§ Order for Second Reading read.3.42 pm
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Peter Walker)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I welcome the fact that at the first sitting of the House in 1981 we are discussing an important and major piece of legislation for the British fishing industry. I think that both sides of the House agree that, for a diversity of reasons, the 1970s was an unhappy period for the industry. A combination of events, none of them connected with party politics, created a position in which the industry had to go through a number of painful transitions and substantial losses in its fishing capabilities. It suffered the major loss of the long distance facilities in the Icelandic waters, the near disappearance of the herring stocks, the failure to reach agreement on a commen fisheries policy, and a massive increase in the cost of energy—an important component cost. Those factors combined to create a position that involved many difficulties for the industry.
That position brought with it some considerable changes in the basic structure of the fishing fleet. It is interesting to consider the transformation in the balance between our long distance fishing fleet and the inshore and medium distance fleet, which now provides the bulk of our industry. Even in recent years, the number of deep sea vessels operating has been reduced from nearly 100 in 1977 to 52 in 1980. The volume of the total catch of the long distance fleet, measured in tonnes, is but 9 per cent. compared with 91 per cent. for the inshore and medium distance fleet.
Partly as a result of the determination of some of those formerly engaged in long distance fishing to transform their ships to ships more suited to the fish available, during those same years the number of vessels in our fleet increased from 6,900 in 1977 to almost 7,300 in 1980. Those changes have been difficult and painful. I am sure that they bring to the industry the hope that the 1980s will be a better time—a time of expansion and confidence as opposed to the uncertainty of the 1970s. With that in mind, the Government decided to bring forward legislation early in this Session to allow us to do a diversity of things that we hope will enable Governments during the 1980s to take appropriate action to ensure future success for our fishing industry.
I regret that the debate takes place when there is still no agreement on a common fisheries policy. I hope that it will be possible to reach an agreement early in 1981. It is something that our industry both requires and wishes to see. While it is easy in political terms to reject agreements, it is, as the industry understands, important to have an agreement that will bring about sensible conservation policies throughout Europe and that will give our fishing industry preferential areas in which to fish and adequate quotas to secure a sound and sensible future.
I regret that when a possible agreement was put forward at the last meeting of the Fisheries Council disagreement with the French about their demands for access meant that 752 the rest of the Community had no possibility of reaching an agreement. I hope that by the time the Council next meets the French Government will have reconsidered their position and will recognise that an agreement is available that will be sane and sensible for all the countries in the Community. In terms of Community policy, there is no doubt that conservation and quota control on a European basis has considerable advantages. I hope that those advantages will be obtained. They will give long-term confidence to the industry as a whole.
In recent times the industry has faced the burden of increased fuel costs, and also the disadvantage suffered by other industries of the high value of the pound, which has encouraged imports. Last year the Government decided to provide substantial aid to the industry. In the financial year 1980–81 the Government will have given £37.5 million of aid to the fishing industry. That is a substantial figure for an industry of its size. It is four times the average figure for the previous four years. I hope that it indicates to the industry the Government's determination to ensure a viable fishing industry, which can take full advantage of a common fisheries agreement, when it is reached.
The object of the Bill is to ensure that in a number of spheres we can create the institutions, the mechanisms and the powers for Government to enable the fishing industry to succeed in the 1980s.
The major proposal in part I is the creation of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which takes the place of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. As far as I know, there has been no disagreement for some time, either in the House or in the industry, about the sense and sanity of bringing these bodies together. They operate in the same building. They even share some of the same staff. There is no doubt that they have a common performance, and it is sensible and realistic to create one strong authority.
We announced our intention of doing this about 12 months ago. In the period since, we have produced a consultsative document. The industry has had plenty of time to discuss it and to convey to us its views. There is no doubt that the consensus is that there should be an authority with statutory powers, and that these bodies should be combined. Obviously there are some differences of view as to the detail, and even those who consider that this form of authority should not be established are of the view that an authority of some form is required for a whole range of functions.
I believe that what the Government are proposing has broad acceptance by the industry as a whole and will strengthen the activities in these spheres. Certainly the object is to ensure that we have one strong authority, and a strong authority in which one has a substantial influence and membership from the industry as such. But in moving towards one new authority, I believe that the very fact that the industry considered that one strong authority should take the place of the two previous authorities is in a way a tribute to the work carried out by these two authorities in past years, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, and I think that both sides of the House would want to join in expressing their gratitude to both bodies for the diligent work that they have done in the past and the wide range of activities that they have continued to the benefit of the industry as a whole. From the consultations that we have had with the industry, there is no doubt that the industry itself feels that it has been indebted to them.
753 The powers that we endeavour to give in this part of the Bill will enable the authority to carry out a range of functions that will be of general benefit to the fishing industry. One of the powers in part I is the ability of the new authority to assist in improving the marketing of fish and in encouraging the consumption of fish in the United Kingdom, and looking at ways in which that can be done and encouraging them. I think that the fishing industry feels very strongly that there is considerable scope for improving the marketing of fish in Britain and looking at ways in which that can be done.
The House will know that about 18 months ago I appointed five outside advisers to convey their views on the marketing of food and agricultural products. On a whole range of areas they have given advice, much of which has already been acted upon. The views of the farming and food industries have provided a range of ideas and suggestions which have proved valuable to our marketing performance both at home and abroad. I am glad to say that in the next few weeks three of those five advisers, as marketeers, will be joining together to examine the marketing of fish in Britain arid to give views and advice in that sphere as well. I hope that their activities will be of benefit to the industry and will also help the new authority when it comes into being.
In part I of the Bill there are clauses connected with the membership of the new authority. The House will see from the provisions that the membership will be far more oriented towards the industry than it has been in the past. There will be eight representatives of the industry and four independents, whereas in the past such boards have been all-independents, but with an advisory committee from the industry. It was the industry's view in general and the Government's view that it was sensible to ensure that the representation of the industry was far more positive and direct. This we undertake in the membership of the new authority.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
In addition to the Minister's excellent point, will he give a guarantee that members will be chosen on a geographical basis? That is important for the Scottish section of the industry and, indeed, for sections in other parts of the United Kingdom. These ought to have some representation.
§ Mr. Walker
Yes. Obviously, as far as the present Government are concerned, very careful consideration will be given to the geographical representation and distribution. I am sure that I speak for the Opposition, too, when I say that it would be inconceivable that careful consideration would not be given to the diversity of geographical interests that are represented in the British fishing industry. Any hon. Member who has detailed knowledge of the industry will know that it is not one united industry with common problems but a diversity of industries with differing problems. Therefore, in looking at the composition of an authority such as this, one must make sure that that diversity is truly represented. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will be disappointed by the composition of the representatives when the authority is in being.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Will the Minister define what he means by "the industry"? Does he mean purely the catching side? What about trade union representation?
§ Mr. Walker
By "the industry" we mean right across the industry—obviously the trade union side as well as the employers' side. The object will be to find eight representatives who genuinely will have the confidence of the industry as a whole. I think that that will be possible with as many as eight. We have carefully considered the number. We consider that that would give us the diversity of membership in which the industry would have representation. With their powers of appointing such authorities, I do not think that any Government would make appointments which would create a lack of confidence in any major sections of the industry.
I turn to the question of the finance of the authority. In part I we make provision for Government loans to the authority. Government finance will continue for research and development work. A number of members of the industry have said that seemingly this is not being paid to the authority in the same way. I give the assurance that it will be paid, but it will be paid in terms of the commissioning to the authority of research and development work. Certainly it is the Government's intention to continue financing in this sphere.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Did the Minister state how many of the 12 members will be a full-time members? Obviously the chairman will be a full-time member. Will they all be full-time members?
§ Mr. Walker
The degree to which there will be full-time membership has not been decided. We shall be considering this matter. The balance between full-time and part-time contributions is a matter on which a final decision has not yet been made.
In terms of the financing, it is agreed—the industry broadly agrees, too—that income should be derived by levy. There are some differences in the industry as to the degree to which levy should be based upon tonnage or upon value. In the wording of the Bill, we have left the situation open to the authority, but any levels and methods of levy will be subject to approval by Ministers and Parliament.
Part II of the Bill is very important in terms of what might come out of a common fishing agreement. It contains provisions which enable the Government to provide financial aid to the industry. In this part of the Bill we have endeavoured to make those provisions which will enable a British Government to take full advantage of whatever financing measures come out of a common fishing agreement concerning structures.
This is of immense importance to the industry because, whatever the nature of the agreement, the industry has agreed that changes in its structure will be needed. This is of particular importance to places such as Hull, where the long-distance fleet has resided and where everybody is agreed that the fleet's future is not the same as its past and that restructuring provisions will be required in a common fishing policy.
Already a diversity of measures has been suggested by the Commission. No final agreement has been reached, nor has the detail been discussed by the Council of Ministers. We have so worded part II as to give British Governments opportunities to provide the aid that the. industry might need but also—and this is of conciderable importance—to take full advantage of whatever financial provisions come out of the common fishing agreement. Therefore, in terms of what is likely to 755 happen during the coming years, part II has considerable importance for the industry. It shows the Government's intention to see both that we negotiate sensible and adequate provisions for restructuring and that we have available the legislation speedily and readily to take full advantage of it.
Part III deals with the important subject of conservation. Since the late 1960s all British Governments have pursued positive conservation policies. Those of us who have had responsibility as the Ministers involved with such policies would pay tribute to the degree to which the British fishing industry has both understood the need for them and in the main complied with them. It has been sensible and sane in doing so, because to pursue short-term policies that ignored the problems of conservation would be to eradicate the whole future of the fishing industry.
A fisherman who has gone out in bad conditions, with all the difficulties that our fishing fleet has at various times and in the type of conditions that we suffer around the coasts of the United Kingdom, must find it immensely frustrating to comply with conservation methods that prevent fish being caught. It is even more frustrating if he sees foreign vessels going against conservation measures. However, I wish to make it clear that conservation policies are not connected directly with the European Community; they were pursued before Britain joined. For example, the immense danger to the whole future of herring fishing emerged before Britain joined the Community, and it would exist on the present scale whether or not we were members. It has always been the view of the British fisherman that one should follow scientific assessment of what needs to he done to conserve and then to restore and improve fish stocks.
Part III, upon which I place considerable importance, substantially improves the facilities of British Governments in operating conservation policies sensibly and flexibly, and in a way that will operate as effectively against foreign vessels as we can operate against vessels of our own.
Clauses 17 and 18 are important in giving more flexibility. There could well be a need for conservation measures, but not on an all-or-nothing basis. Clause 20 deals with the important matter of transhipment. It is in this area that abuses can take place and have taken place. Therefore, it is very important for Governments to have the power provided. Clause 21 brings about important changes in penalties.
There are complicated aspects to some of these clauses, so I hope that we shall be able to assist the Committee with papers on some of them.
Clause 25 is also very important. Whereas the Government have the power to introduce immediate measures relating to any European regulations on conservation that apply immediately to our own vessels under the existing law, we must go through what can be quite a long process of statutory instruments—with parliamentary recesses, and so on—before these measures apply to foreign vessels. It is very much in the interests of the British fishing fleet that when we consider it right to introduce such measures immediately they apply not only to British vessels, but to all foreign vessels operating in our waters.
I hope that in looking at part III, a whole range of measures to take effective action on conservation, the House will recognise that we have tried to give the Government flexibility but also the ability to tighten up 756 considerably on the application on our measures to transhipment and to foreign as well as British vessels in British waters.
One of the keys to the future of British fishing is a genuinely effective conservation policy operating in Europe. Perhaps one of the most important aspects for the British Government in reaching an agreement is to see that there is not an agreement on conservation that, although theoretically splendid, and one that can operate well, results in the British Government operating it well and other Governments not operating it at all. That is why, when we discussed control of conservation measures early in our discussions on a fishing agreement, we made it clear that we should be interested only in a fishing agreement in which there was a permanent system to ensure that all countries complied with those measures.
I am in favour of each country being responsible for conservation within its national waters. I want the British Government to be responsible for the conservation measures in our own waters. I in no way dispute the principle that we should be responsible for conservation in our waters and that other countries should be responsible for conservation in theirs. But I wish to see an objective organisation that can regularly, week by week, see that each country is effectively carrying out those measures.
We raised that need early on in the negotiations, and the Commission invited us to put proposals on what we considered appropriate. We have done that, and I believe that in the main the Commission has accepted our proposals and will be putting them to the Council of Ministers. For both conservation and quota measures there will be more than the power of the Commission to look into complaints. We have seen in other spheres that by the time the grounds for complaint are discovered, and the Commission has looked into the complaint and has made proposals to deal with it, a long time has passed, probably to the detriment of our own industry. Therefore, we have insisted that both for quotas and conservation measures there should be a regular inspection to see whether all countries are effectively operating the regulations laid down by the Community, and that there should be a proper staff, given by each of the countries concerned and reporting regularly to the Commission, to ensure that that is done.
I can see no logical or valid grounds for any Minister disagreeing with that proposal, if he is in favour of an effective measure of European conservation or of effective quotas being operated. If it comes into operation, I believe that it will give us an effective conservation policy. If we have an effective policy, there is no doubt that for those species of fish in which the British industry has an interest there will be years in which the total allowable catches will increase, and not diminish. Therefore, it will provide a basis of expansion for our industry, and not the type of contraction that it perhaps had to suffer during the 1970s.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
Does not the Minister accept that this is riot a question so much of European conservation measures as of the will of national Governments? The Germans are fishing in Greenland, the French are fishing for herring in the North Sea and the Dutch are over-fishing their quotas. That could not have happened had there been a national will on the part of those Governments and their inspectors to stop it. Unless the will exists this European inspection system, a force—or farce—of a mere 40 inspectors, will be useless.
§ Mr. Walker
I totally disagree with the hon. Gentleman, because in other spheres, such as agricultural health protection, and so on, where measures have been agreed, they have been enforced in a different way in different countries. That creates an unfairness in terms of competition. I agree that there has been evidence in both agriculture and fishing of a lack of will on the part of certain countries, but there has also been the advantage for those lacking the will that there has been no inspection of any description and no action following their failure to comply with regulations. That is why it is important to change the system. A force of 40 inspectors with the powers of spot checking regularly will soon detect any failure to comply with those regulations. The Commission will then have to take the appropriate sanctions.
That is an important breakthrough, but I am sorry that there is a need for it. The ideal would be that every country enthusiastically complied with it to the same degree, but experience has shown that that has not happened. In fishing it is easy for it not to happen, and therefore it is vital, if we are to have an effective system, that it should happen. I hope that the measures that we are proposing will make a substantial difference.
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (Durham)
What legal status would one of those 40 inspectors from a fellow Community nation have in respect of a British fishery protection vessel on the high seas? There are terrible legal complications for a Dutchman in respect of infringements within British territorial waters.
§ Mr. Walker
The inspector will not be operating as a Dutchman. He will be operating as an agent of the Commission, and part of the acceptance of a common fishing policy will be that the rights of seeing documents and of inspecting ports and vessels will be granted to the Commission. We are willing to provide for that, and I hope that other countries will agree to it. Obviously the details of the regulation will be examined, but we are now discussing the principle of an effective inspectorate.
Part III of the Bill, dealing with conservation measures, is of immense importance to the future of the British fishing industry.
§ Sir Albert Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Does the Minister appreciate that the modern scientific instruments which can now be installed in fishing boats make it extremely difficult to promote conservation? Is he satisfied that under the Bill he has the enabling power to prohibit the use of more efficient scientific instruments which can locate fish as easily as if they were in a goldfish bowl?
§ Mr. Walker
There is nothing in the Bill that prohibits scientific instruments of a new type, and I cannot say that any action will be taken on that. We are trying to ensure that the measures that are agreed on conservation and quotas are complied with by each member country.
Part IV of the Bill, which deals with fish farming, can be of considerable importance over the next decade. I hope that the fish farming industry will feel that actions by the Government, both in introducing part IV of the Bill and the recent announcement on the rating of fish farms, indicate that we believe that the positive encouragement of fish farming is important and that it can make an important contribution to the United Kingdom economy. If we fail in this sphere we shall be a very substantial 758 importer of the products of fish farming in other countries, because there is no doubt that an enormous amount of research and activity is taking place in other countries. For example, the efforts that are being made by the Norwegian Government show that fish farming techniques are fast changing and improving, and will bring a greater volume of fish to the consumer in the future.
Part IV provides for the Government to make grants, and to make the type of grants that will enable the fish farming industry to take advantage of European grants. Clause 27 gives the Government power to take measures on research and development of the industry. Clause 29 will be of help in respect of the fast-developing shellfish farming activities. Fish farming is often looked upon in this country in terms of the importance of freshwater fish farming, which is fast expanding, but we should not underestimate the importance of fish farming in the seas and the potential expansion around our coasts. I hope that a great deal of attention and interest will be paid to that also.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I understand that provisions on fish farming stand alone. Will the new authority have anything to do with fish farming, and, if not, why not?
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Will the Minister take note that my hon. Friends and I greatly welcome the fact that almost the whole of the Bill applies directly to Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom, and that we do not believe that it is necessary for an exception to be made in regard to part IV. If we table amendments to deal with that, will the Minister confer with his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office to see whether it is possible to make this an entire United Kingdom Bill?
§ Mr. Walker
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will do that, and I shall endeavour to ascertain before the winding-up speech whether there was any reason for the exception.
Clause 30, in part V, extends the whaling conservation legislation, which already bans the catching of whales, both in British fishery limits and by United Kingdom registered vessels anywhere in the world. The clause extends the ban to cover dolphins and porpoises. It also raises the penalties for whaling offences. This is an initiative by the Government to strengthen controls against whaling, particularly by giving protection to whales, porpoises and dolphins in our fishery limits. As such, it will be welcome to conservation interests and, as far as I know, by all hon. Members. There has been broad agreement on the initiatives that we have taken to try to stop whaling activities.
The Bill contains a diversity of measures that we considered were likely to be necessary in the early part of the 1980s to enable the British fishing industry to take full advantage of all opportunities that arise; to enable us to take the conservation measures that are needed for the future of the industry; to enable us to have facilities for restructuring, which will be necessary for the British fishing industry; and to see that the Government, in collaboration with the industry, play their part to ensure that the industry plays the important functional role in our economy that it has always played in the past.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) I should inform the House that if it is necessary I shall invoke the 10-minutes rule between 7 and 9 pm. I do not think that that necessity will arise, but I have to give the House notice of my intention at this stage if it is to he done.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
On behalf of the Opposition, I give a general welcome to the Bill. Most of us felt that it was inevitable, but I suppose that many in the industry think that it has been a long time coming. Although it will be seen as a series of tidying-up measures, or as a consolidation Act, I agree with the Minister that it is a major Bill, covering the future of the fishing industry.
The Committee stage of the Bill will certainly be important I hope that many hon. Members representing fishing ports will air their ideas on the future of the industry. If any industry in the country needs a major overhaul, this is certainly it.
I shall deal first with the welcome additions to the legislation which, important though they are, are peripheral to the establishment of the Sea Fish Industry Authority and the reorganisation and development of the United Kingdom fishing industry. I refer, of course, to whaling and to fish farming.
Part V deals with the regulation of whaling. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and his team of Ministers that we are pleased to note the stand that has been taken by the Government on this issue, especially at the meeting last year of the International Whaling Commission, at which the Government reaffirmed the support of the United Kingdom for a ban on all commercial whaling. We are pleased, also, that at that conference they highlighted the fact that the Council of Ministers of the Common Market had agreed in principle that the importation of all whale products into the Common Market should be prohibited from 1 January 1982.
I was sorry that proposals for an immediate moratorium on the taking and killing of whales by commercial operations, or an immediate moratorium on sperm whaling, did not get the majorities required to impose the necessary bans. Although the moratorium on factory ship whaling continues, it will be difficult to stop countries such as Japan from making deals with some maritime nations to obtain the whale products that they require
We are pleased to welcome the proposals in the Bill—to be implemented by Order in Council—for widening definitions and the range of cetaceans that could be affected and the stiffer penalties proposed for breaching whaling industry regulations.
Part IV deals with fish farming. The mention in this legislation of fish farming and Common Market grants, allied with United Kingdom national grants, is likely to give a fillip to this relataively new industry. For example, attention will he drawn to the research and development already carried out by and available from the White Fish Authority and the Ministry and to the scientific and technical instruction on breeding and rearing that will be available. No doubt the White Fish Authority's experience at its fish farms at Aratoe and Hunterston, and the work done in the laboratory at Lowestoft, will prove to be a good investment. The range of services available is likely to be fully stretched. Having seen the farming of oysters, prawns and trout, I am fully aware of the potential of the 760 industry. That is especially so when one considers the farming of lobsters, salmon, carp, turbot and sole, all of which, I assume, will be covered by the Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman should have given more information on the extent to which fish farming in the sea will be catered for. He mentioned the subject briefly. It is an entirely different operation from that conducted at fish farms inland, and we ought to know more about it. Further, if there is to be satisfaction in the fish farming industry, will it, as a food producer involving intense husbandry, be sympathetically considered on all questions of rates and taxation, as is agriculture? Will the Agricultural Training Board be further involved in training entrants into fish farming?
When the Bill is enacted, given that money will be available from the Common Market to develop fishing farming, there is likely to be a surge of interest in the subject. If that is not to be frustrated, major promotion by the Government, the Ministry, the National Farmers Union and the National Water Council will he necessary. Points to be covered and agreed will include licensing, planning controls, water abstraction and charges, the definition of limitations on fish farms, the consent to draw and release water, disease control, proper husbandry, with regular inspection, and a better understanding among private fish farming and the water authorities of unfair competition.
I have read many of the papers between the NWC and the NFU and I know, therefore, that many exchanges have taken place between these two bodies on these matters. There is now, however, a new urgency to straighten out the differences between them and to establish a code of conduct, perhaps with allied legislation, which should be designed to develop this new industry.
Two years ago the Labour Government stated that they wished to see the development of fish farming as a viable industry, making a useful contribution to food production. That is our position, and this industry wants every encouragement.
I turn to the proposed merger of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I pay tribute to both bodies—to their boards and their advisers—which, for some years, have been the main links between the Government and the industry. They have been often criticised and frequently examined. In spite of the effect of that on their morale and their careers, they have done a sterling job for the fishing industry. The White Fish Authority has developed an international reputation for its expertise and advice to other fishing nations. The merger is therefore generally welcomed. It is, we believe, long overdue.
It is worth recalling the history of this development. As far back as 1961 the Fleck committee recommended one statutory authority. In 1966–7 the Estimates Committee concluded that urgent consideration should be given to a merger of the two bodies. In 1967–8 the Fisheries Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Agriculture recommended that the White Fish Authority should either be abolished or be given more real power and more money. It then suggested a further inquiry into the WF'A, as soon as the Government settled their policy for the industry. Nothing was done.
In 1970 the WFA and the Herring Industry Board decided to explore for themselves the possible advantages and disadvantages, for the fishing industry as a whole, of an amalgamation. Before any real progress was made, the 761 Ministry of Agriculture stepped in to hold it up on the basis that it would be premature, in view of our possible entry into the EEC. In 1972 the Minister of Agriculture, now the Secretary of State for Employment, said that the two bodies could consider a single head office in Edinburgh and a unifying administration while formally retaining their separate indentities. As a result the two bodies moved into the same premises in March 1973 and began marrying their different procedures and routines.
