes under what the proper size should be.
§ Commander Pursey
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not want that silly nonsense to go out. All this jurisdiction is limited by the common law of England. There is no question of the Navy exercising the jurisdiction of the local magistrate. All that the Navy has to do is what the policeman does: arrest the vessel, take it into port, and then the skipper is sued before the local magistrate. The hon. Member is advocating piracy.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not understand the question of mesh. If he would concentrate on the size of the mesh, and not go off into some extraordinary screaming, as he did a moment ago, he would do much better. All I am saying is that when the fishery protection vessels go out they have the right to search vessels now within the 12-mile limit and they should look at the gear. They are entitled to bring the vessel in and confiscate the gear, which then goes to the magistrate or whichever court has jurisdiction.
§ Commander Pursey indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. and gallant Gentleman may shake his head, but that is what happens in every other country, and in this one, too.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that the size of mesh is examined carefully. If we could get universal agreement by every country on a reasonable size of mesh, then the conservation of fish could be carried out. There is at the moment, as my right hon. Friend knows, considerable trouble with the French trawlers which sail into Morecambe Bay, and there are about forty every day, fishing with very small meshes. If something is not done they will fish the sea bare of fish.
I believe that this Bill will be of great help to the trawling industry if we can do something extra about keeping the size of meshes in proper limits. I welcome the Bill. It certainly will not be a panacea for the whole of the fishing industry, but I believe that it will be of help to us.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I start by apologising to the House. I have to go to a rather important Committee of the House later and, therefore, I am afraid that I shall be absent for some part of the debate.
As this Bill affects Scotland and Shetland very considerably, I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words about it. I do not intend to follow on the lines of the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. R. Stanley), who appears to have enlivened this debate by stirring up local prejudice and evoking an accusation of piracy.
I welcome the Bill as far as it goes. But I think that now the conservation of stocks and the protection of spawning beds are probably even more important than the extension of limits. We shall also have to look very carefully at the enormous catching power of fishermen all over the North Sea, and all these matters, as the Minister has pointed out, are not directly dealt with in this Bill.
I wish to examine what is done by this Bill and to ask some questions. It extends the limit for foreign fishing to six miles, with a further discretionary limit, "the outer belt", up to 12 miles. I understood the Minister to say that the six-mile limit and the 12-mile limit, subject to exceptions which may be made, is closed to all types of fishing, including fishing for shell-fish and dogfish, by every method, whether by line, net, creel or anything else. Clause 1(3) which has puzzled some people, was also dealt with by the Minister. I wish to raise a point on that later and to ask what is meant by "arrangement". I understand that the right hon. Gentleman cannot yet tell us the effect of the provisions in this Clause as that will be subject to further negotiation.
We come to the important matter of baselines. They are to be drawn from Cape Wrath round the Butt of Lewis down to Barra and north of Ireland, and also, I understand, round the whole of the Shetlands. I should like it confirmed that the whole of the Barra Haaf is now within the limit. It also appears to me that the area used by the Russian fleet between the Skerries and Fetlar is also within the limit, and I should like the Minister to say a word about that. 964 The Russian fleet off Shetland fishes principally for herring. We have no complaint about it, except in a few areas where it is said to foul the ground. In general, our relationship with the Russian fleet and with the other fleets who come is good, and we should like them to come into port. If there is to be a restriction placed on them, I should welcome an attempt by the Foreign Office or the Scottish Office to see whether we could come to an arrangement by which they use, say, Basta Voe, or Mid-Yell or Lerwick. I am not sure whether they will be able to lie inside the limit. It is important that we should not create any situation which might lead to difficulty. We should welcome more use being made by the Russian fleet of the facilities which we are prepared to offer.
I am not quite clear about the baseline in the Moray Firth. It will not be, I fear, from Duncansby Head to Rattray Head. There will still be an area which can be fished by foreign trawlers. Even at this late date we shall not have succeeded in enforcing the judgment in Mortensen v. Peters which was a unanimous decision of the full High Court of Judiciary of Scotland and which was ignored by the Government. As they are such sticklers for the proprieties that they are unable to do anything in the case of toll bridges which have provided a monopoly income for centuries, it is odd that they should refuse to enforce that decision. As I understand it, there will still be an area free to foreign fishermen, and I should have thought this the moment to ensure that the baseline should be drawn from Duncansby Head to Rattray Head.
There is no mention in the First Schedule of the Herring Fishery Act (Scotland), 1889, and I am not sure why. Parts of the Act are still in force, including the restriction on fishing within the three-mile limit by certain trawling methods. It may be that I am wrong and that this Act has been superseded by other legislation, but I should be grateful to be told why the Act has been omitted. There is reference to the Whale Fisheries (Scotland) Act, 1907. The Norwegians do a certain amount of fishing with harpoons in the North for basking sharks, and it would be an advantage if the Secretary of State could tell us the extent of the 965 limit on fishing for basking sharks. The 1907 Act also regulates catching of certain types of whales, including the herring-hog whale, which is now becoming scarce. It would be welcome if this Bill gave some protection to this and other whales.
I take it that byelaw No. 10 will still be in force and, as I think was said by the Minister, that the rest of the restrictions on fishing by British vessels round the coast remain unaltered. There is an important byelaw, No. 69, which affects fishing by seine netters under 50 feet round Shetland. I take it that Byelaw No. 69, and indeed all the existing byelaws, unless there are changes in future, will be unaffected by the Bill.
This Measure does little to protect the spawning beds. The Minister spoke of the enforcement of conservation measures, but I am not clear about how that is to be done. Perhaps the position could be clarified. I understand there is no question of building new fishery protection vessels, but the Minister said that the Admiralty would lend additional vessels. In Scotland, fishing enforcement vessels are not Admiralty vessels but are under the control of the Scottish Office. Has the Scottish Office any sources from which it can beg, borrow or steal more fishery enforcement vessels? There will be a larger job of enforcement to be done, and we should be told how the Government propose to do it.
I wish to return to Clause 1(3), which states:For the purpose of giving effect to any convention, agreement or arrangement providing for sea-fishing by foreign fishing boats …I understand the reason for this Clause. There are old-established customs of the sea, and many of us would be sorry to see them destroyed by the provision in this Bill, but "arrangement" has a wide meaning. What exactly does it mean? Does it cover anything and everything. Does it mean formal signed agreements, or conventions or some custom? What does it mean? I think that we should be given more information.
According to Clause 5, the provisions in this Bill will come into effecton such a day as the Ministers may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.The Minister said that it was expected that the major part of the Bill would come into operation in September. If 966 I understood him rightly, he indicated that there might be exceptions for areas where the baseline was altered. There are certain areas round my constituency which might be affected, and I should be grateful if he would provide further information about that. So far as I can see, there are also areas round the whole of the Hebrides where the baselines will be altered, and in that connection it may be a year before the provisions in the Bill come into operation.
I should appreciate a further word of explanation about the phrase, "habitual rights". Certainly the Norwegians have fished round the North of Scotland for a long time on a bigger scale than I think the Minister appreciates. Many other nations come there, including even the Spaniards and certainly the Swedes from time to time, as well as the Russian fleets. What is the word "habitual" intended to denote? The Russians have been coming for a matter of ten or fifteen years. Is that the period which is referred to or does it refer to nations whose fishermen have been fishing in the area for hundreds of years?
Does the whole of the provisions in the Bill apply to shell-fishing? May I take it that there is no intention to leave out shell-fishing from the authority of the Bill?
I must beg the indulgence of the House because I shall have to leave the Chamber for a time before the debate ends. I welcome the Bill, though its introduction is belated. I do not think that the provisions contained in it will solve the problems of the fishing industry, which will be serious if overfishing continues in certain parts of the North Sea. I wonder whether we shall be able to come to any arrangement by which we can introduce some mutual restrictions on fishing in various areas and prevent one country dumping fish at certain times on other countries when it is impossible to sell the fish in its own markets as happens at present with plaice. Subject to those comments, I welcome the Bill and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I share the anxiety of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about whales, which are still being attacked by the Norwegians. The 967 right hon. Gentleman spoke about basking sharks. We have a number in the waters adjacent to my constituency. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman knows exactly what the Norwegians do with the basking sharks once they have harpooned them.
§ Mr. Grimond
The principal product is oil. The Norwegians extract it from the livers of the sharks. I dare say that the flesh is sent for fish meal, and so on.
§ Sir Douglas Marshall
I was interested in what the right hon Gentleman said because there may be some opportunity of developing this within the sharking industry, which is growing considerably in the areas around Cornwall.
The one consistent theme of the speeches has been the conservation of fish. It appears to all of us that this is one of the most important matters confronting the fishing industry at present. I trust that my right hon. Friend will be able to say whether any restrictions will be imposed or suggested within the limits coming under the Bill.
A number of us have for years struggled to obtain a limit such as is included in the Bill. Reference has been made to the subject being raised in 1961. I mentioned this subject in my maiden speech in 1945.
I also then mentioned the question of fishery protection vessels, and I would stress this point to my right hon. Friend. It is true that fishery protection vessels in Scotland come under the Secretary of State, but fishery protection vessels in this country come under the Admiralty. There are two points to be made here. First, we have not, and never have had anyway, enough of them. Secondly, if we are to enlarge the area to 20,000 square miles, it is not unreasonable to supposes that we need more vessels. Although there is a greater chance of catching something when there are six miles in which to do it instead of three, taking into account the time to get up steam, we nevertheless want more vessels.
One of the difficulties of the fishing industry that I have found over the last 18 or 19 years is that first one may be dealing with the Foreign Office and then with the Admiralty and then with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and 968 Food, and it is easy for one Department to say that it is another which should be doing something. This will not do after the Bill becomes an Act. When it becomes an Act we must ensure that sufficient sanction and ability exist to carry out what is in the Bill. Otherwise, there is no purpose in it. I suggest to my right hon. Friends that the Treasury, the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Scotland must be pressed to ensure that fishery protection vessels are available to carry out the duties assigned to them and ensure that people do not deliberately contravene the Bill.
It has been said that the Bill will not solve the problems of the fishing industry. I do not think that anyone thought it would. This deals with only part of one of the problems. But it is extremely satisfactory that we have managed to reach this stage. I pay tribute to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, for he has done a very difficult job in a superlative manner.
This is a Bill which deals primarily with a degree of conservation at a later date and, at the same time, gives our inshore fishermen a greater area in which they can fish without, we hope, foreign fishermen taking part. I would remind my right hon. Friend that, the fish having been caught, it is equally important for the fishing industry to ensure that it is used to the best advantage of the consumer and, at the same time, of those who catch the fish.
In this respect, I want to mention the dilemma facing the pilchard industry. We can catch the pilchards, but the question is what to do with them when we have caught them. I hope that my right hon. Friend and the White Fish Authority and others concerned will take due note of this and devise a means to ensure a throughput of pilchards by canning, freezing, and so on. A little more attention should be paid to this matter instead of putting the fish back into the sea, which is appalling when we reflect on the general shortage of food throughout the world.
I am extremely glad at last to see the Bill on its way to becoming an Act. I feel satisfied that nothing but good will flow from it. On the other hand, it will not solve all the problems of the fishing industry. I trust that my right hon. 969 Friend will remember the theme of conservation of fish and will not be forgetful of pilchards, which may not, in fact, have anything to do with Scotland, but which I mention in recognition of the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland is winding up the debate.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)
This Fishery Limits Bill is another of the Tory Government's co-called little Bills, like the Resale Prices Bill, introduced to consume time left on their hands by the failure to hold in June the long-overdue General Election. On the face of it, the Bill appears to be a simple one of only three pages and five Clauses, but its two Schedules run to four pages, which is longer than the Bill. Also, contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House show that the Bill is not as simple as it at first appears to be, and its passage through Committee is not likely to be as uncontroversial as was at first expected.
The Schedules go back for more than a century, to 1843, and cover all sorts of sea fisheries Acts, and various types of fishery—whale, salmon and fresh water, white fish and herring—and also steam trawling. I am probably the only hon. Member with a special interest in fishery limits to foreign poachers. [Interruption.] Does somebody say "No" before he hears the story? If he will wait for it, he will find that I am justified in making that remark. I also suggest that if the hon. Member wishes to make an interruption he should do so standing on his feet and not natter on his bottom.
I am probably the only Member with a special interest in fishery limits to foreign poachers, from the point of view of a Yorkshire constituency and also from a personal point of view, over most of this century. Early in the century, my father, as a Devon inshore fisherman, suffered serious loses of nets, gear and capital from foreign fishing boats' depredations in West Bay and Torbay and campaigned for reform and protection. If the hon. Member opposite can get up and say anything to offset that I am quite prepared to give way to him.
