§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 10.25 a.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
>: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a short and simple Bill which I think will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I do not think there will be any controversy about the purposes of the Bill in the sense that there will be political division over it.
On 1st March my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary told the House that we proposed to increase the rates of grant for expenditure on fishing vessels by 5 per cent. but that legislation would be required for this purpose. The existing rates of 35 per cent. and 40 per cent, are at the statutory maxima. This Bill seeks to remove those maxima. If the House passes the Bill, we shall then amend the current scheme of grants to provide for the increased rates promised by my hon. Friend. The proposed new rates will be 40 per cent. for vessels of 80 ft. or more in length and 45 per cent. for smaller vessels. They will apply to investment in the calendar years 1967 and 1968.
There will be a further opportunity to discuss the proposed increase in the rates on the affirmative Resolution to approve the amending scheme. The sole purpose of the Bill is to make an increase possible. We shall then have the same power to increase the rates of grant for investment in fishing vessels as we shall have for investment in agriculture and manufacturing industry.
The extra stimulus to investment in 1967 and 1968 is as important to the fishing industry as it is in other sectors. I am sure that there is no disagreement here. The fishing industry has done well in increasing its catches despite the downward trend of the fish stocks. Indeed, the 1966 catch was the highest for 10 years, and it was secured with fewer vessels and fewer men.
The key to increasing productivity lies in new investment. There is no doubt 457 about this. It is important and I stress it. Good progress has been made with the modernisation of the fleet. But more remains to be done. Research and development are constantly yielding improvements in design and better equipment and it is essential that the industry should be enabled to take full advantags of them.
This is not the occasion for a general debate on policy, but there are other aspects of the Government's policy towards investment in the industry in which I know hon. Members on both sides of the House are interested. As my hon. Friend said in the debate on the grants scheme two months ago, a review of policy is in progress. We are taking account of the relevant recommendations of the Estimates Committee and I hope that we shall be in a position to give a reply to the Committee before long. I cannot go beyond that.
I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members opposite for facilitating the introduction of this Bill so that the necessary incentives to investment can be introduced as soon as possible. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ 10.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
As the Minister said, this is a short and simple Bill. The industry will appreciate the trouble the Minister has taken in personally introducing the Bill to the House. Equally, I think that the Minister will agree that all modern fisheries legislation stems from the Fleck Committee's Report of 1961. The Fleck Committee's broad recommendation in paragraph 338 was thatthe aim should be to maintain it"—that is, the fleet——at approximately the catching power necessary to maintain the current levels of supplies for the next ten years at least.Referring to the question of building grants, which we are discussing on the Bill, the Committee said this in paragraph 341:Building grants make a direct contribution towards the modernisation of the fleet, provide money precisely at the time when it is most needed for this purpose and are easy to administer.As a result of the Fleck Committee's Report, in 1962 a scheme of grants of 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. of cost was introduced However, in 1966 investment 458 allowances were withdrawn and were replaced by an additional grant of 10 per cent. This matter was debated in March, when ceilings on types or individual vessels were removed and the conditions of grant were made much wider and much improved. The Opposition greatly welcomed that scheme.
I want to remind the House that during our debate in March my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Baker) pointed out that in the past seven years the cost of a 70 ft. inshore vessel had increased from £20,000 to £39,000. All of us who represent fishing ports know that this escalation of costs has taken place throughout the fleet, whatever the type of vessel. These increased costs must be taken into account if the aim laid down by the Fleck Committee is to be achieved.
The Minister told us that the Bill removes the maximum limits on the rates of grant and will therefore permit the industry to come in line with the shipbuilding industry which has received an extra 5 per cent. grant for this year and for 1968. The Minister said that it will need an affirmative Resolution to make the new rate of grant for fishing vessels 40 per cent. for those over 80 ft. and 45 per cent. for those under 80 ft. We believe that the Bill is fully justified and I assure the Minister that it has our full support.
However, there are a number of questions related to the Bill which I want ask whether a decision on this matter has ing. In the Fishing Vessels (Acquisition and Improvement) (Grants) Scheme, 1967, allowance was made, under certain safeguards, for grants of from 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. to be made for British vessels built in foreign yards. Will the additional 5 per cent. proposed under the Bill be available for foreign-built vessels?
My second question was raised in the previous debate and concerns competitive tendering, which is essential before a grant can be awarded or approved by the White Fish Authority. I will not go into this aspect in detail. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the Estimates Committee referred to this point and in the reply given to the previous debate it was said that the matter was being taken into consideration.
Without necessarily supporting the views of the Select Committee, may I 459 ask whether a decision on this matter has been reached? The question of competitive tendering and the whole question of scrapping ratios, which is the next matter about which I want to ask, are of great importance to the owner when he has to decide whether to replace certain of his vessels. The more uncertainty there is, and the greater the period in which there is uncertainty, either over competitive tendering or, even more so, over scrapping ratios, the more difficult it is for owners to plan ahead and replace their fleets as they should.
The present ruling, as repeated during the debate in March, is that two old vessels must be scrapped for every new freezer trawler and one and a half old vessels for every new conventional trawler. It was said most strongly in the previous debate that this distorts the whole pattern of replacement. This is borne out by opinion throughout the industry and was voiced by the Select Committee on Estimates.
In the debate in March we were told by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—The whole question of scrapping is being looked into …I appreciate that this is all part of the fisheries review, but it is extremely difficult for owners to plan the rebuilding of their fleets unless they have a definite answer on this subject.
This brings me to the question of the fisheries review, which is, as I understand it, fundamental to the Bill. This review was announced as far back as November, 1964 and at that time it was said that the review would be completed at the end of 1966. Yet in the previous debate the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said this:We hope that it will be concluded this year, but I cannot give a definite promise."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 1472–4.]This means that the review, at best, will be completed a year later than was promised.
In opening, the Minister mentioned that the date for the review to be completed is still uncertain. I hope that the Minister who winds up the debate will be able to give us a little more positive information about the review. If the review is further delayed, is it possible for 460 the Ministry to make a decision, particularly on scrapping ratios, and also, if possible, on the requirement for competitive tendering?
The Minister spoke of the importance of research and development to this industry, as well as to every other industry. We on this side thoroughly agree with him. The Bill removes the maximum limit for building grants. Is the Minister satisfied that the Bill, together with all the related legislation, allows sufficient scope for the development of new and experimental types of fishing vessels? There is considerable diversity, not only in the various sections of the industry—inshore, middle, distant water, and so on—but also in the various different types of ship—the wet fish trawler, the freezer trawler, and now the filleter freezer.
Has the Minister studied the recent symposium at Grimsby, and particularly a paper written by Mr. Eddie, the Technical Director of the White Fish Authority, which was reported in detail in the Fishing News of 21st April? This is relevant to the Bill, because it deals with changes which this gentleman, who has great technical knowledge, believes must take place in the design of ships for the fishing fleet.
I want to underline three of the points Mr. Eddie made. He said, first, that we should in the future pay more attention to industrial fisheries—that is, fishing for inedible species of fish designed to be transformed into fish meal. This is very important, because we import a great deal of fish meal in these days. Mr. Eddie said that this may mean new types of vessels and a re-adaptation of existing types.
