HC Deb 05 April 1967 vol 744 cc218-20
11. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to ensure the continued protection of the Scottish inshore fishing fleet following the changes announced recently for the Fishery Protection Squadron.

18. Mr. Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if the fact that the duties of the Fishery Protection Squadrons will be taken over by vessels of the Home Fleet will affect the Scottish Squadron.

Mr. Buchan

The recent change in the command structure of the Navy's Fishery Protection Squadron will not affect the standard of protection given in Scottish waters either by the Navy or by my Department's fishery cruisers. These will continue to operate exactly as before.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that most of the lack of confidence which arose in the fishing industry following this change came about because of the Government's habit of not consulting those whom their decisions most directly affect? Can we be assured that the personnel of the Fishery Protection Squadron will be experienced men long enough in the job to know the details of the work that they have to do?

Mr. Buchan

I think that to some extent they were misled by wrong statements in the Press at the time. There has been no general dissatisfaction expressed by the industry in Scotland, and during my recent discussions with fishermen in the hon. Gentleman's area this question did not arise and no doubts were expressed.

As regards the second part of the question, I am satisfied that the arrangements which we had, and which were working satisfactorily, will continue to do so under sufficiently skilled direction.

Mr. Baker

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether, under the new arrangements, H.M.S. "Belton" will be withdrawn from Scotland, and if so, by what means the Fishery Protection Squadron will be augmented in times of stress as in the past?

Mr. Buchan

The duties of H.M.S. "Belton" will not be affected and she will continue to be assigned as before. One of the advantages of the new structure is that we shall be able to call on the Home Fleet.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does my hon. Friend realise that the vast expanse of sea which the protection vessels are expected to supervise is too much for surface vessels, and should not they have more assistance from the air? Will my hon. Friend take steps to see that they receive this help?

Mr. Buchan

I was dreading my hon. and learned Friend suggesting that there should be surveillance by submarines. We bear in mind all kinds of possible modern means of assisting the surface fleet in its duties.

Mr. Noble

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that his own Department's fishery cruisers are adequate in number to deal with the very much increased fishery limits which now apply?

Mr. Buchan

I am aware of the difficulty which has been caused by the new fishing limits, but so far we have found no reason for dissatisfaction. We are, however, as always keeping the matter under consideration.