There is a second reason. In the 1920s I served in a fishery protection vessel on the East Coast and so have personal 970 experience of dealing with foreign forays within the prohibited three-mile limit. Can the hon. Gentleman match that personal experience?
The purpose of the Bill is to extend British fishery limits, to provide powers for the control of fishing by foreign vessels within those limits and to adapt existing legislation accordingly. For the benefit of the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley), the Bill has nothing to do with conservation and nothing to do with the size of the mesh of nets.
British fishery limits are to be extended from the present territorial waters limit of three miles to 12 miles from the baselines for the first time in 20 centuries. In earlier centuries, this drastic action would have caused, a threat of war, because most nations have considered non-territorial waters to be the high seas and free to all. Furthermore, the Bill divides this 12-mile area into two parts, (1) the "exclusive fishing limits" extended from the present three to six miles and within which fishing by foreign vessels is totally prohibited, and, (2), the "outer belt" of from six to 12 miles wherein fishing by foreign vessels is permitted only if registered in a designated country which has signed an agreement.
The first question—and here I take up the point made by hon. Members on both sides of the House—is how is the control of foreign vessels to be exercised on these fluid and variable six and 12 miles limits? I will deal with that problem later in my speech. A general impression is that this dual idea is a new one. This is not so. It is the old idea of territorial and extraterritorial waters of earlier centuries which had serious effects on diplomatic relations.
The Minister may argue that this 12-mile extension has been agreed, or will be agreed, by conventions with certain countries, or, alternatively, is in reply to a similar extension by other countries. But what about the countries which neither extend nor convene? Admittedly the Minister stated in his speech that there are only a few such countries, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party stated that these countries had some of the most important fisheries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) has considered 971 the merits and demerits of the extension, from the point of view of fishing, and other hon. Members, perhaps on both sides of the House, may do so. Consequently, I will refrain from so doing. What I wish to do is to ask several questions as to what will be the effect of the Bill, which is far more important than appears at first sight.
It will not be satisfactory to the House for the Secretary of State in his reply to say that these are Committee points. There is only one operative Clause in the Bill, namely, Clause 1, as Clause 2 is simply a limitation of Clause 1, with temporary concessions. Consequently, in Committee the Minister will expect to get Clause 1 largely on the nod and the Bill in one sitting. His answers to questions then will be that they can be dealt with on Report, and then only a limited time will be allocated for that. Thus another Bill will have passed through the House without being properly understood by hon. Members and perhaps even by the Ministers responsible for it.
The Bill could have grave international repercussions, not only on fishery limits but also on cordial relations with foreign countries or, otherwise, on trade and industry and other matters. So it behoves hon. Members with a knowledge of the subject to probe the Bill thoroughly, and the time for questions and also for answers is now, on Second Reading.
Has the Minister of Agriculture consulted the following charts?
(1) The 26 King's Chambers which include, for example, Spurn Point and the Humber Estuary to Cromer and the Bristol Channel, one of our wider estuaries.
(2) The "Reserved Waters," with the 14-mile limit claimed by Scotland in its draft at the time of the Union I understand, of Crowns, in 1604, which included the whole of the Moray Firth. That is the important point about it and the reason for quoting the reference which, apparently, seems to annoy some hon. Members opposite. If they are not interested in the Bill, why not get up and leave?
(3) The 13-mile limit for the North Sea, which did not include the Moray Firth.
972 The further question is, are there any additional areas added to British fishery limits other than the extension of the three miles area to 12 miles off our coasts? Which are the designated countries and how many, so far, have signed a convention with Britain? The Minister in his speech, in answer to a question from myself, said that he could not give the list. But surely the Minister and the Government must have an idea of practically all the countries which they expect to sign and enter into an agreement with us. What is there to try and wrap a cloak of secrecy around in this? Why not let the dog see the rabbit?
Reference is made in Clause 1(4) to low water limits. Are these the limits of neap tide or spring tide lines, because in certain areas there is a considerable difference between the two? Nevertheless, I can still ask the question: what does the term "baseline" mean and are the baselines altered under the Bill? What will be the new baseline for the Moray Firth?
The Leader of the Liberal Party also argued this point and argued that the baseline did not go from the furthermost point on both sides of the Firth. Are rocks to be included—not the rocks connected with the" rocks and modders "? Are they to be considered as islands, and what are the increased areas around the Bell Rock in the Firth of Forth, the Eddystone Rock off Plymouth and the Seven Stones Rocks off the Scilly Islands?
§ Commander Pursey
I am giving their original description, not the modern description, and this is taken from one of the highest authorities, a Government document of the day. I repeat—the Seven Stones Rocks off the Scilly Islands.
The term "median line" is used in Clause 1(4) in connection with England and France and the Channel Islands and France. I asked the Minister a question about that term, and he gave an explanation. Nevertheless, I still pursue the query which I wish to put. What is the meaning of this term and what is the increased British area around the Channel Islands, and how far does this impinge on French fishery limits if 973 France extends her limits to 12 miles? What is the position in the 21-mile Dover Straits, if both France and England have 12-mile limits? Admittedly the Minister also made a reference to this, but my question is this: after twenty centuries of history, are there to be no high seas in the Dover Straits for the first time? Are other foreign fishing vessels to be prohibited from fishing in the whole area?
Clause 2(b) refers to a baseline extending 10 miles. Is there to be a different width for the mouth of an entrance where the opposite coasts are held by different countries and where they are held by the same countries? For example, as the two coasts of the Dover Straits are held by France and Britain, is there to be a 24-mile mouth, whereas since both coasts of the Moray Firth are held by Britain, is it to have only a 10-mile mouth? It is no good saying that the Minister dealt with this because a 10-mile mouth is referred to in the Bill.
Even so, in all fairness to Scotland, where the Moray Firth is a highly controversial area of foreign poaching, why is the mouth not to be at least 24 miles, the same as in the Straits of Dover? Why is not the mouth of the Moray Firth to be the furthermost line which can be drawn from the two extremities? Presumably the Minister will discuss in Committee further details about charts, but we should have a clear statement about the areas which are included in addition to the present areas of the 3-mile territorial waters.
I can produce illustrations of charts showing fishery limits from the time of Grotius's Dutch "Mare Liberum" and Selden's English "Mare Clausum"; and our claim for the sovereignty of the Four Seas, which caused the open rupture with the Dutch and the testing by force of arms. It is of interest to note that the British argument of commanding the Four Seas continued until 1830.
§ So much for history and the Bill as a whole. My main interest in the Bill is, of course, a Yorkshire constituency on the East Coast—an important fishing coast. The Bill does not affect the long-distance or middle-water fishery industries directly but only the inshore fishing industry. My concern, therefore, 974 today is for the smaller Yorkshire fishing ports such as Bridlington, Scarborough, Whitby and Filey. Although we had an intervention by the hon. Member for North Fylde, apparently he has left us, having no further interest in the Bill.
§ These inshore fishermen have suffered serious losses of nets and gear and also capital from the numerous depredations by foreign fishing vessels even inside the prohibited 3-mile limit. There has also been a serious loss of fish by foreign over-fishing of both mature and immature fish. In future, foreign fishing vessels will be free to fish only outside the new 12-mile limit from the baselines, and between the 6- and 12-mile limit only if their vessels are registered in a designated country. They will be prohibited from fishing within the 6-mile limit under severe penalties of confiscation of gear and heavy fines—but not by the Navy; by the civil courts of the country. British fishing vessels should have the 6-mile area to themselves and the 6- to 12-mile area in competition with foreign vessels from designated countries only.
§ But how is the Bill to be enforced in respect of foreign vessels and how are British vessels to be protected, particularly—a point which has not been made in the debate—in low visibility and out of sight of land when foreign vessels cannot be observed from the shore? The present Admiralty Fishery Protection Service does its best with a limited number of vessels. Obviously, what will be required is an increased number of naval patrol vessels to ensure adequate surveillance.
§ In this connection, it is not necessary to use entirely the larger type of vessel such as frigates and minesweepers. Today we have the small high-speed motor boat and similar craft which are ideally suited for this purpose. Among reasons for this, they are of shallow draught, they can get well inshore, they can get from one place to another at high speed and they have not only wireless but telephonic communication. A number of these vessels around the coast could give a far greater measure of service in dealing with depredations by foreign vessels and protection of our own vessels
§ The point about our own vessels is this: from now onwards they should 975 require no protection within the six-mile limit, because foreign vessels ought not to be there. In the 6–16 mile area the number of foreign vessels should be limited. That is not to say that there will not be droves of them, as was stated by the hon. Member for North Fylde. These foreign vessels usually hunt in groups. They can be reported from our own coast stations and by our own fishing vessels. Swift action is then required by our patrol vessels, and the Navy can be relied on to do it if the motorboats are provided, to deal with poaching by foreign vessels or damage to the gear of our own vessels. Then what is required is smart action by the magistrates, by the confiscation of gear and heavy fines.
§ I need not go on and debate that point any further. Anyone with actual experience of how the Fishery Protection Service works knows full well that it would present no difficulty. It is simply a case of the officer in charge of the Fishery Protection squadron saying, "Give me the tools, and I will finish the job".
§ Our own inshore fishermen should have greater success, namely, increased catches, and also fewer losses because of interference from foreign vessels.
§ To sum up, what is required for the successful operation of the Bill is cooperation by everyone concerned, our own vessels looking after themselves and not getting into trouble with foreign vessels, our own vessels reporting foreign vessels when they see them, and the patrol vessels dealing firmly with foreign vessels. Once foreign countries and foreign owners know full well that, if they break the law, they are at serious risk, I suggest that there will be a reduction in this trouble in the form of foreign vessels fishing within proscribed waters.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Sir John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) that the success of the Bill depends on co-operation. I agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said about protection. There is not much that one can say about the Bill which has not been said already, but I, too, would like to congratulate the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and 976 Food, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Government on at last reaching some form of agreement. I welcome the control of fishing by foreign vessels within these extended limits. This is certainly not before time. The Foreign Office, and probably the Ministry of Defence also, have been very fainthearted in the past or an agreement would have been arrived at long ago.
The Minister has powerto postpone for a period the date on which the extension of the exclusive fishery limits from 3 to 6 miles becomes effective in relation to the vessels of any designated country.Which countries do the Government regard as having habitual rights? The Minister said that these countries will be designated after negotiation. I hope that the Government will be firm about this. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) rather gave the impression that we should not go too far in imposing a 12-mile limit against countries. Surely we have every right to say to countries which are already keeping our fishermen away and which have already extended their limits to 12 miles, "As you are doing this to us, you cannot fish within 12 miles of our shores". Or is the Foreign Office in this case also being rather faint-hearted, as it has been for sixty years, and restraining the Minister from doing this?
The hon. Member for Leith mentioned the case which was upheld by the full bench of 12 judges in the High Court of Justiciary in an appeal by a Danish skipper convicted in the Dornoch Sheriff Court in 1905. This decision has never been enforced. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) will probably raise this point. We want to clear up the position in regard to the Moray Firth. I do not think that it is a case of ten miles either side, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. I understand that at present up to 24 miles is excluded to foreign vessels. I should like to see the Moray Firth closed entirely to foreign vessels. I hope that the decision will be enforced with greater force than it has been. Our own fishermen have been most disheartened to see foreign vessels coming into areas in which they themselves were not allowed to fish. Will our own trawlers be able to fish the whole Moray Firth area from which they have been excluded in the past?
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
Does the hon. Gentleman want our own trawlers to fish the whole of the Moray Firth? What would he say if he were one of the inshore fishermen there?
§ Sir J. MacLeod
I do not want that. That is why I am asking the question. It is also why I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Bill has nothing to do with conservation. That is the most important factor in the Bill. The exclusion of foreign vessels must lead to greater conservation. I hope that it does. I hope that it will also lead to our own trawler-men putting their house in order. The Minister said that he would have power to effect conservation by our own fishermen. He has much greater power to deal with that now by extending the limits.
I am glad, as I am sure the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) is, that this will mean the closure of the Minch inside the Outer Hebrides and also the Clyde. This should make a considerable difference to Highland fishermen. I am not being parochial when I say this. It will make a great difference to the crofter fishermen, although they do not have much of a say now, because fishing and boats have now extended so much that it is a full-time occupation. That is why I welcome the Government training scheme.
I hope that the scheme, which I believe has proved successful, will mean an increase in the number of people in the area taking up fishing. I hope that the exclusion of foreign vessels will result in greater opportunity, particularly for lobster fishermen. Crofter fishermen in particular have been complaining continuously that foreign vessels have been coming in and taking a great number of lobsters out of their traditional grounds. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell me the position in relation to prawn fishing, which is now a big business in the North. Companies have been set up and are doing very well out of it. What will be the position of foreign vessels in the Moray Firth in that respect? Will they be excluded from fishing there for prawns and shellfish?
