§ Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the critical situation which has arisen at fishing ports throughout the United Kingdom and particularly at the ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead in my constituency.I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having accepted this application. This matter is topical, for the reason that it is happening now. It is urgent, because an escalation of the present situation could threaten sections of the economy and put in jeopardy the jobs of over 100,000 people who are employed directly and indirectly in the fishing industry, covering 18,000 catchers and 90,000 people in the processing and allied sections of that industry.
This crisis arose out of the fact that an Icelandic reefer vessel carrying 200 tonnes of herring, 20 tonnes of laminated block cod and 15 tonnes of saith arrived at the port of Fraserburgh for delivery to a local processing company. There had been ever-increasing anger by the fishermen at the amount of white fish that was being imported into the United Kingdom at prices much lower than those that our fishermen were able to obtain at the 307 quayside. There had been a justifiable grievance at the continued increase in the import of white fish, which amounted to 234,175 tonnes in 1980, with a net value of £180 million.
The fishermen, who are having the most difficult of times because of the failure, so far, to achieve a common fisheries policy, are deeply worried. They cannot make ends meet. When they see—as one example—that their counterparts in Holland can obtain fuel at £127 per tonne and in France at £117 per tonne, as against the price in Lowestoft of £153 per tonne, their anger is justified. The fishing industry has never been one for militant action. What is taking place now is not being done merely to cause disruption; it is the only way in which the fishermen can demonstrate the deep feelings that exist about the problems that they face—problems that are, tragically, growing day by day.
Imports must be restricted to the essential requirements for the processors. There is no way in which our fishermen can compete with those from Iceland and Norway, when in those countries currency has depreciated by the greatest amount, in terms of sterling, which automatically allows importers from those countries and other parts of Europe to sell white fish in the United Kingdom at prices for cheaper than can be obtained by our own catchers.
The matter is critical. Action must be taken at once, and some solution must be found to let the fishermen return to sea. With the enormous dead-load being carried by the fishermen in terms of their vessels, and the heavy overheads that were spoken about and that are not matched by quayside prices, I ask that this House should be allowed to debate the problem and try to arrive at a solution pending the completion of the common fisheries policy, which would of itself remove many of the problems that face the fishing industry today.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) gave me notice this morning, before 12 o'clock, that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the critical situation which has arisen at fishing ports throughout the United Kingdom and particularly at the ports of Fraserburgh and Peterhead in his constituency.As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the many factors set out in the Order but to give no reason for my decision.
The House will know that I do not decide whether this matter is to be debated. I merely decide whether there should be an emergency debate tonight or tomorrow. The hon. Gentleman indicated quite clearly that the matter to which he has drawn our attention is very grave, but I regret that I cannot rule that his submission falls within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that you are aware that I, too, have applied to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9.
§ Mr. Speaker
Yes, but the hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced Member of the House, knows that he did not make his application before 12 o'clock. The House has given me instructions. It is always difficult when I have to apply the rules, especially to very senior Members. We are all senior here, but the hon. Gentleman is a Member with great experience, and he knows that I must abide by the rules.
§ Mr. Allaun
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You are putting me in a Catch 22 position, because earlier this morning I asked for a private notice question on this issue. I telephoned at 12.15 pm to inquire whether this had been granted. You, Mr. Speaker, decided in your wisdom that that was not to be so.
I could not seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 properly before 12 o'clock. Now you say that I cannot properly ask for the Adjournment under Standing Order No. 9 after 12 o'clock. In fairness to hon. Members of the House, a brief application under Standing Order No. 9 is in order.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must be firm. The hon Gentleman has broken the custom of the House by revealing that he applied to me for a private notice question. It is wrong if when Mr. Speaker does not allow a private notice question an hon. Member says "Very well, I shall raise the matter under Standing Order No. 9." That is an impossible situation with which to confront Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman made his choice, as all hon. Members must. They must decide whether they wish to ask for a private notice question or whether they wish to make an application under Standing Order No. 9. It is not fair to put the blame on me when the rules are clear.
§ Mr. Allaun
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You say that I have broken the custom of the House by saying that I wanted to apply for a debate under Standing Order No. 9 on the neutron bomb. On a previous occasion when I applied to you, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment of the House under Order No. 9, my request was not granted and the press were informed. They did not learn about it from me and I was not in the least worried. It is no use you, Mr. Speaker, saying that I have broken the custom of the House.
You, Mr. Speaker, are saying that I cannot have it both ways. That is precisely what you are preventing me from doing. If I had said to you this morning "If I do not succeed with a private notice question I shall apply for a debate under Standing Order No. 9" I should have been wrong. I consider that I have behaved properly and courteously.
§ Mr. Speaker
Because of the hon. Gentleman's long experience I have allowed him to conduct his argument, although I should have pulled up any other hon. Member long ago. No Speaker can have an argument with a Member of the House. We have both taken the points on board and they have been registered.