In April 1978 the report of another inquiry into the fishing industry was published by the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee. Its conclusion on amalgamation stated:As we understand it, both bodies would be content that this should be done, but by interlocking membership, joint premises and close co-operation they have achieved much the same effect in practice, so that formal amalgamation would be little more than bureaucratic tidying up.So in 1981 we now have the legislation. What a story of vacillation, procrastination, bureaucratic muddle and hesitancy. Of course, Governments of both parties were involved. What a reflection on the parliamentary committee system within our parliamentary democracy —20 years of go, stop, examine and stop.
What has been the effect on the board members, their work and their planning, and on the staff and its future, and its careers? It is amazing and praiseworthy that they have managed to do so well. Therefore, we welcome the merger and the setting up of the Sea Fish Industry Authority
Will the Sea Fish Industry Authority have the same regulatory powers as the White Fish Authority or the Herring Industry Board, and the power to trade on its own account? We have noted that it will have a greater full-time membership and a greater combined strength than that of the two previous bodies, and that eight of the 12 members will be from the industry. That might help to satisfy some of the critics of the establishment of the authority. No doubt in Committee we shall be able to discuss how best that make-up should be established.
I notice that the advisory councils will be abolished. They comprised 74 advisers to the Herring Industry Board and the White Fish Authority. It is not evident from any of the annual reports how active or effective they were. We should like to know whether the Minister has any views about having a smaller advisory body to the new authority.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also outline the prospects for the new authority being responsible for the granting and control of licences for fishing vessels, and for vetting forward fishing plans?
The greatest power of the authority will be levying. Provision is made for the authority to collect the levy on the basis of the weight of fish landed, or on its value, but it cannot use both systems at once. The authority will act as the national agent for the industry on behalf of the Minister. It will be of major interest to hon. Members, especially those who represent fishing interests, the ports and the docks of the United Kingdom, and also the trade unions involved, that the authority's terms of reference include promoting the efficiency of the sea fish industry, serving the industry as a whole, carrying out research and development, giving advice on marketing, and undertaking training functions. That remit is wide enough to allow the authority to tackle the problems of this troubled and run-down industry.
762 This industry has vastly changed in recent years, with the loss of access to distant waters and with our entry to the Common Market without any consideration being given to our own position. Because of this country's entry into the EEC, the fishing industry has suffered more than any other in this country. It is sad to note its decline.
We are an island race. We have for all time bred seamen, built ships, sailed the seas, and provided the Royal Navy with men bred and trained in every port around our shores. This historic tradition has produced a reservoir of men for our naval forces. Therefore, the effects of so drastically reducing the deep sea fleet spread well beyond the fishing industry. Britain will one day rue its reduction even more than it does today.
The Bill and the new authority could herald the beginning of a new era in this badly organised and out-of-date industry. It is of fundamental importance that the working conditions of the industry be completely reorganised. The men should have some security in jobs. There must be a future for the industry's work force. It needs a recruiting and training programme with a view to building up a stable, regular work force within the industry.
It is appalling that in these days there is no security, no future and no regular pay in one of Britain's basic and nationally necessary industries—I include the onshore men as well as the seafarers. Anyone entering industry today would naturally expect training, a basic weekly wage, holidays with pay, sickness and injurey benefits, social welfare schemes and pension rights. How can it be tolerated that the "no catch, no pay" principle still exists in our trawling industry?
Can hon. Members imagine enduring the might and the fright of the sea in persistently dangerous conditions, going to sea, leaving home and family, and returning to shore without pay? That would not be tolerated in any other industry.
§ Mr. Mason
As my hon. Friend says, they often return owing money.
One of the first jobs of the Sea Fish Industry Authority should be to launch a study with a view to recommending to the Government how best the employment legislation can be amended to bring this industry abreast of the other national industries.
There is also an urgent need to develop training of fishermen on a much wider programme than at present. The Sea Fisheries Training Council may be involved. I should like to know what the relationship will be between the training council and the authority. For example, will the authority take over the implementation of the training council's recommendations? I have noted a welcome increase of training programmes in the past two years and in the number of fishermen attending them, but, there is not yet enough emphasis on safety; many of the courses are on the use of fishing gear, the introduction of new technology, fish detection methods and engineering and hydraulics.
However, I gather that the training council has drawn up a five-year strategic plan with a view to developing schemes involving new entrants and safety training. In its last report, it said: 763…least half of the existing labour force of the sea-going industry has never had training in survival, fire fighting or first aid".It added:… sixty per cent. of existing fishermen began their working life without any formal training and many young people continue to enter the industry in this way".The trade unions, particularly the Transport and General Workers Union, want training and working conditions improved for the safety of their members. So do we. The safety record of the fishing industry is unbelievably bad. It is the worst of any industry in this country. Its rectification will necessitate a major effort by the Government and their new agent, the Sea Industry Fish Authority, to tackle safety at sea. The unions involved would like the establishment of a public inquiry to examine and recommend how best the appalling casualties in this industry can be reduced.
The Health and Safety Executive report of 1978 shows that there were 380 fatal accidents per 100,000 employed in the near arid middle distance fleet, compared with 15.8 in Britain's coal mining industry. The Department of Trade statistics for 1978 show that there were 247 accidents per 100,000 employed in the fishing industry, whereas in coal mining the rate was 25.4. Both reports show the absolute necessity of increasing emphasis on safety training and the development of safer working practices on board seagoing vessels.
These independent reports and their frightening statistics lend weight to the view of the Transport and General Workers Union that an inquiry is required to make recommendations on the best and quickest ways to reduce these casualties. If the new authority is not to tackle this issue, an inquiry ought to be considered.
Part III of the Bill deals with the regulation of sea fishing. Much of it is more appropriate to discussion in Committee, but there is some emphasis on the role of conservation and the British seafishery officers.
The British seafishery officers will be very powerful. They will have powers to observe and control transhipments of fish, powers in respect of the seizure of fish and fishing gear and the enforcement of orders dealing with conservation, power to direct vessels to port and detain them if necessary, and even powers to enter the premises of the fishing industry and seize documents. Officers of Customs and Excise and coastguards are no longer designated as fishery protection officers, so the British seafishery officers will be more powerful.
One has to note that there is a protective legislative screen around the role of those officers under the Bill. Their range of powers covering the types of offence, the fines and their legal standing will be subject to scrutiny in Committee. However, if conservation is to be enforced and methods of avoiding payment of levies are to be blocked, our sea fishery protection officers will be required. That fits into the gradually developing pattern of Common Market conservation officers.
The most important part of the Bill is part II, dealing with financial asistance for the sea fish industry, which empowers the Minister to make grants and loans for reorganising or promoting the fishing industry and for the authority to act as the Government's agent in administering any Government schemes. This is the part of the Bill that could be of immediate importance.
Any restructuring of this industry by the Government, alone or as a result of a common fisheries policy that involves Common Market cash, will be done under this 764 part of the Bill. In this respect, I note that latest year's grants, of £3 million and £14 million—naturally, they were higher than the average of the previous four years because the industry has never been in such a serous crisis as it has faced over the past 12 months—were dealt with by the producer's organisations. What part will the producers play under this part of the Bill, and what will their relationship he with the authority?
It is likely that the independent members of the authority will be involved in any handling of Common Market and Government grants and loans that may flow from the conclusion of the Common Market fishery talks. Restructuring moneys from the Common Market are likely, but sadly one must say that part of them will be necessary because the Government will fail in the objectives generally agreed in the House and the industry. Some will say that it will be money to finance a sell-out, to pay off the running down of the industry to a much smaller deep sea and distant water fleet than we had when we entered the Common Market.
The deep sea fleet will certainly be let down and the Common Market fisheries policy will put the lid on any real expansion of this part of our fishing industry. I gather that, so far, proposals relating to structural policy by the Common Market cover exploratory voyages within and outside Community waters and even joint ventures between Common Market and non-Common Market fishermen in third country waters, thereby using some laid-up vessels. I gather that about £19 million of Common Market cash has been earmarked for these operations over three years.
It has also been suggested that £120 million might be spent within the Community over the next five years on the basis of member States submitting plans for the structure of their national fleets and for the replacement and modernisation of vessels. It has been said that £3 million might be available over three years to fund a general research programme. I understand that the Common Market also has in mind the spending of £79 million over five years on scrappig grants and laying-up subsidies.
Also under consideration are specific measures in the processing industry, as well as social programmes covering vocational training, employment safety and working conditions—all of which could be directly applicable to the United Kingdom industry. The United Kingdom Government would have to provide a nationally financed contribution in order to be eligible for Community aid, but one can see that vast changes could be in the offing for our fishing industry—some welcome, others subject to much argument.
In this general survey of the Bill I have tried to give guidance to the Government and the proposed new authority on where think their priorities should lie. The Common Market fisheries policy and its outcome for our industry are still to be determined, and we shall watch every development with great care. We are concerned about the future of this most important industry.
In the meantime, the Bill will receive our blessing. It will be scrutinised closely in Committee, when some of the proposals that I have made will be further explored. There is much yet to be said about the industry. The final saga being played out by the Government in Europe has yet to be resolved, but we will return to that later. I hope that the Minister will realise that many of us are saddened by the state of the industry and of those who work in it.
765 We hope that he feels the same and is determined to do something positive to rectify this sad and sorry state of affairs.
§ Sir Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I join the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) in giving the Bill a general welcome. We shall of course refer to some matters in detail in Committee, but I should like to deal now with the constitution of the proposed Sea Fish Industry Authority, especially the eight members who are to come from the industry. I share the concern of the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) about the regional aspects of representation, but from a different viewpoint. I am looking forward to English representation. Unless we are lucky, there should be a very Scottish emphasis.
Will the independent members be able to consider the consumer point of view? That point of view should be represented on the authority.
It is strange that this year, despite poor prices at the quayside, prices in the shops have stayed high. The two do not marry up. I hope that the new authority will be able to seek an explanation of that situation. That comes into the picture, since, as the Minister said, the authority will have to examine marketing. Marketing needs great attention, in view of the rapid changes in the ways in which fish are eaten. Sales of fish have grown, both in its deep frozen state and when it is already partly prepared, with sauces, and so on. This has changed the pattern of operations in many ports, where in the past fishermen were content to land white fish and dispose of it through the ordinary retailer.
As both the Minister and the right hon. Member for Barnsley said, the Bill appears against a sombre background. This week, for the first time for some months, the middle water fleet in Fleetwood has been putting back to sea in sizeable numbers. I hope that when those ships fish off the coast of Scotland they will get decent catches and decent prices for their catches. The new authority will have to examine the price achieved by our fishermen, since, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said, it is no good catching fish that produce losses, with the fishermen going back into debt.
One thing that causes concern in Fleetwood, where our medium-sized trawlers have just put back to sea, is that it is being said—at the moment it is only a rumour, but it is having a tremendous effect—that under a common fisheries policy ships of over 80ft. would not be allowed to fish in Scottish waters. That is where these Fleetwood ships are fishing, and where they have traditionally fished. It would be intolerable if, having been thrown out of Icelandic and Norwegian waters, these ships were to be thrown out of United Kingdom waters as well. I could not support that suggestion, because Fleetwood ships have fished those waters for many years. It would mean the death of our middle water fleet, because that is the only place that it can now properly fish for white fish.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend can provide for this matter under the Bill, which empowers him to license vessels to fish. If there were some stipulation to limit the size of vessels in certain areas, ports whose vessels had a 766 historic right to fish in those areas could be given a special dispensation. I think that that would apply to Grimsby as well as to Fleetwood.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley has already stressed the absolute necessity of financial assistance for the sea fish industry. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having fought his corner in the last year and got £37 million for the industry. We know that it has been difficult for him at a time when financial assistance has been hard to get for any industry. We shall need this money to restructure the fleet. It would be foolish to say that we could go back to the size of the deep sea fleet that we used to have.
Whilst referring to financial assistance for the sea fish industry and possibly for the deep sea and middle water fleets, may I say that I think that concern should be expressed for seamen and fishermen who are made redundant. Those employed in the sea fish industry do not get compensation on anything like the same scale as workers in other industries—for example, coal and steel. I should like this matter to be taken into account. Perhaps in Committee we can go into the question whether the Bill would enable such action to be taken.
Turning to part III—"Regulation of Sea Fishing"—it is essential that we have an effective method of regulating sea fishing. The right hon. Member for Barnsley was right to stress the new role being played by the Commission. It may not be perfect, but it is better than what we had before. At the moment we have no means of checking what the Dutch and the French do. We are suspicious, and we send people over there to find out what is happening. With the new inspectorate employed by the Commission we should have facts on which to work. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that aspect. That, taken into account with the new and tougher methods set out in the Bill, should be a real plus for the industry for the future.
Fish farming takes place in my constituency. I am pleased with the new initiative that is being taken regarding fish farming. It will be a growing part of the fisheries scene. We have seen what can be done in countries such as Norway and Japan. I echo what was said by the right hon. Member for Barnsley about there being something here to encourage a new initiative in this area.
I welcome the provisions on whaling regulations and the extra protection to be given to dolphins and porpoises. If other Governments were to follow what our Government have done since they came into office, those creatures would be better protected than they are now. There will be a great deal of pleasure throughout the country that the British are leading the way in preserving cetaceans.
I welcome the Bill. It provides a skeleton on which we can build something of real worth. Whatever the shape of the common fisheries policy, this measure will be needed. In Committee we may be able to improve the Bill, but basically I think that it will help the industry through a difficult time. Again, I welcome it.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I share the Minister's disappointment in the failure to reach agreement on fishing in the EEC by the end of last year, but I was not altogether optimistic that that would happen.
The proposals about which we have heard are the absolute minimum that the industry can accept. Indeed, in certain ways, I should not have thought that they met our minimum requirements. This is not the moment to go into 767 the matter. But historic rights could knock a large hole in the proposals, and the quotas which are suggested are pared down to the absolute minimum and are by no means certain to be enforced.
I am amazed at the degree of confidence which still reigns in the inshore industry. In Shetland people are still ordering boats with the prospects of good fishing in future. It puts a heavy responsibility on us. They must have those prospects if they are to pay for those boats, because they are undertaking heavy liabilities.
Against that background, which no one can say is altogether rosy, I welcome the Bill. I agree with many of the points made by the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg). I even welcome this mild outbreak of English nationalism. English waters are becoming important to Scottish fishermen. Therefore, we must expect that the English will speak up in their own interests. The hon. Gentleman also made a valid point about the difference in price between what the fishermen get and what the housewives have to pay.
Many of the points which will have to be made about the Bill are essentially for Committee. However, in order to enable us to table useful amendments in Committee, perhaps we could have more information on one or two matters on Second Reading.
First, do I understand that the new Sea Fish Industry Authority will have no powers over fish farming? The hon. Member for North Fylde seemed to indicate that it would, but I gather that it will not. If it is to have powers over fish farming, surely it should be described as a fisheries authority, not a Sea Fish Industry Authority.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I think that it might be advantageous if the Minister were to make this point clear now. I asked the Minister whether the new authority would have control over fish farming and he indicated "Yes". However, it is not clear from the Bill. May we have an assurance on that matter now?
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
Perhaps the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will allow me to intervene. The responsibilities and areas of general discretion of the Sea Fish Industry Authority will relate to sea fish farming. The inland form of fish fanning is not covered by the authority.
§ Mr. Grimond
I am grateful to the Minister for making that point. I am always pleased to allow him to make a short intervention in my speech. Is it satisfactory that there should be a division between fresh and salt water fish farming? I ask the Government to think about that matter again.
Points have been raised about the constitution and membership of the authority. We do not make progress in the constitution of quangos. They are still large areas of Government patronage. These bodies turn out differently one from another. I have no complaint about the White Fish Authority. However, there was wide complaint about the extravagance of water boards. When the Government abolish two authorities and set up one in their place, often, so far from leading to economies, it leads to more expense.
A somewhat sinister note is struck in the explanatory and financial memorandum, because under "Financial effects of the Bill" it states:The costs of remuneration and allowances to members of the Sea Fish Industry Authority will be largely offset by savings arising from abolition of the two existing bodies.768 "Largely" is a weasel word. I suspect that it means that there will be a large increase in administrative costs. I trust that the Government will ensure that the new authority does not spend more on administration, offices and so on than the present two authorities put together.
There is the question of the accountability of the authority. It will be accountable to the Minister. But could it not he made more accountable to this House? Should there not be more consultation over its composition? Are consumers or, indeed, different geographical areas adequately represented? I do not feel altogether satisfied about the new authority.
I should like to ask about the authority's financial powers under clauses 6 and 7. I understand that they are limited to a total of £30 million. Whether the money comes from the Government or anywhere else, I understand that the authority's total outstanding loans will be limited at any one time to £30 million, although that may he increased by order.
On the all-important part III, I was glad to hear the Minister say that it would improve the facilities of the Government in enforcing conservation and that flexibility would he greatly improved. However, as the Minister of State knows only too well, the implementation of conservation measures is difficult. Unfortunately, fish will not keep apart. We may wish to conserve haddock and allow whiting to be caught, but often they will be caught in the same net and it is wasteful to dump unwanted fish back into the sea. I am not sure whether flexibility will be greatly increased by the Bill and it would be useful if the Minister would say something about how he sees the new conservation measures being implemented.
The Minister of Agriculture laid great stress on the inspectorate, but I have doubts about that. The present position is certainly unsatisfactory, but I am not sure whether the new system will be effective. It may well be expensive and bureaucratic. I was in Italy recently and I saw an announcement in butchers' shops that they were to be inspected by the Common Market inspectorate on a given date. Of course, on that date they would have been in admirable order, but how they were for the rest of the year is a different matter. I suspect that if there is no will on the part of Governments to enforce regulations the Common Market inspectorate will not be able to do much. However, if the Minister can assure us that the new system will be an improvement, I shall not oppose it.
We have established that the new authority will be responsible for fish farming in the sea, but not in fresh water. It will presumably be entitled to impose a levy on fish farmers at sea, but not on those in fresh water. It will be entitled to market and advertise fish farmed from the sea but not fresh water farming. I am not sure that that is a sound division. This is an important matter and an industry which could make a great contribution not only to this country but to poorer countries.
The University of Stirling is doing valuable research work which I understand will be supported by the Government but not by funds from the authority. Am I right in believing that the public funds to support research into fish farming will come directly from the Government?
I understand the reasons for clause 26, which enables the Government to give grants that are complementary to those given by the Common Market. I do not oppose it now, but it is a doubtful principle of finance. It seems that the Government will give money for projects that they would otherwise not have funded, because the Common 769 Market will subscribe. That approach has been the downfall of many local authorities that constantly enter into commitments because they believe that the Government will pay most of the money. I take it that under Common Market regulations that is the only way that we can proceed.
I greatly welcome anything that gives greater protection to whales. It cannot be said too often how damnable is the behaviour of the Russians, the Japanese and, I regret to say, the Danes in perpetrating such appalling cruelties on whales, all of which are unnecessary because the products can be supplied in other ways. I only wish that we could go further.
This is certainly a useful Bill, and I particularly welcome the amalgamation of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. Even without the advantage of research assistants, I suggested such an amalgamation many years ago. It is interesting to see how long it takes to abolish a quango once it has been set up. I believe that the commissioners for the Great Exhibition held in the nineteenth century are still in existence. However, we should be grateful for this amalgamation.
I wish the Bill every success, but no amount of money will do any good for the industry unless there are fish to be caught and prices to be got for them. The real future of the industry lies in Brussels.
Finally, I turn to the question of regional schemes. I understand that under part II of the Bill it will be possible for the Government, through the authority, to finance and encourage regional schemes. That is a method by which, if it is agreeable to the House, regional schemes for Orkney and Shetland could come into being. Am I right in thinking that the Bill could be a step in that direction and that the authority could administer such schemes? I give the Bill a mild welcome but only against the success of the negotiations in Brussels for which I earnestly hope.
§ 5.5 pm
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I am delighted to join the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) in supporting the Bill, even though he entered some qualifications, which I hope will soon be met. I also wish to stress the importance of fish farming, which is a new and growing industry. I hope that it will soon be treated in the same way as agriculture in the benefits that it receives.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) referred to the security of men in the industry. I agree with what he said. If we had better security and better pay, we should have a better industry, but Labour Members sometimes forget that pay and security depend on profits, which are not helped by arguments over who lands or loads the fish. That is a fact that we are apt to overlook from time to time.
The Bill is particularly welcome at present. Many hon. Members will refer to the restructuring of the industry that will be necessary when the common fisheries policy negotiations are finalised. The distant water industry has fared badly in recent years. In 1970 we had 500 vessels fishing distant waters, but now the number is well under half of that. I have the exact figures for Hull only, but we had 160 distant water vessels there in 1970 and we now have only 24, all of which are freezers.
770 On the other hand, when we talk about a declining industry, we must recognise that the middle and inshore fleet has increased from 5,300 to 7,000 in the past 10 years. There is certainly a future for the industry, even though the ratio between larger and smaller vessels has changed.
The import-export trade with the Common Market has remained in balance at £98 million a year. The difficulties in the industry have been caused not by the Common Market but by the extension of exclusive zones to 200 miles. As we move towards a common fisheries policy, we must set our own house in order, and that is what the Bill is designed to do.
Both sides of the House have recommended the amalgamation of the WFA and the HIB for some time. I have not had much contact with the board, but I have had many contacts with the authority and I should like to add my praise for the work that it has done, particularly on research and development and in assistance to Third world countries. In both respects, the authority has been outstanding. I should like to pay a personal tribute to the chairman, Mr. Charles Meek, who has done a magnificent job in leading the authority. I hope that his work will be properly recognised. I trust that the new authority will have an equally inspired leadership.
The new authority will have 12 members, including four independent members. Doubts have been expressed about whether such a diverse industry as fishing can be adequately represented by eight members, bearing in mind the geographical spread of the industry and the various sections of it, including the on-shore sections, even if we exclude consumers. It has been suggested that it would have been better to have a smaller board with an advisory authority. However, we were told in the House today that there are 74 on the present advisory authority, a real quango, so I am glad that that idea has been dropped.
I disagree with those who have written to hon. Members on both sides claiming that the work could be carried out by the Ministry and the industry. That is not so. It is necessary to have a new authority such as the one proposed in the Bill. However, I would like to know what will be the relationship between the new authority and the sea fisheries training council. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer that question when replying to the debate.
The whole question of levy, functions, research and development, a greater effort on marketing and the annual report, which presumably will be debatable in the House, can, I think, safely be left to the Committee stage.
Financial assistance under Part II is basically a Committee matter, but it will include, of course, building and scrapping subsidies, the restructuring of the distant water fleet—which will be vitally important for the Humber ports for the obvious reason of the changed emphasis from distant water to inshore vessels—the role of the producers' organisations and so on. I would merely add that the right hon Member for Barnsley painted a very attractive picture of the possible Common Market assistance. I hope that that has been digested by his hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell).
