HC Deb 09 July 1975 vol 895 cc520-1
14. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Scottish fishing industry.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)

I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's reply on 11th June, and mine on 18th June to the hon. Member.—[Vol. 893, c. 187–8 Vol. 893, c. 442.]

Mr. Sproat

Although the fishing industry is grateful for the attitude shown by the Minister, may I ask whether he is aware that the situation in the industry is becoming desperate? Does he appreciate that the average prices were down by 10 per cent. on last year, that costs are still rising and that 25 per cent. of the STF is now tied up or has been switched to oil activities? Will he say something about the extension of the subsidy? Will he persuade the Department to pay out as soon as possible the subsidy to smaller owners, who are experiencing severe cash flow problems?

Mr. Brown

I assure the hon. Member that there will be no delay in the actual payment. Obviously we shall have to wait until the end of July before the claims can be paid. Against the background of the general state of the industry and the economic situation, we are urgently studying applications from the industry. As my hon. Friend said on 30th June, we hope to make an announcement about this as soon as possible. We also look with some degree of, perhaps, hope to the recent decision on producers' associations. That may make some marginal but perhaps helpful contribution to the prices that might be expected in the various fish markets.

Mr. Campbell

In the overall context of the fishing industry, is my hon. Friend still receiving complaints about illegal trawling in the waters of the Clyde and off the West Coast of Scotland? Is he satisfied that the transfer of the fishery protection vessel "Jura" to oil-protection duties in the North Sea will not cause a further deterioration in the situation off the West Coast of Scotland?

Mr. Brown

I have not received any recent representations about the Clyde. However, I point out that the fishery protection vessel, which will be performing other duties, was never intended for use in the Clyde. Therefore, there is no change in or limitation upon the existing facilities in the Fishery Protection Service.

Mr. Watt

Has the Minister given further thought to the introduction of a scrapping subsidy, which would enable the sections of the fishing industry which want to get out to do so without too much loss of income?

Mr. Brown

Strange as it may seem, I am always willing to give further thought to anything that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) says. [Interruption.] That is possibly because he does not come up with many good ideas. However, it is far too soon to talk about a scrapping subsidy when there is a long-term future for the industry. I do not think that the use of such exaggerated phrases is helpful when we must sit down and look at the possibilities for the future of the industry.