Mr. Eddie suggested, secondly, that inshore vessels might have to be re-designed to take advantage of large catches obtained by purse-seine or mid-water trawl. This means a vessel which has more beam, which is more powerful, and which fishes over the stern.
Mr. Eddie's third suggestion—I want to deal with the three different types of ships—concerns freezer trawlers. He makes the interesting point that a large number of these new, modern and efficient vessels, have been built and operate from the various distant water ports. The various types of freezer trawler vary considerably in length, power, displacement capital cost and fuel consumption; but, 461 strangely enough, they all have approximately the same capacity of fish hold—about 25,000 cubic ft.
Mr. Eddie points out that this inevitably means that some ships have a much more basically economic efficient design than others; because obviously, if the size, fuel consumption and power varies, although the same amount of fish can be held, there must be some disparity in the efficiency of the vessels. Mr. Eddie says that, given comparable efficiency of skippers, the efficiency of the vessel, and therefore its productivity, varies considerably. Is the Minister satisfied that the Bill and the associated legislation can give sufficient encouragement for operational research to go into these questions and explore the possibilities thoroughly under the aegis of the White Fish Authority? Will there be sufficient finance to do the research which, as he says, and we all agree, is so important to the future of the industry?
I hope that the Bill will improve the safety standards going into the new vessels and provide even better accommodation for the crews, who have a pretty tough life in three weeks of fishing right up to Iceland or the White Sea, or even a much longer period now with the freezer trawlers going to Greenland, Newfoundland and other parts of the world. These improvements should be facilitated by the Bill, and this is another reason for our support.
The basic object of the Bill is to increase the efficiency of the fishing fleet. This will be of particular importance if we enter the Common Market. As far as we know, most of the Six countries have building subsidies, as we do. I am told that Italy has a 30 per cent., or possibly 40 per cent., grant on the total cost of building; she also has low interest rates for replacement and modernisation. Germany has a system of loans and low interest rates for building and modernisation, together with scrapping grants. France has a State-financed organisation designed to promote vessel ownership and co-operation.
Obviously, investment assistance will have to be harmonised between the Six and ourselves if and when we enter the Common Market, but, as the Minister and the House know, the Common Market has not yet established a com- 462 mon fisheries policy. After a lot of labour, it has reached a common agricultural policy, but it has not yet got down to a common fisheries policy.
Britain's entry, therefore, should enable us to co-operate and to influence this policy as it is evolved. This will be a matter of great importance for the fishing industry, but it underlines, too, the importance of the Bill itself, because it is essential that our fleet should be as efficient as possible at the time of our entry. This is a further reason why we on this side commend the Bill.
§ 10.42 a.m.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
As a Member with considerable fishing interests in his constituency, I welcome the Bill and the provisions to help the industry. There are, however, several questions which I shall put to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and, although some of them raise constituency points, namely, those pertaining to the inshore fleet, others have a direct bearing on the entire fishing industry of the United Kingdom.
The Explanatory Memorandum tells us that the estimated additional expenditure will be £350,000 in a full year. What will be the total estimated expenditure with this figure added? In the past, under the schemes produced under the principal Act, the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953, there have been occasions when the kitty has run dry. The White Fish Authority in England and its Scottish Committee, which will administer the schemes under the principal Act and this Bill, have sometimes found themselves not able to meet the requirements for replacement of fishing boats because the kitty has run dry. May we, therefore, have an assurance that the total sum of money will be adequate for the new building which will become necessary as time goes on? In this connection, I endorse the observation of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), that the scrapping/building ratio needs very careful thought. We have on previous occasions been given some information about it, but we could do with a great deal more.
The Minister said today that the grant would be 45 per cent. for vessels under 80 feet, and I welcome this provision as 463 against the 40 per cent. for vessels of 80 feet and over. As I have said before in the House, the cost of fishing boats is rising alarmingly, and it seems that costs are going up disproportionately for the smaller vessels as compared with the larger ones. It is for this reason that I welcome the 45 per cent.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly stressed the need for new investment in the fishing industry, as, indeed, in all other British industries. Will the grants be payable for conversion of boats from one type of fishing to another? The Bill is for the actual building of vessels, but, if we are to change our methods of fishing, as will inevitably happen as time goes on, considerable alterations will be necessary for the conversion of boats from one type of fishing to another. It would be wrong if, having given these grants, we found that, in turning from one type of fishing to another, a boat had to become more or less derelict or, perhaps, even written off for want of more money for conversion purposes. I hope that the Government will give us an idea of their thinking on that matter.
The Bill is to run for two years, expiring on 31st December, 1969. It is conceivable that in that time a number of changes will take place in the industry. I have two in mind, one of which I have already mentioned, namely, conversion from one type of fishing to another. I understand that, for example, the Australians are very keen to get red fish, these species being popular in America. It may be necessary to change our fishing methods to catch red fish, which could be canned in this country and exported to America. This development may come quite soon, or it may be a long process. A man wishing to exploit this kind of fishing may wish either to build a new boat or to convert a boat. If he does that, say, on 1st December, 1969, and applies for a grant and loan, and the boat is not constructed until 1970, will the grant at this rate be payable?
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice said that some of the countries of the Six make grants of this kind but, as far as I could gather in Brussels the other day, there is nothing exactly similar to the provisions of this Bill. Under the Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, payments are available 464 for this type of thing, though applied to agriculture, not to fishing. Does the Minister think that grants of the kind being given under this Bill will be available under the Common Market system of support?
Finally, I wish to mention research. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland has its own research vessels of various types dealing with experimentation into handling of gear and so on both, for inshore and distant water fishing. Would it be possible for interested parties to apply for grants for boat building to enable them to do their own research? I have in mind the exploration of the more distant fishing grounds. We have freezer trawlers and the like, and a great deal of research is going on. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice has already mentioned the article in the Fishing News of 21st April by Mr. Eddie. I too would like to quote from what he says:… in the world as a whole, fishing effort is still rising rapidly and we are told that we can reckon fairly confidently on being able to double the world catch in the next 20 years.That will make a considerable contribution to food resources throughout the world. Is it possible for private firms to obtain grants for boats specifically for fishing purposes?
In closing, I again welcome the Bill and hope that it will achieve its object and that we may continue to have a prosperous fishing industry.
§ 10.52 a.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
I am very glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Baker) whose constituency is next to mine. The problems of the fishing industry in his area are similar to those in mine. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will reply to the points my hon. Friend raised.
I also welcome the Bill which enables increased rates of grant to be given for new fishing vessels. That is clearly necessary in the present circumstances. I wish to draw attention to some of the attendant problems which arise. I am particularly concerned with the North of Scotland, with the north-east coast of Scotland and with the Moray Firth in particular. I therefore want to address my remarks especially to the inshore part 465 of the fishing industry, at least half of which is based on Scotland and which has a vital task in that it brings really fresh fish to our shops and tables.
There is considerable anxiety about the steeply rising cost of new inshore fishing boats and also the rising costs of all the gear necessary to keep those boats in first-class condition and to provide all the extra equipment required in modern fishing. Fishermen wonder whether recent rises in costs have fallen properly within the prices and incomes policy. Perhaps the Minister can reply today on that point, which has puzzled some fishermen.
