HC Deb 04 March 1981 vol 1000 cc333-55

Amendments made: No. 5, in page 3, line 5 leave out 'make loans or grants' and insert 'give financial assistance (by way of loan, grant or guarantee)'.

No. 6, in page 3, line 6 after 'forming', insert 'carrying on'.—[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

Mr. Robert Hughes

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 3, line 9 at end insert— '(g) to make regulations to ensure operational safety in any matters relating to the fish industry, to appoint inspectors to ensure compliance with such regulations, and to keep records of accidents in this respect.' I sometimes think that one can judge the health of an industry by the amount of nostalgia about what the industry might have been like in bygone days. The closer that an industry is to extinction the more nostalgia there is. If we were to discuss the fate of the fishing industry in such terms, and if we were to set aside the statistics, we might well conclude that the increase in folk songs and so on shows that the industry is approaching extinction.

In many circles a romantic myth seems to be growing up about what life was like at sea in the good old days, and to some extent about what life is like today. I have been connected with the fishing industry for a long time, but thankfully, I have never gone to sea to earn my living. I do not know whether that means that I had better sense. However, I am the first for many generations—on both my paternal and maternal sides—not to have been involved in seafaring of one kind or another. From bitter experience I know—as almost everyone connected with the industry knows—that the sea fishing industry is a hard, cruel and even brutal industry. I say that not just because of the loss of life, or because of accidents at sea, but because many mothers, wives and girlfriends spend sleepless nights during extremely bad weather. They wonder what has happened to their loved ones at sea and whether they will return from the harsh environment from which they seek their living.

7.45 pm

I made that point because I wished to show that behind every statistic lay a family that had suffered the grievous loss of a relative. Often the family has also suffered grievous financial loss. The statistics confirm our worst fears about safety in the industry. I shall not go into the figures in the same amount of detail as I did in Committee. However, in the past two decades there have been 647 fatalities in the fishing industry. Over the same period, 453 vessels have been lost at sea. The figure includes vessels that have gone missing without any trace. That is a serious position.

How can the seriousness of the situation be measured? There is no feeling about statistics. If one simply quotes them one does not convey any measurement. One method of gauging them is to compare the fishing industry with two other industries that are generally regarded as being the most dangerous, namely, the construction and mining industries. I do not for one minute suggest that the tragedies that occcur in the mining or construction industries are tragedies of no account, which can be set aside. I take them very seriously. By quoting the figures, I do not wish to make any unfavourable comment on the two industries. I simply wish to show how the fishing industry stands in comparison with those two industries.

The best comparison can probably be made by considering the incidence of fatalities per 100,000 at risk. In 1961, the incidence rate in the fishing industry was 114.5 per 100,000 at risk. By 1978 that figure had increased to 247.3. That means that the fatality rate is getting worse. In 1961 the incidence rate in the coal industry was 39.8 per 100,000 at risk. By 1978, that rate had improved to 25.4. In the construction industry the comparable figure for 1961 was 22.1. By 1978, the rate had improved to 12.1 per 100,000 at risk.

Despite all the difficulties of comparing one industry with another, one aspect remains clear, namely, that the incidence rate for fatalities in the fishing industry is 20 times that in the coal mining industry. It would be something to be seriously worried about if there had been no improvement—if the figures had remained exactly the same as those for 20 years ago. The fact is that those who go down to the sea in ships seem to be going to sea at a time when the industry is becoming more dangerous with the passing of every year.

There may be a number of reasons for that. It is difficult to say with certainty why so many vessels have been lost and why there are so many fatal accidents. In fishing debates, it is not popular to point out that the commercial pressures on skippers, who face heavy debts and who find it difficult to pay their way from voyage to voyage, may force them to go to sea when they would not otherwise do so. Once at sea, they tend to continue to fish even when the weather forecast predicts deteriorating conditions. They continue to fish because it is commercially necessary that they should fish for as long as possible.

