HC Deb 18 January 1978 vol 942 cc437-9
11. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new fishing vessels are now being built in Scottish yards.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie

Twenty-nine fishing vessels are currently being built with assistance from public funds. Also being built are, I understand, one small vessel for home owners without Exchequer aid, one for export and two speculatively.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the Minister agree that there is grave doubt about the use to which these new boats can be put unless we achieve renegotiation of the Common Market fisheries policy? Is there any information from Brussels that he can give us?

Mr. MacKenzie

The only information that I have from Brussels is that, as the House may have noticed, my right hon. Friend is not here. The Under-Secretary of State was asked to go to Brussels last night so that my right hon. Friend could be here today to answer these questions. Unhappily, the weather conditions are such that he is still stranded somewhere between Brussels and London. I know that he would wish me, on his behalf, to apologise to the House for his absence.

On the general issue about the fishing industry, I think that it would be more helpful to wait until my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have completed their negotiations and we have a fulsome statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I appreciate that the Minister is aware of the deep concern about the future of the fishing boat building industry and the fishing industry in general. Is he aware of the extremely depressing news out of Brussels not only yesterday but today? Is he further aware that, so long as the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture stand up for the preference of the British fishing industry, particularly the 50-mile zone, he will have the full support of both sides of the House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is anticipating another Question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Minister aware that there is a serious problem for small boat builders in Scotland, since they require continuity of work if they are to remain in business? Is he further aware that there are indications that the amount of loan funds available for the purchase and building of new fishing boats this year has been cut? Will he review the matter if he finds that some yards are running into difficulties?

Mr. MacKenzie

We are conscious of the problems of small boat builders throughout the whole country. For these reasons, the Government have given valuable assistance to them in recent times. Indeed, that was indicated to me only last week when I went to the Boat Show.

The second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary referred to a matter which will be reviewed by my right hon. Friend.

Dr. Bray

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there seems to be an opportunity for building fishing boats for the new fishing port opening on the western coast of the Isle of Lewis? The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who represents that area, is not present, but I am sure that he will not mind my asking whether those opportunities will be available for inshore fishing boat builders from Scotland rather than European fishing boat builders.

Mr. MacKenzie

That is one reason why the SDA took the initiative in that direction. We want to help Scottish fishermen and Scottish small boat builders whenever possible.

Mr. Penhaligon

Is the Minister aware that Scottish purse seiners and fishing boats are supplying 12 Soviet bloc factory ships in the port of Falmouth with 600 tons of mackerel a day? Will he assure the Cornish people that these boats will not continue to come to Cornwall and rape and kill the industry there as they have their own?

Mr. MacKenzie

That is an interesting question, but the hon. Gentleman must realise that it has nothing to do with the Question that I am answering now. Perhaps he will put it down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

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