§ Mr. Brotherton (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a 30 statement regarding the action of the Humberside trawlermen in blockading the ports of Immingham and Grimsby.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
I have invited representatives of the fishermen to meet me tomorrow afternoon to discuss the position.
§ Mr. Brotherton
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the trouble is now spreading rapidly, and that 35 minutes ago the port of Fleetwood decided to join the dispute? Whilst I in no way condone the blocking of waterways, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman realises the seriousness of the problem, not only in that the port of Immingham and other ports are closed but because of the grave problems which the fishermen face? When the Minister meets them tomorrow, will he make it clear that he will take action to help them, particularly over the importing of frozen fish from Norway, Poland, Iceland and other non-EEC countries?
§ Mr. James Johnson
I do not condone the tactics used by the fishermen, basically inshore men at Immingham and Grimsby, but is my right hon. Friend aware that last Wednesday we debated the issue and all hon. Members, including me. were unanimous in asking my hon. Friend the Minister of State to take action by selective controls on imports, essentially from non-EEC States such as Norway, Iceland and Poland?
§ Sir William Elliott
Will the Minister recognise the immense cost to the port of Tyne which the present stoppage is causing? Is he aware that six ships are unable to enter the river, four more are due, and five cannot leave, and that if the stoppage continues it will quickly have an effect on employment in the port? It is certainly very costly. Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise the need for urgency in holding his discussions?
§ Mr. Beith
Is the right hon. Gentleman surprised that the fishermen's anger has boiled up into this regrettable action? Does he recognise that many fishermen feel angry that he does not seem to have given the problems of inshore fishing the attention they require in the Dublin talks or in the review of fish prices which was eventually and belatedly agreed by the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection? Will he take urgent action on these problems?
§ Mr. Clegg
Is the Minister aware that the fishermen of Fleetwood are not only angry but desperate? Otherwise, they would not be taking this action. There is a clear case of dumping. We asked the Government last week to do something about it. That is the way out of the problem. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take that action as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Bowden
is the Minister aware that I have had great difficulty in per 32 suading the Sussex inshore fishermen not to take illegal action? I sincerely hope that they will not, but unless the right hon. Gentleman and the Ministry can do something about the problem of beam trawling in relation to these inshore men, he will have a great deal of trouble on his hands.
I am aware of the problem. I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said about taking action.
§ Mr. Pym
The House will be glad that the Minister is aware of the concern, which is very deep, particularly with regard to unfair competition and the way in which imports are coming into the country. There is also anxiety about the Government's determination to ensure that international arrangements are fulfilled and, if necessary, policed. We are glad that the right hon. Gentleman is to meet the industry. When did he last meet the industry? Will he make a full statement tomorrow, or on Wednesday, about the results of his talks, how he sees the position, and what he can do to help the fishermen?
§ Mr. Peart
I have met the major representatives of the larger section of the industry, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State has been in touch with the industry about which we are talking. I am anxious to meet representatives of the industry. They will come from Northumberland, North Yorkshire and, I hope, other areas. We feel that they have a problem, and I shall consider it.
§ Mr. Rathbone
In spite of the Minister's denial of any responsibility for this sad occurrence, because of the limited nature of the help given to the fishing fleet—especially the point made earlier about the exclusion of small fishing craft —I hope that the Minister will include that point in his talks tomorrow.
§ Mr. Skinner
May I prevail upon my right hon. Friend, whilst he is attempting to mediate in this important matter, not to use any influence he may have along the lines followed by the previous Tory administration when it allowed, or perhaps cajoled and persuaded, the powers that be to use the Conspiracy Act against people fighting for what they believed to be their justified rights?