It is said that these are some of the reasons for such a high number of fatalities and loss of vessels. The fact is that the industry does not seem to take safety as seriously as one might think. It is perhaps the old story of familiarity breeding contempt—that because fishermen go to sea in such dangerous conditions, year in and year out, they believe that accidents will not happen to them and that they will go to sea and come back.

There is an appallingly low level of training. A document produced by the Transport and General Workers Union called"Fishing—The Way Ahead" quotes statistics from the Sea Fisheries Training Council, indicating that at least half of the existing labour force of the seagoing industry has never received training in survival, fire-fighting or first aid. It states that 60 per cent. of existing fishermen began working life without any formal training and that many young people continue to enter the industry in this manner. That state of affairs must not be allowed to continue for one day longer than is necessary.

A suggestion put by the Transport and General Workers Union, which I believe could be adopted by the new authority if the amendment is accepted, is that in addition to the measures taken in the field of training, certificates of competence for vessels and officers, and terms and conditions of employment where these govern working conditions, serious consideration should be given to the proposal that, with larger crews of nine men or more, there should be a safety representative to represent the crew in drawing up proposals under the skipper's authority that would provide for safer working practices on board the vessels.

We take the matter of safety seriously, as, I am sure, do the Government. One of the difficulties under which the fishing industry operates is that responsibility for safety at sea rests not with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but with the Department of Trade. If the issue of safety at sea is to be taken seriously and given the high priority that it deserves, it should be taken much closer to the fishing industry. There is a distinct difference between the safety measures that need to be practised in large, ocean-going ships, large cargo vessels, tankers, and so on, and the smaller vessels that go fishing. They operate in a totally different environment. The industries are totally different.

It is possibly right that large vessels should remain the responsibility of the Department of Trade. We believe, however, that safety in the fishing industry is of such importance that it should be the responsibility of the new Sea Fish Industry Authority. The authority should have power to make regulations to ensure operational safety. There should also be a power to appoint inspectors to ensure compliance with the regulations and to ensure that a proper record of accidents is kept. Unless we begin to build up a day-to-day knowledge of what happens we cannot make proposals for the future that will ensure that fishing becomes a much safer occupation for those who go to sea and to ensure that the price paid for the fish on the slab is cash and not the blood that fishermen have shed when going to sea in ships.

Mr. McNamara

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has eschewed the privilege of going over all the compelling facts and figures that he gave in Committee. In some ways, I regret his decision. It is possible that he would have obtained far more publicity for the dangers and difficulties associated with the accident rates had he given them on the Floor of the House.

This is one of the more important amendments before the House upon which I hope my right hon. and hon. Friends will join us in the Division Lobby. When the matter was debated in Committee the Minister of State told my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North that the power to take this action existed under clause 3(1 )(a) and (b) and that the authority, if it so wished, could do something about it. We happen to believe that this is such an important and direct matter that it should not be left in any state of uncertainty or subject to that degree of discretion. We believe that the authority should have the power to do what we propose. If it were enumerated as one of its powers, the authority would carry it out.

The Minister also argued in Committee that the proposal would cut into the powers of the Health and Safety Executive, and that the question of vessels at sea was, in any case, covered by the Department of Trade. The hon. Gentleman cannot put forward that argument in addition to saying that in any event the authority has the power under clause 3( 1 )(a) and (b). He cannot have it both ways. If the power exists in the bill, the Minister cannot say that the proposal cuts into the authority of the Health and Safety Executive. We maintain that these matters of grave concern to the industry should be the responsibility of the authority.

My mind goes back to Christmas 1965, when there was a fatality at sea. I was a new hon. Member. The fatality occurred before the sad loss of the"Kingston Peridot", the"St. Romanus" and the"Ross Cleveland". The fatality occurred if I recall correctly, on the Newfoundland Banks. The secretary of one of the oldest associations in Hull, referring to accidents at sea, said: Yes, it is true that men are sometimes washed overboard but, then, they are often washed back. I asked a question in the House about the number of occasions on which men had been washed overboard, how often had they been washed back, and how often had they landed on their trawler of origin. I am still awaiting an answer. Actually, I was surprised to get the question past the Table Office.