Part III, dealing with regulation of sea fishing, gives the Minister more powers and more flexibility and is therefore of great importance. This includes licensing, net sizes, by-catches and so on, and there is an increased deterrent effect through increased fines which I think the whole House will support.
771 The Bill extends the powers of the British sea fishery offcers over all British vessels and, I am glad to say, over foreign vessels operating in our waters. But when we talk about British regulations and Common Market regulations in our waters, to what do we refer? Are we referring to British regulations up to 12 miles and Common Market regulations beyond that, or are we referring to the whole 200-mile zone? Perhaps the Minister will define that as we should know exactly what distance we are talking about in discussing the various regulations. As is recognised in the Bill, it is an offence to fish in British waters in contravention of a Community instrument.
Part III also deals with the question of transhipment. New powers are given, including a right of access to the receiving vessels. That is extremely important. A new word, "klondyking", has been coined in the industry. Transhipment, or klondyking, has been a great asset to the distant water vessels in recent months. It has helped a declining industry a great deal. But in the long term it is a bad thing for British industry, because the catches fetch worse prices than they would in the British market and this can affect the processing industry, cold storage, smoking and everything else.
We should therefore consider in Committee whether there should be regulations and licensing for the total amount of processing and handling capacity both on-shore and off-shore—in other words, whether licences should be given to Russian and other factory ships which come into our waters for klondyking—and whether that should be balanced against the requirements of the housewife in this country and of the processing, smoking and ancillary industries which are so important in making up our industry.
On fish farming, I am glad that at last we have a Bill to stabilise this whole problem. I pay tribute to the late Baroness Emmet, who died recently and who for a number of years had been trying to introduce a Private Member's Bill on this matter in the other place. I think that we should pay tribute to her now. I an sorry that she is not alive to see the start of this work.
Quite apart from the Bill, the whole question of fish farming is bedevilled by contradictory legislation about foreshore rights, water rights and so on. I hope that the Minister will go to his colleagues in the Government's legal Department and try to get this legal mess cleared up. Unless that is done, many of the provisions for research and development and expansion in the fish farming industry will be negatived.
The Minister has considerable powers—so many, it has been said, that it is in a way nationalisation of the fish farming industry. I think that that is nonsense, and I am sure that he would deny that. But I should like to know what grants are available. From the Bill, it looks as though the only grants available are those which will enable EEC grants to follow. I should like to see fish farming treated as an equivalent of agriculture, particularly with regard to capital grants, as I imagine that it will pay the levy introduced under the Bill. To sum up, I should like to see aquaculture given the same legal rights and status as agriculture.
I diverge for a moment to emphasise the fears in some of the smaller fishing ports that the powers of the regional water authorities might be extended—I think that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned this—at the expense of the sea fisheries committees. This is not provided for in the Bill, but I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that 772 it would be undesirable to give those authorities greater powers. They are not very popular authorities. By and large, the sea fisheries committees are doing a very good job and I should hate to see their powers go elsewhere.
Finally, turning to the miscellaneous provisions, as I think all hon. Members have said, we greatly welcome the increased powers to prevent whaling and the hunting of dolphins, porpoises and so on. This will be a very popular measure. I am delighted that it is to be enacted and I hope that the maximum publicity will be given to it.
This is an excellent Bill and it forms a valuable prelude to what I believe will come soon after, namely, agreement on the common fisheries policy. It inaugurates the new and growing industry of fish farming. It should be, and I believe is, welcomed in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I also welcome the Bill, although, unlike the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), I have no great expectations about the end result of the present negotiations in Brussels on the common fisheries policy.
The Minister referred to the EEC and to fuel bills. With regard to the EEC, the Bill may have come rather late in the day in view of the kind of agreement that we may achieve. On the fuel question—which was an obvious way for the Government to assist the industry in its early difficulties—one would have thought that with the oil resources now open to the United Kingdom they might have done something to assist our industry. The French have been subsidising—I do not think that this is denied by the Government—the fuel bills for their fishermen. The great anger engendered by the French piracy in the last year ought at least to have given our own Government the go-ahead to give a similar subsidy to our fishermen.
As the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said, the Bill comes after 20 years of dithering by Governments of both parties. Naturally, I am content to go along with that judgment, which I believe is accurate. I am afraid that in setting up the Sea Fish Industry Authority we may be rather late in the day if, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, we have no fish. We may be in the position of some of those countries which have dictatorships. In those countries there is no justice in the sense that any ordinary democrat would understand, hut they all have a Ministry of Justice. We may have a Ministry of Fishing without having any fish to speak of.
I have some regrets about the disappearance of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board, but I agree that it is rational and sensible to amalgamate them. I also pay tribute to the competent and acceptable job that they have done for the industries over the years.
Without going into great detail, may I say that the protection for whales is a welcome and civilised measure on the part of the Government.
The need for specific protection of Scottish interests is important in view of the large amount–48 per cent.—of United Kingdom fish landings in Scottish ports. For many small townships and family fishing interests the moves now being envisaged may be a little too late. There is a feeling that we have closed the stable door after the horse has bolted. Many fishermen have left the fishing fleet in my constituency during the past year. Although 773 one or two may return, quite a number have stated that they cannot be attracted back to the industry. That will be a great loss.
Last year, fishing fleets in Stornoway, Peterhead and other ports were tied up because it was not worthwhile for the men to go to sea. Many of these difficulties were due to the failure of successive Administrations to recognise the desperate need to conserve stocks and enforce quota systems which would have assisted the industry. One regrets that in the past British Governments have not had the guts shown by the Icelandic Government to defend the rights of their own fishing communities.
Against the long-running comedy of trial and error, attempts have been made to negotiate an acceptable common fisheries policy. Until we know how that develops, the Bill loses much of its impact. Had it been introduced some years ago, it would have been of much greater significance.
There are two developments in the Bill which need clarification from a Scottish standpoint. I am sorry that the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) thought that I was on a different wavelength from him with regard to representation. When I asked a question of the Minister, although I specifically asked about Scottish representation, I think that I mentioned other areas of the United Kingdom—such as the hon. Gentleman's constituency, Hull, Cornwall and so on—which would have a genuine right to representation on the authority. I hope that that will be borne in mind. I was not making a nationalist point, although, in view of Scottish interest in the industry, that should also be borne in mind. However, this question is applicable to other areas of the United Kingdom. Although the Minister's reply was satisfactory as far as it went, perhaps in Committee we shall be able to provide in the Bill that geographical and other interests will be safeguarded by the new authority.
Clause 32 ends the statutory duty placed on the Secretary of State for Scotland to make an annual report regarding fisheries—a duty that he was obliged to undertake under the Fishery Board (Scotland) Act 1882. I regard that as a retrograde step. Does it mean, as in many other areas of Scottish life, that it will be impossible to have access to separate Scottish statistics? The Scottish Fishermen's Federation has already warned that Scottish fishermen are facing the worst depression since the war. Imports have doubled and all round costs have soared. Therefore, it is essential to have a guarantee that all Scots who care about the future of the industry should be able to keep an eye on its progress and should have accurate information on which to base their judgment and decision. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that knowledge of the fortunes of the fishing industry will be made available in that way? That seems to be an erosion of Scottish rights—which the Government have attempted in the past—and it could be the thin end of the wedge.
774 I should like to refer briefly to clause 26 and the subsequent clauses dealing with fish farming. There has been a great deal of disquiet along the West Coast of Scotland about the action of the Crown Commissioners who have let large areas of the seaboard to big companies. It may well be that, when the small business man decides that the time is right to raise fish in cages in the sea, the coastline will have been pre-empted. That is a matter to which the Government should give attention.
I also draw the Minister's attention to the plan for fisheries in the Western Isles, which has been produced by the local authority in the Western Isles. It deals sensibly with conservation and development in the Western Isles. In view of the importance of that area to fishing generally, the plan ought to be given serious consideration by the Government.
On conservation, I notice that the Bill refers to limits on catches. Does that also relate to mesh sizes? I realise that the United Kingdom as a whole has a better record than some of our Common Market partners regarding mesh sizes.
The main issue, which is whether the Bill will be effective, will depend on what is achieved in the negotiations in Brussels. If there is a sell-out of the fishing industry, the Bill will be nothing but waste paper. However, I hope for the best. I welcome the Bill and believe that it ought to have the general support of the House.
§ Mr. lain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I am glad to join the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) in giving a welcome to the Bill. I am particularly glad, because for once he and I agree about the importance that should be given to Scottish interests in this matter, given the importance of the percentage that Scotland contributes to the fishing industry as a whole.
I agree also with the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's comments on the common fisheries policy. That is the background against which the Bill will either help the revival of the fishing industry, or not. However, I do not agree with his rather pessimistic comments about a sell-out and so on. I should have thought that a greater degree of optimism was being evinced by the fishing industry than we have seen for a considerable time. We certainly all hope so. Indeed, the common fisheries policy is the backdrop against which we must consider the Bill.
I very much welcome the Bill. Although it did not receive a vociferously effusive welcome from the industry, at least it was not greatly criticised by the sections to which I have spoken. Apart from one or two criticisms, the industry has largely welcomed it. There certainly appears to be almost universal acceptance that it is no longer sensible to have two bodies—the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Boar—and that they should be amalgamated.
Rather like the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), my eye was caught by the sinister phrase that the pay of the members of the new authority would largely be offset. I hope that that does not mean that it will cost more. Unfortunately, I cannot see how it can mean other than that, but I hope that in Committee we shall discover that having replaced two boards with one it will cost less rather than more. Although I do not think that the cost of this operation is the most important aspect of the Bill, or anything approaching it, 775 none the less at a time of Government cutbacks it would be a shame, to put it moderately, if we were to find ourselves spending more on the new authority than we did on the two previous organisations.
I have received only three points of criticism from the industry. They are not points with which each section of the industry agrees. If I am lucky enough to serve on the Committee, perhaps we can go into this in greater length. At this stage it may be appropriate to put the three criticisms on record, although perhaps even the word "criticism" is too strong.
The first that was put to me by the Aberdeen Fishing Vessel Owners Association related to its disappointment that so far there is no mention in the Bill of the new authority dealng with a primary phase licensing system. I presume that the Government made no mention of that simply because the details of the common fisheries policy have not been renegotiated and we do not know what will emerge. If some sort of primary phase licensing system is the natural outcome of the CFP renegotiations, I hope that it will be possible to put such powers in the Bill. In any case, that was the only major criticism which the trawler owners put to me, which must be something of a record with regard to fishing Bills.
The other two points put to me were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). The first is whether eight is a suitable number for representatives of the fishing industry, taking into account the multiplicity of different aspects of the fishing industry not only in business terms but in regional terms. Anyone who attended the Scottish Select Committee's hearing in Aberdeen about a year ago will be only too vividly aware of the differences in the industry and the difficulty which those engaged in it have in coming together on many topics—not only on those which call in question the good faith of the French or other Common Market matters but on almost any other matter on which they find points of distinct difference. Certainly it is hard to see how eight people will represent all the different points of view in the industry. On balance, I dare say we shall see fairly soon whether eight people succeed, because it is also true that if we had more we would also have the difficulty of getting any united view out of 12, 15, 20 or however many members were thought to be appropriate. That was one point of view that was put to me very strongly from the processing side of the industry.
The other matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice mentioned was the one concerning Klondyking. We shall probably want to return to this on a probing amendment in Committee. However good it may have been for some parts of the fishing industry in the recent medium term, it has some very worrying implications for the British industry of the future if we do nothing about it.
Those are really the only three points of criticism that I have had from the industry. I congratulate my hon. Friend on seeing that the fruit of the Scottish Select Committee, namely, the transhipment levy, has found its way into the Bill, and I congratulate him also on the fact that he still thought it worth while last summer to bring it forward then, although he could easily have said it could wait for this new Bill. All those interesting hours that we spent in Standing Committees discussing this question have proved worthwhile.
One other topic that should be mentioned is that the new authority will have the power, as did the old White Fish 776 Authority, to continue with these consultancies in the Middle East and in Africa, which I know the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) believes to be very valuable. I agree with him. However, when we looked into the possibility of the White Fish Authority being able to increase the levy it was noticeable that a certain sense of irritation was felt in some parts of the British fishing industry that they were having to pay a levy to finance people who had been working in Saudi Arabia and who had now come back. I have no doubt that over the years we should find that not only people in Saudi Arabia and the Midle East had benefited from the consultancy advice given by the WFA but that overall the WFA had benefited financially. However, I hope that if the new body is able to continue these consultancies it will seek to explain better to those involved in the British fishing industry that they are not having to pay for the advantages being given to their competitors.
§ Mr. Sproat
The hon. Gentleman must not tempt me into arguments. I try on these occasions, when not provoked by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and others, to try to keep away from party differences. I have read the Bill with intense interest.
§ Mr. Hughes
All that I was suggesting to the hon. Gentleman was that he read the Bill, Which makes it plain that any consultancy arrangement must be on the basis that it pays its way.
§ Mr. Sproat
I am aware of that, and that was the case under the White Fish Authority as well. The point which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) appears to have missed is that, in the past, members of the fishing industry in this country felt that they were not getting value for money because persons who had been working in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East came back to this country and were being paid out of the levy. That was the point that I was seeking to emphasise. Having said that in that small incursion into a provocation, I add my welcome to this splendid Bill.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
Like most hon. Members, I welcome the Bill. I welcome especially many of the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) which echoed a great deal of the policy which my own trade union, the Transport and General Workers Union, has advocated for the industry over the years and on which it published recently a very interesting and informative document.
It must be emphasised at the outset that we are talking about an industry in change. One part of it is in decline and the other is in ascendancy and, in the decline of the deep-sea industry, specific areas and communities have been more seriously affected. Some of the benefits, profits and new prosperity which we welcome for the inshore and middle water fleets have not been seen in the deep water ports, especially in ports such as Hull which in the past depended for a great deal of their fishing prosperity on the deep water fleet, in which we have seen a considerable decline. That, therefore, makes me sceptical of the degree of euphoria about the negotiations of the Common Market arrangements and what we shall try to achieve for our fishermen.
777 It is not true, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said, that our difficulties do not stem from joining the EEC. Our difficulties do not stem wholly from the EEC, but it is quite clear that we cannot as a nation any longer negotiate third party agreements in Norway, Greenland, Canada, the United States, the Faroes and Russia as we were able to do in the past and where these nations have been prepared to negotiate with us to obtain reciprocal rights in our waters. That has clearly and properly to be understood.
§ Mr. McNamara
I do not accept that, because the fish that they are coming for are within our traditional waters. They are within our 200 miles. They want fish out of British waters. They are not looking for fish out of German, French or Dutch waters because most of them have gone; they are fished out. That is why the French themselves are trying to torpedo such progress as has been made so far. They want access to our waters to get our fish.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice should think about this far more objectively, because what is happening is that the interests of our deep water fleet have been neglected completely in the negotiations at Brussels, and it is not good enough for the Minister to make a statement in the House, as he did just before Christmas, saying that I was breaking the front by criticising the failure adequately to obtain proper compensation for the deep water fleet.
The community which I represent is dependent on the deep water fleet. It is no good saying that we intend to restructure the industry and give hope to the fishermen. That is important, but it is not only fishermen per se who are involved. The whole back-up operation is involved, by which I mean all the ancillary industries. One has only to go to the port of Hull to appreciate the food processing and repair and maintenance industries which have disappeared from Humberside and Grimsby and moved to the South Coast. That is the effect that these new policies have had upon our areas.
That is why we expect the Minister, if he gets an agreement in Brussels, to obtain more forthright terms of benefit for our industries and our communities which not only seek to restructure the fleet and to give training facilities but also inject public capital directly into areas such as Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood which have been hit, with no form of compensation, by the decision to enter the EEC and thereby lose our rights of negotiation with third countries.
A national decision took us into the EEC. We are entitled to look to the nation for compensation.
Having made the point about the deep sea fleet and the need for proper compensation for my constituents and union members, I turn to what we hope might result from the new Sea Fish Industry Authority. I pay my tribute to the White Fish Authority for what it has done in the past and the degree of public investment it has put into Hull in terms of some of the most advanced research facilities that have existed there and for improving the ability of the industry to catch fish and to increase its safety.
778 I take up a point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) about overseas development. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), I wish that the hon. Gentleman had read the Bill. One should not underestimate the degree of good will that has come to this country through the work achieved and the consultations undertaken under the auspices of the White Fish Authority working for the Overseas Development Administration, as it now is, throughout the world in obtaining employment and markets for British goods.
I should like to raise a number of points about the Bill and the power of the authority. I trust that there will be adequate representation on the new authority for the trade unions involved in the catching and processing of fish. Because of the casual nature of the deep sea fleet, there has been a tendency to pay insufficient attention to the interests of people employed within the industry. This applies especially on the processing side where filleters are often women workers employed part time. There are problems which can be tackled only by the trade unions bringing their expertise to bear. Because of their nature, the trade unions also strongly reflect a large consumer interest. The Transport and General Workers Union is mainly, but not wholly, involved in the organisation of workers in the fishing industry.
I hope that by virtue of clause 13 the authority can be made responsible for ensuring the introduction of a competent scheme to change the casual nature of the industry into a proper system of employment, especially for what is left of the deep sea fleet. These men should be able to look to the industry for a sound and secure future and should also be brought within the ambit of the benefit of much of the existing social security legislation which they do not at present enjoy. It should be possible for the new authority to take the initiative. After protracted and sometimes bitter negotiations, the employers and the unions have come up with an agreed scheme. It only remains for the Government to inject a small degree of finance to get the scheme off the ground. One would hope that this can be properly carried out by the new authority.
A second matter to which my union attaches importance is that there should be proper control by the authority of the granting and controlling of licences for fishing vessels, which will be important if an agreement is reached with the Community. For the stability and future viability of the industry, the authority should also have knowledge of, and perhaps the responsibility to approve and vet, future forward fishing plans. This would enable an overall look to be taken at the hopes that exist within the industry.
Many hon. Members will want to refer to the problems arising from the conservation aspects of the Bill. Some hon. Members have already mentioned the degree of confusion about the area of control over 12 miles and 200 miles, those who will be responsible and the reasons. The right hon. Members for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) indicated that the degree of adequate conservation will still depend on the will of those involved and of the Governments involved. Those hon. Members who have gone round fishing ports on the Continent will have seen undersized fish openly displayed. If seen in this country such fish would have to be thrown away. Those responsible for displaying them would be liable to strong fines.
779 I am concerned about the measures regarding fresh water fish farming. I took it upon myself to write to the Yorkshire water authority about these matters. Fresh fish farming falls under the ambit of the Department of the Environment. There have been problems of the polluting of water courses used by anglers. Sometimes there does not appear to be adequate control of fish farming. Where regulations exist there appears to be lack of sufficient patrols, through lack of finance, to permit proper policing. I agree that some of these detailed points can be worked out in Committee. There is, however, a degree of concern. The chief executive of the Yorkshire water authority, in a letter to me, says:We are frankly puzzled by part IV of the Bill which relates to fish farming. Clause 28 provides exemption from conservation legislation. The exemption relates to anything done or omitted 'in the course of and for the purpose of fish farming' which is defined to mean 'the breeding, rearing or cultivating of fish…' There is nothing in the definition to limit fish farming to what goes on in premises such as we normally describe as a fish farm with its tanks, ponds and so forth.Thus the exemption is not limited to activities within a fish farm in the sense of particular premises or within a defined curtilage. The exemption could apparently apply to any reach of river or canal, or any pond, which is managed as a fishery. Every owner of a river or pond fishery who purposefully manages the waters as a fishery could claim, it would seem, to be fish farming. Unless we have failed to notice some limitation under the clause it would 'drive a coach and horses' through the whole of our controls under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, quite apart from exempting fish farms such as we know them at present.That is a serious criticism made by a large water authority. I hope that the Minister will be able to go some way towards alleviating some of the fears. It is a matter that will need to be examined in far more detail in Committee.
Like every hon. Member, I welcome the strengthening of the provisions dealing with whales. Clause 30(2) seems to be a limiting provision on the number of species of whale that can be caught. Provision is made for an Order in Council to extend the effects of the clause. I should like the Minister to explain in more detail the meaning of that apparent limitation. It seems that section 1 of the Whaling Industry (Regulation) Act 1934 is being largely re-written. In many respects that is to be welcomed. There appears, however, to be a degree of limitation. I should like an explanation. I should also welcome the chance, in Committee, to examine in more detail the purpose behind the clause.
My union welcomes the Bill, as I do. However, I regret that for many people in Hull it is somewhat academic, because our time has gone. I hope that my words will strengthen the Minister's resolve and ensure that something positive is achieved for the industry in Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood, in negotiations in Brussels. I hope that we shall also achieve the public financing necessary to compensate that which has been lost, not because of microchips or the economic recession but as a direct result of the conscious decision by the nation in the referendum to remain in the Community.
§ Mr. John MacKay (Argyll)
I shall concentrate on Part IV of the Bill, which deals with fish farming. That will allow hon. Members with sea fishing interests the opportunity to concentrate on that topic. My constituency is in the forefront of fish farming. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) mentioned Ardtoe, where a 780 considerable amount of work has been done by the White Fish Authority, and will now be done by the Sea Fish Industry Authority, on turbot breeding. My constituency also contains many salmon, trout, mussel and oyster farms. A tour of my constituency is a gourmet's delight for seafood lovers.
In 1979 about 400 people in Scotland were employed in the fish farming industry. Salmon and rainbow trout to the value of £4.3 million were produced. At that time only slightly more salmon was produced in the whole of the United Kingdom than in Scotland alone, proving that most salmon production takes place in Scotland.
In England and Wales there are many trout farms. Most of them arise from restocking for angling programmes. Much fish farming has developed from that. The estimate is that by 1985 about 1,000 people will be employed in the fish farming industry in Scotland, producing £20 million of fish in a year. The industry is important.
I welcome part IV of the Bill, but I am not sure that its inclusion does not continue the problem raised by almost all hon. Members. I refer to whether fish farming is fishing or farming—whether it is agriculture or sea fishing.
At the end of last year the Government recognised that fish farming was more akin to farming than fishing when they accepted an amendment to the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill to allow fish farming to be derated in the same way as animal or vegetable farming. In doing that the Government recognised that fish farming was farming and an agricultural pursuit. I welcomed that recognition, but it would have been better if the Government had clarified the issue.
Clause 26 is welcome in my constituency and in the rest of the Highlands where Community grants were available. However, such Community grants were not available in the rest of the United Kingdom because the Government did not have the machinery to pay our contribution to the grants required by the Community. I welcome the removal of that anomaly. However, it is a pity that the grants are not to be agriculture grants, because that would have wedded fish farming more closely to agriculture.
