HC Deb 21 July 1976 vol 915 cc1786-7
14. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest situation in the fishing industry.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to Question No. 1 today, or to what I said 10 days ago in the Scottish Grand Committee. The hon. Member should await the statement to be made in reply to the Private Notice Question this afternoon.

Mr. Sproat

Is the Minister aware that that was the most shamefully empty answer that has been heard in the House for a long time? Is he further aware that, despite a welcome rise in earnings, cost have also risen so that the average vessel in the Scottish fleet will lose as much as £25,000 again this year, and the industry cannot go on losing those amounts of money for very much longer? Is he also aware that yesterday's totally indecisive meeting at Brussels has been greeted with deep dismay by the fishing industry, and that nothing less than a 50-mile limit by October will do?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman recently said that one of my answers was the worst he had ever heard. Judging by what he said today, I am improving. As for the financial losses suffered by the Scottish Trawlers Federation, my officials met the federation last Thursday. We are giving the matter detailed consideration and we hope to inform the federation of our decision at an early date.

Mr. Buchan

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Tory Party is guilty of the grossest hypocrisy, because the Tory Government sold us out completely, in fishing policy terms, by putting us into the Common Market without examining questions of protection or future markets? Secondly, is he aware that the proposals which are at present being discussed in Brussels will be totally unacceptable to the Scottish fishing industry, and that a fight must be put up for a 50-mile limit?

Mr. Brown

I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's remarks, but he does no service to the Government or the fishing industry if he does not make equally clear that even with a 50-mile exclusive limit our industry would not catch the amount of fish that it now catches. Therefore, it is not simply a straightforward matter of assuming that if we go for a 50-mile limit all our problems will be solved.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Does the Minister accept that both the Labour and Conservative Parties have sold out the interests of the inshore fishermen? If there is any settlement on the lines of the map published in the Scotsman 10 days ago, it will be regarded by Scottish fishermen as the grossest betrayal.

Mr. Brown

That might be all right for the Stornoway Gazette, but I replied to this question 10 days ago.