That was the start of a campaign, in which many hon. Members took part, to try to find out something about the fishing industry. No firm duties and obligations were laid upon vessel owners or skippers to keep precise and exact details of accidents that happened aboard trawlers. Fatalities and perhaps even incidents in which people were washed overboard and washed back were recorded, but a great number of accidents went unrecorded. One of the terrible aspects of the list read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North, is that it concerned fatalities. There were, however, a large number of people who were seriously injured in accidents on trawlers, the details of which were not recorded.

8 pm

In 1968 we lost three trawlers. We had the establishment of the Milner Holland report. One of the strange features is that the number of fatalities at sea has remained almost as high since that time. In 1974 fatalities were almost as high as in 1968, despite the welcome improvements that the Milner Holland recommendations created in the design, safety and capability of fishing vessels, especially those of the deep-water fleet.

These are serious matters for the House. They happen to occur in remote places. They are remote from the great metropolis and the suburbia of the Midlands. They take place within small communities. As a result, it is almost accepted that such fatalities should be considered as part of a way of life. I do not believe—this applies generally to hon. Members—that fatalities, injuries and accidents in any form of occupation should be accepted as part of a way of life. If an individual is prepared to take such a risk, he should go into the Armed Forces and be properly paid and compensated for the risks that he has chosen to take..

It was Sir Walter Scott, in"The Antiquary", who wrote: It's no fish ye're buying—it's men's lives. That is what we are discussing. That is why we believe that we should press the amendment to a Division. We are concerned with men's lives and men's safety. We are also concerned about the effect that a fatality or serious accident can have upon a fishing family or fishing community. For that reason I trust that my right hon. and hon. Friends will support the amendment in the Lobby.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I make it clear at the beginning of my remarks so that there is no misunderstanding—I felt that there may have been a slight misunderstanding following the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara)-that there is no power vested in the authority to carry out a regulatory function in safety matters. I have not checked the record, but I am certain that I never said that the authority had such a function. If I did say it, I did not intend to do so.

I said in Committee—I repeat my words in the event of the record of the proceedings in Committee being incorrect, or if I used words carelessly in Committee—that the authority has powers to carry out research and development. It can give advice on safety matters. However, it does not rest with the authority to regulate matters of safety under the Bill as drafted. The amendment seeks to give the authority power to make regulations and to provide it with a regulatory power. It seeks to extend the Bill.

Consequently, I do not reject the amendment on the ground that its contents are covered by the Bill. I merely say that the Bill enables the authority to give advice on safety. The authority could interest itself in such matters if it so wished, but that would fall short of what the amendment seeks.

Mr. McNamara

If the Minister reads his remarks of 3 February in Committee, he will note that his most recent remarks somewhat soften, if they do not go against, his earlier comments. Of course, it could be a semantic argument. However, I was left with the impression that the Minister could require the authority to act more directly. In Committee he said: In this connection, the powers of the authority can be used in connection with safety matters without amending the Bill. For example, the authority could involve itself in safety research, or in safety training in the way that I have indicated. It also has the power to advise on 'matters relating to the sea fish industry'. This would enable it to pass advice on safety matters to the appropriate bodies within the industry. The Bill also gives Ministers the power to require the Sea Fish Industry Authority to undertake work as their agent. Therefore, if Ministers felt that there was a need for a new initiative in this area, the authority could be required to carry out that work. I shall give one instance of this."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D;3 February 1981, c. 132.]

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is confusing the issue. There is a great difference between what I said in Committee, which is correct and which I stand by—namely, that Ministers can give directions to the authority, and they can do so on safety matters—and the amendment. The amendment seeks to give direct power to the authority, which is totally different. There is nothing contradictory between what I said in Committee and what I am saying now.

It is not appropriate for the authority to be given regulatory powers to deal with safety matters. We have given to the Health and Safety Executive and the Department of Trade direct responsibility for safety at sea and safety in the fishing industry. A Government Department and a Government agency are already charged with the direct responsibility for making the regulations that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to give to the authority. In the executive and the Department we already have the necessary expertise and organisation to implement the regulatory function. I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect whether we shall gain anything by proliferating activity and responsibility as he proposes.