Almost all hon. Members have raised the question whether fish farming will come under the control of the Sea Fish Industry Authority. They have asked whether there will be a levy and whether the grants will come from the Sea Fish Industry Authority. There is nothing about the Sea Fish Industry Authority in part IV. The Scottish NFU was probably wrong in its view. However, clause 4(8)(c) states:references to the landing of fish include references to the collection for consumption of sea fish which have been bred, reared or cultivated in the course of fish farming whether in the sea or otherwise.Clause 12 states that "sea fish"means fish of any kind found in the sea, including shellfish and … any part of such fish but does not include salmon or migratory trout.I assume that rainbow trout, brown trout and salmon fish farming will not be subject to the authority, whereas fish such as turbot will be subject to the authority and the levy. That is untidy. I repeat that it would be better if we were to define fish farming clearly as farming.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) raised an important matter. As he was speaking I read carefully that part of the Bill to which he referred. I see his point. I agree that a part of a stream or reservoir where angling and not much else takes place could be included in the Bill's provisions, but I do not 781 believe that that is what the Government intend. I hope that my hon. Friend will attempt to clarify what does and what does not come within the ambit of the Sea Fish Industry Authority.
Research and development are important, and already take place in my constituency. The marine laboratory at Dunstaffnage plays an important part in scientific work on fish farming and sea fishing in general. It is recognised that farmed salmon and trout cannot be subject to the same rules and regulations as trout and salmon in the wild. Clause 28 deals with that. In order to farm fish, actions must take place that are illegal in the wild. A clear definition of fish farming is essential so that we are aware of the exemptions from other Acts.
I turn to the question of shellfish structures. I hope that Ministers will consider widening the definitions, because some mussel and oyster farming is conducted on structures which are not suspended and floating but which are rigidly attached to the sea bed. I do not believe that they are caught by the Bill.
The Bill is welcomed by the industry, but more action is required. It is a pity that the Bill does not do everything at once. More is required on disease control, for example. Clause 31 helps in relation to live fish, but disease can be imported in dead fish. Given the concentrations involved in fish farming, disease is dangerous. There are also siting problems. Fish farming associated with a river system can cause downstream pollution. The Government must deal with that.
A major problem is developing on the marine aspect. For example the Crown Estate Commissioners might give somebody the right to moor cages on the sea bed, and somebody else the right to net for salmon on the same part of the coast, without attempting to resolve the possible conflict. That conflict, together with the navigational conflict and the conflict with ordinary "hunting" fishermen who may wish to trawl in a sea loch or bay, may lead to interference with trawling. I know that these are difficult matters to resolve, but there is enough coastline and more than enough water in Argyll for all those who want to be involved to be satisfied.
It is a pity that we are not carefully defining fish farming as an agricultural pursuit and amending legislation so that it comes within the ambit of the Central Council for Agriculture and Horticulture Co-operation. It comes within the agricultural capital grants scheme and the agricultural training boards. I hope that the Government will accept that fish farming is different from sea fishing. I hope too, that at some future date we shall have a Bill brought before us that will add to the stature and growth of fish farming.
I welcome the Bill, despite the qualifications that I have entered. I welcome those parts of it that relate to the sea fish industry.
§ 6.2 pm
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I begin by placing on record my tribute to present and past members of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. Within the limitations of the responsibilities that were devolved to them under legislation they have carried out their duties with great responsibility and have served the industry well. The fact that the Herring Industry Board and the White Fish Authority are to be merged into one 782 body is an accident of history and reflects the changed pattern of the fishing industry. I refer to the more sombre side of the industry, which has caused us so much concern.
The Bill has received a general welcome, but there has not been a great deal of enthusiasm. There has been a muted response. That is because the background to the industry is such that it is difficult for us to see the way forward.
We are facing problems with the common fisheries policy, which we have not discussed in any great detail today. Indeed, it would be wrong to use the purpose of this debate to discuss that policy in detail. However, the industry had a narrow escape when the French vetoed the agreement that we understand was about to be signed. Some of us would have been in a much more serious mood if the suggestions made about the pattern of the agreement had become a reality. We hope that the Government will stand out for the traditional objectives that we all wish to fight for and will secure a fair deal for our fishermen.
One of my reasons for giving the Bill such an unenthusiastic welcome is that it is merely a tidying-up operation. The Government have not taken the opportunity to consider ways in which the industry can be restructured.
Those who were involved with the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, who discussed various issues with the industry and who read the report, will know that the catching side of the industry was critical of the White Fish Authority and the money that it spent on advertising. At present there is a separate levy to finance advertising. As I understand the Bill, there will in future be only one levy.
Some sections of the industry are coming to the conclusion that their criticism of the so-called generic advertising was misplaced. If the fish that appears on the fishmonger's slab is to keep its place in the consumer's interest there will have to be a considerable amount of advertising. I hope that the proposal that there should be one levy does not mean that the new authority will be prohibited from engaging in generic advertising.
There has been some criticism of the way in which the levy has been collected. I am not sure whether the Government have yet resolved the matter. How will they collect the levy from the new authority? The Bill refers to maximum terms and states:The rate of levy may be set in terms of weight or value of fish up to a maximum of 0.8 pence per kilogram or 1 per cent. of the value of the fish.The implementing regulations will have to take one course or the other. They will not be able to include both approaches. Those who pay over the levy—there is a great deal of argument about who coughs it up—will complete the calculations month by month. If a levy of 0.8p gives a lower figure than 1 per cent. of the value of the fish there will be a tendency to offer a levy based on a calculation of the 0.8p provision. If the 1 per cent. provision produces the lower figure, there will be a tendency to try to use that.
The industry and the new authority will need to know the basis of the calculation, because catch values and total catches vary from month to month and from year to year. We will not be able to operate on the basis of one calculation for one month and another calculation for the next month. I do not seriously suggest that that is what the Minister has in mind. I hope that he will tell us which of the two propositions he will set out in the regulations. I want to know more about that before we allow the clause to become a section of the Act. I hope that the Minister will tell us how he anticipates the levy being financed.
783 Some of my hon. Friends have spoken about employment in the industry and the way in which those who work on the catching side receive inadequate treatment. I am sure that the Minister will have seen the document produced by the Transport and General Workers Union, entitled "Fishing: The Way Forward". It was produced by Melvin Keenan, the fishing liaison officer, and Dr. Norman Godman, a technical adviser. They have done an excellent job in producing a document for the industry that we should take seriously. On page 2 they state:In the catching sector the fisherman is employed on a casual basis, is denied the rights and benefits accorded to most workers elsewhere and is in effect treated as a second-class employee by both employers and the State.Many of those who have been involved in the demand for decasualisation, proper wage structures and proper recognition by the State of the place of the fisherman in society have tended erroneously to assume that such action and recognition will affect only deep sea fishermen. It is true that at one time that sector contained the greatest number of fishermen so involved. However, it is a mistake to think that every inshore fisherman is the owner of a boat, a part owner or a share fisherman. Those who are share fishermen are treated in precisely the same way as the deck hands of the deep sea fleet. I hope that the Government will not take the view that it is a diminishing problem that is now not important as such a small number of men are involved. I hope that the issue of decasualisation will be taken extremely seriously.
I am sorry that the Government have not taken the opportunity to deal properly with safety. At present—and this will still apply if and when the Bill is enacted—the safety of vessels at sea is the responsibility of the Department of Trade and not that of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. That is a mistake. It is important for general seagoing safety to be under the Department of Trade, but the safety of fishing vessels should be the responsibility of the Department directly concerned with fishing.
The general public consider that the most dangerous industries to work in are construction and coal mining. I do not detract from the dangerous nature of that work, but let us consider what the Sea Fisheries Training Council has to say about the appallingly high accident and fatality rate:Independent confirmation of this dreadful state of affairs is to be found in the SFTC survey, which stated, 'Such statistics that are available show that the accident record of the fishing industry is poor, and should be unacceptable and is significantly worse than that of almost all other industries including mining and construction…'.The statistics referred to show that the fatality rate … in fishing is almost eleven times greater than that for coal mining.It is a serious matter.
Some of the figures quoted later in the documents are taken from parliamentary questions that I tabled. The document supports my demand for an independent inquiry into the safety of fishermen at sea. We cannot leave the matter as it stands.
Touch wood, this winter no vessels have been lost at sea. I hope that we shall get through the winter without fatalities. If so, it will be the first winter that I recall without any. One reads regularly of men lost at sea or involved in serious accidents, some of which are caused by lack of proper training. Clause 3 gives the new authority some training responsibilities. I again quote from the survey document: 784At least half the existing labour force of the (sea-going) industry has never had training in survival, fire-fighting or first-aid.I would go further. Few of the men who go to sea have been trained to handle the new technical and industrial equipment now on almost every size of vessel, such as new winches for hauling nets. Training safely to handle that machinery does not exist.
What will he the relationship between the Sea Fisheries Training Council and the new fisheries body? Under the Bill it appears that there will be a change from the present authorities, with their large advisory councils. However, I am not sure that the new arrangement means that the Government can do without some sort of advisory or consultative machinery. I do not want to be accused, as I accused someone else, of not having read the Bill. Having read it reasonably carefully, I see nothing about such advisory or consultative machinery. There is need for the maximum amount of training for men before they go to sea.
The authority will comprise 12 members, four nominated by the Secretary of State and eight to represent the industry. We can argue interminably about the size. Will a body comprising 12 just men be the right size? Too big a body will not be very effective. How can we achieve geographical representation? The Scottish industry should be properly represented, although I believe that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will agree that it is not entirely homogeneous. Some areas of Scotland may be upset if others are represented and they are not. That is probably true of the Islands. How will the different areas of England be represented, never mind North and South of the border?
How can we take into consideration the catching side, which has diverse interests? Although there is not much left of the deep sea industry, it feels that it still plays an important part. I believe that the Minister said that it now provides only 9 per cent. of the catch. We have also to consider the inshore industry, the middle water industry, and those who work on shore. Then there are the consumers and the trade unions. I imagine that there will be discussion among hon. Members representing the trade unions about which of the major ones should be represented.
§ Mr. Hughes
In that case I include my union, the AUEW, which represents members in the fishing industry.
The Government should spell out much more clearly where members will come from. The Bill merely states that eight members are to be representative of the fishing industry and are to be appointed after consultation with it. However he proceeds over membership, the Minister will upset many people. Perhaps he should extend the membership slightly beyond 12 to minimise disappointment, although there will always be some complaint, whatever the number.
I hope that the trade unions will be adequately represented. There should also be proper machinery for regular consultation outside the body.
785 I am confused about the way in which the Bill deals with fish farming. The Minister has told me twice that the Bill refers only to sea fish farming. That is not adequate. Fish farming generally should be considered as part of the fishing industry. Commercial fish farming, as opposed to that for angling interests, should be covered by the Bill and by the new Sea Fish Industry Authority.
Commercial fish farming interests should also have to pay the levy. Unless we are careful, in the not-too-distant future there will be a serious conflict between fish farming and sea fishing interests. Fish farming will play a greater part in the future. Certain species are at present only caught, and not farmed. I believe that every interest should be covered in the Bill. The alternative is, as the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) suggested, to take the lot out. It is not adequate to bring in only one little section.
I do not dispute the need for proper inspection at the ports, and so on. However, once the fish are caught and on the quayside it is too late to worry about conservation. They are then dead. The best and proper way to conserve fish is to have adequate policing at sea. I know that the Minister shares that view. Much policing must be carried out. That involves a slight conflict of interests.
Because the majority of fish caught by EEC countries are in British waters—some say 60 per cent. and others 70 per cent.—we are insisting that the coastal State should have the right of inspection. I do not rule out the possibility that we should also inspect fishing being carried out elsewhere. I do not refer only to the quayside. Perhaps we should have a roving fisheries inspection vessel to see what vessels are doing in other Community waters. However, that may not be a major or important point. We must ensure that there is a proper policing and licensing system. I know that the Government share that view. I hope that other areas of the Bill that deal with conservation do not obscure that.
I wish to make one constituency plea. If we are adequately to police whatever new regime is introduced under the common fisheries policy we shall need more fishery pootection vessels. A shipyard in Aberdeen builds vessels for the fishery protection service. Both for the employment of the shipyard workers and for the general good of the industry, please let us have more orders.
In general, I welcome the Bill. It tidies up various matters. It is a pity that we are dealing with it in the abstract, because there is no agreement on a common fisheries policy. It is a pity that the industry is facing such an unclear future. However, if the Minister will take account of the points made by several hon. Members, at the end of the Committee and Report stages we may have a better and more wide-ranging Bill than that now before us.
§ Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)
This is a significant Bill, presented at an important time in the fortunes of the fishing industry. It is surprising that I should rise to support the Bill and find that I am also supporting a new quango—
§ Mr. Warren
The right hon. Gentleman must wait and hear what I have to say. The paragraph relating to the financial effects of the Bill states that we are abolishing 786 two authorities and that the cost of the authority will be largely offset. That is not the way in which I thought the Government would put forward the new authority. I hope that the cost will be wholly offset and that we shall find that we are saving money through the establishment of the new authority.
In his speech this afternoon my right hon. Friend recognised the overriding importance of the inshore fishermen. With respect to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), who is not in the Chamber, I must say that I felt that he was talking about a different industry from that which is now predominant in Britain, namely, the inshore fishing industry. With your constituency interest at Rye, Mr. Deputy Speaker—which I share because I am close to you at Hastings—you will know that we have a clear view of the Continent as it is epitomised in the European Community.
The Bill is presented in that context in relation to the inshore fishermen of the South. We are confident that my right hon. Friend and the Minister will reach a satisfactory agreement. We welcome the fact that the Bill is presented at a time when the traditional enemies of Rye and Hastings—the French—are isolated eight to one in the Community negotiations. We must look at the Bill as a means of producing a workable framework for the industry at a time when we are involved in important negotiations about the preservation of the integrity of the British fishing industry.
I wish to make one or two detailed comments on the Bill, and will take the clauses in sequence. I deal first with clause 3. I welcome the intention that the authority should carry out research and development. In the past I have been worried that research and development has not been carried out on behalf of the industry. I know that my right hon. Friend has a research and development establishment under his authority, but there are poor contacts between the fishermen landing their catches on the beach and the research scientists in their laboratories. It would be more helpful to the fishermen, whether they be on the beach or, as we hope, at sea, if there were clearer, closer and more frequent contacts between the existing research authorities and the fishermen fishing in inshore areas.
The inshore fishermen of the South Coast have little confidence in the findings of Ministry scientists on the question of beam trawling. They maintain that there is a grave danger to the future of the Dover sole and Dover plaice, which are traditionally fished at Rye and Hastings—nowhere near Dover. We have been told by the scientists that we have, nothing to worry about. I am sorry, but they can be wrong only once. The scientists should be closer to the problem and err on the side of caution. They should ensure that we have the legislation that we need to protect the inshore fish stocks.
Clause 4 deals with the monitoring of landings. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have voiced their suspicions and fears about how we can do that effectively. The Bill spells out the need for Customs officers, coastguards and local policemen to be involved as inspectors, but it does not say how many people will be employed, who they will be, and what competence they will have. I hope that the Minister will define exactly who those people will be. They need to understand the industry. If they are around at all, they are not visible at the moment. Although there is a great deal of competence in many of the fisheries officers, it is a question of how close they will be to the inspection capability required by the Bill. During 787 the past few months hon. Members on both sides of the House have frequently said that, although they welcome the requirement that the European Community should be the responsible authority to monitor quotas and landings, the question is who on this side of the Channel will monitor them to the satisfaction of member States.
Clause 5 raises the question of authorised officers. Clause 6 raises the question of how they will be paid and the amount of money involved. In my limited time in the House I have seen people come forward and talk about sums of money that should not exceed a certain amount, about how they could be increased by a certain additional amount, and so on, but everything hinges on the willingness of the fish to be caught. We in the coastal constituencies do not find that the fish queue to be caught. I commend to the Minister the suggestion that he should include a "not to exceed" sum. Accounts should be presented not only in restrospective, as required in clause 9, but as a budget for the authority for the year ahead.
Clause 8 provides that the authority can invest funds not immediately required for other purposes. It is nice to know that the authority will be so rich. It almost leads me into a diversionary speech on training boards. Training boards that do not spend their money tend to hoard it away for a rainy day. The rainy day is always here for the fishing industry. I hope that the authority will be given more money than it needs. That is why I want to see it present a budget, rather than restrospective accounts.
I sense a problem in regard to clause 12. Although I am sure that the Minister of State will tell me that my fears are ill founded, I should like to identify the problem. It is said that'the sea fish industry' means the sea fish industry in the United Kingdomand thata person shall be regarded as engaged in the sea fishing industry if … he carries on the business of operating vessels".In the inshore industry these are a large number of part-time fishermen, so I hope there will be some clearer definition of what that means. Does it mean that his principal business is that of a fisherman? Some definition there would be of great help and, I hope, of reassurance to inshore fishermen.
In clause 18 we begin to wander into the wonderland of people who do not have to do any fishing at all. It is said that a sea fish is prohibited from being caught, and that if one catches it by mistake one must immediately return it to the sea. There was a poor chap off Cornwall the other day—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) will be able, with authority, to speak for longer on this matter than I am able to—who caught a lot of herring. He did not mean to catch herring, and no one told the herring that they should not be caught. He had to dump the lot back into the sea. That is the kind of thing what we ought not to run into; the kind of legal tangle that the herring ran into in that net. If they are caught, they are caught. That man offered the herrings to charity. In that situation it would be far better to have those fish ashore and give them to people who need them than to hurl them back into the sea for the Russians or the French to catch and use for fish meal. I hope that we can get a bit more sense here than we find in the legalistic jargon of clause 18.
Clause 21 talks of an increase in the maximum fine to £5,000 for catching undersized fish and net offences. As far as I am concerned, as long as that applies to the French, 788 it is all right by me, but we must be clear that one has to measure the degree of legal enforcement against the reality that fishing is not an industry in which one can define quantitatively before the fishing takes place exactly what will happen. I hope that there will be a lot of tolerance here in terms of the industry's practice.
On clause 25, again £50,000 is quite fair if it is levied against a Frenchman, but when I look at the Community instruments to which reference is made I feel that we are too slow at present, both in this country and in the Community, to appraise the exact problems with which we are faced. I referred earlier to beam trawling. I happen to remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who is now the very welcome new Leader of the House, said in 1974 that he would ban beam trawling. That was very acceptable to all the inshore fishing constituencies, but in the six years that have passed we have had many arguments about whether that kind of ban should be enforced. We ought to get a more rapid response.
That takes me back to the relationships between the research and development authorities and the fishermen on the beach and at sea. I am pleased to hear that the fish farming which is referred to in clause 26 refers to fresh water as well as to sea water. I think that many of our problems could be offset if we got down more assiduously to seeing how we can farm sea water fish inshore, rather than having to be concerned about migrations and the apparent appearance and disappearance of fish without their warning us. It is about time that we understood the fish cycle more clearly.
The Bill will provide an effective interface between the industry and the Government, but I hope that the Government, in their deliberations in Committee, will also consider the way in which this legislation will have to interface with the EEC. This is the kind of Bill for which we have waited long. I welcome it and wish it good progress.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I listened with some care and appreciation to the Minister. He came back constantly to one word—"conservation". Listening to him, I thonght of myself last night, at about half-past seven, when I was looking at a BBC documentary, "The World About Us". That programme quoted a saying of Charles Lindbergh:I do not think there is anything more important in the world today than conservation—save perhaps human survival, and one is not possible without the other.Certainly this applies to the fishing industry. As far as the Bill aids us in that direction, I am four-square behind it. I think that it does, up to a point.
When I say that, I am in good company. I should like to quote Charles Meek, whom I first met when he was a distinguished colonial servant in the old Tanganyika mandate many years ago. I now pay my meed of praise to him, and that of my colleagues on both sides of the House, for the work that he and his staff have done in Edinburgh on the White Fish Authority. We know of this very much in Hull, with our industrial training unit there. Let me quote Charles Meek on the subject of this uniting of the WFA and the Herring Industry Board. On page 4 of the report and accounts of the WFA, he says:The Government has also moved rapidly toward the formation of a single successor body to the Authority"—that is, his authority— 789and the Herring Industry Board. At the time of writing, the powers to be exercised by the new organisation are under discussion with the industry and there is every prospect of early legislation. This will be welcome indeed after the years of uncertainty to which a loyal staff have been subjected.Some of us can echo that without being too personal about it.
Besides that, let me quote in aid someone else on the question of what is happening. I refer to the Transport and General Workers Union. I have with me a pamphlet, to which reference has been made previously. I shall give a copy of it to any Conservative Member who wants one. I know that all my colleagues on the Opposition Benches already have a copy. On page 4, under the heading "Research and Development in the Fishing Industry", it says:Despite the present dismal circumstances, a long-term view demands continuing research and development programmes in all industries and the fishing industry is no exception to this rule. The existing White Fish Authority, and Herring Industry Board (soon to be replaced by a single statutory body) conduct useful research and development programmes within the limits of the finances available to them.It also says—this has been mentioned previously:No doubt we shall continue to witness the usual myopic insularity from some sectors of the industry expressed in the call for abolition of the WFA rather than replacement.After today's debate and the consensus on both sides of the House about the need and the desirability, even about 20 years after the Fleck committee, for the amalgamation of these two bodies, we should all welcome this tonight.
To put the final stamp upon our unity about the new body, I have been given an assurance by one of my constituents in Hull, by the name of Austen Laing, who is quite well known to Her Majesty's Government. Austen tells me that the establishment of the SFIA—the Sea Fish Industry Authority—is welcomed by the BFF. The Bill has the support of both sides of the House, the BFF, the Transport and General Workers Union, the General and Municipal Workers Union, and many other bodies. With godparents like that the Bill should go a long way in a short time in Committee upstairs. Nevertheless, we shall need to scrutinise it carefully, because whatever its intentions it will need to be amended. Many of the matters that have been raised in today's debates are Committee matters, and I do not intend to go wide of the Bill.
So far the Bill has received a quiet reception outside the House. Only the NFU has bombarded certain hon. Members on the important subject of fish farming. When I was a student I perused a book entitled "Forty Centuries of Fish Farming". Of course, that related to China, and it was a long time ago.
I have spoken to Unilever executives about the work done in the lochs of Argyll. I cannot understand why progress is so slow in this respect, and why, over the past year or decade—perhaps even two decades—we have moved so slowly and achieved so little in this connection.
Nevertheless, the NFU, a distinguished supporter, also welcomes the Bill and hopes that every possible financial aid will be forthcoming. That is not unusual. The NFU alleges that a former Government—I forget which one—did nothing about the matter in the Agriculture Act 1976. It says, which amazes me, that perhaps in 1976, or any time in the early 1970s, fish farming was thought of more for sporting purposes than for food production. I have never thought of fish in that connection, particularly 790 having discussed the matter with Unilever executives. Unilever has spent a lot of money—not peanuts; millions of pounds, in my estimation—in an attempt to make fish farming in sea water a money-making exercise.
I come back to SFIA. I hope that the Minister will be able to amplify somewhat the obligations of this future authority in respect of industrial training, and also comment on the burgeoning connections with the Sea Fisheries Council, which was set up, I think, in 1977–78 in York.