The question also arises whether large grants have had any effect on the total costs of fishing boats, and as the grants are now to become larger we should consider that question. Are the Government satisfied that when there are very large grants towards new fishing boats, there is no effect in inflating their total price? Some fishermen feel that as the grants have gone up so the prices of boats have soared. I am sure that my hon. Friends have also found this feeling among fishermen. There may be no connection between the rise in grants and rise in boat prices, but the Government should be able to give us their views on this and I should be glad to hear them because they may well allay the fears I have mentioned.
For the future, I ask the Government to look at this matter very closely to make sure that the money being made available in grants does not have the side effect of putting up the total price unnecessarily.
Another point concerns the requirement of a 25 per cent. deposit for new boats. I agree that there should be a deposit, but there are cases where the size of it can mean that able and qualified young fishermen find it difficult to get a new boat. With total costs rising, the deposit gets bigger and bigger. If the grant is to be a bigger proportion, will there be any reduction in the deposit? Will there be any relaxation? Whether such a relaxation has conditions or not, I do not mind, but the Government should address themselves to the cases of able young skippers who should have boats of their own but find it difficult today, particularly with the credit squeeze and 466 other financially stringent measures, to raise the necessary money for the deposit.
I raised this matter with the Scottish Office recently and the hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the debate was good enough to reply in a letter as recently as 22nd March—on the question of younger men who find it difficult to raise the 25 per cent. deposit on new fishing boats—as follows:The point will be borne in mind when, on the conclusion of the current review of fisheries policy, decisions are taken as to the future level of loan assistance for the inshore fishing fleet.Can the Minister give any indication of when that review of policy will be completed? Can he in the meantime give us any statement on the position concerning the deposit? If we have to wait for another year or so before we get the end of the review, the problem will remain, and I hope that he can tell us something about that today.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I also welcome the Bill. I think that it will help stimulate the fishing industry, which is a good thing. It will certainly help in the South-West, where we have had a considerable number of problems recently concerning fishermen and their boats. This little encouragement will be welcomed, particularly in my constituency, with the small fishing ports of Bideford and Appledore. The Minister has been wise in bringing the Bill forward at this time.
I wonder if perhaps it is one of the first moves in the preparation for entry into the Common Market. The Common Market countries spend much more money on their fishing boats and grants, and this is a step in the right direction. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what were the other reasons which prompted the Government to make this increase. The cost of new boats has gone up, new engines have become more expensive, and the value of the £ has dropped considerably. It has therefore become necessary for more money to be found. But is that the only reason? Is the Minister perhaps concerned with the possibility of increasing supplies of fish as our population grows?
I for one would like to know the real reasons behind this move. When we are spending public money, as we are 467 here, a searching look must be taken at how it is spent. Is it being spent wisely? Is there enough control over this money? In these days of shortage of money, it is most important that great care should be taken to spend wisely. I should also be interested to know what proportion of the increase will be spent on research and whether the best type of boats and engines are being made.
Perhaps I can illustrate by referring to what has happened in agriculture. When grants, particularly improvement grants, are made for agriculture, builders usually ask whether certain work is under grant. If it is, I am afraid that in many cases the cost of the building is much higher and that one can sometimes get it cheaper without a grant. I am not saying that this is always so, or that it would apply to those who build fishing boats or engines, but it is a point which needs watching, with the rapidly rising costs of boats and engines, to ensure that the builders are not taking advantage of the fact that fishermen are getting these grants. In agriculture, this is a bad and dangerous point, and I do not want it spread to the fishing industry as well.
I trust that this increase will also be directed to the many schemes in operation for the co-operative building of fishing boats and the supply of engines. Such a venture we have in the South-West, in the Torbay area and in Brixham which is probably one of the most successful schemes ever put forward and developed in the South-West.
From a rather broken and run-down fishing fleet manned by dispirited men, there has been a change to one of the most flourishing fleets in the South-West and great credit is due to all who promoted that transformation. I hope that this money will again be directed to such ends and that there will be no restriction on those who seek to bring about these improvements in a co-operative way.
These grants are for construction and improvement. What proportions of the money are to be spent on each? How is it to be divided up? Which is it better to do—build new boats or modernise old ones? In my view, looking to the future, it is very important to have new boats because we shall have severe competition from—we can no longer call them "foreign" boats—but from "common" 468 friends and "common" fishermen. It is important, therefore, to have new boats rather than modernised older boats.
This is an important point to those of us who live in development areas. The increase will stimulate and help those firms building small boats in development areas such as mine, particularly in the Bideford and Appledore area. We build many good boats in my constituency. They are strong and seaworthy and this money will be a real encouragement. It will help with the unemployment situation in development areas. What proportion of the money do the Government thnk should be or can be directed to development areas where these small boats are built? This is an important point, because the increase can have a beneficial effect and give encouragement to boat builders in these areas.
In the Bill, there is reference to an increase of 5 per cent. in a full year and this means an expenditure of £350,000. Is there a limit to the total? What is the total sum involved in the scheme on new boats and new engines? How is it being divided up? What proportions will go to the South-West, Scotland and other parts of the country? Will too big a proportion of money go to the main and bigger fishing areas, possibly to the neglect of the smaller fishing areas such as the South-West? I hope that the money will be fairly divided up.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us roughly what is the return on this sort of grant? Is he satisfied that we are getting value for money? It is important to know exactly what sort of returns we are getting over the years from this kind of expenditure. In agriculture, one can see clearly the tremendous increase in productivity. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whether this is also true of the fishing industry.
The grants are to be paid on or after 1st January, 1967. What grants will be given to boats under order or under construction before that date? It takes some time to build a fishing boat and I would not like to see those who started before that date penalised in any way.
In the 1953 Act, the grants were applied to fishing vessels with a maximum length of 140 ft. Is that maximum enough these days with fishing vessels 469 getting bigger and bigger? Should not the lower limits be raised? Is it proper, correct and wise that we should be giving grants to the very small boats? I do not know, but I should like to hear what the Minister has to say.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
On this point, does my hon. Friend recall that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs once made a speech from this side of the House in which he eloquently advocated that the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" should be equipped as trawlers?
§ Mr. Mills
I do not recall that, but it is an interesting point. I imagine that it would be some sort of stern fishing.
I am particularly interested in the question of the grants for new engines. I wonder what type of engine the Minister has in mind. Is he intending to concentrate on the provision of new diesels, or has research work shown that other types are necessary? What encouragement is being given to research in boat propulsion?
The 1953 Act also refers to those who are "proposing" to go into fishing or who are actually engaged in it. I believe that this increase will probably encourage new entrants—which means those "proposing" to go into the industry. I want to see men return to this industry, particularly in the South-West. This would help solve our economic problems quite considerably. I welcome the Bill. It is a step in the right direction. But I hope that very much more will be done.
Does the wording of the 1953 Act rule out those who are, perhaps, what I call "casual" fishermen—those engaged, for example, in fishing at certain times of the year and who help with the holiday trade at other times? I am not saying that we want to encourage the giving of these grants to part-timers, but there is a case for giving encouragement to those who help provide holiday amenities. I do not want them to be ruled out altogether.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Since the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues advocate increased grants to more people, what taxes would they impose to get that money?
§ Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)
Would my hon. Friend agree that the Government have levied such heavy taxes that there is no need to levy more and that resources are already ample to cope with his proposals?