The fishing industry is already closely involved with the Department of Trade in efforts to improve safety standards. Surely it is appropriate that that channel should continue to be used. There are many proposals for amendments to the existing arrangements currently under consideration by the Department of Trade and representatives of the industry. The present arrangements are accepted, are understood and are working. That is the view of the industry and the organisations that are involved. If we were to give the authority a new and formal role, we would be likely to hamper the direct and effective links that have been established between the Department of Trade and the industry's organisations. It would not necessarily be in the interests of the industry to add yet another intermediary.

I ask the House to reject the amendment. I do not suggest that these matters are unimportant. I acknowledge that they are extremely important and I acknowledge the strong feeling of all those who have participated in the debate. I recognise the need for attention to safety matters. That is the view of many in the industry. However, if the amendment were accepted, it would proliferate responsibility and would hinder rather than assist the general cause which we all support, namely, to ensure that we have more effective safety arrangements for those who go to sea.

Mr. Robert Hughes

I accept that both sides of the House and Government Back Benchers take seriously the subject of safety in the industry. Therefore, I accept what the Minister says. The difference between us is whether the existing system is the best way of ensuring that safety.

There is an anomaly in the Minister's argument. He mentioned the activities of the Sea Fisheries Training Council, but that body is purely voluntary. I am not saying that it does not do valuable work and I do not wish to cast doubts on the work of the people involved in it. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) referred to what the Minister said in Committee. In talking about where the power should lie in relation to safety the Minister said: In this connection, the powers of the authority can be used in connection with safety matters without amending the Bill. For example, the authority could involve itself in safety research, or in safety training in the way that I have indicated. It also has the power to advise on 'matters relating to the sea fish industry'. This would enable it to pass advice on safety matters to the appropriate bodies within the industry. Thus, the Minister was accepting that there is a safety role for the new body. Therefore the question arises: to what degree should the new authority be involved in safety matters? That is a matter of degree, but an important degree.

The Minister advanced an important argument in relation to acceptance of the amendment. He said: The Bill also gives Ministers more power to require the Sea Fish Industry Authority to undertake work as their agent"— that is, the Government's agent— Therefore, if Ministers felt that there was a need for a new initiative in this area, the authority could be required to carry out that work. I shall give one instance of this. As members of the Committee know, the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board are currently, on behalf of the Government, undertaking safety checks on vessels."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 3 February 1980; c. 132.] The Government have conceded that here there is direct intervention by the Minister, using the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board as agents for carrying out safety checks.

Given the Minister's acceptance of a number of ways in which the new authority can be involved in safety matters, our argument is that it would lead to better safety in the industry and a much more cohesive and concentrated investigation of safety matters if responsibility and authority were given to the new body instead of leaving it as an agent that sometimes gives advice, sometimes does the work and sometimes discusses matters voluntarily within the new Sea Fisheries Training Council.

I accept the good faith of the Government, and I do not charge them with not taking safety seriously, but it is our contention that the issue is vital because of the fatalities and the many thousands of accidents, some of them very serious, that occur every year. It is serious enough to give the new Sea Fish Industry Authority the power to regulate the industry and to make safety one of its prime matters of paramount importance. I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in the Lobby in pressing the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 93, Noes 142.