I agree that the Bill will help the conservation of fish, and I hope that it 978 will persuade our fishermen to put their own house in order. In our area we want protection not only from foreign vessels but from our own fishermen. I remember the day when it was possible to go out and catch fish for breakfast just beside the shore. It is not possible to do that now, because our bays have been altogether cleaned of fish.
Now that our fishery vessels will have to cover an extended limit their task of protecting our shores will be a much more difficult one. I would, therefore, like to add to the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) that light craft could do the job. I do not see why helicopters should not be used to a much greater extent, in order to spot vessels that were breaking the law and telephone to the shore in order to bring quickly to the scene those light vessels to which the hon. and gallant Member has referred.
I want to see more experimental work being carried out, within the three-mile limit, between scientists and fishermen in a co-operative effort. I can think of many bays on the West Coast in which fishing could be prohibited altogether for a certain time, so that scientific experiments could be carried out in farming the fish. I hope that the Bill will prove of benefit to such research and experiment and that the Minister will take power to see that such experiments are carried out, so that we can discover whether the farming of fish is an economic proposition.
Those are a few of the questions that I wanted to put to the Minister. Again, I welcome the Bill. I hope that it will mean an extension of fishing in the Highland area, at any rate, because the days referred to in the old Highland sayingO that the peats would cut themselvesAnd the fish would jump on the shoreThat we might lie on our bed this dayAnd for evermorehave gone. I hope that the scheme will be extended, so that more fishermen will be able to take part in it on the western seaboard of Scotland.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I agree with much of what has been said by the hon. Member for Ross 979 and Cromarty (Sir J. MacLeod). I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) upon his speech, which was full of wise experience, derived from his years as a mariner and his ancestry, and also from his study of history. His was a useful contribution to the debate.
I do not believe that the Bill will provide a practical instrument to help the fishing industry. In my opinion, the difficulties of the industry will have to be solved, if they are to be solved at all, by adherence to the rule of law in international affairs, and not by violence. In this respect I differ from my hon. and gallant Friend, who seemed to want to rely upon gunboats, protection vessels and telephones, and that kind of thing. The best interests of the industry will be served by the implementation of the rule of law by those nations which are interested in fishing.
For example, I regard the North Sea as a lake which is fished not only by Scotland, England and Northern Ireland but also by nations on the other side—Denmark, Finland and other nations which have unfortunately been involved in some unpleasant incidents owing to the failure to observe the rule of law. In order to ensure the implementation of this rule in international affairs we require a really constructive conference which could form the basis for fishery legislation.
Earlier this year we had a conference which was a failure. The Bill is the child of that conference. Thirteen out of 16 nations agreed to certain principles, which have been enshrined in the Bill, but the Bill will result only in violence and in the breaking of law on the part of the nations involved. The idea in the Bill is to divide the problem into two halves by dealing, on the one hand, with "exclusive fishery limits" and, on the other, with the "outer belt". Within the former foreign vessels are totally prohibited, although they are not prohibited in the latter.
Who is to decide whether a certain vessel is in one area or the other? Are the fishery protection vessels to do this job? This is not the way to deal with the matter. The proper way is to bring together all the nations concerned at a 980 really constructive conference and let them evolve principles which can be enshrined in a really workable and practical Bill, based not on violence but on the rule of law in international affairs.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, in his admirable speech—which was largely a Committee speech—touched on the problem of the split infinitive, if I may so term it—the exclusive fishery limits on the one hand and the outer belt on the other. That is not practicable. Because of that, this Bill is not a practical instrument wherewith to solve the fishing industry's problems. I ask the Minister to reconsider it. He will be able to give it some reconsideration in Committee, but he will not be able to reconsider the principle, to which I object. He will be considering the details of what I believe to be a completely ineffective instrument.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) disapproves of the Bill, and the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) said that it was a little Bill. I do not think that either of them has considered its effect on the inshore industry. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and the Government not only for producing the Bill, but for the way in which they obtained international agreement for its provisions.
I want to refer in this respect to a county I know well—Yorkshire. In 1960, British fishermen's lines began being destroyed off the Yorkshire coast by foreign vessels. Between October, 1960, and April, 1961, over £1,000 was lost in the destruction of lines at Bridlington alone by foreign fishing vessels. On one particular occasion, in the evening, skipper Cowling, in the vessel "Random Harvest", fishing out of Bridlington, decided to set his lines and wait in the vicinity for the whole night. He saw foreign fishing vessels approach, and signalled to them by light and by loudhailer. They paid no attention, but went right through his nets, destroying them.
In 1963, another Bridlington vessel, the "Lead Us" under skipper Smith, had actually shot 10 lines in daylight off Bridlington. Foreign vessels came 981 so close that they pulled five of the lines out of the men's hands. That was the kind of action that was occurring when foreign fishing vessels fished up to the three-mile limit, and sometimes just within it. They caused great loss and consternation to the inshore fishermen of Yorkshire and on other parts of the coast.
Not only was there the question of foreign vessels steaming through buoyed and marked lines, but there was also the abuse of trawling. Trawling does not normally take place inshore, but in recent years the habit has been growing among Belgian trawlers of two small vessels steaming on parallel lines with a trawl between them, and another line across their bows. Indeed on one occasion a British vessel got fouled between the bow line and the trawl. They are also using very small mesh, which denudes the fishing grounds on either side of Flamborough Head. In the great gales of 1961, foreign fishing vessels took refuge in Bridlington and Scarborough. It was quite clear then, by inspection from the quayside, that a lot of them were using very small mesh nylon nets—so small that plenty of shrimps had been caught in the nets. This kind of behaviour is ruining one of the best fishing grounds in the country, and it is also happening all round our coasts.
The Yorkshire Coast Resorts Joint Action Committee was formed in 1960 and my right hon. Friend the Minister met its members on a number of occasions. I am sure that the members of that Committee will fully approve of the whole contents of the Bill, which will do so much to safeguard our fishing grounds off the Yorkshire Coast and in other parts of our country.
It is not for me to talk of Scotland, but the Moray Firth and the Clyde have been mentioned. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will refer to the position in the Moray Firth, which in any discussion of fishing limits is put forward as the most absurd anachronism. The position is that British vessels are not allowed to trawl in certain areas, yet foreign vessels are. It is a complete absurdity, and I hope that we shall end it altogether by this Bill.
Another aspect concerns Ireland. I am told that under the Ireland Act of 1949, Irish vessels are treated as British, and 982 are, therefore, allowed to fish British territorial waters. But in the Firth of Clyde there are areas where British vessels are not allowed to trawl but Irish vessels, for some unknown reason, can. They are, for this purpose, considered as foreigners. In other words, as so often happens, the Irish get the best of both worlds. I hope that my right hon. Friend will comment on that, and tell me whether Irish vessels are considered to be British or foreign, and whether the regulations in the Bill apply to them as well as to foreigners.
Having said something about the need for this Measure, I want to refer to the Government's methods in obtaining agreement before introducing this Bill. The method of the British Government in calling a conference of 16 nations in London at the end of last year and the beginning of this year—and it is from that conference that this Bill has sprung—is in great contrast to the action taken by certain other friendly powers, such as Iceland, when it unilaterally extended its fishing limit to twelve miles.
I have referred this action to the House before, and I hope that I may be permitted to do so again. We must remember that when the Icelandic Government extended their limits in 1948 they passed legislation, of which the first paragraph reads:The Ministry of Fisheries shall specify by regulations the limitations of the protected areas along the coasts of the country "—that is, Iceland—within the boundaries of the coastal shelf, in which all fisheries are to be subject to Icelandic regulations and control.In other words, the Icelandic Government decided that it could proclaim exclusive fishing rights up to the Continental Shelf, and some Icelandic newspapers still occasionally say that it is intended to carry out that threat.
All I can say is that it is to the great credit of Her Majesty's Government that, at the end of what came to be called the "cod war", they got the Icelandic Government to agree to submit all disputes that might come about from further extensions of the Icelandic limits to the International Court at The Hague, which the Icelandic Government had hitherto refused to recognise. That is a matter of great importance to the 983 distant-water industry, and demonstrates how well these matters have been handled by the Government.
I have just mentioned our distant water industry and I believe that we should pay tribute to the British Trawlers Federation, and its members, who catch 90 per cent. of the fish imported into this country, for the way in which they have assisted the inshore men in their efforts to get this six-mile plus six-mile fishing limit. Obviously this is not to the direct advantage of the distant-water men. On the contrary, if we set an example by putting out our own limit we can hardly grumble when others do the same. In this case, however, the boot is on the other foot, as most of the other countries had already extended their limit to 12 miles before we started.
But due credit must be given to the Government for the way in which they have handled the matter, and have got the agreement of the majority of the 16 nations which attended the Western European Fisheries Conference. This is, perhaps, only the start—it is certainly not the end, because we still have to tackle the very important problems of markets and rights of establishment in foreign countries. Those matters do not form the subject of debate this evening, but I hope that they are in the minds of my right hon. Friends and that the House will discuss them in the very near future.
The Faroese, unfortunately, after the end of the conference, unilaterally put their limits out to 12 miles. That led to a quota being placed by the British Trawlers' Federation on landings in this country of Faroese fish and I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) that this matter needs looking at, as it has annoyed other sections of the industry. I quote one paragraph from the presidential address by Mr. Scott, the retiring President of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, at the Federation's recent annual general meeting:By taking it upon themselves to impose a quota on all Faröese caught fish we believe the catching interests are assuming the responsibility of the Government of the country. And even if the Government seem prepared to acquiesce it is a situation against which we must protest.984 I myself think that the action of the Federation in imposing the quota was fully justified, but I agree that it was a somewhat unorthodox action.
I emphasise what has been said from the other side of the House today, that a lot of good can come from meetings between the various sections of the industry. We tend rather, too, exclusively, perhaps, to consider the British Trawlers Federation, representing the bigger ships, and the inshore vessels, with which we are really concerned in the Bill, and we are inclined to forget the fish merchants and fryers and the various wholesale markets, and so on, in the country. The hon. Member for Leith was co-chairman with me last year at a number of meetings with all sections of the industry at which we tried to iron out some of the problems. I think that he will agree, and the industry as a whole will agree, that these meetings did show a good measure of agreement.
A lot of good for the industry as a whole can come out of them, and I hope that such meetings will be carried on, not by ourselves—it is really no part of the duty of parliamentary committees—but by the Chairman of the White Fish Authority. I hope that, once his recommendations have been full considered by the Minister, he will be in a position to carry on where we left off.
On the question of limits, I note that Greenland has put its limit out to six plus-six miles, as we are doing, and that the phasing-out period will last until 1973. I believe that this is a good augury for the future. As a result of the Western European Fisheries Conference, and of this Bill, it seems now to be more or less established that the fishing limit will be 12 miles. I think that this became fairly obvious after the two Geneva conferences. If we can now go further than just Western Europe and extend internationally throughout the fishery nations of the world recognition that 12 miles has supplanted the old three miles as the internationally recognised limit, we shall have gone a long way towards restoring the law and order to which the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North was referring. In my view, what has been done by the British Government so far goes a good way towards restoring law and order on the high seas.
985 Finally, one or two questions. First, the question of traditional rights. As I understand, Norway, Greenland, the Faroes and Iceland did not sign the Convention which arose out of the Western European Fisheries Conference. I gather that bilateral talks are now going on with these countries, and we hope to have an agreement with them by September. I understand also that bilateral talks are going on with Poland and the Soviet Union, which have enormous fishing fleets, with factory ships and all the rest. The agreement of these two countries will be absolutely vital. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot go into detail on this as negotiations are still proceeding, but I hope that he will respond to the comments of hon. Members on both sides and say a little more about it, because it is a question of very great importance.
On the question of policing the limits up to six miles and then up to 12 miles. I understand that we have a right to do so under the Sea Fisheries Act, 1882, and we shall now have the right to impose our own regulations on foreigners during the phasing-out period within the six miles, and later up to the 12-mile limit. Does that carry the right to inspect mesh sizes? This is a question which has exercised our minds very often. We have had no right to do so hitherto, but shall we have the right in future to inspect mesh sizes of all vessels within the 12 miles?
I shall not weary the House by discussing conservation measures. Both sides recognise that this is an immensely important subject. It is referred to in some way in the Bill, and I hope that we shall hear more about it at a later stage, and during this Parliament.