§ Mr. Mills rose—
§ Mr. Baxter rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
It is entirely within the hon. Member's discretion whether he gives way or not.
§ Mr. Mills
I thought that I was being polite.
Will this money cover the new and modern equipment which these boats need? This is vital, because of possible Common Market competition, but it is very expensive. Also, more safety equipment is needed to ensure that lives are saved. I hope that a fair proportion will be spent on new equipment. Will the money cover the cost of removing old engines and fitting new diesel engines, which is expensive and causes a loss to fishermen?
The increase in these rates will cover more fishing. This is good and right, but it surely means—the Ministry will have to watch this closely—that the limits of our existing territorial waters must be maintained. There is strong feeling on this in the South-West, and I hope that, because there will be more fishing and better equipped boats, the Ministry will take a very strong stand on this, particularly as we enter the Common Market. We should not give 471 way on this but should keep to the present limits so that our modern and well-equipped new vessels will have the right to fish in their own waters. I hope that this point will be passed on to the Minister.
§ 11.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)
I also welcome the Bill and am glad that we are agreed on the benefits which it will bring to the industry. There is a growing interest in fishing in the north and west of Scotland. Many more young people are interested because of the better protection to the fishing grounds and the fact that they see a future in the industry. It is chiefly East Coast crews who fish from the north and west ports because fishing has declined on the west coast in the past, and crews have left for other employment. We are anxious now that local people should return to the industry.
Two factors are important in this connection—the training of crews and the cost of boats. Young men are anxious to take up fishing and there is a scheme to train them if boats are available. This increase in grant will certainly enable many younger crews, once they are trained, to have boats of their own, which will be to their advantage.
We receive substantial help in this direction from the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and I am sure that the Minister will see that this continues. I hope that he will see that a fair proportion of the money goes to the Highlands and Islands. I warmly support the Bill.
§ 11.16 a.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
Although my hon. Friends have mentioned the boats built in the Moray Firth, I am sure they will agree that the boats built in the east of Fife are even better. One of the troubles is that they are so well built that they last too long, which is a disadvantage in keeping a shipyard adequately employed.
The bones of the Bill are the prices which fishermen receive for fish. I have had representations from fishermen in my constituency that they are not happy with the new arrangements for supporting the inshore fishermen. Yesterday's announcement that we are seeking entry of the 472 Common Market raises the question of whether the fishing limits will mean that we must share our inshore waters with the other countries of the Common Market. If so, what encouragement will there be to people to build new boats?
We have had so much experience of foreign vessels trawling in the Moray Firth area, even when our own men were kept out under our regulations—
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Does my hon. Friend recall that in the South-West, when what we call the "Frenchies" have come over, shots have been fired? This could easily happen again.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
These troubles go on all the time. Polish vessels have been spoiling line fishing in the North-East of Scotland. If our limits were increased, that would not only improve the fishing but allow more fish to breed, so that more would be caught. Many foreign vessels fish in Scottish waters. Russian vessels have fished off Orkney and for many weeks in the year a Polish "mother vessel" sits off the runway at Leuchars Airport with catching vessels going out. They shelter in St. Andrew's Bay, where they fish outside the limits.
This shows that there is a real danger in our entry of the Common Market if it means that our inshore waters must be shared with the other six, seven or eight countries. I hope that we will be given some information about that—
§ Mr. G. Campbell
There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about this, so perhaps I could mention that the prohibition in the Moray Firth is on trawlers only. Most, if not all, of the boats based in the Firth are inshore boats of other types which have always fished in the Moray Firth and continue to do so outside the three mile limit. If we enter the Common Market, there will have to be an agreement under which the prohibition on trawlers will apply to the other member countries as well.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information.
If we are to get a better harvest from the sea, the protection and conservation of our waters is essential. I was interested to see the other day that the Services in the United States co-operate with the fishing authorities by dumping old motor cars off aircraft carriers to provide 473 a reef under the sea, which fisherman cannot fish on because if they did they would tear their gear to pieces. This makes a very good breeding ground for fish. Perhaps this is something which we could consider. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but the United States Navy and Air Force are co-operating in doing something which is really useful. We are faced with this terrific problem of people dumping old motor cars on roadside verges and despoiling the country. We are concerned in the Scottish Standing Committee with the Countryside Bill by which we are trying to improve amenities. If we could get rid of old motor cars and at the same time improve fishing, this would be very well worth while.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether it would be possible to make an extra payment to people who experiment. At the moment, people get a 40 or 45 per cent. grant, no matter whether they produce exactly the same things as were produced five, six or seven years ago or whether they produce something new. Most people would agree that the cost of experimenting and making something new is greater. There might be a case for paying something more for experimental work so as to encourage people, not just to renew boats exactly as they were, proved and tried though they might be, but to produce something new. This ties up with the question of safety at sea.
We had an interesting visit from the Development Division of the White Fish Authority in Anstruther the other day. It tried to convince fishermen to take up new methods and to change their gear to a certain extent. This leads to extra expense. In times of credit squeeze, and particularly since we had more storms and gales this winter than for many years, there has been no great encouragement for people to spend more money on experimental work. If more of the catch could be brought in over the stern of the vessel, no matter what type it might be, this would make for greater safety than if the fish were brought over the side of the vessel with the dangers inherent therein. I hope that the Minister will indicate whether it is possible to give more encouragement to experimental work, because I am sure that it would be of real value in achieving greater safety.
474 I am glad that this Measure has been brought forward and I give it my support.
§ 11.24 a.m.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
I rise to speak very briefly and, predictably, to welcome the Bill. It would take a very brave man to oppose the Bill. Certainly no one in the Chamber has attempted to oppose it, although it has not received a welter of enthusiasm.
The debate possibly has suffered to some extent in that it has come so soon after the debate which we had in March. The speech of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)—I do not say this in any carping sense because it was inevitable—tended to have a rather familiar ring about it. Many of the points which have been aired on the benches opposite can be found in the columns of HANSARD for 8th March. This is not a bad thing, because the Government are engaged in this so-called and, perhaps one might almost say, notorious general review of the fishing industry. It is clear that the delay in completing this task has been longer than was expected and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State would be the first to agree that back bench Members should try to keep the pressure on and to keep chipping away for the answers which they want, although they may make a rather oppressive reading for those who scour the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I represent a constituency in a port which is largely engaged in middle distance fishing as distinct from most hon. Members who have spoken and who represent near water interests. For Aberdeen, the problem of vessel replacement baulks very large. Our fleet does not enjoy the famous balanced age structure about which we have heard so much in recent fishing debates and about which the Minister has heard so much in recent months. Our fleet was modernised all at once in the late 1950s, thanks to the co-operation of the White Fish Authority and is now marching solidly, if one might put it, into reshaping and old age at the same time. If we are to replace the Aberdeen fleet, we shall be faced with the problem of laying down in two or three years, in the early 1970s, a very large number of new keels.
475 This brings us up against the question of the scrapping ratio which was mentioned on 8th March. If for conventional trawlers we stand on the 1½–1 ratio, when there is a situation such as there is in Aberdeen, we must look over a very short period—two or three years—for a very large reduction in the number of boats fishing out of Aberdeen. An inflexible insistence on the present policy and rules would lead exactly to this result.