Division No. 94] [8.15 pm
Alton, David Homewood, William
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hooley, Frank
Beith, A. J. Howells, Geraint
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hughes, Mark (Durham,)
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't' n &P) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Kilfedder, James A.
Coleman, Donald Lestor, Miss Joan
Concannon, Rt Hon J.D. Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Cowans, Harry Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crowther, J.S. Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)
Cryer, Bob McCartney, Hugh
Cunliffe, Lawrence McElhone, Frank
Dalyell, Tam McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Davis, T.(B'ham,Stechf'd) McKelvey, William
Deakins, Eric McNamara, Kevin
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McWilliam, John
Dewar, Donald Marks, Kenneth
Dixon, Donald Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)
Dobson, Frank Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Dormand, Jack Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Duffy, A. E. P. Maxton, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Maynard, Miss Joan
Eadie, Alex Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Eastham, Ken Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Evans, John (Newton) Morton, George
Ewing, Harry O'Neill, Martin
George, Bruce Palmer, Arthur
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Park, George
Ginsburg, David Penhaligon, David
Grant, George (Morpeth) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hardy, Peter Prescott, John
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Haynes, Frank Roberts, Aibert (Normanton)
Hogg, N. (ED unb't'nshire) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Home Robertson, John Sever, John
Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford) Welsh, Michael
Silverman, Julius White, Frank R.
Skinner, Dennis Whitlock, William
Spearing, Nigel Wigley, Dafydd
Spriggs, Leslie Woolmer, Kenneth
Steel, Rt Hon David
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Tellers for the Ayes:
Strang, Gavin Mr. Austin Mitchell and
Tinn, James Mr. James Hamilton.
Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Alexander, Richard Kimball, Marcus
Ancram, Michael Lang, Ian
Arnold, Tom Lawrence, Ivan
Aspinwall, Jack Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) LeMarchant, Spencer
Banks, Robert Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Luce, Richard
Berry, Hon Anthony Lyell, Nicholas
Bevan, DavidGilroy MacGregor, John
Biggs-Davison, John MacKay, John (Argyll)
Blackburn, John McNair-Wilson, M.(/V'bury)
Braine, Sir Bernard McQuarrie, Albert
Bright, Graham Major, John
Brinton, Tim Mates, Michael
Brooke, Hon Peter Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Brotherton, Michael Mawby, Ray
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Bruce-Gardyne, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Bryan, Sir Paul Meyer, Sir Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Mills, lain (Meriden)
Buck, Antony Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Bulmer, Esmond Moate, Roger
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Morgan, Geraint
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Murphy, Christopher
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Myles, David
Chapman, Sydney Neale, Gerrard
Churchill, W.S. Needham, Richard
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Nelson, Anthony
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Neubert, Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Onslow, Cranley
Colvin, Michael Osborn, John
Cope, John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Cormack, Patrick Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Corrie, John Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Dorrell, Stephen Pawsey, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Pollock, Alexander
Dover, Denshore Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Dunn, Robert (Darftord) Proctor, K. Harvey
Dykes, Hugh Renton, Tim
Elliott, Sir William Rhodes James, Robert
Faith, Mrs Sheila Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Rossi, Hugh
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Fookes, Miss Janet Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Forman, Nigel Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Skeet, T. H. H.
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Speller, Tony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Spence, John
Goodlad, Alastair Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Gorst, John Sproat, lain
Gow, Ian Squire, Robin
Gower, Sir Raymond Stainton, Keith
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Stanbrook, lvor
Gray, Hamish Stevens, Martin
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) StradlingThomas, J.
Grist, Ian Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Grylls, Michael Tebbit, Norman
Gummer, John Selwyn Temple-Morris, Peter
Haselhurst, Alan Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Thompson, Donald
Hawksley, Warren Thornton, Malcolm
Heddle, John Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Wall, Patrick
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Waller, Gary
Hordern, Peter Ward, John
Howell, Ralph (NN orfolk) Warren, Kenneth
Hurd, Hon Douglas Watson, John
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Wells, John (Maidstone)
Wells, Bowen Younger, Rt Hon George
Wheeler, John
Wickenden, Keith Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Nicholas Mr. Tony Newton, and
Wolfson, Mark Mr Carol Mather.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. McNamara

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 3, line 9, at end insert— '(g) to make provision for the decasualisation of full-time employee fishermen not being share fishermen, to ensure that no such full-time fishermen by reason of their employment, shall fail to benefit from social security legislation available to industrial workers not so engaged.'. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) will note that the amendment has been drafted to meet the point that he raised in Committee.

Of all the issues that rankle in what is left of the deep-sea industry' in Hull, the one that rankles most, after many years of campaigning by the union and by my hon. Friends, is that we have failed to achieve a regular system of employment for our fishermen. Indeed, at the time of the Icelandic dispute the union and my hon. Friends were led to believe that one of the benefits to come out of that dispute would be that employment in the fishing industry and the deep-sea industry in the ports of Fleetwood, Grimsby and Hull would be regularised and that, for the first time, there would be a proper system for employment of deep-sea fishermen.