I refer again to the Transport and General Workers Union booklet. I shall not echo what has been said by my colleagues about safety at sea, because we are all aware of the figures. I am a miner's son, and I listened to a former miner speaking at the Dispatch Box a short time ago about the incidence of accidents and fatalities at sea. The incidence in deep-sea fishing is much worse than in coal mining, and something must be done about it. The booklet, which refers to the Fleck committee, makes clear that there is a paramount and vital need for more work to be done on safety. The numbers of casualties stagger people on land. If they go to such places as Hull or Aberdeen they will find out what happens to men at sea. I am sure that the Minister will pay due regard to the importance of this matter and give us some idea of what is likely to happen in this respect and what links there will be between the new body and the Sea Fisheries Council.
The Minister will know of the industrial fishing unit at Hull, in my constituency, where work is done by a staff of 75 people under a dedicated and able head, Bob Bennett. It does magnificent work. Let me give some figures to complement what was said earlier about the work done overseas and the work being done as an ambassador for industry, in the Middle East in particular. Last year there were 44 courses, attended by 340 United Kingdom students and 145 overseas students.
The overseas students go back home to the Third world as ambassadors, not merely for Hull or for the White Fish Authority but for the United Kingdom. Many of these young men—and, occasionally, young women— visit the Wilberforce museum, in the constituency of my hon Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) with its vivid evidence of the less glorious imperial past of slavery in Africa. After seeing that, the students still go back as ambassadors for Hull and the United Kingdom.
Therefore, I commend clause 3 (5) of the Bill which relates to the voting of money and the essential need to continue this work overseas. I personally can confirm, as can many other hon. Members, the first-class work that is carried out in this connection. In Somalia, Kenya and elsewhere I have seen the magnificent work that has been done, particularly the work involved in the four-year contract with Saudi Arabia. It is therefore important that more money should be spent or given to the education of the young men and women who come here.
Lastly, what added powers, if any, are to be given to this new authority? I assume that the chairman will be a full-time appointment, but the Minister did not seem to be sure about that, and turned to his colleague the Minister of State for confirmation. The matter has not been decided. In my opinion, it is absolutely vital that the new chairman and many others should be full-time, and that they should be people such as the present chairman, giving their full time to this work. I do not mean Whiz kids, as 791 in the City, but people who are dedicated and not merely efficient, who have expertise, and who will produce more results than in the past.
The industry is facing appalling difficulties, as all hon. Members know. Are the Government in favour of introducing a scheme of licensing within the industry? If they are—and this is vital for conservation, the future of our fleet and the jobs of those who sail in those vessels—are they prepared to make this new body, SIFA, with its, I hope, full-time chairman, responsible for the adminstration of the licensing of the vessels? The new body must have teeth. It must have powers, and it must be allowed to justify its existence.
I began to talk about conservation and human survival. There can be no survival without conservation, whether of the forests of the Amazon or, in this case, of stocks of fish in the North Sea. Without enforcement of limits, and without definite catch quotas and their observance, what is our future?
Within the past hour or two I have heard comments from the Conservative Benches about the need for fishery protection vessels. We have been speaking about that need for years. We have also heard of the need for more and more enforcement officers.
Is the EEC itself prepared to introduce a policy of licensing ships and by that method cutting down existing catching capacity? Not on your life, Mr. Deputy Speaker! I cannot see the EEC working on those lines.
Without being too personal, I must say that I have given up hope for Commissioner Gundelach. In Hull we have had some illusions for a number of years about competing successfully to he the EEC centre for fisheries—education, training, call it what one will. I was shocked to discover, at a recent meeting in Hull, that Commissioner Gundelach, who is a Dane, is allocating EEC moneys to a Danish centre. If it is built up and there is competition with Hull, Plymouth or any other of our centres, I can see how things may go.
I know that, perforce, we have begun licensing, or partial licensing, with two types of vessel—freezers and the purse seiners in mackerel catching in the South-West and off North-West Scotland. Do the Minister, his Department and the Government generally think that we should go it alone in this matter if the EEC dillies and dallies, as it is doing, through 1981 into 1982, before we get a settled common fisheries policy?
The Minister made a cryptic statement about deep water vessels and Hull. I took down his words about Hull and the distant water fleet. He said "The future will not be what it was." What does he mean by that? We had 140 deep sea vessels a few years ago and now we have 24. Of course the distant water fleet is not what it was, but what will it be? That is what is important to us on Humberside.
I should like to know what will happen to the distant water fleet under any agreement that the United Kingdom makes with our partners in the EEC. Our firms in Hull—Boyd, Marr, Hellyer; a long catalogue of them—are today catching anything to maintain their cash flow. They live from hand to mouth. We "Klondyke". "Klondyking" has been condemned on the Conservative Benches, but we "Klondyke" to feed Communist factory ships with mackerel. We even—this is the ignominious part—catch sprats now. We do anything to keep our bank managers quiet. What a fiasco it is! Have we any future? If we have not, we should be told.
792 As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central showed vividly and lucidly earlier, the impact of the decline goes all the way down the line—five jobs on shore for one on the deck. The Minister knows all about this; he has heard us talk about it before.
My question is not about the details but about whether the Government have made up their minds what kind of fleet they deem desirable, within a CFP settlement. What is the position of the distant water fleet?
Do the Government intend, as members of the EEC, to liquidate all vessels over 80ft? There are people on the Continent who do not want any vessels of more than 80ft. They think that vessels below that figure can make desirable and lucrative catches inside EEC waters. If that is so, is this EEC diktat to be forced upon us? If that is the possible understanding, both Ministers should visit Hull and tell our vessel owners and fishermen what is to be the position when they have spent both United Kingdom and EEC funds on restructuring. They should say what sort of fleet they intend to have in the 1980s to catch fish out of our ports. If we are to go the way of the steel industry, let us be told.
§ Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)
It is always interesting to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), who speaks with great experience in these matters and with a great deal of reasonableness. I hope that my saying that does him no harm.
Like most hon. Members present, including the hon. Gentleman, I very much welcome the Bill, in particular its principal elements concerning the merger of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. It is said "Marry in haste, repent at leisure." If that is true, the auguries for this marriage must be very good. Certainly those concerned have taken a long time a-courting. I must congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on introducing the Bill, which is much needed now, if not overdue.
The WFA and the HIB have done a great deal of valuable work, and there is more important work to be done in the future. With this merger of the two bodies, the opportunity arises to give those who will be involved in the work of the new authority, the Sea Fish Industry Authority, the opportunity to reflect on the emphasis and the relative importance of their different tasks. I am not sure that what has been of key importance in the past will necessarily be of the same relative importance in the future.
I particularly welcomed what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said about giving more attention within the Ministry to helping in the marketing of fish. Over the past year there has been a considerable increase of interest in the whole question of marketing. In my constituency a number of fruitful and constructive suggestions have been made on how marketing might be improved. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept from me some of the proposals that I have had in writing from East Fife.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will also bear in mind the useful work that some of the producer organisations have done in the past year, and consider that there may well be an important role for them, particularly in marketing. They should certainly be consulted about any new developments.
793 There is also the related question of promotion. Uncomplimentary words were spoken about the White Fish Authority's efforts on promotion when the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs took evidence on the raising of the White Fish Authority's levy. On occasion it has been implied that the evidence that was given to the Select Committee, and to some extent the view of that Select Committee, was against the White Fish Authority being involved in the activity of generic promotion. As a member of that Select Committee who listened to the evidence, and as an hon. Member representing a fishing constituency, I think it is fair to put the record straight.
It is my understanding that the complaint was not that the White Fish Authority should not be involved in promotion, but rather that the authority was not giving value for money in the promotional work that it carried out. That may or may not have been related to the size of its budget. There is an acceptance in the fishing industry that there is a need for considerably more promotional effort, and probably the most ready-made body to do that is the new Sea Fish Industry Authority.
I hope that the new authority will take this important aspect on board for the future, because even more important than conservation for the future of the fishing industry is consumption. If we cannot improve the track record on consumption, there will be serious consequences for the industry. For that reason, if for no other, I hope that the new authority will be active in seeking ways to improve the general promotion of fish as a worthwhile food.
Much has been said about fish farming, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), and I shall not seek to add to his well-informed speech on the subject. However, I should like to question whether sea fish farming should be involved with the Sea Fish Industry Authority. It is an important new industry in its own right, but its activities are more akin to agriculture than to fishing. We might call it sea culture, or whatever. But in view of the many important tasks that the Sea Fish Industry Authority will have to carry out, I question whether it should give any significant proportion of its skills, resources, efforts and finance to fish farming, which has considerable capacity within its own industry to deal with financial and technical matters. More than anything else, an improved legislative framework is required within which to develop this exciting new industry.
I mentioned earlier the changing emphasis of some of the tasks that the authority will have to carry out. The final paragraph of the report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs should be examined by the members of the new authority when they take up their duties. It said:We have heard a great deal of evidence about the need to slim the WFA, and much criticism of its overseas consultancy work, its research programme, its fish fanning ventures and its advertising.I spoke earlier about advertising, and I hope that I made clear that I am in favour of the authority grasping opportunities for the further promotion of fishing. There is also concern about the overseas consultancy work. While the White Fish Authority argued that it produced a net income for the authority which justified its continuing existence, the question was never wholly answered as to what would happen if a significant number of its staff who 794 had been earning fees from consultancy work overseas were suddenly left without work from overseas. They are employed on normal public sector terms of employment, which no doubt would make it extremely difficult or costly to dispense with their services. At the same time, it would be a charge on the authority. Therefore, even if there is substantial profitable advantage from time to time, none the less there is a net liability on the authority as a whole. There is an argument for the overseas consultancy work to be carried out by a separate company, perhaps organised by the authority but seen to be separate in its entirety from the general work of the authority.
There is much important work for the Sea Fish Industry, Authority to do. I hope that the Bill will pass through Parliament quickly to end the uncertainty which people working in the existing bodies have had to put up with for too long. I hope that the result will be that those concerned will be able to concentrate their energies and efforts on their vital work on behalf of the fishing industry.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
I cannot echo the wish of the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) that the Bill should pass through the House quickly. It always excites my suspicion when a measure such as this is welcomed by both sides of the House and by every hon. Member who speaks. If it is welcomed so widely, there must be something wrong with it.
I should like to strike certain notes of dissent, but I should not like them to be thought of as criticisms of the existing White Fish Authority, for which I have the strongest praise. Consistently, it has been an important source of expertise, skill and specialism for the industry. I refer particularly to the fishery economics unit which has carried out valuable research and provided vital statistics. The Authority has also been prepared to speak up for fishing in a way that the Ministry—the Mafia—was precluded from doing because of its constitutional position. I think particularly here of the restructuring scheme for the catching centre that was announced three or four years ago. Had it been implemented by Governments of both parties it would have put the industry in a better condition for facing the problems that it has had to face than the procedure to which we are now being driven—of doling out aid bit by bit, rather than on the planned, considered basis that the White Fish Authority wanted.
The future of fishing must lie in the industry becoming better regulated, better organised, better co-ordinated and more rational. That applies particularly to marketing. The industry should become like the agriculture industry, which works in close co-operation with the Government and has done extraordinarily well.
Having said that about the White Fish Authority, I must point out that there are divergent views about the present proposal from the industry. As several Labour Members mentioned, the Transport and General Workers Union welcomes the proposal, and I recommend to the House—as other hon. Members have done—its document "Fishing: The Way Forward", because it sets out a totally undesirable situation, given the deplorable conditions under which people are having to work and the safety record of the industry. That subject should be delegated to any genuinely effective authority planning the fortunes and destinies of the industry. If it is to influence training, why should it not also control conditions and safety, and 795 do its best to improve a serious flaw in the record of the industry? I shall not enlarge further on that point, because other hon. Members have dealt with it adequately.
Other sections of the industry do not echo the welcome given to the Bill by the Transport and General Workers Union. The merchants, for instance, feel that there is little in the Bill for the merchanting, marketing and processing side of the industry. In some respects processing is anomalous.
While some sections of processing can get help from the Departments of Trade and Industry, the wet fish trade tends to fall between stools. It is important, therefore, that an authority such as that proposed, which will seek to organise the industry rationally, should concentrate on the whole industry and not just on that part of it that is engaged in catching. It should seek to provide the same research, training and planning for processing particularly, but for merchanting as well. In other words, it must see the industry as a whole and recognise that the merchanting and processing sides are vital and increasingly important, given the fall in demand. It must appreciate the increasing importance of providing new wet fish outlets to stop the decline in that aspect of the trade. We need a body to give a lead in this respect.
The merchants argue that there should be a greater emphasis on advertising. The White Fish Authority has done its best with limited resources. It was sad that last year the Government decided to increase the general levy but not the advertising levy. That kind of generic advertising—the promotion of fish as a commodity—is important to the future of the industry. We must increasingly place that emphasis on fish. That approach has been shown to be successful in the promotion of cheese, for instance. The apple industry is also fighting back effectively in that way. Fish must be advertised in the same way. The White Fish Authority has been able to engage only in inadequate expenditure in that direction. That is not its fault. Its finances are limited. The £400,000 provided is peanuts compared with the promotion budgets of firms like Bird's Eye and Findus, which spend millions of pounds. That level of resources must also be devoted to the promotion of fish. Women's magazines are not good enough as a point for advertising. The emphasis must be put on the modern medium of television to push a product the sales image of which needs to be promoted if old markets are to be won back and new ones developed.
Markets have been lost by the drastic increase in prices. I still regard fish as providing very good value, but people have to he won back to it in the light of what happened in the 1970s.
§ Mr. Henderson
In that context, does the hon. Gentleman accept that there has to be an interrelationship between advertising and other aspects of marketing? It is no good telling people through advertising to buy fish if there is no shop in which they can do so.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I argued earlier that the decline in the number of outlets in the fish trade is a worrying factor. This is an area in which the new authority should be able to give a lead by emphasising marketing. In promoting fish we have to pay attention to that aspect. It is important to promote fish as a commodity, whatever the slogan. It could be "Fish—the Brain Food". Now that the Prime Minister has decided to make some of the best Ministers available for such a 796 promotion campaign, by dismissing them they could take part in a "Fish—the Brain Food" series of advertisements. But seriously it is apparent that such a campaign is extremely important.
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has made extremely important and fundamental criticisms of the Bill. Although the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said that the industry generally welcomed the Bill, the federation has given it a hostile reception. It does not want a statutory body of this nature funded by the fishing industry. It believes that it would be too powerful and that it would be insufficiently focused on the industry's problems. In spite of the representation of eight, it fears that it will not be accountable to the industry in the way that the federation wishes. It is strongly opposed to a levy, which it regards as exorbitant. Particularly, it is opposed to the Bill's alternative of an ad valorem levy. It argues that that would represent an increase of about 230 per cent. on the present basic levy and that the levy would be a self-generating source of revenue to the authority, which could go on increasing its expenditure free of control as the levy went up with inflation. It could continue to increase the levy through inflation without recourse to Parliament and without effective accountability to the industry. The federation is therefore most unhappy with that aspect of the alternative proposal.
The Federation is also opposed to the licensing scheme as proposed, and to specific clauses which, it considers, with some justification, given the wording, discriminate between professional fishermen and amateurs. Clause 17(2) effectively prohibits the possession of undersized fish only if the fish is intended for sale. That will provide the lawyers with a field day. It will be impossible to prove whether fish is intended for sale. That will limit inspection to the larger markets, where an intention of sale may be manifest. The restriction considerably weakens the legislation. There should be a total prohibition.
The federation also argues that discrimination between British and Common Market fishermen is implicit in this measure. It crops up in clause 17(3), which states that British vessels shall not carry fish of less than the minimum size. But it provides only that there may be a prohibition on such carrying by foreign fishing boats. If that is to be the subject of regulation I cannot see how the Government propose to enforce it on Common Market vessels unless our regulations are merely a re-enactment of existing Common Market rules.
We do not have the power to control Common Market vessels in the way proposed, and the Bill cannot give us that power. Either we are working on existing European regulations, which means that the clause is superfluous, or we cannot enforce specific United Kingdom regulations unless we repeal section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, under which we agree to comply with Common Market regulations. We are therefore unable to enforce conservation in the way in which the Minister appeared to indicate.
I have voiced these criticisms by organisations representing the fishing industry because they are important to my constituency. Points have been put strongly to me and to the Government by those organisations. My personal view is slightly different, but I am dismayed that the Government are asking an independent authority to exercise what should be the Government's responsibilities. I refer particularly to 797 subsidy schemes and restructuring payments. I would much prefer to see these handled by the Government than by the new authority. If there are to be such schemes it is the responsibility of the Minister to develop them and to handle them. He should not delegate that duty to someone else.
A European settlement will not absolve the Government of their responsibility to provide finance and subsidies for the industry as they have been forced to do over the last few months. That responsibility will remain, because national aids are certain to remain. If they remain on the Continent, we must maintain ours at or above that level to keep a viable industry. That is a Government responsibility, which cannot be handed to an independent authority, to be financed on the basis of a levy on the industry itself. The Government will almost certainly claim credit for any payments from that levy, saying "We are contributing this much to the industry," so they must also carry the burden.
That is the practice in the Continental countries that compete with us. There, aid is provided by the Government, as it is here. They will continue the practice, and so should we. That is what the industry wants, and it is wrong for the Government to abdicate that responsibility and hand it to an independent body—to relegate it, to wash their hands of it.
I want fishing organised and financed in much the same way as agriculture. To hand it to this independent body is to relegate its importance in a totally undesirable way. It is absolutely wrong to ask the industry itself to finance, through a levy, things that the Government should be financing from general revenue.
To be realistic on conservation, and despite the measures proposed in the Bill, we are in a "Catch 22" situation over conservation vis-a-vis the Common Market. Grimsby has a good conservation record. We have insisted on a larger-than-average mesh size for nets. We practise a form of fishing that in conservation terms is beneficial as well as efficient. But any efforts towards conservation are vitiated by the inadequate provision for conservation in the Common Market.
The important point for the industry is the limitation of effort. In an ideal world, catching effort would be limited by registration of vessels. That is the only efficient means of providing for conservation. Quotas are useless, because everybody cheats, and cheating will continue. Limitation of effort by registration of vessels is the only adequate way of achieving proper conservation. The chairman of the White Fish Authority has himself urged such a system.
We need a system with teeth, yet there is no point in our going in for, or even considering, such a system if the fruits of our conservation effort are immediately stolen from the mouths of our fishermen by the total lack of control of conservation and by the enormous fishing fleet that our Continental competitors are putting into the so-called Common Market pool—which means, mainly, our waters. Over-large fleets are being kept in being by subsidy, essentially to catch our fish.
British fishermen are fed up to the back teeth with being restricted, controlled, regulated, limited, inspected and prosecuted on conservation grounds when nothing at all is being done about the enormous over-fishing in our waters 798 by Continental vessels and very little is being done about the 101 fiddles that Common Market countries are perpetrating in our waters.
I warn the Minister that proper conservation, important though it is, will not be acceptable unless it is first accepted by, and imposed on, other fishing fleets by other Governments to show that they are willing—as they certainly have not done up to now. Conservation has become a joke, because it has become a conspiracy between the inspectorates and the industries of those countries.
All hinges on the common fisheries settlement of which the Minister spoke today. The most efficient organisation of the industry and the most effective form of conservation in this country are totally useless without proper controls and a proper background. We are now in a disastrous situation through those negotiations.
The quotas on which people are working—which have only moral, not legal, force—are those set in the Berlin agreement of January 1978. Now, our Minister comes back from the Continent claiming as a major triumph the securing of 36 per cent., he says, of the catch—it is only 36 per cent. of seven major species—which, on the figures worked out by the industry over the Christmas period is only 0.2 per cent. more than we were awarded in Berlin, in a negotiation in which we did not take part. So much for all the effort and the negotiation that has been put in. We have achieved a figure of 0.2 per cent. better than we received from a negotiation that we did not even attend.
§ Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)
It is not just that the previous Minister of Agriculture did not attend; he refused to attend. Had he attended the negotiations in Berlin I am certain that a common fisheries policy would have been concluded then.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Member concedes my point, in a sense. Had we not boycotted that conference we might have got a better deal. All that I am saying is that we have achieved 0.2 per cent. more, after negotiations that have taken all these months, than we were given after negotiations at which we were not even present—and negotiations that the hon. Gentleman's own leader, the then Leader of the Opposition, condemned at the time. She condemned that agreement, that settlement and those quotas. Now, we are asked to accept quotas that are 0.2 per cent. better. That is a pathetic outcome of the negotiations.
Even those quotas, we know, are being drastically over-fished and will go on being over-fished. Evidence has come in from Holland in the last few days that in a series of Dutch ports only the first 50 boxes landed from a vessel are counted towards the quota. the rest are sold effectively as "black fish". Much of it comes on to our market through Grimsby and other ports. The quota figures are being consistently fiddled.
What is the Minister doing about this? More important, what realistic hope can we have that the Euro-force of 40 inspectors—covering such a huge sea area, so many ports, an industry whose will is to fiddle and to go on fiddling, and supervising national inspectorates that have colluded with the present scale of fraud—can stop the farce of this montrous over-fishing?
It is clear that there is no will to enforce proper quotas and conservation not only among industries in other countries but among other Governments. this is the crucial 799 factor. We face the same problem as Iceland did at the beginning of the 1970s. Our waters and our fish are the subject of a consistent fiddle by a series of malpractices and over-catches by other countries over whom we have no control—we have abdicated our control—and from whose Governments we can have no hope of co-operation.
The French have given the Minister a compulsory respite from the sell-out on the basis of which he intended to claim "plaice in our time" at the end of 1980. What does he think the French would have done, faced with this deadlock? Is it not conceivable that they would have resorted to the same tactics, in a Community where, effectively, crime pays, as they did in their lamb war against us, when they achieved virtually everything that they wanted from the final deal?
That being so, and faced with the disaster that is now looming over the industry because of this agreement, should we not use every means to harass, limit, clobber and inspect the French, and to prosecute them where possible? The Minister cannot tell that no frauds are being perpetrated by French vessels in our waters that cannot adequately be dealt with by our inspectors. In other words, we should use the same pressures and tactics that were used against us. The fact that they are not being used shows an inclination to sell out the British fishing industry and a pathetic failure to stand up for national interests in the way which they should be fought for.
I conclude on a point that is vital to my constituency in these negotiations. Does the Minister not want the fishing industry to survive and prosper?
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is exaggerating. All that he has been saying should have been directed at the previous Government and not at the present Government, who are making such valiant efforts. I believe that he will be surprised at the end-result, when it comes.
§ Mr. Mitchell
If the Government are making such valiant efforts why did they impose a deadline for the end of last year? Why are they asking the industry to accept a settlement that is 0–2 per cent. better than the offer made in January 1978? Why are they saying that a successful deal is only 28 per cent. of the catch when all the fish is taken into account? Why are they going in for this monstrous duplicity, trying to sell to the industry a totally inadequate deal?