I have said before, and I have no hesitation in saying it again, that I hope that the Government will look very carefully at paragraph 33 of the Estimates Committee's Report which suggested that the fears which prompted the scrapping ratio policy had been very largely exaggerated. But there is very little case for maintaining it in its present rigid form.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
I support what the hon. Gentleman is saying. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) made the same point. The hon. Gentleman is right in what he says about the ratio. Would he agree that members on both sides of the House should be urging the Government to complete the review referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice? Will he and his colleagues from the other side of Aberdeen help to push the Government in this direction?
§ Mr. Dewar
In my very modest way, I certainly accept that. I have referred to the fact that the review is taking longer than I would like, and certainly longer than hon. Members opposite would like. I will return to that point in about 15 seconds, in the last sentence of my speech.
I am not sure that I understand the procedural niceties which have forced us to approach the Bill in this way, although I gather that we shall probably have an affirmative order in the near future which will allow us to ask exactly the same questions in exactly the same way and get exactly the same answers from the Government. Whether that is an advertisement for the technical ingenuity involved, I am not sure.
I am interested in the question of the scrapping ratio. Even when we get our extra 5 per cent., there will be cash problems in the mass replacement of the Aberdeen fleet. The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) 476 talked about initial cash deposits. Very large sections of the Aberdeen fleet are having great difficulty in covering their depreciation, let alone making adequate profits and putting aside reserve cash funds. It may well be that we shall again have a very considerable cash crisis and the White Fish Authority or the Government once more will have to look very sympathetically at the problems when they arise.
I hope that the comprehensive review about which we have been talking will be pushed on with a great deal of energy. I am a little suspicious of the suggestion that one or two piecemeal solutions should be brought forward. If the Government were to do that, it might be an excuse for putting off the final general review for even longer. I would much prefer a final energetic spurt and the possibility in the next few months of the Government's mind being made up and revealed to the House. This would remove a great deal of uncertainty in the industry and would gain the approbation and whole hearted support of both sides of the House.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I welcome the Bill in so far as it aids fishermen. The fishermen of England, although they are still sung about by amateur dramatic societies, tend to be forgotten by the general public. We read a great deal in the Press about industrial work and each side of the House vies with the other to produce measures which will increase the employment of industrial workers, although those measures are sometimes very controversial, such as the Selective Employment Tax. In their recent Green Paper the Government have proposed that the use of Selective Employment Tax should be extended in the development areas.
The House may recollect that on 10th March, when I was moving a Motion about unemployment in the South-West, I put forward the suggestion that it would be wiser to develop those industries already in existence in development areas rather than to concentrate on trying to introduce new industries. One of the industries in the South-West that I mentioned was fishing, because of its immense economic importance in reducing the import of food and helping thereby to keep straight the balance of payments.
477 Cornwall is a traditional fishing area and the crest of Cornwall is flanked by two figures one of whom is intended to be a tin miner and the other a pilchard fisherman. Both industries have declined for reasons not due to lack of the product with which they deal. There is no shortage of tin and there is no substantial shortage of fish. But methods have changed and the product which people are prepared to buy has changed, and so the inshore fisherman is at a considerable disadvantage if he seeks to carry on with the traditional methods. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that he should have new and improved methods.
Grants for improvements in fishing are more important to inshore men than to either the middle water or distant fleets. The bigger vessels have been improved to a large extent, but the inshore men are still struggling, so far as they struggle at all, very largely with the older types of vessel. In Mevagissey, in my constituency, we have a fish canning factory which some years ago suggested that it would be prepared to tin tunny, on the supposition that a large proportion of the tinned tunny sold in this country came from the coastal waters of Southern Ireland, where it is caught by Spanish fishermen and canned on the Continent, which is ridiculous when Cornwall is so much closer to the waters concerned. But, so far as I know, nobody has done anything about this proposition, largely, I suppose, because the Cornish inshore boats are too small. With improved and slightly larger boats, Cornish ports might be able to undertake this type of fishing and one hopes that these grants will encourage fishermen to get such vessels.
The same sort of consideration applies to pilchards. I am not satisfied that enough has been made of pilchard fishing, in that we are still concentrating attention on selling pilchards canned in tomato juice, which has a very limited sale. The pilchard is the same fish as the sardine and if it were filleted and sold in a club can with olive oil, it could compete with the sardine market. I recollect that the Fleck Report, or some other Report produced at about that time, said that there were still plenty of pilchards in the Channel and that, with modern methods and slightly larger vessels, it would be possible to increase the catch.
478 I hope that the inshore fishermen will take advantage of the Bill and improve their vessels, or get new vessels. I hope that the Bill is also part of a package deal by the Ministry in that it will not confine itself merely to encouraging the development of new vessels, for many of the problems of the fishing industry, certainly for the inshore men, are connected with marketing. Until there are appropriate markets and channels through which fish can be got to the public, it is no good paying grants for fishermen to improve vessels which will not be used unless the catch can be readily and profitably disposed of.
With those remarks and reservations, I welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction.
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Salisbury)
I do not want to delay the House or appear in any way critical, but there are one or two small matters in the Bill about which we should be told a little more before we agree to the Second Reading. As I do not always attend these fishing debates, perhaps I ought to explain to the Under-Secretary that there was a time when I myself considered going into the industry, and certainly even nowadays there are moments when I wish that I had instead of being locked up here.
I remember going on one occasion to stay in Glasgow where I looked at four boats whose bread and butter was herring fishing. They were based on Loch Fyne. The interesting thing was that one of the four had been converted into a mother ship, with tanks on board, and all of them had harpoons mounted in the bows. During six weeks in the summer, they went to the Hebrides where they fished for sharks, which was a considerable attraction to me at that time and, as shark oil was fetching £120 a ton it was an economic proposition. However, that fell through, but I stress that I have retained my interest in and fondness for the fishing industry.
I want, as the Under-Secretary does, to see the fishing industry in a healthy state and, obviously, loans and grants and subsidies were absolutely necessary to it in the days of which I have been speaking, particularly in order that it could recoup from its war-time losses. I am also anxious that the industry should be sufficiently modernised to be able to operate 479 independently. I would like it to be in such good shape that it no longer had to rely on subsidies.
I accept that our fishing fleets make a valuable contribution to the economy. I do not know the exact figure, but I imagine that about £1 million worth a week of its products are bought and consumed in this country, and certainly over the last 10 or 15 years many new keels have been laid while dieselisation and modernisation have made considerable progress.
But here we are debating subsidies within hours of the Prime Minister's statement that we are applying for membership of the European Economic Community. This is something which has already been mentioned this morning by my hon. Friends the Members for Haltem-price (Mr. Wall), Banff (Mr. Baker), Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour), and it is relevant to the matter which we are debating this morning. We are told that the Government, quite rightly, accept the Community's agricultural and fisheries policy. Within the Community it has been found necessary to eliminate separate national policies, that is to say, different levels of intervention and protection. The support arrangements of independent member States have had to be standardised. All this leads quite soon to a free trade among member States in fish and fish products.
