HC Deb 14 April 1976 vol 909 cc1363-4
11. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the present state of the fishing industry.

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

This question was fully debated on 5th April, and I have nothing to add to what my hon. Friend and I said in opening and replying to the debate.

Mr. Sproat

It was not fully debated; it was very badly debated. As the March catch rate for the trawling fleet has declined by 10 per cent. compared with the February rate, are the Government still as optimistic about the financial viability of the Scottish fleet as they were? Will the hon. Gentleman say "Yes" or "No" to the question whether we are allowed under the EEC regulations to continue the fishing subsidy? If we are not, why are the French continuing to subsidise fishing fuel oil by 14 million francs this year?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman has asked about three questions. In the first 10 weeks of this year—that is, up to the middle of March—earnings for white fish trawlers over 80 feet were 50 per cent. higher than they were in the same period last year. The hon. Gentleman now recognises that we were perhaps nearer the mark than the exaggerated claims that he was making some weeks ago.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, any fuel or operating subsidy requires the approval of the EEC. To our knowledge, the French are not giving a comparable subsidy.

Mr. Corrie

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that part of the problem of the fishing industry is that a large amount of fish is being dumped in this country by such countries as Poland, which is bringing in fish at one-third the market price? Is there anything that the Government can do about it?

Mr. Brown

I am not aware of dumping by Polish vessels. Apparently that was a problem last year, but my information is that it is not a problem now. The main criticism was against Norwegian imports, and steps have been taken for Norwegian import prices to be increased.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Will the Secretary of State be continuing the role in the Common Market negotiations on the CFP that his predecessor played in recent weeks?

Mr. Brown

Yes. I am happy to be able to assure the hon. Gentleman—and to recognise the service given, particularly in recent months, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). I have already had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and that interest will continue. I am not sure whether mine will.

Mr. Watt

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the herring quotas allocated to the British fleet in the north-east Atlantic are totally inadequate? Will he seek a better deal for the British fisherman?

Mr. Brown

As the hon. Member knows, the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission is meeting next week to discuss this matter. There is a particular Scottish interest in herring. However, there must be greater recognition by all countries of the need for sound conservation measures. We are taking the initiative in that respect.