HC Deb 06 August 1980 vol 990 cc501-4
6. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his latest proposals for the fishing industry; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, fisheries Ministers have been considering carefully the case put to us recently by the fishing organisations about the economic state of the industry. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to await the statement which is shortly to be made on the conclusions that we have reached.

Mr. Grimond

How much longer will we have to wait? Even with guillotines, we understand that Parliament is to rise on Friday. It is urgent for the industry to know soon. What steps have the Government taken to limit imports which are having a disastrous effect on the market?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's concern. It was hoped that a statement could be made yesterday, but as hon. Members know, events Intervened. It is hoped that a statement can be made during the course of debates later today. On the question of imports, the right hon. Gentleman may be reassured to know that we have managed to take a lot of action in the EEC to raise reference prices and to improve protection against undue imports from that source.

Mr. Pollock

Will my right hon. Friend accept that had it not been for the wrecking tactics of the Opposition yesterday we would have details of that aid package? Does not the Opposition's action indicate scant regard for the true interests of Scottish fishermen, which will not go unnoticed?

Mr. Younger

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that Scottish fishermen will deplore the fact that it was not possible to make this information available as soon as it ought to have been available.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the Secretary of State aware that it is widely reported in every newspaper in the country that the Government intend to make £15 million available to the industry? Why can the press be told these matters, but the House of Commons cannot be told? Why does the Secretary of State hide behind bogus points of procedure? There will be great anger in the fishing industry, over the fact the £15 millon is so puny in relation to what the industry demands and needs to survive.

Mr. Younger

I have seen all sorts of reports in the newspapers. Most of them, in various degrees, are inaccurate. No statement on the matter has been put out by my Ministry or by any other Government Department. The statement will be made to the House in the proper way. The fact that it has not been made earlier is the fault of the Opposition.

Mr. Myles

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that any money generously made available to the fishing industry will be allocated carefully to ensure maximum benefit for the whole industry?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We have taken great care to work out methods of giving any extra aid that may be announced. That will be made clear by my hon. Friend when he makes the statement.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call one more hon. Member from each side. Mr. George Foulkes.

Mr. Grimond

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since it is stated in the newspapers this morning that £10 million is to be given to the fishing industry, and since the Government were apparently prepared to make a statement yesterday, why cannot the statement be made during Scottish questions today?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order to me.

Mr. Strang

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

It was not a point of order.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Secretary of State aware that his Minister of State refuses to meet the Clyde fishermen to discuss this issue? Ssince about 40 per cent. of United Kingdom fishing is done in Scottish waters, would it not be more appropriate for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make the statement, and not wait for the Minister of State to make it? Could it not be made now instead of some time later tonight?

Mr. Younger

I meet the chairman of the Clyde Fishermen's Association frequently. He is in close contact with me. All fisheries Ministers work in concert on these matters, and it is for us to decide which Minister makes the statement.

Mr. Sproat

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the £15 million, or whatever the sum is, will be welcomed by the fishing industry in Scotland, but that this is only a measure to keep the industry ticking over? Does he accept that it is important to negotiate a common fisheries policy, with particular emphasis on proper access and quotas, so that the industry can thrive without subsidies?

Mr. Younger

So far as press speculation is concerned, that is exactly what it is—just speculation. I agree with my hon. Friend that by far the most important issue for the fishing industry is a successful negotiation of the common fisheries policy. All of us are putting everything that we can into getting the right answer.