Finally, my other point concerns the availability and size of the Fishery Protection Squadron. All hon. Members have made quite clear that we do not consider that we have enough vessels in this squadron to police the 20,000 more square miles referred to in the leading article in the Fishing News of 12th June. Incidentally, it was pointed out in that leading article that this additional area represents about one-fifth of the total area of the United Kingdom. We have to police all these waters with a total of six vessels in the Fishery Protection Squadron. This is impossible. I hope that my right hon. Friends will approach 986 the Secretary of State for Defence about it. Obviously, he will not allow us to have a greater number of frigates or minesweepers, but, as has been pointed out from both sides of the House, fast motor torpedo boats would be ideal.
§ Mr. Wall
And helicopters, operating from modern frigates.
Last summer, from the top of Flamborough Head, I saw a large number of foreign vessels, over 200, fishing just outside the three-mile limit. One could see the fishery protection vessel come out from Bridlington. I am not decrying the work that these vessels do in any way—they do very good work—but one could see how this small motor boat came out slowly and the fishing vessels disappeared on the other side of Flamborough Head. When the protection vessel steamed to the other side of the cape the foreign vessels moved to the opposite side, and so back and forth, rather like a game of hide-and-seek. That sort of game can be played with a 12-knot or 15-knot motor boat, but with a fast craft it would be out of the question.
In its wisdom, the Admiralty, abolished the Light Coastal Force some years ago. However, we still have 50-knot motor torpedo and gun boats, and it seems to me that they would be excellent for this purpose. If manpower is the problem, I am certain that the R.N.R. would be delighted to undertake the work during certain periods.
Finally, the question of base lines. Will the Secretary of State confirm that British vessels can fish within the three to 12 miles? Will he say what types of vessel? Is it all types or only some types? This did not emerge clearly from the interventions we had earlier.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Noble)
Will my hon. Friend clarify his question? I am not sure that I understand it.
§ Mr. Wall
I will put it in another way. Will all types of British vessels be allowed to fish between the three and 12 miles, or is this type of fishing to be restricted to line fishing only? Is trawling to be allowed? Also, will any vessels be allowed to fish within the three-mile 987 limit? When we have new base lines which close a large bay, will vessels be able to fish on the landward side of the base line, or, to put it another way, will any vessel be allowed to fish inside the bay?
Finally, a question which arises out of the Western European Fisheries Conference. At this conference, besides the agreement for Britain to extend her limits to six and then to 12 miles, it was decided that a further conference of technical experts should be set up to draft a convention on the lines of the 1882 Convention to set out a modern code of fishing conduct. It was suggested that the United States and Canada should participate in this convention. Can my right hon. Friend say what is happening about this? Has there been a meeting, and how far have we got? It is a matter of importance for the future.
Finally, may I say that the fishermen of England and, I believe, of Scotland and Wales, too, will appreciate the very great step forward which has been taken in this Bill, which will prove its value to all those who fish from the smaller ports of the British Isles.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Crosland (Grimsby)
I shall try to be brief, first, because I regret to admit that I do not know where either the Minch or the Moray Firth is, and secondly, because I represent a constituency which is mainly not an inshore fishing area; it is concerned more with middle and distant water fishing, and those parts of the fleet are not primarily involved in this Bill. Moreover, I shall try to avoid raising false hopes on the other side of the House by not following the example of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) who said "finally" no fewer than three times.
§ Mr. Crosland
As regards the Bill as a whole, it seems to me that it would be wrong not to express some melancholy at the fact that it had to be introduced at all. Of course, one sympathises with the motives behind it, motives to 988 which a good deal of expression has been given on both sides of the House. But there are two reasons why one cannot feel particularly cheerful about it. One is that this kind of Bill both expresses and encourages a certain—to call it "a certain" is to put it mildly—nationalistic or xenophobic attitude in fisheries problems. This has come out quite strongly in some of the speeches today. One even had it from the hon. Member for Haltemprice that if was only British trawlers which waited for a fishery protection vessel to go round the cape so that they could fish within the limits. The hon. Member must have a naive view of how British trawlers behave if that is what he thinks.
Another more serious reason for feeling somewhat melancholy about the Bill is that it is a further restriction of the principle of the freedom of the seas. Britain, as the greatest of all seafaring and sea trading nations, has hitherto tried to uphold that principle. It is sad although inevitable now to see a further restriction of it. This principle goes back a very long way in our history, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) has pointed out. It was first enshrined as the No. 1 principle in British trading policy under the Tudors. The Tudors and Elizabeth I in particular were willing to go a long way in protecting the fishing industry. They enforced Lent and fast days and they restricted imports, but they were never willing to restrict the right of all countries to fish the sea.
The principle of the restriction of fishing rights came only with the Stuarts—with James I, who wanted to introduce a 14-mile limit all round our coast, and then with Charles I, who tried to claim the most fantastic exclusive British rights all over the northern seas.
§ Mr. Crosland
Yes, indeed, he took the risk of an Anglo-Dutch war. For that reason, it is sad that a British Government, representing a nation which, for obvious historical reasons, has always fought for the freedom of the seas, should now have to participate in this depressing worldwide phenomenon of the extension of exclusive limits. One 989 must, however, be fair to the Government. They have fought against having to do this, and they have done it only after most of the other fishing nations in this part of the world have already done it.
Despite one's natural melancholia, one must, of course, welcome the Bill. As we have heard, it will give a great deal of help to inshore fishermen, only a few of whom I have in my constituency. One cannot use against the Bill the argument that many of us have used in the past few years that by extending our limits we weaken our bargaining position with other countries when they think of extending theirs. That argument may have had validity five years ago, but it has none now.
I am glad that the Minister justified the Bill in a straightforward way as giving additional fishing grounds to British fishermen and that he did not attempt to justify it primarily on the grounds of conservation. This is an extremely important point. If one tries to justify the extension of our limits on the grounds of conservation, one then has to do what a number of hon. Members probably want—but I do not—and to apply the additional restrictions to British as well as to foreign trawlers. One at once gets into the situation, which we now have off Iceland, of having endless arguments as to whether Icelandic trawlers are or are not illegally fishing within their own limits. This argument goes on in Grimsby the whole time. We have—and I am sure that they are justified—endless complaints from British skippers that the Icelanders, having justified their extension of limits on the ground of the preservation of fish, are now themselves fishing within their own limits—and, to make matters worse, impertinently landing the fish at Grimsby.
If extension of limits were to be justified on the ground of conservation and one then tried to apply the new limit to British as well as to foreign trawlers, one would run into endless disputes and problems of interpretation. If conservation is the aim, it should be dealt with separately and in another way. I am, therefore, glad that the Minister has not gone about the problem in the same way as the Icelandic Government did when it extended its limits.
990 I must admit that on conservation I have always been somewhat of an odd-man-out. I am a sceptic, not about conservation itself, but about a great deal of what is commonly said on the subject. It is a marvellous word, rather like the opposite of sin, to which everybody pays lip-service. But when one examines a large number of the arguments which are used in favour of conservation, they often tend in practice to be arguments for preserving a particular vested interest.
For example, people might justify the exclusion of British trawlers from the Moray Firth on the ground of conservation. This, however, probably has nothing to do with conservation as such, but would be for the protection of a particular group of fishermen in the Moray Firth. Arguments about conservation are frequently restrictive and designed to protect a particular group of fishermen. Moreover, arguments in favour of conservation frequently imply using less efficient or less productive methods of fishing than we have available to us. Therefore, I take a slightly sceptical attitude to much of what is said about conservation, without, of course, denying its great importance.
The Bill will, of course, be extremely helpful to a small part—the inshore part—of the industry. But it will do nothing to solve the major problems facing the 90 per cent. of the industry, which is the middle and distant water fleets. We were told a long time ago, at least unofficially, that the new Chairman of the White Fish Authority had put to the Government a major plan for the reorganisation of the industry. I should very much like to have some news from the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he replies to the debate, as to when, if ever, in the lifetime of the present Parliament, the Government will give their views on that plan.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
The Government have inspired considerable cynicism in the inshore fishing ports during the past few months as to the earnestness of their good intentions for that side of the industry, particularly in Scotland. First, we had the total prohibition of drift net fishing for salmon, even outside the three-mile limit; secondly, we had the 991 recent revelations of the Herring Industry Board when a whole fleet was forced to tie up when thousands of pounds of Government money were apparently misused and the whole thing was not discovered for six months.
Then, we also have the endless argument about the comparable level of subsidy between agriculture and fishing in a relation of about 30 to 5 and, finally, the well-known constant irritation which is caused by the sight of foreign trawlers fishing in our waters, often in our ports, with nets of a mesh through which even a tadpole could not escape. The Government cannot, therefore, be surprised at the depth of feeling that they have aroused among some of the inshore fishermen.
Now, at last, we have the Bill and the 12-mile limit. It is like Moses and the Holy Land: at last it is in sight. That sight will gladden the heart of every fisherman whom I have the honour to represent. The only significant gap between the horizon and where we are at the moment is, first, the Moray Firth, and secondly, the lack of any phased-out period of foreign fishing in the outer belt. We would like to have seen the fixing of a definite period of, say, 10 years so that by the end of that time, there would have been for all our fishermen an entirely exclusive fishery zone of 12 miles from our coastline or our minimum baselines. Apart from that, I welcome the Bill unreservedly and I congratulate the Government warmly upon the success of the conference which made it possible.
The Bill brings within our jurisdiction approximately 20,000 sqare miles. The question that raised in my mind is what we will do with that amount of water. What will be the Government's policy towards the conservation and development of our fishing stocks? Obviously, if the regulations which are brought into force concerning this new extension of the limits are strictly applied and adhered to, they will do a certain amount towards conserving our fishing grounds from the heedless exploitation to which they have been subjected for so long. Will they, however, ensure the building up of stocks again in our waters so that we return to the times of long ago when even a boy on the seashore could catch something worth while if he wanted to do so?
992 Every new development on the fishing side is directed towards greater efficiency in catching and greater productivity on the part of the boats. How do the Government view these developments? It seems to me that unguarded against and unguided, they could threaten all that we hope to gain through the Bill, particularly for our inshore fishermen.
The inshore fleets produce much of the best quality fish sold in Britain every day. Such fish usually comes from the smaller boats, often fishing with lines, which can get their catch to a market sometimes only a few hours after it has been caught. At present some of those boats find it most difficult to get a decent living. They lack the range of the bigger boats. At one time salmon seemed a useful possible supplment, but that was denied to them. Recently their difficulties have been intensified by the large number of herring drifters which have been forced to change over to white fish, flood the market, and thereby reduce the price.
If there were the abundance of fish which we should all like to see—and which I believe we can see again—in our territorial waters, these boats would be the best suited to land quality fish and benefit from a quality market. Conservation, therefore, immediately raises the question of development. There is nothing I should like to see more than the Government undertaking a definite programme of fish-farming. We know that it has been done and we know what it could mean. I do not know whether the Government are yet ready to say, "This is the future for the industry of the sea. It would provide work for our fishermen, factory supplies for our workers and good food for our people; we will back it."
Two questions of detail on the Bill. Is a person caught transgressing these limits in future liable to be tried in a civil court or a criminal court? What about pollution? I am not satisfied about the efficacy of the measures introduced to deal with pollution and the consequent destruction of fishing grounds in our inshore waters. I instance the position in the Firth of Forth. Either the measures are not strict enough, or they are not sufficiently enforced. I hope that there will be some improvement there.
Again, I welcome the Bill most warmly. I hope that it will mark the 993 beginning of a new era of conservation and development for our fishery stocks. Of one thing I am certain—the fishermen will play their part.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
This Bill has been praised with some curiously critical arguments and criticised with some extraordinary praise. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) accused an hon. Member of piratical leanings and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) accused the Minister in his Bill of having split the problem. He was not prepared to attribute to the Minister anything else in common with Solomon, apart from that.
No hon. Member has spoken without misgivings, except perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), who expressed a lofty disdain for conservation—a disdain which I cannot imagine he really feels deeply. I think it must be merely an attitude of expediency for the purpose of the argument which he wants to put at that moment. He was right to say that the Bill displays the same lofty disdain for conservation for, whatever the Minister says, this is a great gap. The Bill does nothing for conservation, particularly for inshore and what those of us who signed the Neven-Spence Committee's Report called offshore fishings—a new division or zone between inshore fishings and the deep-water fishing.
The assumption in the Bill, and the assumption on the part of some hon. Members opposite, that a British trawler would never do the wicked things in inshore waters which a foreign trawler would do does not measure up against the facts and experience of inshore fishermen. We know perfectly well that the worst predators in the early years of the century and right up to the thirties were those from the often dilapidated trawling "slums of the sea". They did infinite damage to the inshore fisheries in those days. An hon. Member gave an example of how wicked foreigners had ploughed through nets and gear of some British inshore fleet. We had a case of that kind only a few years ago in which the Prime Minister himself was good enough to take an interest when hun- 994 dreds of pounds worth of damage was done, and acknowledged to be done, to Hebridean inshore fishermen's nets and gear, not by foreigners, but by vessels of a fleet from the east coast of Scotland operating illegally within the fishing limits. So our trawlermen and seine-netters are not as Simon, pure as all that. I think Chesterton said:I knew no harm of BonaparteAnd plenty of the squire.But we in the Islands have known plenty of harm from our own British trawl fishing interests, as well as from foreigners.
