HC Deb 04 November 1976 vol 918 cc1604-6
8. Mr. Clegg

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whether he considers his policy for expanding food production to be still relevant so far as fish is concerned; and, if so, what aid he is going to provide for both the production and processing side of the industry.

Mr. Bishop

A policy of full economic use of our food production resources continues the right policy. The Government already provide considerable direct and indirect help to the industry. Expenditure in 1975–76 on support for the industry is estimated at over £27 million.

Mr. Clegg

In the event of the Icelandic discussions failing to reach agreement or in the event of a greatly reduced fishing effort, what plans are being made to help the Fleetwood and Humber ports if deep-sea trawlers have to be laid up?

Mr. Bishop

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that talks are taking place with both management and workers about the future of the industry. I think that he will have been heartened by my right hon. Friend's statement a few days ago about the negotiations now proceeding forthwith regarding Iceland. We anticipate that, with good will on both sides, progress can be made. However, if the reverse is the case, I think that we are in touch with the industry sufficiently to know about its future needs and what action may be taken.

Mr. James Johnson

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that if we allow our fish stocks to be exhausted or fished out within the 50-mile limit we shall have less food in future? Therefore, is not enforcement important? Will he tell us what steps the Ministry is taking in liaison with the Navy and the Ministry of Defence to expand our fishery protection patrol?

Mr. Bishop

My hon. Friend, whose concern about this matter is well known, is right to suggest that the industry is concerned about conservation. This is important, because it concerns the future of the industry just as much as other aspects of the negotiations. My hon. Friend will know, from what we have said about that enforcement, that we are concerned not only about Community enforcement of quotas and other restrictions but about national enforcement. My hon. Friend will be aware of the steps that have been taken, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence, for an increased number of vessels which may be considered necessary. This matter will have to be kept under constant review in the context of the development of a common fisheries policy.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister agree that, since the publication of "Food from our own Resources", the economic situation demands that we produce from our own resources not only more fish, but more from all sectors of agriculture? Have more resources been ploughed into the agriculture sector since publication of the White Paper? What proposals have the Government for increasing them?

Mr. Bishop

The Question relates to the importance of food rather than agriculture. We regard both as very important. The agricultural content of the White Paper is a matter for continuing review, including the coming annual price review and the CAP negotiations.

The estimate of Government expenditure on the fishing industry this year is £27.8 million. That will be of substantial help to the industry in terms of vessel grants, aids to the processing sector, and all the other back-ups that the industry needs now and in future.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does the Minister agree that fish farming can play its part in the expansion of food production in this country? What plans are there, and what details can he give the House about those plans, for expanding fish farming within the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland?

Mr. Bishop

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recall the recent debate that we had on this matter, when I was pleased to see the House wake up from its apparent slumbers and ask what we were doing. In my reply I said, first, that we were spending over £1 million a year on fish farming, which is a high percentage of the total budget, and, secondly, that we were in close contact with the industry, which was considering a memorandum that we put out. These matters are still under consideration. I am sure that the House will recognise that, while the Government are keen on fish farming, they must be realistic about the contribution that it can make to our food resources.

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