That being so, I would welcome a brief clarification of the relevance of the Bill to our application for membership of the Community. The rate of grant envisaged may well need to be reconsidered. If the industry has to stand on its own feet, though this may be a rather painful process, how do the Government see this being arranged? How will the support be phased out, if this is what is to happen? If the industry has to live without grants anyway, should it not learn sooner rather than later, thereby relieving the hard-pressed taxpayer to whom reference has already been made?
Alternatively, can the case be made that insufficient progress has been made in modernisation and that the industry is not yet in a position to meet the full challenge that awaits it? If this is so, ought not the rates of grant to be stepped up? In other words, should not the in- 480 dustry have an extra shot in the arm now while this is still possible and before it has to go into the ring?
It would be a mistake to underestimate the competition the industry will meet from the French, the Belgian and the Dutch fleets in the years immediately ahead. It would therefore be helpful if the Under-Secretary would comment on the adequacy or inadequacy of this little Bill in the light of the present situation.
The Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland? What is envisaged here? No doubt the reason is a technical one, but Ulster is an integral part of the United Kingdom and all of us are conscious that here unemployment level today is running at 9 per cent. I should therefore like a word of reassurance from the Under-Secretary to the effect that whatever rates of grant are applied here will be applied in not less degree there.
Northern Ireland has, and will always have, a high freight cost factor to meet. If we join the Community, and if the Channel Tunnel materialises, this natural handicap will become more pronounced. Before agreeing to approve the Second Reading of the Bill, I want to be assured that Northern Ireland is not being left out in the cold. I have no reason this morning to believe that the Bill is not to be Welcomed.
It would help those of us who represent inland constituencies, and who therefore are not well versed in these very complicated grants, but who are nevertheless keenly interested in the implications of the Government's European policy, if the Under-Secretary would comment briefly on these points and set the Bill in its new context, in the light of yesterday's statement by the Prime Minister.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) in welcoming what has turned out now to be the intermittent presence of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is always nice to hear somebody talking about fishing from the Government Front Bench who speaks with an accent of England rather than with the accent of Scotland. It is a pleasant change, if I may say so without disrespect to those of 481 my hon. Friends who come from Scotland.
The Minister's first departure this morning coincided with my hon. Friend's reference to the Common Market. Whether this was a mere matter of coincidence, or whether the Minister went to get the support of his Parliamentary Private Secretary, I know not. Perhaps his departure had some significance.
I join other hon. Members in welcoming this Measure, which was heralded in the previous debate. I do not think that it is any great gift or concession to the industry, because, as I understand it, the 5 per cent. will merely bring this industry into line with other industries which received the 5 per cent. when the investment grants were increased.
I understand that the Chancellor's object in increasing the investment grant by 5 per cent. was to give a boost to falling investment. I welcome this increase, but I question whether a 5 per cent. boost, or Is. in the £—£350,000— is sufficient to urge fishing vessel owners to build new vessels or to modify existing ones. I have my doubts about whether this is a sufficient boost in the context of industry generally, and in the context of the fishing industry in particular.
I particularly welcome the fact that to get this increase we have had to abolish the limits which were set out in the 1953 Act. This will make the position for the industry far more flexible than it has been and will enable the Minister to react more quickly and easily by introducing schemes to the House than he could while the limitation remained in the Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) raised the question of the effect of entry into the Common Market on our inshore fishermen in particular. There are inshore fishermen in my constituency. Doubts have been raised about the question of the Community fishermen being able to fish wherever they like. This would mean that the limits would go. It is, perhaps, a little alarmist to say that this is even likely to be the position. The fishing policy of the E.E.C. has not yet been settled. I have a feeling in my bones that the fishermen of France and other European countries will be just as keen 482 to defend their limits as we are to defend ours. It would be dangerous to assume, in the absence of further information, that this will be the policy of the Common Market.
My hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton) referred to the position once we entered the Community. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice, I have tried to do some research into the different levels of subsidy, grant or allowance paid, not only by E.E.C. countries, but by countries outside the Community. Information which my hon. Friend gave showed that in the E.E.C. countries there are various levels of help and various forms of assistance. So far, at least, there seems to be no common pattern.
I therefore hope that, if we are to go into Europe, we shall be there in sufficient time to influence the pattern of support rather than for it to be settled while we are still outside the Community.
It is not only the question of the E.E.C. which we must consider in relation to price support given by other countries to their fishing fleets. The research I did in the Library enabled me to find pamphlets and books produced on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations comparing the different kinds of support in countries all over the world. These seemed to be confined to what we call countries of the free world. What I could not find out was the level of support given by Communist or Socialist countries to their fishing fleets.
As everyone knows, we have to compete seriously with the Poles and the Russians fishing the same fishing grounds as our own fishermen use. It would be of great interest if a study could be made of the levels of help given by Governments to their fishing industries. It would enable us to know whether we were being generous or mean to our own fishermen. If a Paper could be produced by the Ministry, it would be of tremendous help to us in various ways, especially when we are considering E.E.C. questions.
I come now to a problem which affects my own fishing port of Fleetwood, that is, the need to attract new fishermen into the industry and to bring back some of those who have been to sea and have left. 483 This is becoming an increasingly difficult problem because our hake fishing grounds off the West Coast have been badly overfished and our trawlers now have to make longer journeys, some going away for much more than the three weeks' trip to Iceland which used to be common and going to sea for up to as long as five weeks.
This new state of affairs means that conditions for the fishermen both as to safety and comfort need all the improvement that can be given. I know that trawler owners are trying to do their best in this respect, and I welcome that the new grant covers the safety factor as well as the comfort of the crew. When fishermen are on a voyage up to five weeks away from home, they are often fishing in places where medical help is a great distance away, and it is essential, therefore, that their ships should be as safe as possible and that their comfort on board should equally be secure. I welcome this extra grant, therefore, which may enable owners to make improvements on both counts.
The inshore fisherman is getting into a more and more difficult position because of the cost of his boats. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Baker) has made this point on several occasions. It is now almost beyond the purse of a fisherman even to put down a sufficient deposit to get a new fishing boat. In fact, many boats are going to sea which the fishermen would dearly like to replace but which they are financially unable to replace. I echo what my hon. Friend said about the check which is to be kept to see that the grant is not passed on to the builders, who will realise that fishermen can have an easy grant. There should be a check not only from the fisherman's point of view but from the taxpayer's point of view as well.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury, raised the question whether there should be grants to the fishing industry. To that I reply that the Fleck Report looks forward to the industry being independent, and this is still the general aim, but it must not be forgotten that these grants are only comparable to the grants given to an industry which is equipping itself with machinery. These grants of up to 45 per cent. are payable 484 in development areas on new machinery which is put into factories there, and I see no reason why similar grants should be denied to the fishing industry. We certainly expect treatment equal to that accorded to other industries, and this everyone interested in fishing will do his best to secure. I do not consider that the present grants for new ships and machinery and the safety factors going with them have gone too far, or that this is a subsidy which should be done away with at this time. I cannot accept that at all. So long as industry in general is receiving investment grant, the fishing industry is entitled to its own investment grants for new ships and equipment.