§ Mr. Mitchell
I should like to conclude on a point that is directly relevant to my constituency of Grimsby. Conditional on reaching an internal agreement is the failure to reach agreement with third parties, particularly with Norway. This is the time of year when a substantial number of Grimsby vessels go to Norwegian waters and a substantial proportion of our catch comes from those Norwegian waters. We are now stopped from that fishing. One Hull vessel has been sent back, and Grimsby vessels have not put to sea. It is a pathetic sight—but a beautiful sight—to see Grimsby harbour thronged with vessels that should be fishing in Norwegian waters. They have been stopped from fishing by the Government's failure in the negotiations. Why are the Government not opening direct contacts now with Norway to try to resolve the deadlock unilaterally? Why are we having to wait, our vessels stopped from fishing, until the common fisheries 800 talks, which have again been postponed, resume later this month? Why should we continue to wait when those talks do not succeed—as may happen?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) showed the way by going to Norway himself in 1978 to open up direct unilateral contacts with Norway. Why are we not now getting our finger into the fjord by going to Norway to open up contacts and ask for a rollover of the 1980 quotas that have been permitted every other year for British vessels only, given that the Norwegians take their counter-quota in British waters?
The Government may say that there are difficulties, and that the Norwegians will not unilaterally want to negotiate with us, but why are they not making an attempt—because so much depends on those negotiations for both Grimsby and the Scottish fishermen?
It is a bad augury for their concern about the industry that the Government are not attempting to do something about this deadlock in the third party negotiations. We are faced with a totally inadequate agreement. It is no use the Government saying, as was said in the opening speeches, that the Fisheries Bill promises a bright future for the industry. There is no bright future without a fair agreement and without proper control of conservation in our own waters. There is no indication that we are getting that. If we are not getting that, it will provide not for a bright future but for a highly efficient, well-organised and beautiful burial for a fishing industry for which the Government should have fought.
§ Mr. David Myles (Banff)
I am pleased to add my voice to the almost unanimous welcome that has been given to the Bill. I say "almost unanimous" because, until the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) spoke, the welcome was more or less unanimous.
I am amazed at the way in which the hon. Gentleman attacked the Bill. He said that the fishing federations were massively against it. I shall quote later from a document from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to disprove some of his remarks. I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman, because he opposed everything. It is difficult to understand what he would accept or what he would do constructively if he were in my right hon. Friend's shoes and had to negotiate the fisheries policy or produce a sea fisheries Bill such as this.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
Does not the hon. Member see the need for taking unilateral measures of the kind that I have spoken about to put pressure on the French? Why should all the pressures accumulate on this country when we are not the cause of the deadlock?
§ Mr. Myles
It would appear that the hon. Gentleman will accept only a high fence with a net all the way to the sea bottom right round our median line.
I should like to correct the hon. Gentleman on what he said about the French and the lamb war. Any sheep farmer in Britain will agree that we won the lamb war.
I welcome the Bill. It has tremendous importance for my constituency not just for the catching side of the industry but for the small harbours, the fish markets, the processors, the haulage companies, the small boat builders and the maintenance of slipways to repair fishing vessels. I am sure that the Bill will be welcomed by all those interests in my constituency, which also includes fish farming.
801 The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who has now departed from the Chamber, also welcomed the Bill. This seems to be the first time that his party has given any sort of welcome to fishery proposals. I hope that he will inform his party's spokesman on fishing matters that there are representatives within the industry and elected representatives who are paying great attention to fishing interests.
I join others, including my right hon. Friend, who paid tribute to the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board, coupled with the names of Charles Meek and Dr. Lyon Dean. I believe that these two gentlemen have served the industry extremely well. It is no reflection on the service that they and their staff have given to the industry that the Bill consolidates and regularises those two bodies. It is a natural evolution that had to take place to cope with modern circumstances. We should pay tribute to those bodies.
I was privileged to receive a copy of the letter sent by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 23 September about the statutory authority for the sea fishing industry. I shall not quote the whole of the letter. However, every item in the letter—the points have been itemised from 1 to 9 with a few a's and b's—has been included in the Bill. Therefore, it is strange that the hon. Member for Grimsby should suggest that the federation is opposed to the Bill. This Bill is exactly what was asked for in the letter of 23 September.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
On a point of clarification. I referred to the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations which represents English fishermen. I quoted from its submissions on the Bill.
§ Mr. Henderson
My hon. Friend will recall that the remarks made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) were directly contradictory to what was said by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). Like my hon. Friend, I should not wish to speak for English fishermen, but the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West specifically drew the attention of the House to the extent to which the Bill was welcomed by the British Fisheries Federation.
§ Mr. Myles
I thank my hon. Friend for pointing out the discrepancy in the argument of the hon. Member for Grimsby.
I obtained another opinion from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation more recently on 9 January relating to fisheries policy. It has not had consultation on this matter. This is from not the whole federation, but one of its executives. He points out that the Bill deals with the new authority which will replace the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. He then says:when you compare the Federation's views as contained in said letter"—that is the original letter—you will note that the majority have been incorporated in the Bill. Accordingly, in my opinion, it would be very difficult for the Federation to criticise that part of the Bill. For example, whereas the Federation stated that 'if overseas consultancy was to be a function of the Authority, it should be Government 802 financed and that it should not result in higher staffing levels than necessaryfor the UK industry' this has not been incorporated as such into the Bill, although there is provision in clause 3(5) that the Authority cannot provide consultancy services unless the full cost of the services is recovered by fees and the Authority is satisfied that the services can be provided without prejudice to its other activities.One important matter regarding the financial provisions for the new authority should be stressed. I refer to the connection between fisheries and food. It is valid to make the point that the fishing industry should not have to pay for comparable services which are free to the agriculture and horticulture industries. Having said that, I hope that the Minister, or others, will not decide that the agriculture and horticulture industries must be charged for comparable services to make them comparable.
Paragraph 8(b) of the federation's letter states:There is a powerful need in the Authority's initial stages for Government to inject considerable sums into promotion of fish and to resolve problems of distribution. Later, when, as would certainly be the case, an effective programme demonstrated the benefits of such promotion, aid should be gradually reduced and taken instead from the general levy.That shows a responsible attitude on the part of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation.
Lastly, on the federation's point, not my speech, unless the 10-minutes rule is applied—I am pleased to get that indication that I can go on for as long as I like—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. I hope not as long as the hon. Member likes, but the 10-minutes rule is not being operated.
§ Mr. Myles
I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should not like to go on for long as I should possibly run out of wind.
Schedule 1, paragraph 16, gives the authority power toappoint committees consisting of or including persons who are not members of the Authority,That is a valuable power. It will enable the authority to appoint committees with the kind of geographical spread of which we have heard and representation of the great diversity of interests within the fishing industry. Such consultative committees could be of advantage.
I turn now from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation's points and put forward some of my own.
Clause 1 deals with the setting up of the Sea Fish Industry Authority with 12 members, eight of whom will come from the industry. In my opinion, that is about right.
Clause 2 contains an important word. It states that the authority ought to act in "the interests of consumers". Consumers have a tremendous part to play in the eating of fish as in the eating of any other food. Unless we have this market—the consumers—the producers may as well stop producing. Therefore, it is right that attention should be paid to the consumers' interests. But the consumers' interests must also take account of the producer, the catcher and the processor, otherwise they will not get fish or anything else to consume. To keep the analogy to fishing, we are all in the same boat together. We need not argue about one interest against the other as was so effectively done by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) when he was Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The right hon. Gentleman played one interest off against the other. Divide and conquer was his motto. Sadly, he divided the producers' and consumers' interests to a certain extent. I hope that those wounds will be healed and that we can all go forward together, with the exception of the hon. Member for Grimsby. I do not think that we shall ever get him on our side.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He knows that every fisheries organisation in the country said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) was the best Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that we have ever had.
§ Mr. Myles
I challenge that statement. I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman, even with all his wishful thinking, has heard every fishing organisation say that his right hon. Friend was the best Minister that we have had.
Clause 3 deals with research and development. I am glad that that is to continue. There is a tremendous need for a co-ordinating body to look after that important work. Generic promotion has been referred to and that is also covered by clause 3. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister say that three of the so-called marketeers are to look at the promotion aspects of the industry and to make recommendations. One suggested at the Oxford farming conference the co-ordination of marketing for agriculture. We await with interest to hear what the marketeers wil say about promotion in the fishing industry.
I am glad that the WFA and the HIB are to be amalgamated. I have doubts about setting up more promotional activities. The best promotion is stimulated by fair competition and that must be controlled by the new body.
Training is also covered by clause 3. That is an important matter and I am glad that the sea fisheries training council has appointed a training and development officer in Buckie, in my constituency. There is a great need for increased training in safety and new technology.
Clause 4 deals with levy arrangments. My hon Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) has asked about the provision that appears to he slightly ambiguous in referring to a levy on fish whichhave been bred, reared or cultivated in the course of fish farming whether in the sea or otherwise.I am concerned about the words "or otherwise."
Part II will provide the means to cope with restructuring which will be necessary if an agreement is reached in the council of Fisheries Ministers on the CFP. I welcome the fact that there appears to be an assumption that there will be an agreement. All fishing interests and organisations are desperately anxious that there should be a suitable common policy.
On the question of restructuring, I wish to put in a word for the small boatyards in Banffshire which are so dependent on grants. I hope that the criteria for the payment of grants will be seriously examined so that, in relation to FEOGA grants, for example, someone who applies for a grant will know whether it is to be granted before he lays the keel of a boat.
It seems ridiculous that, with the lottery of FEOGA grants, someone who is willing to carry out work without a grant should be lucky enough—and I am glad that most applicants have been lucky—to get a grant, whether he needs it or not. I hope that the new authority will liaise with the industry so that the criteria for the allocation of grants are clearly understood.
Part III is vital. I welcome the fact that the control of foreign fishing vessels, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Grimsby, can be carried out under that part of the Bill. I also welcome clause 20, which controls the transhipment of fish from one of our vessels to perhaps even a Russian vessel. However, I have grave doubts 804 about the benefit to our industry of the Russian boat off Margate which is taking sprats, albeit at a high price. In my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) there is a sprat catching and processing industry. I hope that that industry will be able to continue. I wish that it would pay as much as the Russians, and that may be the only way to ensure its future.
On part IV, the question of fish farming was adequately covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll, but clause 31 is important. It amends Acts relating to imports of live fish. However, I wonder whether there should also be controls on the imports of dead fish, particularly bearing in mind health considerations. We have controls on beef, beef on the bone, and so on because of the dangers of foot and mouth and other animal diseases. Farmed fish are prone to disease, from whatever source, and it is important that the health factors are adequately considered.
The estuarial salmon fishermen in my constituency feel left out of the Bill. Theirs is an established industry which has been in existence for about 200 years, but they wonder where they fit into the derating of fish farms, which also produce salmon, and into the controls. They net salmon at estuaries. Are those salmon to be regarded as salt water or fresh water fish? I ask that their interests be taken into account.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. We have heard some interesting phrases—we are all in the same boat, the consumer likes fish, and so on. It is an important Bill and I certainly welcome it. It is a step forward, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing it. It is certainly well worth while.
Anything that we can do to help our fishermen is important. I wonder whether we really appreciate the debt that we owe to them for all the hard and dangerous work that they carry out day by day, year in and year out. It is easy to think of just buying a piece of fish or a frozen fish finger, but the work and dangers involved in providing it are enormous. I pay tribute to our fishermen, and to the authorities that are being wound up.
The Bill will certainly benefit the part of the country from which I come, the South-West of England, where fishing is very important. Most of it is inshore fishing, but it is extremely important to us. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd) will be trying to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will wish to enlarge upon the position in the South-West. I hope that the new authority will have something to say about the problems of mackerel fishing, but I think it is only fair to leave that subject to my hon. Friend.
I also welcome the Minister's phrase that the Bill will pave the way for a common fisheries policy. That is absolutely right. The Opposition criticise what we are doing in the negotiations, but at least we have made a start in preparing for the time when that policy will become a reality. I hope that it will be fairly soon, otherwise fishermen from the Community will be fishing right up to our shores, which would be a very bad thing indeed. I therefore welcome the Bill for paving the way for the implementation of a common fisheries policy.
805 Marketing has been mentioned. It is very important, and much needs to be done. Compared with the progress that has been made in meat marketing, fish marketing is a long way behind in terms of new techniques and the use of surpluses, which the meat industry seems to cope with very well but which the fish industry seems to turn into fishmeal as a last resort. As my hon. Friend said, fish is popular. People want to eat fish. Fishermen want to catch fish. They want to sell their fish at a reasonable price, and the consumer wants to buy it at a fair price. But the marketing is deplorable. Something needs to be done about this quickly. I, too, welcome the Minister's initiative in allowing three of his wise men or women to take part in an inquiry into it. I hope that they will come up with a solution fairly quickly.
I am a little confused with regard to clause 13 on powers to give grants. If we reorganise the industry, if we help to develop and modernise it and if we scrap some of the smaller boats and bring in new modern boats, what will the industry do? It will fish. More fishing will go on. But we are already over-fishing in many areas. This aspect must be carefully watched, because modern ships catch enormous tonnages of fish. The more we modernise, the more they will want to fish and the fewer fishermen there will be. I realise that one cannot hold back progress and modernisation, but these matters must be sorted out. I hope that the new authority will do that.
On fish farming, despite what some people have said, the NFU gave an excellent brief. I shall quote from it and raise one or two of the points that it made. It is a happy combination that we have a Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and an NFU concerned about agriculture and fish farming. That is right and proper. The NFU mentions one point to which I hope my right hon. Friend will give an answer.
Under clause 5, the new authority could require information of a commercially valuable nature. Many companies have spent a lot of money developing new production techniques. They should be protected from giving away commercially valuable information. If they give it, it must certainly be on a confidential basis. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on research and development, and it is important for such expenditure to be kept private.
The second point concerns grant aid. I shall quote from the NFU brief, as it describes the problem far better than I could:We welcome the taking of powers to grant-aid (Clause 13) the sea fish industry and hope that Ministers will confirm that it is their intention that sea fish farming will be covered under these provisions. Clause 26 provides for the Government to make grants to fish farmers for fish farming. The provision is restricted, however, only to those grants which would be necessary to enable a farmer to benefit under an EEC grants system. By contrast with the situation in many other sectors of agriculture, fish farmers do not benefit under the normal Agricultural Capital Grant arrangements. This seems to be an anomaly which the Government itself has recognised and which they had hoped to rectify.What I want to hear from my right hon. Friend is whether the Government are seized of that point and will make alterations in the Bill to cope with the anomaly. Otherwise, I strongly and wholeheartedly welcome what they are doing for fish farming.
I close with a constituency point which I believe is important on the question of the regulation of sea fishing. 806 I read in the Bill about minimum sizes, areas of fishing and legal nets. I trust that the new authority will advise the Government on new orders completely to ban certain types of fishing in certain areas. A good illustration of what troubles me is bass fishing off Eddystone and the Manacles. Eddystone and that area near Plymouth is a breeding ground, a holding ground and above all a sanctuary for these fish. The problem is urgent. I use my words guardedly and, I hope, without exaggeration, but what is happening in that area is nothing less than the rape of the bass fishing stocks.
The situation results from the use of monofilament nets. I quote from the Angler's Mail, which sums it up very well:The monofilament net has been described as the most efficient killing machine in use over rough ground.From reports that I have received, there is no doubt that thousands of mature bass are being caught in that area. It is vital that we preserve the stocks. If things continue at the present rate, we shall not have many of these beautiful fish left. Something must be done. I believe that monofilament nets must be banned in that area.
The House may not be aware that in many cases nets of this type are cast adrift and go on fishing long after they have been left in the water. Fish are being caught, hooked up and left to die in the nets. This brings other fish into the area to feed on the fish that are hooked up. So there may be 100, 200 or 300 yards of monofilament net just floating about in the sea, fishing on its own. They are deadly nets and they ought to be banned, particularly in areas such as the Eddystone Rock where there are sanctuaries for fish.
The Government have done something about these nets. In response to my questions, they have increased the size so that perhaps not so many bass are caught.
But that is not good enough. There must be a complete ban in the sanctuaries. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne will back me up, because he knows exactly what is happening in that area. I hope that the new authority, as soon as it is under way, will take steps to deal with situations such as that. I mention only one, but there must be many others.
I welcome the Bill, and I congratulate the Minister on bringing it forward. There is hope for the fishing industry from this Government, because they have taken steps on this issue and they will take steps on the common fisheries policy. Some of the Weary Willies on the Labour Benches will, I believe, be surprised at the result, which will be to the benefit of the fishing industry and the consumers.
§ Mr. David Mudd (Falmouth and Cambourne)
As I listened to the generous words of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), and earlier to some of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren), I was left with the strong feeling that, although we have a great deal in common over our general attitudes towards the Bill, the views towards the White Fish Authority and values in general are far different in West Cornwall from those the rest of the United Kingdom.
I particularly recall my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings referring to the unfortunate incident of the Devon fisherman—it could not have been a Cornishman—who brought in a load of herring and had to take it out to sea and dump it. We in Cornwall, being righteous folk, realise that the Ministry had no alternative but to order those fish 807 to be taken out to sea and dumped. We cannot, on the one hand, expect the Ministry and our Government to take the necessary action to stop French and Dutch violation and, on the other, to turn their back on any violation, however inadvertent, by our own fishermen.
I must say, however, that that could not have happened to a Cornish fisherman, for had he had the misfortune to net herring he would have sold them to the first passing French trawler that he spotted on his way into Newlyn. That covers the far more fundamental things such as the different attitudes, values and experiences of the fishing industry in the United Kingdom.
I am sure that hon. Members will not be surprised when I say that the catching industry in Cornwall is far from happy about certain aspects of the Bill. We welcome the conservation issues and the wisdom and sanity that is implicit in the Bill, but we are not excited about the Bill in its entirety, and even less about the future of the fishing industry in Cornwall.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West referred to the need for bass conservation in the area of the Eddystone. Cornish fishermen, who for once got together with the Cornwall sea fisheries committee and drew up draft byelaws to cover the conservation of bass around the Manacles and the Runnelstone, are appalled to find that seemingly they have not found favour with the Ministry, although it was a positive and definite attitude towards fish conservation.
Equally, the Cornish fishermen derive no joy whatever from the fact that some of the Klondykers are now withdrawing from Cornish waters because they have found the thing about which we have warned for the last four years, namely, that mackerel stocks have become dangerously depleted in size, quality and quantity. I hope that in his summing up the Minister will say something about the decisions that were taken at the summit talks at Falmouth on Friday, which involved the chief inspector of fisheries, because it is only right that information regarding the future of the stocks should he widely circulated.
The Cornish reservations about the Bill relate to two specific categories in the main. First, there is the loathing, distrust, fear and hatred of the setting up of yet another super quango—the Sea Fish Industry Authority. Secondly, there is suspicion and fear in Cornish minds about the possibility of opening the door to the nationalisation of fish farming.
There is little genuine sadness in Cornwall—here I differ from almost every other hon. Member who has spoken—over the passing of the White Fish Authority, as there is a widespread feeling in the Cornish industry that it has not been terribly helpful in providing the resources for new vessels for Cornish fishermen and that it has somehow failed to get orders for new vessels brought to Cornish yards. There is also the long-held feeling on the part of Cornish fishermen that they are contributing far too much to see the products of other fishermen propagated in advertising campaigns. They would have been extremely happy to see the humble mackerel appear in White Fish Authority advertisements, but time and again we saw exotic fish that were caught in other parts of the United Kingdom, and even some imported fish, advertised by the White Fish Authority.
The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation does not have the audacity to tell this House what it repeatedly and rudely says to members of the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, 808 Fisheries and Food. It does not want to try to teach the Ministry to suck eggs. However, it is the organisation's view that a great deal of money could be saved by doing away with the White Fish Authority and deploying its financial resources and some of its staff to developing greater research and development facilities on the part of the Ministry and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. The organisation recognises and pays tribute to the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture mans a most effective, efficient and intelligent monitoring and research network.
As if the Sea Fish Industry Authority was not potentially a nasty quango in itself, its baby brother, the Sea Fisheries Training Council—clearly yet another tentacle of the Manpower Services Commission—adds to interference and cost, particularly for the smaller operators. The hope in Cornwall is that the one good hit of news from the Minister will be that if we get the SFIA, the Sea Fisheries Training Council will be exterminated as quickly as possible. It is the hope of the industry in Cornwall that the Minister will consider the possibility of paying grants retrospectively to skippers and owners when their crews reach the standard of proficiency laid down by the Department of Trade. In that way, we believe that the emphasis would he on good seamanship and maritime safety, which are as important as technical training. We believe that that would be a sensible halfway house in looking at the future of the training industry.
Since, as I explained earlier, Cornish fishermen feel that in some ways they have been short changed by the White Fish Authority, it will come as little surprise if I point out that they are worried by the financing proposals outlined in clause 4. A ceiling of 1 per cent. on the value of fish is one thing, but what worries the mackerel men in Cornwall is the alternative levy of 0.8p per kilogram. They say that that is too high a figure to be granted by Parliament to a powerful body which, at the end of the day, will not actually produce anything. The main fear about the 0.8p per kilo levy is that it is punitively high for the mackeral fishermen.
Mackerel are currently bought by the merchants at £1 a stone or less, so the levy of 0.8p per kilo could mean a 5p levy on a fish worth less than £1 at a time when, although costs have risen, quayside prices have remained virtually static. To the Cornish industry, clauses 13 to 15 are acceptable in principle, but there are those who feel that the administration of loans and grants should be the direct responsibility of the Government and that they should not be doled out by officials who are not directly answerable to Ministers or to Parliament, save through annual reports.
Clauses 26 to 29 seem almost subliminally to flash that dreaded neon sign "nationalisation" in the context of fish farming. We wonder whether our ubiquitous regional water authorities will be allowed to dabble in this profitable area of activity. because, as we have heard from both sides of the House, there is a division between fresh water farming and sea water farming. It does not take a great deal of wisdom to imagine the water authorities saying "We are the people most able to cope with this overlap of responsibilities. Give these powers to us." If the SFIA does not deal with them itself, without a doubt these responsibilities and duties must go to the county sea fisheries committees, which at least are directly responsible to the electorate and the ratepayers.
809 Therefore, I sum up the Cornish views. First, if the object of the Bill is to reduce the cost of fisheries administration, we suggest that the best way is to reduce the administration itself and not to add to it. Secondly, if the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries already have the research and development expertise—and no one quarrels with that—why not forget this new quango in its entirety and introduce higher cost effectiveness by direct service from the Ministry to the industry?
Those of us who in the past have had qualms about the White Fish authority have a sneaking suspicion that posthumously it could well prove to be preferable to the proposed slimline monster outlined in the Bill, with its powers to license fishing operations, to give, to take away, to withhold or not to grant loans, to market fish and to standardise the training of the industry. That it will be far too small and bureaucratic is, paradoxically, the least of our worries as the Bill goes to its Second Reading. We believe that the greatest of our fears is that the Sea Fish Industry Authority will become too expensive and too autocratic to serve the industry for which it is being created.
§ Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)
I welcome the Bill. It is long overdue. All hon. Members have seen the wisdom of the Government bringing in the Bill at this time. It has been promised by successive Governments over many years, but has been consistently delayed for one reason or another. Now that the Bill has been introduced by the Government, the basic principles will be acceptable to the fishing industry, which continues to face serious decline and uncertainty, particularly in constituencies such as mine of East Aberdeenshire, where the continued failure to secure agreement on a common fisheries policy is having a devastating effect on the fleets that sail from the ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
The Bill seeks, among other things, to set up the Sea Fish Industry Authority. Some of the clauses will help the fishing industry in general and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) has rightly said, the consumer. I welcome these advances and the desire of the Government to let the fishing industry see that every effort is being made to get that industry back into a state of longterm stability. My right hon. and hon. Friends who have been negotiating with the member States in the Community are right to have refused the French demands at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers which would have had a detrimental effect on the fishing industry. I am sure that their strong stand will be successful in the long run.
The Bill will give the new Sea Fish Industry Authority wide powers. It will also extend the powers of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to safeguard the fishing industry and to prevent malpractices not only by the fishermen of member States but by fishermen from our own fleet who attempt to destroy honest fishing on agreed quotas.
The Scottish National Party is conducting what it calls a survey in all fishing constituencies. The questionnaire is naive to the point of being ridiculous. It asks such stupid questions as whether member States and some nonmember States should be allowed to fish in United 810 Kingdom waters and whether the United Kingdom should stop all fish imports. What would be the reaction of the fish processors in that situation if they had no fish to process? They depend upon imports of certain species that are not caught in sufficient quantities by the British fleet.
Another question asks whether the Government should impose a 50-mile limit. The last time that the Scottish National Party was on the scene the limit varied between 100 and 200 miles, depending on the part of the country where a speech was being made. It was different in different parts of he country.
Another ridiculous question put to people who have received the questionnaire is "Should the Government consult fishing communities before the new common fisheries policy is agreed?" Have the Scottish Nationalists been hibernating so much since their crushing defeat at the hands of the electorate in 1979 that they do not realise how far the Government go in detailed discussions with the leaders of all sections of the fishing industry before and during any discussions on proposals for agreement on the common fisheries policy? It is typical of the emotive "grasp at any straw" actions of this failing political party that it should try to disrupt and divide the fishing industry at a time when it should stand united and see in this Fisheries Bill another clear indication that there will be no sell-out of the fishing industry by this Government.
§ Mr. James Johnson
The hon. Gentleman is being a bit harsh, though I am not here to defend the Scottish nationalists. Is it not a fact that this Government will listen but will never learn?
§ Mr. McQuarrie
I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), much as I respect his views on fishing. The Government are listening and acting, and they are acting very effectively, as has been proved.
Any survey that is carried out, be it by the Scottish nationalists or any other body, political or otherwise, will produce the demand for a free and fair deal for the EEC fisheries talks. That is exactly what my right hon. and hon. Friends have been doing since they took office. They would have had the agreement completed at the end of 1980, with the approval of the major part of the fishing industry, which had been consulted all along the line, had it not been for the disruptive actions of the French, as usual.
The Bill should be seen as another step forward in the commitment of the Government to the fishing industry, and any member of that industry who thinks that the Scottish nationalists have thought up something new obviously has not been keeping up to date with the fight that my right hon. and hon. Friends have been conducting over the past 19 months against the other difficult members of the Community.
A number of the proposals in the Bill give me some concern and justify further consideration by the Government before it comes back to this House for Third Reading. Clause 1 and schedule 1 provide for the establishment and organisation of the new Sea Fish Industry Authority, which is to have a maximum of 12 members, four of whom are to be independent of the industry. While I should have preferred to see all 12 members being persons with a wide practical knowledge of the industry, I can accept the logic of the thinking behind the proposal. However, I am not happy with the 811 proposal that only the four independent members appointed under clause 1(3) in part I of the Bill will exercise the functions of the authority in relation to the schemes of financial assistance covered in part II of the Bill in clause 14(2), to the exclusion of the other eight members who have intimate knowledge of the needs and other factors that would relate to any application made under this part of the Bill.
I trust that the Minister will say clearly why it is found necessary to exclude the wisdom, knowledge and experience of these other eight members when dealing with such an important matter as financial assistance to the industry. Are these eight members to be the silent majority, powerless to act in any way, when schemes of financial assistance are being considered, even though they may have a far greater appreciation of the applications for financial assistance than the four independent members?
If this new authority is to function as a body, there has to be a sound reason why the Government should see fit to exclude some of its powers from the majority of its members. The House is entitled to know why the clause is framed in this manner, bearing in mind that schemes of financial assistance will be one of the major operations to be carried out by the new authority.
I turn to clause 4, which empowers the authority to raise levies in respect of landings, including imports and transhipments within British fishery limits of sea fish and seafish products. The clause and schedule 2 will be acceptable to the House, I think, but I should like an assurance that should the authority decide to increase the levy at any time, the new rate will not be imposed by the authority immediately after the 28-day period has elapsed if there have been sufficient objections to warrant intervention by the Minister.
Instances have occurred in the past where levies were imposed by the White Fish Authority which, strictly, were not legal, and many firms were forced to pay the levy, which has not been returned to them or, in some cases, has been returned only after a great deal of delay and argument.
Clause 11 and schedule 3 provide for the abolition of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board as the new authority will take over the functions of those boards. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I add my tribute to Mr. Charles Meek, chairman of the White Fish authority, to Dr. W. Lyon Dean, chairman of the Herring Industry Board, and to the many responsible advisory members and the staffs who have served these bodies over the years that they have been in existence. I thank everyone for their sterling work on behalf of the fishing industry. That is a view which I know is shared by the rest of the House.
I turn again to part II, which deals with schemes of financial assistance, and I refer particularly to clause 13(2), which lays down that a scheme should be limited to a particular part of the United Kingdom. As the fishing industry is broadly based and its needs are general rather than parochial, would it not be better that there should be no question of an exclusion of a particular area for a scheme? In my view, this is a matter that the Minister should reconsider.
In any scheme that is introduced under part II, I hope sincerely that the restructuring of the fleet wil be taken separately from the grant and loan schemes, particularly where they apply to the modernisation of vessels. At 812 present there are far too many vessels chasing far too few fish, and the modernisation of vessels would at least limit the number of new vessels putting to sea.
In clause 20, the proposals cover the transhipment of sea fish in British waters and empowers British sea fishery officers to obtain such certification as is necessary from the master of the vessel. A serious omission in the proposals is that no provision is made for the licensing of the Klondykers or their British agents. They should be licensed and forced to keep a log of the tonnages received, which should be required to be made available on demand to a British sea fishery officer. If that were done it would deter these buyers from taking part in illegal purchases of over-quotas, in view of the penalties to which they would be liable under the provisions of the Bill. By the same token, if the Klondikers and their British agents are to be licensed, so also should the onshore processors. Such action would encourage the onshore processors to invest in new equipment for the time when herring and the other species for processing are again in more abundant supply.
In other clauses, the powers of the British sea fisher officers are increased greatly, with a substantial rise in the maximum penalties for illegal fishing and the breaking of the regulations. I am certain that these will be welcomed by the fishing industry as a whole.
This improved Bill should enable the Government to manage effectively our fishing effort once the common fisheries policy has been negotiated. The Bill is long overdue. The formation of the new body into one organisation should assist the industry in its future negotiations and efforts to maintain a stable industry long into the future. Given assurances on the points that I have raised, I give a warm welcome to the Bill.
§ Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)
I begin by offering an apology to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House in general for not being in my place at the beginning of this debate. Unfortunately, weather conditions today in the North of Scotland were sufficiently adverse to make the airport at Inverness a "no-go" area until well into the afternoon. None the less, I am glad that I have the chance now to catch your eye in order to give my welcome to the Bill. It comes at a most opportune time.
The Bill is wide-ranging. Its provisions have been dealt with at length by other hon. Members. I shall discuss one or two aspects that strike me as being of particular relevance and interest to the fishing community that I have the honour to represent. It is obvious that, as the Government continue their efforts to secure a fair and satisfactory settlement of the common fisheries policy with our European partners, the United Kingdom should do all in its power to ensure that the necessary ground work is laid for a speedy implementation of the benefits of such an agreement. It is essential that we should be able to take immediate advantage of any European Community finance for the restructuring of the industry. At present such finance amounts to about £200 million. To that extent the Bill is a welcome move in the right direction.
The other main purpose of the Bill—the restructuring of our national institutions—is equally welcome. The logic of such an amalgamation has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Given the problems of herring 813 and mackerel fishing, it is sensible to co-ordinate fishing management under a single umbrella instead of two bodies.
When the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs examined the white fish levy nearly a year ago it was obvious that the sooner reorganisation took place the better it would be for all involved. not least for the staff, since they face increasing uncertainty about their position, I am particularly pleased that that element in the confused jigsaw of fishing is now clarified. Before the two bodies depart, I add my voice to the tributes paid to the work of Charles Meek and Dr. Lyon Dean. Both gentlemen are listening to tonight's debate.
I am pleased to note that transhipment is to be within the new authority's ambit. That matter was the subject of the Select Committee's deliberations. The Government should be congratulated on listening to a Select Committee and taking such prompt action.
The new Sea Fish Industry Authority will have powers to give financial assistance to and undertake work in developing and marketing fish. That aspect has been mentioned by several of my colleagues. The importance of that matter has only recently been fully appreciated, not merely by the fishermen and processors depending on them, but by hon. Members. The events of the last few months, during which processors in my constituency ran into difficulties, have led to my constituents fully appreciating the need for more forceful marketing policies. In his recent review the chairman of the White Fish Authority has drawn our attention to that crucial need.
I turn to the extent of the powers in clauses 2 and 3, which deal with marketing. Does clause 3 include powers to enable the establishment of a new national minimum fish price scheme? That seems to hold the key to a successful marketing operation. It is not enough merely to advertise or to promote the sale of fish. It is also essential to restore confidence to fishermen after a disastrous year, when there was such an appalling collapse in the first-hand auction price for fish at the quayside.
§ Mr. Pollock
One approach would be to use a farming parallel—namely, to remind the consumer that unless we have a stable catching sector in the same way as we must have a stable regime for farmers, whether in sheepmeat or anything else, there will not be a regular opportunity of making a reasonable living out of the operation. Wild fluctuations and the embarrassment caused by the dumping of imports have done neither the fishermen nor the consumer any good. That is the advice that I give my hon. Friend when discussing such an approach with his consumer friends.
It is clear that 1980 was a hard and frustrating year for the fishing industry and for the Government in their efforts to secure a common fisheries policy by the end of that year. I suspect that it will be a year that the fishermen and the Government will be pleased to put firmly behind them. However, the Bill comes at the start of a new year. I trust that with it we may find new hope and a new spirit of optimism, which will lead us to believe that there is a fresh basis for a successful United Kingdom fishing industry. It is in that spirit that I welcome the Bill.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)
I have a limited constituency interest in the Bill. I find it extremely difficult to mount any sort of enthusiasm for anything concerning fishing. I find it most depressing that Britain's fishermen and fishing industry have been subjected to almost continuous uncertainty. The uncertainty began with the cod war, and it has continued throughout the period of negotiations within the EEC.
My views on Europe are fairly well known in the House. I believe that substantial changes in the way that the enlarged Community is run and financed should be considered carefully. However, I congratulate my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who have conducted diligently the negotiations on fishing within the European Economic Community. They cannot be faulted on tenacity or effort. I hope that they will be adequately rewarded with an agreement that will be fair to the British fishing industry.
Clauses 26 to 29 refer to fish farming. They are clauses that will be welcomed by the majority in the industry, although there will be some reservations. Fish farmers are not eligible for grant under the capital grant scheme. We all know that fish farming is still in its infancy in Scotland, but it has an output of about £5 million. In a small way, the fish farm in my constituency contributes to that. It does not employ many people; nor does the industry throughout Scotland. I understand that the number is about 400. I believe, as do the people involved in fish farming in my constituency, that the figures could be boosted substantially. Norway has made considerable progress, and we should look there for an example of what can be achieved.
I cannot pretend that I am enthusiastic about placing fish farms under the proposed area fishery boards. I should prefer them to come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, under my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. I believe that I speak for all the farmers and fishermen in Scotland when I say that under his stewardship they have seen considerable improvements and look to those continuing. The agriculture industry training board should be allowed to extend its activities to include fish farming. It has much to contribute, and we should make use of that facility.
I can visualise a conflict between fish farmers and salmon netting. With the River Tay in my constituency, I am interested in what happens to the salmon before they get to the Tay. Some never do. We are terribly worried about the adverse effects of any action on the fine fishing in Perthshire. Leases are provided by the Crown Estate Commissioners, and these will need to be examined. As I understand it, they give access only to the seabed and not to the water above it. Perhaps consideration should be given to treating marine leases in the same way as the Crown treats agricultural holdings. For example, when there are disputes about the level of rent, there should be provision for appeal to a body such as the Scottish land court.
I hope that fish farmers in my constituency and Scotland generally will feel that they can look forward to. matters being properly organised in the future and will view themselves as part of an economy that has growth. The Bill encompasses much that is controversial. Sadly too many of our debates in this House concern areas of the 815 economy that appear to be not as good as last year, the year before, 10 years ago or 30 years ago, but fish farming is growing.
I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that there is marine and fresh water fish farming. I am concerned primarily with fresh water fish farming. Consequently, I have considerable reservations about the powers in clause 4. No one on Perthshire would consider it wise to include fresh water interests within the ambit of the new authority. It is more an agriculture-oriented industry, with considerable growth potential. It should be subjected not to the levy-raising powers of the new authority, but, as I said earlier, to the jurisdiction and control of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. The long history of stable and good management could be continued and extended to that new and important, if small, area of potential growth.
§ Mr. Peter Fraser (South Angus)
Although the establishment of a Sea Fish Industry Authority is not a subject that excites much controversy in the political scene at the beginning of 1981, it has a long and weary history of indecision and delay. The Government are to be congratulated on at long last bringing to an end the whole sad matter. As has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House, for some time the amalgamation has been recognised as something that would come about inevitably and in a de facto form. There has already been a combination of the activities of the existing authorities. I cannot believe that the period of delay has been good for the morale of the two existing authorities. I hope that now that this final step has been taken we shall have a proper and worthwhile organisation that will take the sea fishing industry well into the 1980s and 1990s.
In view of the general welcome that has been given to the Bill, and some of the detailed comments made by my hon. Friends, I do not intend either to rehearse those points again or to speak at any length. There is one provision to which I wish to draw attention. It is worth while having it spelt out so clearly in the Bill. I refer to clause 3(5), which ensures that should the authority provide services for anyone concerned with the sea fishing industry elsewhere in the world, it may perform those services but should not do so unless the full cost is recovered through fees, and that the authority should be satisfied that the services to be provided could be carried out without prejudicing its other activities.
That point is important, because when the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs took evidence last year there was considerable suspicion that the White Fish Authority was not properly covering the costs that it incurred in rendering services elsewhere in the world. I do not accept that that was necessarily a valid criticism. The provisions in clause 3(5) ensure that the authority spells out precisely in its accounts—that is the import of the provision—that anything that it receives for its services is properly balanced by outgoingss costs. That is a worthwhile part of the powers given to the authority.
A number of my hon. Friends referred to the power of marketing given to the authority in relation to sea fish. The terms of the clause as it stands are to promote marketing. Those concerned with the producer aspect of the industry sometimes overlook the fact that it is no use continually catching more and more fish of a certain species if there is no market for them. One of the activities of marketing 816 is to attempt to expand that area of the market and to gain as large a share as possible. I hope that the new authority will make it clear to those involved in the producing side of the industry that some species of fish, and fish of a certain size and condition, are unacceptable to the consumer, especially the housewife. As my right hon. Friend the Minister said when opening the debate, proper deployment of marketing techniques should be used, and both the consumer and the producer should understand that it is important to get a precise match of what the consumer requires and what the producer has to offer.
I conclude with a reference to clause 30. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is my neighbour, in his constituency of North Angus. I say to him and to my right hon. Friend that their activities at the conference in 1979 ensured that, whatever may be thought of them by the Japanese and other commercial whaling nations, their conservationist attitude on whales, dolphins and porpoises will make them very much the darlings of the classrooms. I am glad to note that the Government are taking early steps to ensure that they will obtain the teenybopper vote well into the 1990s.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
It is clear that most hon. Members who have taken part in the debate broadly support the Bill. There are a number of aspects which hon. Members would want to see changed and, more critically, there are some items which are not in the Bill but which the Opposition will he seeking to include in it in Committee. Broadly, however, the Bill is not contentious, and the Opposition support its main objectives.
Part I sets up the new Sea Fish Industry Authority. I should like to add my tribute to the work which has been done by the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board over the years. The work done by the members of those authorities and the staff has benefited the industry. The Government were right to amalgamate the two bodies into the proposed new Sea Fish Industry Authority.
It is fair to say that there is scope for considerable argument about the membership of the authority. I am not wholly convinced that the Government have got it right. A number of hon. Members have referred to the lack of consultative arrangements. The present consultative body for the IA/FA is clearly quite unmanageable. Perhaps there is a case for an effective consultative organisation of about 16 to 20 members. However, more controversially, some of us are not absolutely convinced about the composition of the authority itself.
Perhaps there is a. case for a more streamlined authority. If one asks fishing organisations whether they want to be represented directly on the authority, they are bound to say "Yes", but that does not mean that the Government will necessarily serve the interest of the industry in the long term by appointing representatives of the fishing industry, from the various interests, where there are conflicting interests. Indeed, we know that the fishing industry is riven with arguments between different sectors of the industry—between catchers and processors, to mention only two. Therefore, in Committee we shall be looking carefully at the question of the membership of the authority.
The second important area, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), relates to the overseas work that is done at 817 present by the WFA and will be done by the new SFIA. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) also referred to this matter. Both of those Scottish Members served on the Scottish Select Committee which took evidence from the industry in advance of the last increase in the levy. There was at that time a great deal of criticism about the involvement of the WFA in overseas consultancy.
I am glad that the Government have not given way to this attitude. Indeed, I strongly commend this work of the authority. Of course, it is not main role. It is a small but significant part of the work of an organisation of this nature. First, it earns money from Britain. Secondly, it provides an arm for pursuing our policy of helping the developing countries. Thirdly, it is a valuable experience which is gained by researchers in the industry which is of benefit to the research which is more directly applicable to our own industry. Fourthly but not to be ignored there is the beneficial effect this has on the career structure in the authority, in that it enables the jobs to be rather more attractive. I have no doubt that this has in the past enabled the White Fish Authority, and will enable the SFIA in the future, to attract a higher calibre of personnel to do this important work.
In this context I am a little surprised that the Government have not come up with a proposal for the overseas side of the authority's work to be done by a wholly publicly owned company. I should have thought that that had a lot to commend it. There are plenty of precedents in operation at present. This would be a company owned by the Treasury. When it did overseas development work, it would be paid directly by the Ministry for Overseas Development. When it received consultancy fees, it would of course receive them from the appropriate foreign Government or commercial organisation. It would pay the authority for the services of those staff who caned out the work.
That would be a clean way, as it were, of isolating properly the work of the authority overseas from its work in the United Kingdom. By that, I mean isolating the accounting side so that people can see exactly what is happening on the financial side. It would he patently clear where the money was going to and coming from. That is what the fishermen want. I believe that in that way that aspect of its work would be made more acceptable to the industry.
Part II of the Bill relates to financial assistance to the industry. We support its provisions. In opening, the Minister said that the Government wanted this legislaion so that as soon as any EEC money became available we could be in a position to take advantage of it immediately. No one would argue about that. But there is one aspect of the matter that I want to stress. No amount of EEC money given to the British fishing industry will substitute for a common fisheries policy deal which will adequately protect the industry's long-term interests. If the right decisions are not made about our share of the fish and about access and conservation, the deal will be a disaster for this country, no matter how many millions or hundreds of millions of pounds can be obtained from the EEC budget during the next few years.
818 We want this money to be used constructively. We support restructuring money being used for restructuring if it is used for the modernisation of the industry and for new investment in the industry, not necessarily in catching capacity but certainly for the modernisation of facilities. No case can be made for large sums of money being paid to large companies owning vessels which will not be used to fish again, the intention being simply to pay those companies to get out of the industry.
If there is an agreement—I emphasise "if" —on a common fisheries policy, and if there are substantial injections of cash in the near future into the industry, surely that is an opportunity to make real improvement in the conditions of its workers. That is surely the time when the Government can go to the employers and say "We don't just want you to benefit from these EEC schemes and money. We want to improve also the position of everyone employed in the fishing industry."
I was glad that my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, North, Kingston-upon-Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) referred to the recent Transport and General Workers Union publication "Fishing: The Way Forward", written by Norman Godman and Melvin Keenan, who are known to many hon. Members. The document, which I commend to Ministers if they have not read it, in addition to providing an interesting survey of the industry, clearly spells out the very reasonable demands of fishermen for a fishermen's employment scheme which would give them some of the conditions which are taken for granted by workers on land—continuity of employment, a regular minimum income, sickness and injury benefit and a pension and severence pay fund. Those proposals were put forward by the Transport and General Workers Union.
If there is to be a new deal for the industry, let us make it a new deal for the whole industry, not simply money being put into the pocket of large fishing companies, and certainly not large amounts being paid to people simply to get out of the industry.
Part III, relating to the regulation of sea fishing, is very important. The Ministry handout that accompanied the Bill when it was published said:The Bill makes new provisions which will enable the Government to enforce effectively controls on fishing by foreign vessels within our fishery limits and by United Kingdom vessels in all areas.We all support that, but does the Bill go as far as that? That is the question to which we shall have to address ourselves in Committee. We believe that the Bill is not comprehensive enough in that area. It certainly is an advance, but there are elements missing from the new legislation that the Government propose to introduce on the application of effective conservation measures across the board.
The Opposition will consistently support the Government on conservation. We agree with them that decisions must be taken on the basis of scientific evidence. There will be occasions when the fishermen, and perhaps some of the sea fisheries organisations, are unhappy about individual measures, but if they can be justified on objective, scientific grounds we shall support those measures.
What happened to herring will happen to mackerel. There are already warning signs. It is the Government's 819 responsibility to ensure that the mackerel stocks are not wiped out in the next few years in the way that the herring stocks were.
We believe that there is a necessity for a restrictive licensing scheme and that quotas alone will not be enough adequately to protect the stocks. In this connection I wish to quote the chairman of the White Fish Authority, Charles Meek, who said in his review of the industry in 1980:I have repeatedly expressed concern over the prodigal way in which the Western mackerel stock has been exploited. Unpopular as it may be, therefore, I have to repeat that to avoid catastrophe there can be only one effective policy, namely, to restrict entry to the catching side of the fishing industry.I am not suggesting that such a policy is an easy one. Indeed, I am not suggesting that we could work it out quickly. But the Government had better accept the principle sooner rather than later that quotas and their enforcement will back up a licensing scheme, but alone are not sufficient to protect stocks. We have seen that already in relation to the western mackerel stock, where the quotas are flouted—and understandably flouted, when they are sometimes set at levels that are inadequate to give fishermen a reasonable income.
I am glad that hon. Members on both sides of the House have raised the important question of transhipment and Klondikers. The Minister said that transhipment was the source of much, if not most, of the abuse in the flouting of the conservation measures. Surely, therefore, the sensible approach is to have a proper, effective licensing of the Klondikers. We are talking largely about foreign vessels, it is true. Of late some British vessels have begun to move into the area, but the bulk of the vessels are not British or Community vessels; they are East German and Russian.