I was not happy with the speech of the Minister on one important matter. When I interrupted him he seemed terribly hurt. I asked, "Does this mean, apart from the protection from foreign trawlers, that there is no additional protection for our inshore fishermen of any kind against the activities of our own British trawlers or other vessels?" He admitted that that is the case. That will be very disappointing to the people in the inshore fishing industry all round the country. It may well be that we shall see a return to their old and less worthy activities by the worse types in our British trawler fleets when they find that foreigners are excluded from this great sheet of water round our coasts while they are free to fish at will. They will say, "Here is a wonderful opportunity for us to come in and have a go with no outside competition."
That is not purely imaginary. The same kind of thing has happened already in other respects. It has happened in certain areas as the result of such measures as this Bill being taken by other countries unilaterally. As our trawlers have been driven further out from more and more traditional fishery waters around the coasts of other countries, it was alleged that many of them have fallen back on to our own waters again, including the North Sea, which is acknowledged to have been heavily over-fished many decades ago.
This Bill is one of a remarkably large number of partial fishery measures we have had in the last few years. It is not only another patch on the quilt, but yet another patch on a patchwork quilt. Piece by piece the Government have been building up fishing legislation without getting a comprehensive picture of what is 995 actually needed to rehabilitate this great industry, and, among other needs, to maintain and assist the large number of smaller communities in the creeks, islands, towns and villages around our coasts.
All those little communities have in the past made a tremendous contribution to the merchant navy and to the Royal Navy itself. The Western Isles alone at the outbreak of the last war contributed no less than a quarter of the whole Royal Naval Reserve. We would not get that today. When we have not trained men as fishermen, then, when we recruit for the Navy or merchant service, we have to train them from the start, and that is a considerable disadvantage for all concerned.
I do not know to what extent inshore fishermen will feel protected by this Bill. I admit that we are extremely glad that measures are being taken, at last, to make it more difficult for foreign fleets to come into the nearer waters around our coasts; but I wonder if it is not in many ways a paper protection. The Minister has failed to show that he has any plans ready, or any resources with which to carry out plans, for the proper protection of this greatly enlarged area of fishery waters. But, as to real protection against poacher fleets coming inshore, the right hon. Gentleman has failed badly. He cannot dodge the issue by vague, almost mystical references to the doubtful largesse of the Treasury which, he said, would not allow anyone to introduce a Measure without supplying adequate funds. Indeed, he almost choked on the humour of that himself.
The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman has not adequately explained how he is going to police these waters. He now has a vast area of sea and thus a greatly enlarged responsibility for fishery protection and the prevention of depredations by poachers. What is to happen in the new outer zone? He has been asked whether there will be new power to punish summarily and to seize gear at sea. Indeed, one hon. Member suggested more or less that these people should be convicted on the spot and that their gear should be taken from them at sea and confiscated without any such nonsense as taking them to court. I thought that a slightly piratical idea.
996 Nevertheless, in order to detect and investigate, there obviously must be the right to board, as there is now over a vastly wider range of sea. There will, however, be as a result a tremendous number of slightly unpleasant interviews of all kinds. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North has pointed out, the Bill creates two belts or zones and there is to be in one of them a great number of concessions to certain foreigners by special arrangement in going after certain kinds of fish at certain times. The fishery protection officers will have considerable difficulty in finding out who is who from the various nationalities while trying to carry out their duties in the two zones and the three-mile waters. It will be a complicated job.
Our complaint is that, even at the moment, the Scottish fishery protection fleet is inadequate for the job. I emphasise that we are not saying that its officers and crews are not willing to do their job, or that they are not trying to do it to the best of their ability, which is considerable. Indeed, the fishery cruiser fleet is manned by men of first-class quality. What we do say is that even its present job is far too big for the protection force at its present size, and with the present type of ships.
The fishery protection fleet as it is now was designed for the days of the heavy, slow trawlers, mostly old and dilapidated, which used to scrounge around the island creeks and bays to make a living before the modern trawler fleets were created for distant waters. Now the cruisers are dealing with "nippy" little seine-netters and other fast vessels which have no less catching and destructive power but which are much more difficult to catch when breaking the law, and have their own signalling code for dodging the cruisers.
There will be a tremendous burden on the existing protection fleet unless the Government have at their disposal a surplus of suitable vessels to be added to the present fleet.
Before the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) spoke, I was wondering whether this Bill was an anti-Bolshevik spasm by the Government to deal with the fishing activities of the Russian fleets in the Shetland area particularly and sometimes further west. The right hon. Gentleman, 997 however, assured us that there is no feeling of animosity towards those Russian fishermen in the Orkneys and Shetlands and, indeed, that the people there would like the Russians to come ashore more often and do more business with them. I wonder if the Government feel the same about it?
There has been a vague suggestion that this Bill has a belated connection with the frustrated negotiations for British entry into the Common Market. This matter of a Common Market fisheries scheme was discussed at various times when the problems of fishery agreements came to the fore during the Common Market negotiations. If the Bill has ever had any such connections, then this seems to be an extraordinarily inopportune moment. Nevertheless, the Common Market fisheries agreement was a serious point which was raised during the long discussions ended by President de Gaulle, I hope for good.
But the straight and simple sort of question my constituents are asking this time—aid they are hoping for an answer from the Secretary of State for Scotland today—is whether the Bill really closes the Minch; and, to whom. I take it, of course, that it closes the Minch to foreign fishing vessels, subject to special concessions, but will have no effect at all upon any legal form of trawling or other fishing by British vessels of any kind from any area. Is that view correct'' I believe that it is. The Secretary of State agrees.
If that is the case, and the Minch is virtually closed to foreign trawling—which, of course, I warmly welcome—then the people of the Hebrides will still have to press now for more protection, not less, against intensive trawling by British vessels. I take it that if the Government are, in effect, closing the Minch, they are doing so by drawing the baselines in the North from the Butt of Lewis to Cape Wrath; and in the South from Barra Head to Skerry-vore and to Dhu Artach, in Islay. This will virtually close the entire Minch. I think that the right hon. Gentleman can claim that without qualification. That is what I pressed for since pre-war and in 1945 in the Neven-Spence Report reservation.
How far westward will the baselines area go if the Government intend to 998 pursue that extension and closure policy? Where will the baseline be drawn westward? This is a difficult question in many ways to answer. One thinks of the island groups beyond Lewis—of the Flannans and Monachs, then St. Kilda, up to 40 miles to the west of North Uist. What about Rockall, which the Navy brought under the British flag a few years ago? The maps, I agree, largely answer all this.
There is one point which perhaps the Minister did not consider sufficiently in drawing up the Bill. He seemed to think in his speech that there was among trawling firms and syndicates a great permanent hostility to closing the Minch, the Moray Firth and so on. In 1945, the Neven-Spence Committee, of which I was a member and which considered the white fish and shell fishing industries, discovered that there was not nearly as much general hostility as some people imagined. The trawler firms are not so generally opposed to it provided there is sufficient protection for inshore fishing from all forms of trawling. The Committee stated at the time, after consulting the trawler firms:The trawler owners of today are quite alive to the social and economic importance of the local fishing industry to Scotland. They lake no exception for instance to the closure of the Moray Firth, the Firth of Clyde, and the Firth of Forth to trawling, provided that the British Government does not tolerate the operation of foreign trawlers in waters in which fishing by British trawlers is prohibited. The Aberdeen trawler owners would not object to prohibition of trawling in the Minch and other small areas in the interests of the local fishing industry, subject to the same reservation about foreign trawlers.I do not think that we would find now a harsher attitude to the question of protection of inshore fisheries among the trawler owners, who are reasonable men, than we did in 1945.
§ Sir J. MacLeod
Is it not the case that before the war some fishermen had a closed season during the year?
§ Mr. MacMillan
The hon. Gentleman should never address me in a way which might tempt me into a second speech within one which is already quite long enough. I will, however, resist the temptation now. I was pointing to the unanimous conclusion of the Neven-Spence Committee after its discussions with the trawler people. I am sure that today they would not be opposed to 999 proper inshore protection, so long as foreign rivals are kept out also. I do not think that they are any more reactionary in this regard than they were in 1945.
But some time or other, and by some means—and I know that this legislation will not cater for it—we have to face the fact that not only must we have the courage to close certain areas to almost all fishing, except that of the local fishermen, and so try to build up our local fleets and help them to develop their capacity to do the catching which in the past has been done by foreigners and to a large extent by trawlers and seine-netters from other British areas, but also and at the same time limit the overall catchings and landings of fish in these areas in each season by one method or another in the interest of conservation of all concerned.
The Minister says, no doubt, that that would be too difficult; and no doubt it is. But there is the possibility today of a fairly accurate scientific means of measurement of the optimum or desirable catch in relation to catching power and to tonnage. There is no reason why this localised fishing should not be tried at least experimentally in certain areas. When the Neven-Spence Committee reported, I entered a memorandum on this subject and suggested that the Minch area should then be closed for at least an experimental period of about six or seven years immediately after the war to see whether, with grants and loans and other encouragement, including help with marketing and transport and so on, our local fleets could not be built up to do the work which, prewar, had been largely done, with little regard to fishery limits or conservation, by foreign trawlers and the trawling fleets from our own greater ports.
Another thing which the Government will have to consider is that fishermen do not just catch fish. They have to transport and dispose of it. Fishermen do not live all their lives at sea, like little corks bobbing up and down in the water day and night. They have homes and wives and families to go back to and they have a social background in their port areas like everybody else, even if it has been grossly neglected.
1000 An hon. Member has mentioned the assistance given to agriculture. Even the crofter fishermen themselves get tremendously more assistance in many ways for their crofting activities than they do for their fishing activities. The fishermen feel that they are left out of it, apart from very limited grants and loans at high interest rates. The trouble is that none of the measures which have been taken to help out inshore and offshore fishermen follow through. They do not follow through properly to the marketing stage or even to the transporting stage. I have always believed that it is no part of the fisherman's job to go selling and transporting things. His job is to catch fish and he is a specialist at that job. But behind that is the fact that he is a human being with a family and living in a community.
I should like to see things done in the fishing villages, in the Islands in particular, to see that the inshore fishermen have all the equipment which they require for their already difficult-enough task. The Secretary of State knows how long it takes through his Department and the Treasury to get even the smallest jetty or pier constructed in the Western Isles or in Shetland. He knows that it takes year after year after year of negotiation. One which was recommended in the Highland Panel many years ago and listed in a White Paper which the House unanimously approved in 1950 is still under discussion today. The Secretary of State knows that this is true. It is true of a jetty scheme in my part of the country in one of those island estates in the Outer Hebrides over which he has almost complete control as proprietor. The trouble is that he does not have complete control of the Treasury. There is this difficulty which prevents the provision within a reasonable time of the tools and equipment for fishing and the amenities of ordinary, comfortable, modern living in many of these fishing areas.
Another problem arises partly as a result of the new methods of fishing and new types of vessels which are now being built and operated in the Isles. There is a tendency to want to centralise, to go to live at bigger centres. We all knew that this might come about, and it is happening in spite of the fact that, with modern transport, one can cross 1001 any of the Islands and travel considerable distances by local public service transport, or car, or van. Indeed many mainland fishermen do, travelling at weekends from east to west and from the West Coast to their homes cross-country. Nevertheless, in the Island of Lewis itself, for example, which is not so very big, some of the fishermen in the new Hebrides scheme feel that they should be nearer Stornoway and that provision should be made for fishermen's houses in that area so that they would be able to live as part of the centre community, at the main port where their vessels can be berthed, sheltered, fuelled and fitted out. Such a provision—that is, of fishermen's houses—was made in that area many years ago and some of the fishermen feel that it should be repeated now for them. There are schooling and family considerations involved also.
I do not know whether it is desirable to encourage people from the small villages to concentrate in a relatively bigger centre like Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis. I would doubt it and I would resist it in many ways if it meant decline of the townships; but who is to tell a man that he must live in a village without a jetty where he can safely tie us his boat, which he would probably not be able to get insured if he told the insurance company that he intended to tie up in a place without proper weather protection or proper anchorage?
In most areas fishermen generally tend to congregate nowadays into bigger communities at the expense of the small places. One of the problems of the future will be to persuade the fishermen and their families, their sons, to stay in the smaller villages in the remoter Islands and in the Highland peninsulas. We will find this extremely difficult, and we will have to look forward more and more to the tendency to concentrate in what towns there are and towards the centres at the expense of the smaller places. It becomes vitally important to equip the fishing villages and organise their social life with better provision for leisure if they are to live.