I welcome the modest 5 per cent. increase which is to be given, but I express again my doubt about whether it will be effective enough to induce our owners to build the extra new vessels, which would take up unemployment in the shipyards, and whether it will sufficiently encourage them to modernise those ships which are in need of modernisation.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
Before coming to my comments on the Bill, I cannot help but draw attention to the empty benches on the Government side of the House during this debate on an important Bill which so many of us on this side have come here to support. There is an hon. Gentleman so far below the Gangway that it is almost impossible to see him, and he came in five minutes ago. The only feature which makes the situation a little better—I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) on coming in for a moment—is that the Minister of Agriculture, quite rightly, graced the House in opening the debate with a com-mendably short speech and he has been in once since.
This is an important Bill. If one looks back through the various other Measures, copies of which I have here, it is clear that this Bill is a distillation of many Bills over a number of years. As a final comment on the empty benches opposite, I can only say that those hon. Members on the Government side who have been so keen to bring in the television cameras must now be having second thoughts.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
My hon. Friend is not doing justice to the 485 presence of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, with his well-known interest in Far Eastern waters.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I could not comment on the fishing possibilities there.
The Bill has such wide relevance to the construction and improvement of fishing vessels in general that I must make a few inquiries of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, with particular reference to the importance of fishing to Wales. We have heard some excellent speeches today from Scotland, from the South-West and from the North-West, but it is not generally known—if I do not make a plea on behalf of Wales, no other hon. Member, as far as I can see, will do it—that what Grimsby is to England and Aberdeen is to Scotland, Milford is to Wales. The fishing port of Milford, although it has had its ups and downs, like other ports, is a great fishing port still. I well remember, on the first occasion I went there some years ago, seeing the great ships coming in and delivering their fish at the quayside, the various fish being sorted into tubs to go off on the expresses to so many towns throughout the country.
During the passage of the 1953 Bill, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), on 20th January, went so far as to criticise the system of support for the industry. Whether he was right is another matter. He said:Nobody likes subsidies for a dying industry.… the fishing industry subsidy exists only as a prop. We ought to be directing our attention to the permanent solution of the malaise existing in the industry.At that time the hon. Gentleman described the grant as quite inadequate. Admittedly today the grant is being increased, but the hon. Gentleman went on to say:The man who is in permanent receipt of the subsidy is slowly but inevitably on his way to the bankruptcy court."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 76.]I wish that the hon. Gentleman were here today. I would like to hear what he has to say about the Welsh part of the fishing industry, because I do not believe that all that he said on that occasion was accurate, nor would I like to subscribe to it.The fact that there have been seven Bills concerned with the fishing industry during the 486 last ten years might lead people to believe that the fishing industry has had more than its fair share of Parliamentary time, but in view of the importance of the Bill to which we are today giving a Second Reading, and of its wide ramifications, I make no apology for introducing into this House the eighth Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1961; Vol. 649, c. 201.]Those words were spoken by the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Christopher Soames, when introducing what became the Sea Fish Industry Act of 1962. This, too, is referred to in the Schedule to the Bill, and it is desired by the promoters of this Measure to repeal Section 3(8) and paragraph 21(2) of Schedule 2 to that Act. I believe I am right in saying that the 1962 Act stemmed from the recommendations of the Fleck Report, and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), and by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg).
Under the Schedule to the 1962 Act, if a vessel was less than 80 ft. long, the grant could not exceed three-tenths of the expenditure, and in any other case one-quarter of the expenditure. I understand that this limit is to be removed, and I am sure that this is right. What will be the upper and lower limits of length in a ship which can attract grant? Others of my hon. Friends have referred to this, but I should like to hear the Government's answer.
Section 1 of the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1957, which is also referred to in the Bill before us, stipulates that only ships not exceeding 140 ft. in length can be considered by the White Fish Authority for grant, for either new boats, or boats with engines being changed from coal burning to oil burning, and I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would tell us some more about this.
I mentioned earlier my reasons for making inquiries about this Bill. I said that I was particularly concerned with the problems of sea fishing from Wales. I know that it makes a considerable contribution to our economy. During the Second Reading of the White Fish and Herring Industries Bill in 1957, the then Minister of Agriculture said that the near and middle water sections, the inshore vessels, and the herring catches between them landed fish to the value of between 487 £20 million and £25 million. I wonder what the figure is now, and what proportion of it comes from Welsh ports.
The right hon. Gentleman said this morning that in 1966 the industry had made its highest catch for 10 years. All that I am asking the hon. Gentleman to do is to translate his right hon. Friend's statement into actual figures so that we can compare them, and answer my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde who asked whether the fishing industry would show an increase in productivity as a result of this grant which we hope the House will give.
I turn now to the Schedule to the Bill which proposes to repeal part of the Industrial Development Act, 1966, namely:In Section 28, in subsection (1), the words from 'and subsection (8)' onwards, and subsection (2).That Act was passed only in 1966. I may be wrong about this, and if I am I hope that the Minister will correct me. Why were the provisions limiting the extent of the grant inserted in that Measure? If one looks at the appropriate Section, one sees that those words should never have been inserted there, for surely by that time the Government had decided on their changes in policy? I may be wrong about this, but was not that a mistake in the drafting of the Bill, or did the Government make their change of policy after the Bill was passed?
I come now to the question which affects all Bills concerning grant payment changes. There is always some difficulty over the question of dates. This occurs in the agriculture industry and in other industries which receive grants. In some cases the change of date delays the introduction of a scheme. As I read Clause 1(2), grants paid on expenditure made before 1st January, 1967, are still liable to the limits imposed by the three Measures itemised in the Schedule to the Bill. So far, so good, but subsection (2) goes on to say thatany such scheme made before the commencement of this Act may be varied accordingly and, in particular, so as to provide for increasing the amount of a grant already paid under the scheme beyond the limit previously applicable to that grant.Surely those two statements are in diametric contradiction one to the other? It seems that one cannot on the one 488 hand have the dividing date on 1st January, and, at the same time, have a system where, by amending the scheme, the grant can be paid. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with the advice available to him in his Ministry, can deal with this matter, and I shall be grateful if he will do so.
We learn from the Estimates Committee of 1966–67 that grants on new ships are based upon a 2 to 1 scrapping ratio. This matter has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and other of my hon. Friends, as well as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar). I repeat what I said in a short intervention in the hon. Member's speech. The question was put straightforwardly by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice. Will the Government press on with the review of the ratio? I am prepared to believe that they understand the importance of the matter, but I ask them to press on, so that they produce an answer.
As I said at the beginning, I support the Bill. We all hope that it will help British fishermen. I merely ask two brief questions in conclusion. The Bill asks Parliament to approve grants without a statutory maximum. This is an open-ended commitment. According to the Explanatory and Financial MemorandumA scheme in pursuance of the Bill which provided for an increase of 5 per cent. in the rates of grant would result in estimated additional expenditure of £350,000 in a full year.How can the Minister say with any degree of accuracy that a 5 per cent. increase in the rate of grant will result in an estimated additional expenditure of £350,000? How, in all fairness, can the Minister—with whatever advice he has behind him in his Ministry—tell the House that his Ministry has been able to work out this figure? How does the Ministry know what shipowners will ask the Government for what types of grant for what types of ship? How do they know what size the ships will be? I concede that the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum makes a sincere attempt to tell the House what sort of bill may have to be faced, but I cannot see how it can be said that the figure will be £350,000, for the reasons I have adduced.