There must be an amendment in Committee to enable there to be effective licensing of the Klondykers. It is not in this country's interests that our catchers should catch large quantities of fish and sell them, often for cash, to the foreigners, who derive the benefit in the value added in the processing of the fish. We want as much fish as possible caught by British vessels—to a large extent financed by British taxpayers' money—to be landed in Britain, to create jobs here and the added wealth and profits for the industry in this country. Basic to that is a curtailment of Kiondiking and, at the minimum, the introduction of a licensing scheme that we believe will be the only way adequately to control that in the future. I acknowledge that the Government are taking important new powers in relation to transhipment, and we shall study them closely in Committee. I agree with all hon. Members who have spoken on this point. I am glad that this is not simply a Labour Party point; it has been supported by all hon. Members.
We broadly support the Bill, and I hope that the Government's attitude in Committee will be constructive and pragmatic and that they will listen to arguments from both sides and not treat this as some sort of party dogfight. If certain amendments are moved which are not quite in line with the previous thinking of the Ministry, I hope they will be dealt with constructively.
I turn now to conservation, which is important, and here, I refer to the proposed EEC inspectorate. I was grateful to the Minister for referring to it in his opening speech. He said that we are talking about 40 people who will be answerable to the Commission. He said that they will check up—as it were—on member Governments to 820 ensure that they are effectively applying the conservation measures in their respective waters, because each member Government will have responsibility for the application of the conservation measures in their waters.
I do not wish to exaggerate the role that those 40 people can play, but there is one important point that I should like to put to the Minister of State. If those 40 people are simply to be part of the Commission and are to feed information into the Commission, and if in due course we shall hear from Commissioner Gundelach, or whoever, about what the Commission is doing in response, that will not be sufficient. If the inspectorate is to have real meaning and clout, at the minimum its monitoring of conservation in the national waters should be published. An independent report should be available for ministers in the different countries to study in advance so that they can judge the Commission's response to what we hope will be objective information. The Minister used the word "objective" in relation to the inspectorate. We are prepared to support pragmatically—I emphasise the word "pragmatically"—that approach, but we shall be keen to see that it is meaningful and not simply an extension of the Commission.
Part IV of the Bill refers to fish farming, which is also extremely important. We fully suppport the Minister's remarks on fish farming, and I hope that they will be translated into Government action. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) spoke at length on this issue and about some of the changes that we should like to be made. Other hon. Members, including in particular the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), spoke at length on this subject. He obviously takes the view that fish farming, certainly fresh water fish farming, should be seen as an agricultural pursuit. We support the application of the agricultural grants legislation in total to fish farming of that nature. The Government must tell the House why the opportunity has not been taken in this Bill to do so. I shall not go into detail, but there will be considerable scope for discussion of the issue in Committee. It is a non-partisan issue, and there is no doctrinal reason why Socialists should favour one approach as opposed to another. I hope that a realistic attempt will be made in Committee to improve the Bill in this area.
Part V deals with whaling. This is a most important subject that has aroused immense interest in this country among those who are concerned for the welfare of animals and the threat to certain species from man's activities. We support the Government's stand. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley spoke at considerable length on the issue. It is not the most important part of the Bill, but it is highly significant, and it means a great deal to many of our electors.
The Minister and a number of hon. Members have referred rightly and naturally to the breakdown or suspension of the common fisheries policy negotiations last month. We must face the fact that the evidence that has been made available, and certainly the statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland about that Council meeting—we fully understood why it was the Secretary of State for Scotland who made it—suggests that a satisfactory deal may not be on offer. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North argued that the fishing industry had had a narrow escape, that thanks to the intransigence of the French a deal which would have been 821 against its interests had been thwarted. That view was certainly strongly advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby.
We have to put certain questions to the Government on this topic. We must remind them that we want effective conservation measures but that we also want a share of the fish which reflects not only what we have caught in the past but, above all, our losses in third country waters. I hope, therefore, that people will not come to us later and say that we were offered more fish than we caught last year. The offer must be judged against the history of our fishing industry and bearing in mind those substanatial losses.
What was on offer last time—we do not know exactly what was in the final offer because it was not settled—fell short of a minimal and reasonable share of the fish for our industry. the Secretary of State forScotland emphasised—and we support him—that the Government refused to agree to any quotas in advance of any agreement on the question of access. However, the proposition about access that has been floated was most worrying. It has been suggested that the Government were contemplating accepting it. There was to be no permanent exclusive 12-mile limit. Most of the fishermen, although not their leaders, still think that we should have a 50-mile exclusive limit. We and the leadership accept that that is not on. However, the 12-mile exclusive limit was sold to the industry on the basis that it would be exclusive and that historic fishing rights would be phased out. We do not suggest that they should be wiped out tomorrow. We accept that we could not negotiate that.
If it were suggested—and I am not sure that it has been—that this would simply be a deal for 1992 and that it would not continue beyond then if there were no agreement, a repetition of the position we face in respect of 1982, that I must warn Ministers that that would be a bad deal for Britain. We should come under pressure from other member Governments may years before 1992. Ten years is no long anyway in terms of the development of our fishing industry.
Above all, I must refer to the commitment not just of the Labour Government but of the present Government —they have accepted it in the House—to a dominant preference in the 12- to 50-mile zone. It is vital that we secure a significant advance in that area. The Minister of State has kindly supplied me within the past few days with a large amount of data outlining the catches of the various member States in the 0 to 50-mile and the 50-mile to 200-mile zones respectively. I have not analysed the figures, and I shall not bother the House with the details, but they bring out the importance of that 0 to 50-mile zone of British waters, not just to British fishermen, but in terms of the size of the catch of some other fishing industries in the EEC such as France and Denmark.
The Opposition support the Government objective of a satisfactory fishing deal. That is what the industry wants. It wants to get past this area of uncertainty. We support it in that. But if the Government could not get a deal in December, is it not less likely that they will get a deal in January or February? Is it not a fact that the French position is likely to be hard? At least one reputable poll in France suggests that the President cannot be assured of a victory in the election in May. That is the way it works. The French President will now be more anxious than ever 822 to avoid the slightest thing which would lose him a few votes in the presidential election. He will be seeking to milk as much as he can from the Community in the next few months to help him to defeat Mitterand, the Socialist candidate.
Any objective and realistic observer must be forced to the conclusion that there is a real prospect of there being no agreement within the next month or two. If that is the case, the Government must address themselves to the position of the industry without a deal, because we cannot allow the industry to continue to languish.
It is only five months since we had a crisis debate in the House on the fishing industry. Hon. Members opposite and many of my hon. Friends were present when the Government announced £14 million of temporary aid to the industry. We supported them and we urged the fishermen to call off their threat to blockade the ports. However, we supported them on the basis that that was a temporary measure and that if disastrously low prices continued, the Government would act again.
That situation has arisen again. If the Minister of State considers the situation, he will realise that the fishing industry is in a desperate plight. I met my own fishermen's association at the weekend and I was told that it thinks the situation is worse that it was when the Government made their announcement last August.
The Government will have to act. If they obtain a satisfactory deal on the common fisheries policy and we get a large amount of EEC money, that new situation can be used to sustain and develop a prosperous industry. However, as things stand, the industry is declining sharply. The overvalued pound is damagaging it in the way that it is darning other industries. Action will be needed on imports and on temporary assistance to the industry. We shall be looking for action before Report if there is no agreement on the common fisheries policy negotiations.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) referred to the negotiations on the common fisheries policy. I suggest to him that he cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, he criticises the Government for the way in which they are negotiating and on the other he says that there must be a settlement that is satisfactory to the fishing industry.
I remind the hon. Gentleman, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland told the House after that Fisheries Council meeting, that the representatives of the fishing industry were with us throughout those crucial negotiations. When the negotiations were broken off, for reasons that had nothing to do with us or with seven other countries in the Community—they concerned only one country—the leaders and representatives of the fishing industry supported the line and the stand that the Government were taking. The hon. Gentleman did himself less than justice in the latter part of his speech.
I accept that the negotiations and their consequence are far more important than anything in the Bill. They are crucial to the future of the fishing industry. The Bill enables us, in the event of a satisfactory conclusion of the negotiations, to take certain action immediately, not only to help the industry—for example, by means of the financial powers and those relating to the industry's 823 structure—but to conserve fish stocks effectively. To that extent the Bill provides vital powers if a satisfactory settlement is achieved.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
If our national measures are struck down by the Court and Common Market regulations are superior to British law, how can we impose our conservation measures on Common Market vessels?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to my right hon. Friend. We have described the precise gaps in the powers of the British Government at the moment. We have power to apply conservation regulations immediately for British fishermen but cannot do so for the fishermen of Common Market or other countries with rights to fish in our 200-mile limit. That is what the Bill now does, and it is one measure that has been broadly welcomed by the House. I do not want our fishermen to be at a disadvantage compared with others within that limit.
On the broader question, the hon. Member has simply underlined the fact that effective conservation must be on a Community basis. That is what the negotiations on a common fisheries policy are about. As I have said many times, not only here but elsewhere in the House, fish know no limits, and the only conservation that can be effective is conservation that is not only agreed, as it has been in the past, but applied, policed and given the force of law. That is the advance that we can achieve by a common fisheries policy.
The. debate has demonstrated considerable support for the major proposals of the Bill, and I thank all those who have taken part. Every hon. Member who wished to speak has been able to do so and in the latter stages seven of my hon. Friends have demonstrated that hon. Members on the Government Benches as well as Opposition Members are interested in the industry and its future.
Many hon. Members have concentrated on what were acknowledged to be detailed Committee points. I have not the time to deal with all of them, but I shall certainly study closely any that I do not refer to now and consider them before the Bill goes into Committee. Therefore, I hope that the House will bear with me if I take out a few of what I would regard as the major issues of principle, even though it may be at the expense of some of the smaller points of detail that were fairly raised.
Not surprisingly, the major part of the debate dealt with the new Sea Fish Industry Authority, particularly its composition. Before discussing that matter, I should like to join my right hon. Friend and right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in paying my personal tribute to those who currently serve and have served in the past on both the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. For the whole of my time as a Member of Parliament, in one way or another I have had dealings with the members and staff of those two bodies. I have been impressed not only by their deep commitment to and interest in the industry but by the efficient and able manner in which they have carried out their tasks. The members and staffs of those two organisations have done an extremely good job and their efforts have been greatly appreciated by fishermen throughout the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd) and the fishermen in his area may dislike the fact that the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board are being replaced by one new 824 body, but that view is not generally held throughout the fishing industry. Before we published the Bill we issued a consultation document. It was clear, as has been reflected throughout the House, that there was strong support for the consolidation of the work of those two bodies into one new authority.
The main debate on the Sea Fish Industry Authority has centred on its membership. I should be happy to debate this matter further in Committee. We have a choice before us. We could have independent members of the authority appointed by Ministers, as with both the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board, with fairly large statutory consultative bodies on which the industry is represented, which the members of the authority could consult. That would have had support in certain areas.
The alternative approach, which was represented strongly to us in the consultations, was that the industry should be represented on the new authority. That is not a surprising representation to get. After all, the industry broadly finances the authority. The view was that those who pay for the running of the authority should have a more direct say in its organisation and administration. After considering this matter we decided that that was the best way to proceed. However, we can follow this up further in Committee.
There are certain points to be made about this matter. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), in an intervention, was the first to point out that with an industry such as the fishing industry, unless we have an inordinately large authority—that would not be in the interests of an effective and efficient organisation—it would be difficult, with only eight industry members, to have total representation of all parts of the industry and all geographic areas. If my idea of some kind of representative organisation is right, it cannot cover everything, if it is to be effective.
Geographically and in relation to the different sections —inshore, deep sea, processing, and so on—fishing is a disparate industry. However, I remind the House of another important body, the Meat and Livestock Commission, which looks after an industry covering cattle, sheep and pigs and a number of sectors—producers, auctioneers, slaughterers, wholesalers and retailers throughout the United Kingdom. When that body was set up—it is younger than both the WFA and the HIB—it was deemed by the Government of the day and the House that we should have a representative body. In the past 15 months we have carried out a review of the activities of the commission. At no stage was there any suggestion of weakening its representative organisation. Indeed, as a result of the consultations we have done the reverse, and strengthened it.
There may be difficulties about ensuring that every area and every section of the fishing industry is represented on the new authority, but I hope that the industry will be unselfish and will show responsibility and common purpose in working with representatives, even though individual sections and areas may not be represented.
That matter has been raised in almost every speech, and it is important to set out clearly the choices before us and the reasons why the Government have followed through what they said they would do. I hope that what I have said will prepare the way for a sensible and constructive debate in Committee.
Because of the representative nature of the members of the new authority we have not made provision for statutory 825 consultative machinery. However, if the authority feels that because there will be only eight industry representatives it would be helpful to set up its own consultative machinery, as the Meat and Livestock Commission has done, it will be able to do so.
Some hon. Members referred to the language used in the financial memorandum to the Bill. There may be a slight increase in Government funding, since the total membership of the new authority will, because of its representative nature, be slightly larger than the membership of the bodies that it will replace. That is the reason for the terms used in the financial memorandum. However, that is the total extent of the Government's commitment. In the running of the affairs of the authority many economies have already been made—the two bodies work in the same building and share the same staff—but the Bill will provide opportunities for further economies and more effective operation.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and others referred to training and the role of the authority in relation to other bodies that have responsibility for training. I think that all hon. Members appreciate that the real responsibility for training in the fishing industry at present rests with the Sea Fisheries Training Council. There is no doubt that that body commands the voluntary support of the major sectors of the fishing industry. I believe that it is respected by the industry. So far as I am aware, no one challenges the role of that council. I certainly pay my own personal tribute to the work of the council and I hope that that work will be on a continuing basis.
Perhaps I can clarify the role of the Sea Fish Industry Authority. Broadly, it has three roles in relation to training. First, it can itself undertake training. However, so long as we have a Sea Fisheries Training Council I would not expect it to undertake such training except in consultation with that council. I am certain that that is the way in which the new authority would work. Secondly, out of the money available to it through the levy it can grant-aid training. That may be a way in which the authority will wish to work. Thirdly, it is able to coordinate training throughout the industry.
I think that it is the third role that concerns those who have raised questions about a possible conflict between the new authority and the Sea Fisheries Training Council. The new authority can co-ordinate training only with the approval of Ministers. Ministers currently in office would certainly not envisage the new authority taking over this role of co-ordination so long as the training council continues its work in its present effective way. I hope that that will give some reassurance to those Members who rightly raised this important matter. I do not think that there is any conflict. The roles of the authority and the council will to some extent be complementary. I believe that with common sense on both sides the arrangement will work perfectly well.
The question of safety was rightly raised by a number of hon. Members. This is extremely important in the fishing industry. As the House knows, matters of safety at sea are primarily the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. However, the question of safety arises in this context, because those who 826 have raised the matter have seen it much more in the context of training. It is an area in which the Sea Fisheries Training Council concerns itself and in which it undertakes courses and training of one kind or another. That is right and proper, and I hope that it will continue to do so.
I turn to another subject raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and other hon. Members, which I know has also been raised by others outside the House, namely, the possibility of giving the authority vessel licensing powers in relation to control of effort in the fishing industry. Under the powers contained in the Bill at present it would be possible for the new authority to have such licensing powers if the Government wished the authority to be given to it. Therefore, the actual ability to give those powers to the authority exists. However, I suggest that at this stage it would be somewhat premature to go beyond saying that it would be legally possible, as the Government have not yet reached a final policy decision on a comprehensive scheme of vessel licensing and restrictive licensing in particular. I emphasise that this relates toa comprehensive scheme because, of course, we have already introduced this in a limited way, not least in relation to the current measures on mackerel licensing. This is a question at which I have looked closely. This is not the time to deploy too deeply the argument on licensing, but I believe that it is a matter that requires much deeper and wider debate than has been afforded so far.
As the House may know, I made certain proposals more than a year ago for much tighter licensing control of vessels engaged in mackerel fishing. I say quite unashamedly that I ran into deep opposition from the fishing industry. All hon. Members must be clear that there is no unanimity within the industry about the kind of licensing scheme that we should adopt, particularly whether we should have a comprehensive licensing scheme. We are still considering this matter with the industry.
I believe that licensing control of one sort or another has an important part to play in fisheries management. I intend to pursue this matter, but it will be effective only if it has the agreement and support of the industry. Obviously it will not have the support of everyone. Rarely does anything. However, we must look at this issue more broadly in the context of the common fisheries policy renegotiation. It is a matter that I believe should receive much closer attention both by Government and the industry as soon as that renegotiation is completed.
I have an open mind on this issue. As I said earlier, I have tried to advance various ideas, although I have not yet been wholly successful in persuading certain sections of the industry. However, in relation to mackerel licensing, we have taken certain steps that will be to the eventual benefit of proper fisheries management.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice raised the vexed question of Klondyking. Klondyking is nothing new. One would think that it was new because of the arrival of Eastern European vessels, but even the name Klondyking is not new. I believe that it goes back quite a number of generations. It is an important aspect of the Scottish herring industry. Indeed, but for Klondyking, particularly by Dutch vessels, there would not have been the same prosperity as there was at one time in the Scottish herring fleet. When stocks of herring were plentiful, there was no way in which the processing side or even the British public 827 could have consumed the quantities of herring that were caught. Therefore, Klondyking was an essential and integral part of the Scottish herring industry.
Equally, it is an important and integral part of the more modern mackerel industry. Although some aspects of it are open to abuse, and have been abused, I do not think that merely because of that we should condemn the principle of Klondyking out of hand, because without it we should have had a very much less prosperous industry both in the past and today.
In the Bill we have tried to deal with the abuses of the Klondyking system, specifically in relation to its control and the powers that sea fisheries inspectors should possess to see what goes on on these Klondyking vessels. These are powers that we do not have at present. What we are doing in the Bill is based on our practical experience of abuses which we know have taken place and are taking place.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East can return to this in Committee if he likes, but, on the broader question of the licensing of Klondyking, I agree that this needs to be studied. It is a subject that I should like to see debated further. However, it is much better dealt with in the context of a much wider licensing scheme that affects United Kingdom catching vessels as well as the processing vessels that undertake the Klondyking. It is in that context that the decisions should be taken, because the Bill deals with policing and control. I ask the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East to consider that between now and the Committee stage.
I move from the Sea Fish Industry Authority to the fourth main area to which I want to refer. It is that of fish farming, which, apart from the authority itself, probably commanded more time and interest in the debate than any other topic.
I repeat that the powers of the Sea Fish Industry Authority in relation to fish farming apply only to sea fish, and there is a definition of "sea fish" in the interpretation clause dealing with this part of the Bill. It applies only to sea fish and specifically excludes salmon and migratory trout. I hope that that will reassure those who are concerned, and I shall return in a moment to the distinction between the two types of fish fanning.
It is important to know the background to what we are doing in the Bill, and I repeat what my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate. We have already taken action to introduce rating relief for fish farming, and that has been welcomed throughout the industry. Now, through the Bill we are making further finance available, especially in support of funds that may be available from the Commom Market, and we are also taking other enabling and protective measures for this section of the fishing industry. Without going into any detail, I believe that the fish farming industry—both sea fish farming and fresh water fish fanning—has a great future and deserves the support of the Government and of this House.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I was about to come to that, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning it. The authority will he able to place a levy on the produce and the processed products of sea fish farms, but of sea fish farms only, and the decision whether or not to levy will rest with the authority itself.
828 Having said that about the background to the fish farming aspect of the Bill, I am the first to accept the criticism, which has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, that the Bill is limited in what it does. It is admittedly limited. It is not intended to be anything other than limited. As hon. Members know, we are in the process of carrying out, both in England and Wales and in Scotland, much wider consultations about the future of fish farming both of sea fish and of fresh water fish and also about the important related subject of fish diseases. These consultations have not yet been completed. We hope to complete them in the course of this year. Until consultations are completed, it would be premature to come forward with more comprehensive proposals.
None the less, simply because the consultations were still continuing, we had not come to any conclusions, and the industry had not completed some of its representations to us, it would have been wrong to delay those measures on fish farming which we were ready to put into effect immediately. It is in that context, therefore, that I ask those who have raised this matter to look at what we have put into the Bill. It is admittedly limited, but it is limited only because we are carrying out a much wider review of these matters.
I deal now with the more detailed matter raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) about why this part of the Bill applies only to Great Britain and not to Northern Ireland. The reason is that the powers that we are taking in the Bill are already available under Nothern Ireland legislation. I am in consultation with my right hon. and hon Friends who have responsibility for these matters in Northern, Ireland, and if we find that there are any gaps or that matters are not covered, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall do our best to cover them in the course of the Committee stage. If between now and the Committee stage, or even during the Committee stage, he wishes to make representations about any aspect, I shall be happy to hear from him, because there is no intention of making provisions less advantageous for Northern Ireland than for the rest of the country. It appears that in some of these matters Northern Ireland may have been leading the rest of the country and may have already taken the powers.
It may explain partly why we have not done more in regard to fish farming if I pose the question raised in the debate of whether fish farming is primarily a matter of an agricultural nature or primarily of a sea fishing nature. Different speeches during the debate have demonstrated different points of view. Some hon. Members think that it should be closely associated with agriculture—aquaculture, they call it—and eligible for grants, and so on. Other hon. Members think that it would be more approriately associated with sea fishing. In respect of fish like turbot and halibut—high-value sea species—cages that are moored on the sea bed and can interfere with sea fisheries and the legitimate operations of the sea fishing industry should obviously be the concern of the sea fishing industry.
The argument over the compartment in which one should put the fish farming industry illustrates why the Government are not ready at this stage to come forward with more comprehensive proposals on the fish farming industry. This does not mean that Government believe that the industry is unimportant. What has been done already 829 on rating and what is proposed in the Bill demonstrate for the first time a real commitment by the Government to future prospects.
I should like to say a word about restructuring. I refer specifically to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), about which he feels strongly, relating to money that may be available from the EEC. This part of the Bill enables the United Kingdom to take such benefit. There are proposals in relaion to redundancy and other welfare and social aspects of the fishing industry. These are still at proposal stage in the Community. At this stage I cannot predict whether they will survive to a point where they are applied. I believe that it is a reassurance to my hon. Friend to say that if these items survive and proposals come from the Commission, there is nothing in this part of the Bill to prevent the United Kingdom taking up what might be available, although I must emphasise that we do not know with certainty what may or may not be available.
I should like to refer to regulation and control. I believe that this is the most important part of the Bill. If the fishing industry is to have a viable future it is essential that our conservation policies should be effective. If we can get agreement on a Community-wide international basis effectively to police and control all fishermen, and not only our own, such a development would be one of the best safeguards that could be given to the fishing industry. This part of the Bill, although complex, assures our fishing industry a much more certain future than would be the case without such powers.
I thank those hon. Members who have taken part in the debate. It has been a useful, albeit wide-ranging and detailed debate. I shall study those detailed points between now and the Committee stage, which promises to be most interesting.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).