Why is this matter so important? I shall not weary the House with the long explanation that I gave in Committee. I shall try to paraphrase it. Deep-sea fishermen, while they consider that they are employed by one company, are in fact employed only voyage by voyage for which they sign their articles when they go on board ship. When, after being at sea for a fortnight, or for any period of up to three or four months, they sign off the articles, they sign off the ship and the period of employment comes to an end.

That means a number of things. First, they do not have a regular pattern of employment for national insurance purposes. Secondly, they do not have long enough—the minimum period is two years, if I remember correctly—to qualify under the redundancy payments Acts. Thirdly, because of the short period of their employment, they frequently cannot benefit from the advantages that are given to working people in the employment protection legislation.

Said coldly and logically like that, the matter does not excite great concern, but when it is translated to the home or life of the individual fisherman and his family it causes tremendous difficulties. For example, a fisherman rarely obtains unemployment benefit. He frequently has to depend upon supplementary benefit. A fisherman cannot gain wage-related benefits because he has not been employed long enough when he becomes unemployed. There are no severance payment schemes or redundancy payment schemes for him. He finds it difficult, even under some of the old schemes, to qualify for an adequate pension because in many cases his working life ends at 55.

Thus, because of the casual nature of their employment, such fishermen as are left are at an enormous disadvantage compared with their fellow citizens. They are the heroes, the people about whom songs are written, they are the subject of many toasts and of much admiration for courage and virility. These are easy words, but they constitute empty phrases when it comes to what the State is prepared to do to help these men when they go to it in time of need.

The union has campaigned for a long time. We felt at the time of the second cod war that we had achieved our goal. That was under the Labour Administration, and we regarded ourselves for a variety of reasons as having been badly let down when we failed to secure our aim. Towards the end of the Labour Administration, the employers and the union reached agreement on a scheme to come into operation in the late summer of 1979. All the documents had been agreed and all the papers had been sent to the Ministry for approval. Mr. John Boyd and Mr. David Cairns for the owners and the union respectively both regarded the scheme as being ready for approval. They waited. It was lack of progress that caused us to table our amendment in Committee. We wanted to discover what had happened. We felt that the Government were dragging their feet. They had asked the industry to produce a scheme. It was produced, but now the Government have not implemented it.

8.30 pm

When the Minister replied to our debate on the general question of decasualisation, he said that responsibility in the matter was not his. He fairly and properly said that it lay with his colleagues in the Departments of Employment and Health and Social Security. He went on to say that he had brought himself up to date on the matter because he appreciated that it was an issue of concern. But he said that the industry was dragging its feet. That was a serious statement. It led me to inquire further as to the facts. I can assure the Minister that it still is within the Ministry's power to produce an order to introduce the scheme.

There has been some discussion about the question of redundancy. At the time the scheme was agreed the union and the owners felt, as I believe they still do, that the scheme could go into operation in spite of any arguments about redundancy. The Government do not seem prepared to move further on that matter, and that is causing considerable concern. The longer it goes on the more difficult it will be to identify those people who should be compensated for loss of employment as a result of the cod war, of our having joined the EEC or of the change in fishing patterns.

Whenever the Minister has spoken at the Dispatch Box on the question of EEC fishing policy and our disagreements with the Community, I have asked him whether, regardless of the discussion about limits, he has obtained anything from the social fund to compensate fishermen in Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Aberdeen for losing their jobs as a result of Community policies. His answer has been"No". I have been chided on occasions for breaching the united approach by the industry on the problems caused by Community policies. I chided the Labour Government about their contrariness over this issue. I shall not spare this Government. The industry and my union regard decasualisation as a matter of fundamental importance because men, out of dignity, are entitled to the same rights as their fellow citizens. If the industry is not capable of achieving that, the Government should do what the Labour Government should have done.