I wish the Bill a fair wind, but I hope that I have been able to point out a 489 number of questions which the Minister will be prepared to deal with, for our benefit and for the benefit of the fishing industry.
§ 12.14 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)
I am grateful for the opportunity of being able to make a brief intervention in an extremely interesting and enlightening debate. One of my hon. Friends pointed out that the question of the white fish and herring industry came before the House on more occasions than many other subjects. I have noticed that whenever it has come before the House it has been dealt with—at any rate by my hon. Friends—with a great deal of knowledge and interest.
This morning's debate has been no exception. We have had speeches from Members representing what we might term maritime constituencies—from Scotland, Wales and the West Country—
§ Sir Frank Pearson
And Yorkshire. They have expressed views which ought to be of the greatest assistance to the Minister in his consideration of this question.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk Southwest)
I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind when mentioning the various constituencies interested in this question that Norfolk has a very long coastline but that no Member representing a Norfolk constituency has yet been called.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having mentioned that point. I had always connected the great county of Norfolk much more with the production of beef than brill. I have no doubt that Norfolk also has a vital interest in this matter.
Most of the contributions made in the debate so far have come from representatives of constituencies with a direct interest in the catching of fish and in the livelihood of that grand body of men, the inshore fishermen. I therefore apologise for intervening as a representative of a constituency that, by no stretch of the imagination, can claim any direct interest in inshore fishing. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. They should not forget that whether a 490 constituency is situated on the coast or bang in the middle of the country its constituents are eaters of fish, and to that extent they are concerned in the matters that we are discussing.
I always like to have precedents for my incursions into debates. It may not be altogether clear to the uninitiated why I am now intervening. My mind goes back to a certain night in 1961, when my hon. Friends and I were on the other side of the House and hon. Members opposite were on this side. The occupant of a seat in, I believe, the third row below the Gangway made a remarkable contribution to the debate. I believe that it was the present Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever).
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I have already referred to that speech. I am glad that my hon. Friend is referring to it again.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I welcome the opportunity of slightly enlarging upon what he said.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
I should like my hon. Friend to quote the whole of that speech so that I fully understand it. I was completely at a loss to understand what my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) was talking about in his reference to that speech in his intervention.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
It is an interesting suggestion, but time is getting on and I do not want to waste it. I shall not go right through the speech, but I want to draw attention to the opening paragraph, which has a great bearing on my present intervention. The hon. Member said:It is with some diffidence that I rise to speak on this subject.Hon. Members intervened with the question, "Why?", and the hon. Member went onbecause there are no notorious fishing grounds in my own constituency. There is, of course, the Manchester Ship Canal …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 1095.]That remark caused great hilarity at the time, but it reinforces my point that wherever a constituency may be it has an interest in the white fish and herring 491 industry. It is right that one should briefly put one's views.
I remember the debate on the original Act. I have rarely read a Bill so short as the present one, so clear or so succinct, which makes absolutely certain that all hon. Members entirely understand what we are doing. Nevertheless, although it raises the limit, it is worth while considering the initial basis of these grants. Clause 1(1,a) of the original Act said that certain grants may be made in aid for expenditure incurredin the acquisition of new fishing vessels not exceeding one hundred and forty feet in length;This limit on length worries me, because I am not sure of its basis.
I read through one or two of the previous debates and understand that, when the original Act of 1953 came forward, many inshore fishing boats were about 74 ft. long. As the years have gone by, so the economic size of vessels has increased. Are we absolutely certain that, 13 years after the passing of that Act, techniques have not so altered and designs been so modernised that the original limit of 140 ft. is now out of date?
It is easy, when the Minister is amending ing an Act and concentrating on the limits of the grants, to lose sight of these other, perhaps minor, but still important points which can have such an effect on the industry. I hope that this will be considered—
§ Mr. Ramsden
What my hon. Friend says has great relevance. I believe that the Russians operate their long-distance trawlers with a parent ship fulfilling such functions as freezing the catch and that they are considered, in quarters more knowledgeable than I am, to be far ahead of us in technological methods. If we go on to the same sort of system, will this larger ship, the parent ship, qualify for this type of grant?
§ Sir Frank Pearson
That is extremely important. There is no doubt that all the techniques of fishing are altering so rapidly that no one can say that one boat on its own will be the pattern for the whole industry. I hope that the specifications of vessels which attract grants will be considered.
492 Clause 2(1,a) of the 1953 Act placed a limitation on grants paid for expenditure incurred in acquiring a vessel, saying that it should not exceed the following amount:where the said expenditure does not exceed twenty thousand pounds and the grant is made to an individual who satisfies the Authority that he is or is to be a working owner of the vessel, three-tenths of the said expenditure or five thousand pounds, whichever is the less;".Once the grants are raised substantially, should not that lower limit be raised proportionately? This is eminently reasonable, but the Act does not cater for it. I hope, however, that the Minister will not lose sight of this point.
We have been discussing white fish, and there is no more pleasant subject. I am extremely fond of turbot, halibut and cod. My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) mentioned tunny and sardines, which I had never realised were white fish, so we have learned something this morning. But we are also dealing with herrings. As the hon. Member for Cheetham pointed out in his magnificent speech, the herring is probably an even more important commodity than white fish. It is highly nutritious, with a very large percentage of oil and is a valuable food. We should be wrong not to give as much consideration to herrings as we have been giving to white fish.
The limit in the Clause 2(1,a) of the original Act applied to a person.… who satisfies the Authority that he is or is to be a working owner of the vessel.It is important that the grant for white fish should be paid only to working owners. That is a strict limitation, yet on herrings—
§ Sir Frank Pearson
I quite agree, but, in considering the Minister of Agriculture's handling of these affairs, my mind goes back to the passage of the Agriculture Bill, when we were told time after time that it was of the greatest urgency that the Bill should go through. I and my hon. Friends hurried through debates and curtailed our speeches and 493 did everything in our power to ensure the Bill's passage. And what happened? It took 2½ years of Government time to go through. So my reply to hon. Gentlemen opposite who talk about urgency is that, until the Government can arrange their business properly, they must expect extensive debates. No hon. Members opposite wish to come to these debates. On this side, the benches are full and it is only right that we should debate this matter fully—
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that his Front Bench agree with him that arrangements should be made to get business through more quickly? We have the majority in the House to do that, if that is the position.
§ Sir Frank Pearson
Being in the happy position of a back bencher, I have had no consultation with my Front Bench at all—
§ Sir Frank Pearson
That is a very valid point. Governments which dabble in retrospective legislation must pay the price, which is that a subject will be debated in extenso. This is absolutely right—
§ Mr. G. Campbell
My hon. Friend began by pointing out that he was speaking for a constituency which did not have fishing fleets and quoted from the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), who is now a Member of the Government. Can he assure us that he will not speak as long as the hon. Member, who took, I believe, nearly two hours in the early morning?
§ Sir Frank Pearson
I think that he took 1½ hours and ended at 2.30 in the morning this been a short and unsatisfactory debate, but no doubt 494 there will be another opportunity to carry it on, and I give an assurance that at that time I will not go on as long as the hon. Member for Cheetham did on that occasion. I hope that this is some consolation to the Minister.
I want to get back to the question of the different ways in which the herring industry is treated. Under Section—
§ It being half-past Twelve o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.