The Government must some time come to the question of deciding whether three-mile limits or six-mile limits have any meaning at all within the wider belt of 1002 12 miles in areas that should be closed for only local development. Perhaps this is something which we can discuss a little more fully in what Committee time is left before the end of this Session.
I want to say a word to my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke about fishery protection and suggested certain measures and to the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir John MacLeod) who suggested certain additions to the present fishery cruiser service. In September, 1961, I had a very full reply on this subject from the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the Scottish Office. I then put to him a number of ideas—not for the first time, for I myself and others have also suggested them—about the use of ancillary services and devices—helicopters for spotting, vessels other than the ordinary fishery cruisers, speed boats, based on the fishing bays around the Islands and the west coasts, and the well-tried methods of war time, and sometimes peace time, of vessels disguised as seine-boats, instead of the too easily detected fishery protection cruisers. We cannot understand why these ideas have been rejected every time they have been put forward when the Government cannot give in other ways the protection required in these areas.
At different times, I have suggested that for fishery protection against British and foreign fishery pirates we should have a continuous, preventive, control, pursuit and arrest service operating with fast, armed, powerful speedboats operating in the Outer Isles from Barra to Lewis, based in the main fishing areas with some local men on the craft—and the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the importance of that. We also suggested that on conviction of the master the poaching vessel should be detained in port during the court's pleasure. Why has this never been done? We suggested that for repeated offences skippers should have their tickets endorsed and thereafter withdrawn for periods and that the owners of the vessels themselves should be brought into court and given full Press publicity as well as much heavier fines. I do not understand why the Government have been so touchy about that. I do not know why they are so sensitive about protecting the trawler and other owners when on every occasion the unfortunate 1003 skippers—their servants—are hauled into court publicly and fined. We also suggested that poacher vessels involved in repeated offences should be distinctively marked so that they would be easily spotted and kept under observation by the fishery protection vessels. We even suggested the use of submarines. None of these ideas, apart from odd aircraft, has ever been adopted by the Government.
I have read through the Bill very carefully, and hopefully, but I find that for the inshore fishermen it takes us only one step forward. Foreign vessels, and therefore foreign depredations when there is illegal trawling, are kept further out than they used to be The home trawling and seine-net fleets can have as merry a time still as they have now. There is to be no interference with them.
The reason for that is as well known in the Hebrides as it is here. There are powerful lobbies, and powerful interests, which have influenced not only the Government at home, but, to the extent that this is an international question, have never hesitated to put pressure on our Foreign Secretaries when they have taken part in these international conferences and negotiations to try to get wider limits along with greater protection for our inshore fishermen at home.
The Secretary of State for Scotland may pretend to think that that is a myth; but I assure him that it is not. There have always been powerful vested interests at work. He knows about them, and so do I. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has a certain amount of sympathy with what I am saying, but it is a fact that until now no Foreign Secretary and no Government have dared to face this problem. The present Government are partly facing it only because, rightly or wrongly, almost every other Government in the world has dealt with the matter by unilateral action, extending its own fishery limits and exclusive zones.
I do not advocate that we should settle this problem by unilateral action all along the line. International agreement is obviously the right way of dealing with this issue, because by that means we avoid building up resentments and mutual dislikes, such as were building up betweeen Iceland and ourselves and might have arisen over fishing in the 1004 Faroes, and between Norway and ourselves not so very long ago. Unilateral action leads to the feeling that everybody is trying to cut out everybody else, with retaliation and revenge; and the industry suffers as a result. The area of European waters in which our trawlers can freely fish is dwindling all the time, and merely to extend our limits will not solve the problem. Taking unilateral action may have some effect by hitting back at the fellow who hit first, but it will not solve the problem. There must be agreed limitation of catching, continuous conservation and joint protection.
My constituents would be glad if the fishery protection service could be greatly expanded and made adequate to carry out its greater new duties and its new purpose of protecting them against the foreign trawler and other fleets. But, according to the Minister, they will receive no protection from the familiar and age old depredations of the fleets of seine-netters or trawlers from the other ports of this country.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
As one who has campaigned in the House for nearly 10 years for the extension of fishery limits, I should like very sincerely to say "Thank you" to my right hon. Friend for the action which the Government have taken. I think that a great deal of criticism of this action is hardly fair, because there is no doubt that the proposed measures will do a great deal of good for the inshore fishing industry.
§ Mr. Howard
I hope to develop that argument in a moment. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will remain in the Chamber, because he mentioned rocks near the Isles of Scilly. I have sent for a map of the area, and I think that I have the answer.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) referred to speed. I do not think that he is aware that we have the power to board, and that this has been done. When a fishery protection vessel put a man on board a Belgian trawler in the Channel the trawler steamed off and left the protection vessel behind, for the simple reason that she was not fast enough. This is a problem which we shall have to face 1005 to an even greater extent in future, and I shall have something more to say about this in a moment.
The Scottish fishery protection service is maintained by a separate department. It comes under the Scottish Office. The fishery cruisers which I have seen are much larger, and, I think, much faster than those used in other waters. I do not know the speed of which they are capable, but I hope that they are fast enough to catch these various intruders.
The hon. Gentleman's comments about the Navy and the Merchant Navy are, alas, also relevant to the lifeboat service. More and more difficulty is being experienced in finding men to man our lifeboats. For that reason the lifeboat service is carrying out experiments with a new American boat which it may be possible to crew with fewer men. This is a sad thought, but the problem is here to stay.
Many hon. Members have spoken about the need for inspection of the mesh. The only way in which we can put this matter right is by international agreement which will give any fishery protection vessel of any country the right to board and demand to see the size of mesh being used. If this can be done by international agreement, we shall take a step forward in the battle for conservation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) talked about the use of fast motorboats. We must not run away with the idea of a kind of offshore power boat race, when the vessels skip from wavetop to wavetop. As other hon. Members have said, the Royal Navy has fast patrol boats, those in the "Brave" class, in which some of us have been, and which others have seen in "Shop Window". Will my right hon. Friend say whether he has had talks with what I still call the Admiralty about how many of these vessels are available or in reserve?
§ Mr. Howard
I should like to know how many are in use, and how many are in reserve, and whether vessels of 1006 that sort could be brought into use for fishery protection.
One hon. Member touched on the R.N.R., which is very close to my heart. I have repeatedly asked that members of the R.N.R. who carry out divisional training in coastal minesweepers, which are capable of steaming at a fair speed, should be empowered to keep a watch for vessels fishing in our waters and if necessary have power to board them. These vessels have the necessary equipment to enable them accurately to fix the position of a ship and determine whether it is inside the limit.
Several hon. Members have mentioned helicopters as a means of spotting vessels. In my part of the country we have not only the Royal Air Force in that area—in Devon, actually—but the largest naval helicopter training station, at Culdrose, in my constituency. I do not see why these services should not be used, where it is possible to do so within their training capabilities, to report an intruding foreigner, and possibly to photograph him, because that would provide additional evidence on which to base a prosecution.
I deal next with penalties. In the past, the penalties imposed on people for fishing within our limits have been derisory compared with the penalties imposed on our fishing vessels in Iceland. I hope that now that we have established the principle of increased fishing limits we shall step up the penalties so that they hurt. I hope that we shall impose the penalty not only of confiscating the gear, but of confiscating the catch. I should like to see the penalty increased to £1,000, or something of that sort. Word will soon get round, and will discourage others from doing the same thing.
Although I will not pursue this matter, I fully understand the special cases of the participating nations and why certain people have been given extra time in which to phase out their fishing activities. I congratulate the Government on the way this has been achieved, knowing the difficulties and possible actions which might have been taken against us. It has been a wonderful piece of diplomatic work and, looking at the map which has been provided, our limits in Cornwall do not 1007 seem to come within the special category.
Mention has been made of the area off the north-east corner of the Isles of Scilly. I note that according to the map there is a large enclosed area around the Isles of Scilly, although there is also a small kink in the baseline between Scilly and Land's End. I would like to see this kink removed when we extend to 12 miles, as that way would be easier and tidier for all concerned.
Further to the remarks that have been made about Irish vessels, can we be told how the Bill will apply to those vessels? They are usually quick at denying us from their territorial waters and I am wondering whether prohibition will apply when they fish off our coast. Are Irish vessels classed as British for the purposes of the Bill?
Several hon. Members have talked about fish farming, which is not nearly as wild an idea as some may think. It is allied to the question of conservation. The hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East wondered how the Bill would aid conservation. He need only think of his birthplace, Brixham, to know that the inshore fishermen there will benefit greatly if, for example, Russian factory methods of fishing just outside the three-mile limit are prevented. Those methods entail a vessel fishing rather like a mining operation. Everything is swept out of the sea. I understand that even now talks are going on about the possible use of suction fishing, an even more alarming trend. The fact that these vessels will be denied these waters must result in conservation being improved.
I have mentioned in previous debates that the Russians alone—leaving aside the Poles and East Germans—have plans for up to 750 factory ships to be in operation. Those vessels do not include the trawlers which serve the factory ships. It can readily be seen, therefore, that anything which denies those vessels the use of this area will help conservation. Anything which keeps these factory methods of fishing and denuding the sea away from this area must have our support, and I recall that it is now many years since I first spoke of the advantages of fish farming.
1008 On one occasion I went to see Lord Fleck on the subject of fish farming because I heard that I.C.I. was carrying out certain experiments, limited at that time to one or two Scottish lochs with narrow inlets elsewhere, into this form of farming. I hope that we will hear more about this method of production, because I recently read an article in the Geographical Magazine about future American plans for carrying out fish farming in the oceans. I hope that the new Chairman of the White Fish Authority will discuss this matter with the Government.
Finally—and I mean finally—may I say that this has been an interesting debate. I am sure that if hon. Members study the map which has been provided they will have the answers to most of their questions, particularly about the Minch, because that area is clearly marked. I thank my right hon. Friend, and those responsible in the Foreign Office, for producing the Bill. I have no doubt that I speak for all inshore fishermen in saying that it will help them a great deal.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
The Minister must be feeling pleased. He has presented a Bill which represents the inevitable and is being given full credit and thanks for doing the inevitable. That is indeed a satisfactory state of affairs from his point of view. One of the right hon. Gentleman's favourite quotations is that of Johnson, which goes, "When a man is about to be hanged he concentrates his mind wonderfully". In the closing days of this Government we are concentrating on a few Measures which will give a certain amount of satisfaction and benefit, long delayed but none the less welcome and necessary, to various groups of people. I am sure that the sections of the industry which will benefit from the Bill are grateful to the Minister.
I said that this is an inevitable step. It arises out of the discussions which were held at international conferences on fishing and which have been described as successful. They could not have been as successful as all that, because when one has a conference at which some of the major fishing Powers do not sign a convention, that cannot be called 100 per cent. successful. One of the chief 1009 culprits in not signing and reaching agreement with us—resulting in this Bill being necessary—was Iceland. I always felt that we did not handle the Icelandic fishing problem in a way which could have brought satisfaction to both them and us. I always had the idea that Iceland, a small country largely dependent on its major industry, which is fishing, could have been approached in another way.
If we had recognised Iceland's sovereignty over her territorial waters, and then made an offer that she should license British trawlers to fish in her territorial waters, some agreement might have been reached. In that way Iceland would have had an income from the fish caught in her territorial waters, our fishermen would have had guaranteed their normal occupation of catching fish in that area and, no doubt, a trading agreement whereby Iceland would spend the income so derived in Britain would have resulted in some benefit to our manufacturing industries, too.
Honour would have been satisfied all round. We would have had the fish, Iceland would have been able to balance her budget and, diplomatically, we should have scored some points over the Iron Curtain countries which have been angling in Iceland's diplomatic waters. However, that was not done and consequently we are faced with this Bill, which is a retaliation for the extension of fishing limits by other nations.
The purpose of the Measure is clear. The Explanatory Memorandum clearly says:The purpose of the Bill is to extend British fishery limits; to provide powers for the control of fishing by foreign vessels within those limits …That is the intention. The Minister was candid about it. There is nothing about conservation in the Bill and the Minister said that that was not one of its intentions or purposes. However, the issue of conservation worries many of us who are concerned with the fishing industry. It will be of some influence in deciding whether there is a future for our fishing industry.
§ Mr. Soames
I am sure that the hon. Member will agree, in fairness, when he suggests that we have not done enough to aid conservation, that if conservation measures are to be really effective they must be on an international basis. I 1010 am sure he will agree that very few nations, if any, have done more than us in the last 10 years to aid conservation and to arrange for a better system of conservation on the high seas.