If we regularise the pattern of fishing, especially in the former deep-sea ports, we must have a system of regular employment for fishermen along the lines of the scheme that I put forward and explained in Committee, namely, an amalgam of the Merchant Navy pool scheme and the registered dock labour scheme. The matter is of vital importance to the families in the area. They must know what will happen.

Every time that the unemployment figures are published in Hull, I have pencilled on the bottom the current number of unemployed fishermen—500, 600 or more. Those men are registered as fishermen, but many will never get another ship. My hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and I see people in our surgeries who ask how they can obtain another job at sea. If they cannot obtain a job at sea, they want to know who will train them and what will be their future opportunities. We have to shrug, express sympathy, and say that we cannot do a great deal for them. But a great deal could be done if the scheme for decasualisation were introduced.

The amendment meets the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East in Committee. We are seeking to provide that the authority should be responsible for introducing a scheme for decasualisation, which successive Governments have failed to do, and which the industry has not been able to do. We must put the reason for doing so on the statute book, namely, to ensure that the deep-sea fishermen who depend for their livelihoods not only on their share of the catch but upon wages and bonuses should have at least the same rights accruing to them as accrue to their fellow industrial workers.

There is one final reason why the Government should put such provision on the statute book. The fishing industry is demoralised. That is not wholly the Government's fault. I say that out of charity; it is Lent and I must be charitable, even to Conservatives. The industry is demoralised because of the failure to reach agreement at Brussels. No one knows what will happen to the common fisheries policy, what shape the new industry will take, and what investment will take place. Uncertainty at Brussels and the 200-mile limit have affected many other branches of the industry such as processing, canning and distribution. Grimsby, Hull and Fleetwood have seen the disappearance of many of the large firms that have been associated with the deep-sea industry.

Decasualisation is owed to the fishermen of Britain. We have a duty to stop the demoralisation. We must show the areas involved that both the Government and the House still think that they are worth something, that they should be given attention, that they should be given an opportunity, and that they should be treated properly. One of the best ways in which that can be done is by first introducing a proper system of decasualisation and then, on the basis of that dealing with the question of redundancy and severance pay which will be needed in this industry when it is restructured.

Mr. McQuarrie

I listened with considerable interest to the comments of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) on this amendment. As those of us who served on the Committee know, at that stage he put forward a similar amendment very cogently, but without success. I should have been happier in this case if it had not been so divisive as to exclude the share fishermen.

I am at a loss to understand how the amendment will work. Its purpose is to make provision for the decasualisation of full-time employee fishermen not being share fishermen, to ensure that no such full-time fishermen by reason of their employment, shall fail to benefit from social security legislation available to industrial workers not so engaged. Were these fishermen to be employed full-time they and their employers would pay national insurance contributions and PAYE on engagement, and when they came back from the sea they would be entitled to social security benefits. If that is not the case, I suggest that the amendment should be worded a little differently, to give us a clearer indication of what is behind it.

To speak for the section to which I referred, those who are not share fishermen, legislation is required to cover the fishing industry as a whole, so that even the share fishermen will be entitled to some form of social security benefit. In my constituency, in the dispute a few weeks ago 700 to 800 share fishermen applied for social security benefits but were unable to get them because there is no legislation covering them. Where there are definite reasons—for example if a vessel is being repaired or if a vessel cannot go to sea—the fishermen may get social security benefits. It is not just a question of going to the social security office and drawing benefits. It is a matter of waiting for the insurance officer, the tribunal and various other factors. In one case that I handled not long ago, it took over two years to get the matter clarified before payment was made.

I should have been happy if the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central had made a more general attempt to persuade the Minister to bring in some form of legislation that would cover that sort of thing. If these people are full-time fishermen there is no reason why they should not enjoy the benefits of social security. This is something that should perhaps be covered by the Employment Act, rather than by the new Sea Fish Industry Authority.