§ Mr. Jeger
I agree with the spirit expressed in the right hon. Gentleman's intervention, but we must not be complacent about it and slacken our efforts. This is a most important issue which must arise whenever we talk about fishing. It is rather like discussing the right hon. Gentleman's activities in agriculture without at the same time talking about sowing and breeding. That is why conservation must always be associated with the fishing industry, because unless there is conservation there will not be a fishing industry.
There are various questions which arise out of the Bill, some of which perhaps will be answered tonight, and some of which may come up in Committee. I should be interested to know whether the countries that did not sign the Fishery Agreement will be designated and allowed to come within the privileged waters of the six to 12 miles or whether it is proposed that, when negotiations start with the other traditional fishing countries, they will be placed in another category because they have not co-operated in the signing of the agreement. Will they be regarded as having traditional rights or as being beyond the pale?
Another item that arises and which has been dealt with by other hon. Members is that of protection. It has been mentioned that about 20,000 sq. miles of traditional waters will have to be protected. I do not think that the Minister was very forthcoming in explaining how the protection will be operated. He said that the Treasury and the Navy authorities had expressed agreement that this would be all right. Would he tell us a little more about it and how this agreement was arrived at? Was it that the right hon. Gentleman just happened to say to his right hon. Friend, "I am bringing in a little Bill dealing with the extension of fishing limits and I want a few more protection vessels. Is that all right?" and that the reply was, "We will look after that."?
The Minister gave the impression that he had not gone into this in very great detail. He did not tell us how the protection was to be operated. Mention 1011 was made of helicopters by hon. Members but not by the Minister, and I should have thought that that was a key factor in tracing the possible pirates in our fishing waters. He did not give us any idea how much the additional protection would cost. He knows that there is dissatisfaction all around our coasts at the inadequate protection that our fishing vessels receive, but he gave no indication of how that protection will be extended to deal with the greatly enlarged responsibilities that this Bill will confer.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
I do not think that extra cost would really come into this. We cannot "cost" the Navy as such. Its ships, aircraft and helicopters are doing this job. They are in this anyway, so there will not be additional cost. It is only a question of getting additional vessels and aircraft to do the job.
§ Mr. Jeger
If they are patrolling already there will not be additional costs??, but there are many complaints that the present patrolling is inadequate. If there is much more to be done, many more patrol vessels will be needed, faster vessels, and more helicopters, and that will have to be paid, for by some Department and will cost much more. We should like to know something more about that.
What will be the result of this Bill? Will it result in less or more fish being landed at our ports? What will be the result upon the industry? We have not been told that. A little while ago we had a major fishing Bill which we all regarded as settling the affairs of the industry for 10 years. Since then we have had other discussions on fishing and this Bill, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that our hopes regarding that major fishing Bill have not been realised.
Many more problems will arise in the fishing industry: the question of marketing, foreign landings and, not least, how the fish will be distributed. We have been asking the right hon. Gentleman recently about rail transport from the fishing ports, and we have not had much satisfaction on that point. So although this Bill is uncontroversial and welcome as another stage in the life of the fishing industry of this country, helping it to be viable, it is by no means the last word, and the right hon. Gentleman, even during the closing stages of the Government, will be harried even more over the fishing industry.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
I echo the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) that this is an uncontroversial Bill and is welcomed by both sides of the House. I personally approve of the Bill, but I have questions to ask and no doubt, in Committee, we shall put more detailed points to the Minister. The Bill arises, as many hon. Members have said, from the European Fisheries Conference. It seeks to extend the fishery limits, and also provides for the control of fishing by foreign vessels within those limits.
This small Bill, of five Clauses and two Schedules, is extremely important to the industry. I should be out of order if I trespassed too much into details of policy, but, nevertheless, policy has been mentioned and, indirectly, we cannot divorce policy from the Bill. I shall not stray too far, but ask questions which I trust the Secretary of State will answer.
Clause 1 lays down two types of limits. It extends limits for a distance of 12 miles from the base lines of the territorial seas and creates a new type of limit—to use the words of the Bill, "the exclusive fishery limits". The Minister explained this carefully, but I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) and the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) had a good point when they said that they would press for even more details. Perhaps the Secretary of State would reply in his speech to the points that they raised, or we may deal with them in Committee.
There is to be the outer belt of six to 12 miles. I shall not argue about the Moray Firth, the Bristol Channel or the Isles of Scilly, but I am anxious to know about the Solway Firth, which we tend to ignore. It is in the North-West and separates Scotland from England. I have a special interest here, because my constituency fringes it and I wish to protect our inshore fishermen, who have been through a difficult period. In my own constituency, in Maryport, there was a very prosperous inshore fishing industry, which has now declined. I should like to see the industry revive. Perhaps, arising out of the Bill, it will have now an added incentive to do so.
The Minister explained Clause 1 and defined some of the extensions of the exclusive fishery limits. I should like to ask 1013 when we shall have the Orders which will arise from the Bill. The various stages of the Bill will take some time to get through. Is it the intention of the Government to act quickly? The Secretary of State should give us definite information. The matter is important, because time is running short. Soon we shall reach the Summer Recess, followed by a General Election.
I wish to know more details about the negotiations with other countries and on the whole question of who has signed the original draft Convention which was the partial inspiration for this legislation. What is the position of those countries which have not signed, particularly Iceland and Norway? I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and for Goole. We should not be xenophobic about this. That is one of the tragedies of our policies. There have been difficulties with Iceland, but this is a friendly country.
I had an Icelandic colleague on a delegation to Europe and America and he has recently been to this country on a purchasing mission. He is anxious to extend trade between the two countries. Norway, by tradition, is friendly to this country. We may have had disputes over territorial limits in the past, but it is absurd to think in terms of divorcing these countries from our own fishing legislation and policy.
What do the Government intend to do about this? The Faroese have their own difficulties and the Minister has tried to get agreement with them. He met their representatives recently and there were lengthy negotiations. Do we intend to sit back and do nothing, or merely pass this Bill? What is the policy of the Government? Shall we reopen negotiations. My hon. Friends took a courageous stand when they dealt with this matter. We should think in terms of a new chapter, reopen negotiations and try by every possibly means to get agreement with this country. I trust that the Secretary of State will give a favourable reply to these points. The Minister said that conservation was important. I agree with those hon. Members who maintain that the question of conservation is not dealt with in the Bill, although it will be affected indirectly by the new Orders which will be made. The Minister referred to the North-East Atlantic 1014 Fisheries Commission, which had discussions only a month ago, and spoke of the collective association for enforcing decisions on the high seas, and linked that with his remark about the Commission.
§ Mr. Soames indicated assent.
§ Mr. Peart
I see that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding agreement. May I ask for further details on this subject? It is very important. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) put the point forcibly and we should be told something specific. This legislation embraces other powers than those who have signed the European Convention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leith pressed the Minister for more information about the measures for protection. How are we to enforce this legislation and provide protection? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) made a powerful case. Hon. Members often disagree with the frank and forceful remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend, but on the subject of the protection afforded by the Navy, the history of my hon. and gallant Friend's family and his personal background reveal that he possesses knowledge on these practical problems. The Minister should have further consultations with the Admiralty. It may well be that consultations will take place with Scotland where there is a different system of administering fishery protection. There is a need for smaller boats and a policy backed by proper financial arrangements.
This is a very important matter which affects not only the foreigner, but some of our own trawlermen who may be fishing illegally—perhaps I should not use that word—who may be fishing wrongly in waters which are the prerogative of our inshore fishermen. Action will have to be taken. I have here a copy of The Fishing News and I wish to quote from its editorial:Now before Parliament is a Bill which, when passed, will become the most revolutionary piece of fisheries legislation since the Sea Fisheries Act of 1883. It quadruples the area in which this country has full control in all matters relating to fisheries, adding, on a very rough estimate, 20,000 square miles to Britain's present exclusive fishing zone. This represents about a fifth of the area covered by the entire United Kingdom.1015 I trust that the Minister will not consider that the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leith was a minor one. This is a major matter. I hope that it will receive adequate treatment from the Government and that we shall get a satisfactory reply from the Secretary of State.
We are anxious for further initiative to be taken about arriving at a conservation agreement in Europe. It is a matter which should affect not only Europe, but lead to an international agreement. I accept what the Minister told my hon. Friend the Member for Goole on this subject. Successive Governments, including the last Labour Government, have tried repeatedly to get an international conference on conservation. Everyone has stressed the need for conservation and the Bill may be regarded as the beginning of an attempt to stimulate action.
I was amused when the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) talked about the need to protect inshore fishermen, and remarked on the restrictions placed on salmon fishing. I hope that the hon. Member recalls that it was the Government he supports which imposed the restrictions, and the hon. Member assisted. I did not hear him oppose the decision of the Government. I recall that a member of the Government resigned from the Conservative Party for a period and we had what was almost a major crisis during the Committee stage on what became the Sea Fish Industry Act of 1962.
I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East will look back on the discussions on this legislation which implemented the main recommendations in the Fleck Report. It was hon. Members on this side who pointed to the needs of the inshore fishermen, especially in relation to salmon fishing. I wish that many more hon. Members opposite had pressed the Minister, because the Government had given in to certain interests in Scotland which were not purely fishing interests.
I will not labour the point, but I remind the hon. Member that we on this side have repeatedly stressed the needs of the inshore fishermen. My hon. Friend for the Western Isles, in particular, and even some of my colleagues 1016 representing ports which have mainly a trawler interest, have often stressed the importance of the inshore fisherman. So we expect the Bill to bring the inshore fishermen some benefit.
I take the view that the Bill is only the beginning of a wider approach. The trawler industry said that the pact which has led to this legislation was a barren one. I have a copy of the Trawler Times for January, 1964, which has the headings:B.T.F. condemn the 'barren' pact'No effort to bargain markets for grounds'.The Presidents of the two Trawlers Federations issued a statement which said:An extension of British fishery limits is in itself of no benefit to the trawling industry, though we are happy to see any satisfaction obtained from it by the inshore and herring industries, without recourse to unilateral action. The agreement is, however, possibly discouraging to certain sections of the near water fleet, particularly at Fleetwood and Milford Haven, by restricting their fishing in waters near the coasts of other parties to the agreement.I should like to know what representations have been made recently on this point by the industry. Does it still adhere to this criticism? Has such an approach been made to the Ministry? I myself have asked about this. When the report of the industry's conference was announced to the House, I asked the Minister whether this action on the part of the Government in agreeing to the Convention would not jeopardise some of our trawler interests. Perhaps we may have some information about this from the Secretary of State.
Although we do not oppose the Bill we realise that it is only the beginning of a new chapter. I should be wrong to go into policy about the industry, but reference has been made to a memorandum submitted by the White Fish Authority to the Minister. I should like to know the Government's reaction to this. It has been suggested by one of my hon. Friends that we should have another discussion with all the interests concerned in this country—the fish fryers, the fishmongers and all other sections of the industry. This should be done under the aegis of the Authority. This is a "must", and I hope that the Minister will respond. Perhaps we may have a reply from the Secretary of State, 1017 because it is urgent. We could do this even before the Bill passes its final stage here. May we have an early announcement that the meeting will take place? The Minister seems to be smiling. I hope that he takes this seriously. I am always prodding him to do things.
§ Mr. Soames
I always take the hon. Gentleman seriously, but I think that on this occasion he rather misunderstands what his hon. Friend was suggesting. His hon. Friend was referring specifically to a limitation on imports of Faroese fish. The hon. Gentleman is now talking about the arrangements of the fishing industry from top to bottom, which seems a totally different point.
§ Mr. Peart
I accept that, but we are concerned about other imports besides Faroese. We should like a meeting of this kind about the whole question of import policy. It is obvious that it would help the industry. I merely ask that the Secretary of State should give us an answer.
If the Minister believes that the meeting should be restricted to the Faroese question, all right. That may be necessary, but if one is thinking in terms of imports, one inevitably comes up against a wider problem. Because of that, I would argue that such an investigation should cover a wider survey and deal with fish imports generally. If the Minister will agree to the appointment of a committee to examine the narrower problem, well and good, but I should have thought that an investigation into the wider import question would have been very important and useful to the Government.
I hope that the Secretary of State will give specific answers to the many points raised by my hon. Friends and by some hon. Members opposite. In Committee, we shall deal with some of these points in greater detail, although we do not wish in any way to delay the Bill. We wish it to go through speedily and to be put into operation as quickly as possible, and for these reasons we give it our support.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Noble)
The short but interesting and, on the whole, I think, 1018 constructive debate that we have had on the Second Reading of the Bill has brought out one or two main points which I will just touch on quickly to begin with.
I think we all agree with the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) in regretting that the freedom of the seas for which Queen Elizabeth I, as he reminded us, fought hard is being steadily eroded until we have got to the position where this Government, and any other Government, would have to act in the interest of our own fishing industry.
The hon. Member for Goole (Mr. Jeger) said that the Bill did not solve all the problems before the fishing industry. My right hon. Friend in a short but very excellent speech introducing the Bill, would never have dreamt of claiming that a Bill of a mere five Clauses of which only two are effective ones could possibly solve the problems of the fishing industry.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) said that to his constitutents the Bill was only one small step forward for the inshore fisherman. I would not agree with him that it is a small step. As his hon. Friends have said, it has taken 57 years of argument in this House to achieve it. It is slightly derogatory to the House to suggest that after all that effort, thought and work this is only a small step.
I turn to one or two points put to me by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). First, he asked about the Solway Firth. This is, I know, close to his own constituency. A study of the map, which has been available in the Library, shows that there are two bay closing lines in that area which will give the local inshore fishermen a great deal more fishing than they have had before.
The hon. Member asked when we should have Orders before the House. I must explain that, as I see it, no Orders will come before the House, because there are only two steps to be taken. One is the creation of the base lines, which will be done by Royal prerogative, and the second step consists of Orders designating the countries and the areas in which they will fish. These will be Orders made in international agreement between the countries, and they will not come before the House.
§ Mr. Noble
I do not think that it comes before the House. If I am wrong about this, the matter can be raised in Committee.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the possibility of continuing to get agreements with the Faroese, the Norwegians, the Icelanders and others with whom there have been some difficulties and disputes in the past. We shall continue to try to get the best agreements we can with these countries, and I have no doubt that the whole of the arrangements in the Bill are a result of the skilful negotiations which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs conducted. We shall try to continue these with any other countries which are prepared to meet us and to discuss these problems.
I do not believe that the agreement which we have made is likely to jeopardise the trawling industry and its trade. The reactions which the hon. Member for Workington mentioned were the trade's first reactions. The trade will not be losing any extra fishing areas and, as I understand, while it does not think that all its own problems are solved it sees the advantages which I think all hon. Members feel will flow to the inshore side of the fishing industry, with which the Bill is primarily concerned.
The main question raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), and raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House, was that of conservation. This is not specifically in the Bill, but we all realise—probably even the hon. Member for Grimsby realises—that there may be something important in plans for conservation. We hope that the North-East Atlantic Commission, which will be sitting and which includes Russia and Poland and other countries not signatories to this Convention, will be able to work together, so that while we are able to enforce within our 12-mile limit the conservation measures which we think are right, at the same time these other countries will be able to work out conservation measures together so that we are all adopting and bringing into 1020 force the same measures aimed at achieving a solution to the problem.
The hon. Member asked me whether I could help him and the House by saying more about the designated countries. I cannot give a full list of these countries—this is impossible at this stage—but the countries with which we have agreed the transitional period for fishing, which indicates those which are most likely to come into the category of designated countries, are France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland. It may well be that one or two other countries will make a claim for having had traditional fishing rights, and these will have to be looked at. The countries which I mentioned are not being given designated powers to fish anywhere round the coast but only to fish in such places and for such fish as they have done for the last 10 or 12 years.
§ Mr. Noble
I will come to that point in a moment. It was raised by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).
The hon. Member for Leith said that so far our fishing negotiations had been the result of continual unilateral action. He feels, as we all feel, that the Bill is a great advance, because we have at last obtained the agreement of 11 countries to the action which we have taken.
§ Sir John MacLeod
Does this mean that the countries with which we have agreement can do any type of fishing?
§ Mr. Noble
I should not like to answer that with certainty, but I do not think that sensible countries would do 1021 this, because they would merely fish out that area very quickly. As they cannot move from one area to another, because the designation area would relate only to their traditional fishing grounds, they would ruin their own chances. I do not think that this would be a problem.
The hon. Member for Leith asked me to say a word about baselines and particularly about the Moray Firth. The debate to which he referred in 1907 and the ruling of the High Court of Justiciary was not whether the Moray Firth could be closed by a single baseline but whether the prohibition of trawling applied to foreign trawlers. It was a slightly different problem. The Minch will be completely closed by base lines. The Moray Firth will have a bay closing line 24 miles out instead of 10 miles out. There will be a considerable increase in the area.
§ Commander. Pursey
The right hon. Member says that the Moray Firth would have a baseline 24 miles out. Out from where? Is that correct? Is the base line 24 miles from coast to coast? In other words, is it at right angles to the statement which he made?
§ Mr. Noble
The length of the closing line will be 24 miles and where that hits the coast will be the appropriate place.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) asked whether the trawlers from his constituency which habitually fish off the West Coast of Scotland could continue to do so and what was the position in the Clyde. I can assure him that there will be no change in the areas in which the trawlers from his constituency can fish on the West Coast. I am sure that they will get the same reception, warm or otherwise, as they have always had in the 1022 past. His diagnosis about confiscation of nets was correct.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland asked a number of questions, and I will try to answer as many of them as I can. He asked whether the limits were inclusive. The limits will apply to all types of fishing—net, line, shellfish, or whatever it may be. He asked about the limits round Shetland. I am not absolutely certain about Burra Haaf. I think that the 12-mile limit, the outer belt, will cover the whole of it. I am not certain whether the six-mile limit will cover quite the whole of it, but I do not want to be dogmatic because my map is on rather a small scale.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the Russian boats. They will be able to come in to take shelter within his islands as they have in the past. I hope that they will take some notice of what he said and come in at Lerwick, buy some things and make friends with the local inhabitants.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me why we could not close the whole of the Moray Firth from Duncansby Head to Rattray Point. The answer is that under the Geneva Convention of 1958, to which we are signatories, that line would not satisfy the conditions and would be much more in keeping with some of the lines which have been drawn in other parts of the world and to which we have taken very strong exception.
The Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act, 1889, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, is being kept in force, because this is the Act which keeps the trawlers out of the three-mile limit. Therefore, it remains in force. The 1907 Act concerns whales. Whales will be brought into the 12-mile zone, so there will be a little extra protection to the herring hog. The byelaws to which the right hon. Gentleman referred will not be affected in any way.
Then the right hon. Gentleman asked about the Scottish Office vessels for enforcement. This problem was raised by several hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Grimond
I appreciate that the 1889 Act is used for prosecuting British trawlers within the three-mile limit, but the Act doss not seem to be confined 1023 to British trawlers. Does it not need amendment, because it refers explicitly to three miles? Is it never used for prosecuting foreign trawlers?
§ Mr. Noble
Without notice, I could not answer that. The point is that under this legislation foreign trawlers will not be able to come within the six-mile limit. British trawlers will not be allowed to fish in the 0 to three-mile belt. Therefore, the Act is still needed to maintain its original prohibition on fishing in the 0 to three-mile belt.
I come to the problem of the Scottish Office's vessels for enforcement, The Scottish Office has its own fishery protection vessels, but it also has the help of many naval units from time to time as need arises within our own waters. We have used M.T.B.s in Scotland in recent months, as I think they have in England. We have also used aircraft. Therefore, we have done some of the things which hon. Members have urged us to do.
Clearly, it is difficult to forecast with certainty the problems which will arise as these new limits are put into force, It is not as simple as saying that, because 20,000 square miles are added, we shall need another 20 vessels to patrol them. There is clearly no point in taking action of this sort unless one can patrol the areas reasonably and ensure that the regulations are enforced. My right hon. Friend and I, in co-operation with the Navy, will do our best to see that this is so.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the date of the operation. Perhaps he did not listen to my right hon. Friend or understand what he said. The arrangement which has been made is that within the six to 12-mile belt there will be a phase out period of approximately one year up till the end of December, 1965.
§ Mr. Noble
Yes. My right hon. Friend is quite right. It is from three to six miles for the first year and after that according to what arrangements we make for our vessels and with individual countries. Habitual rights apply to those countries which have fished for at least ten years in an area for a particular type of fish.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Sir Douglas Marshall), not to the surprise of the House, managed to work in a reference to pilchards. It is true that the disposal of fish is just as important as catching, marketing and canning it. The White Fish Authority has been doing a great deal to help the pilchard industry in this respect. We are grateful to the Authority. I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of both the protection vessels and conservation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) raised a very large number of points, on many of which I have already touched. He stressed the importance of the repercussions that this sort of thing can have on diplomatic relations and trade if it is not well handled. The important aspect of the drawing-up of the Convention which preceded the Bill is that we have done it almost entirely by agreement, so I would hope that there would be very little chance of diplomatic relations or trade being disrupted.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked about certain rocks. I cannot tell him with accuracy about the Bell Rock or the Eddystone Rock. I was asked about Rockall and one or two rocks off the West Coast. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will see from the map in the Library that most of these are covered with their own limits round them, though in one or two cases with a 12-mile limit they are just enclosed in the main limits.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir John MacLeod) suggested that we should use helicopters. As I have said, we hav used aircraft in Scotland. These may well be a help. The position of the trawlers and our inshore fishermen in the Moray Firth will continue as it has been in the past. The Scottish Trawlers' Federation has shown 1025 great sense and realised the importance of the area to inshore fishermen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) raised many points, on some of which I have already touched. I have said as much as I can tell the House at present about the designated countries. My hon. Friend asked whether the regulations would give us the right to inspect things like mesh sizes up to 12 miles. This is our intention, and I think that it will help in the policing and conservation measures my hon. Friend had in mind. My hon. Friend asked whether I could confirm that British vessels of all types could fish in the three to 12-mile belt. As I said earlier, the conditions are unchanged from what they have been in the past; it is the status quo.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) said that the Bill would gladden the hearts of most of his constituents after the set-backs they have had. I am delighted if the Bill does that. My hon. Friend would have liked to have kept foreigners out of the six to 12-mile belt altogether, perhaps after a period of years. He will realise that this was a serious attempt to get agreement on what has been a very difficult point, and we have got agreement. The agreement which we have reached will in fact help us as much as would keeping them out altogether. There are not enormous numbers of people in foreign countries involved.
I cannot tell my hon. Friend whether the stocks of fish will build up. I wish I could. I agree with him that the catching potential of modern fishing vessels has risen very considerably. But the mere ability to control more of our own inshore waters ourselves should enable the Government, and future Governments, to keep an eye on fish stocks and take the necessary action. My hon. Friend also asked whether the trials of people caught poaching would take place in civilian or criminal courts. They will be in criminal courts—sheriff courts.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles reminded us that all British trawlers were not Simon Pure, or lily white—I cannot remember which expression he used. This he knows from his experience in his constituency. It may well be that these 1026 measures will not altogether solve the problems of many of his constituents in closing the Minch but they will go a long way towards it. There may be a few unpleasant interviews with foreign vessels, but the captains of my protection vessels are fairly used to this and, on the whole, deal with these incidents diplomatically and wisely. As far as I am aware, the Bill has no connection with the Common Market.
I am sorry that I missed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard). I agree that the speed of protection vessels is important. My hon. Friend referred to the "Brave" class of naval vessels. I am told that although they are very fast they are also extremely expensive to run, using 1,400 gallons of paraffin an hour. However, we will examine the position, and we will also consider the possibility; of using helicopters.
For some time the Irish vessels to which he referred have been able to swing one way or another to suit themselves. Certain vessels are registered in Ireland, so that they can come back into the Clyde and fish as foreign vessels, although our own trawlers are not allowed to do so. As I understand, all Irish vessels will now be treated as foreign vessels.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he has said. I raised the matter knowing the expense, and also knowing that there are not many of these vessels. I simply wanted to draw attention to the fact that they could be used in a limited number of areas. What I am keen on our using are R.N.R. ships going on passage, and coastal mine-sweepers, which have the speed, and of which we have plenty.
§ Mr. Noble
I thank my hon. Friend for that advice. I shall use it in any discussions that may take place with the Navy.
My hon. Friend also referred to fish farming, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East. A great deal of research is going on into this matter, but it would be unwise to think that we have yet sufficient knowledge for sea fish farming to be a practical operation within the next few years.
§ Mr. Hoy
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is concluding his speech. He has missed one important point altogether. I should like to know what the reaction of all this will be on the consumer public. I made a specific proposal to him, arising from the representations made by the Fish Fryers Association about the protection that they will have. Will he consider, with the Chairman of the White Fish Authority, arranging for a meeting between these people in order to hammer out their differences, so that these arrangements may work successfully?
§ Mr. Noble
I thank the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that point. I had made a note of it, but as it is not particularly in keeping with the provisions of the Bill I was going to discuss it with the Chairman of the White Fish Authority. I was not trying to do the hon. Member out of an answer.
From all the speeches that have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House it is clear that the Bill is welcome. Some have given it a warm welcome and others a more grudging one, but I feel sure that the House would wish to give it a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).