During the third sitting of the Committee, when referring to a document produced by the Transport and General Workers Union, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central said: Under the heading: 'Employment of Fishermen and Ancillary Workers in a Changing Industry', it states: 'The system of casual employment in the sea-going sector of the industry must be eliminated by the enactment of legislation and substituted by a more humane employment scheme for fishermen. This employment scheme must provide the fishermen with all the rights and benefits accorded to workers in shore-based industries such as continuity of employment, a regular minimum income, sickness and injury benefit, a pension and severance payment fund'."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 29 January 1981; c. 110.] I agree with those sentiments, but I do not consider that we should insert this provision in the Bill and make it the responsibility of the Sea Fish Industry Authority. I suggest that this matter should be dealt with in a general way by the Department of Employment. I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will indicate that he will pass these comments on to the Department of Employment so that we do not have the problems that have emanated from my constituency and have rightly been referred to by the hon. Member for Kingstom upon Hull, Central.

8.45 pm
Mr. Prescott

I fully support the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), particularly about the most contentious issue of decasualised labour. The lack of identity of regular work associated with one employer or industry has been a constant problem for the fisherman in the denial of benefits. While he may be associated with the industry, he has tended to be identified legally in the terms of the contract into which he entered as a fisherman—the articles of voyage of the vessel on which he sails. Employment tends to be identified with the time served on the ship. As there may be a considerable period between one voyage and the next, that can sometimes be identified as paid leave.

There is some continuity if a man gets a ship right away, but all too often it is not the same ship to which he goes back. That therefore denies him the continuity generally associated with the regularity of employment, which is the important feature in distinguishing the casual nature of the employment.

It has sometimes been argued that to be regularly employed by one company made a man a company man, and that gave him some regularity of employment. In reality, in law it is usually the articles of voyage with which the fisherman or the seaman is identified. If he has a three-months voyage and three months ashore, the continuity of employment for employment benefit and other purposes of regular employment is associated solely with the three months' sea time. That becomes the active period for the purpose of employment, which determines whether he is entitled to the social benefits about which we are talking.

As the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) said, in the amendment we are concerned with the ending of casualisation and the identity of full-time employee fishermen with social security legislation.

I understand the fears expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central. Nevertheless, the clause, which deals with the powers of the authority, provides discretionary powers to give advice on such matters and to carry out research. We hope that the discretionary powers will be used in the way that has been indicated, certainly in regard to advice and research.

The amendment asks for that power to be used for the ending of casualisation in the industry. It is important to recognise that the benefits of regular employment are not confined solely to social security, as I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central would readily agree. My hon. Friend used the powerful example of redundancy and social security benefits. As we made clear earlier, identity of sea service becomes an important factor in determining whether a fisherman is entitled to redundancy pay. Therefore, to be denied these benefits causes considerable concern in Hull, particularly to fishermen who probably have no future prospects of getting back into this industry.

The features of casualisation are known to anybody in maritime industries. I was a seaman for 10 years. I belong to the National Union of Seamen. We had casual employment. Interestingly enough, since the war it has always been identified with the docks, ships and fishermen. It is also associated with the North Sea oil industry, because similar problems arise concerning divers and so on. Indeed, my union was actively involved. It took a great deal of industrial muscle to end casualisation in the docks industry.

When this country was at war, it was decided to have regular employment practices and to have seamen regularly available. Therefore, the casual nature of the seafarers' employment was ended. Unfortunately for fishermen, there has not been the same consideration. It is apparently thought that fishermen are a special breed—a gambling breed—they like to share in the profits from the fish which they catch, they are not interested in their conditions of employment as long as they can have a few bob when the ship docks and can go out and have a good time before catching the next tide. That has always been the justification for a number of intolerable and deplorable practices which have continued in this industry, with its casual employment.

Two aspects of that casual employment have created many penalties for both fishermen and their relatives. I made some remarks about redundancy earlier. When I registered for employment as a seaman I did not register solely with the employer or with a ship. I registered with the central pool. I was a seaman who was identified in the central pool. Whether I sailed with Cunard, P & O, or any other line, I had a record of employment that guaranteed me holiday pay and redundancy pay. If there were more seamen than jobs, a regular redundancy system came into play. A record could be found of my service in the industry. Compensation could be given for the period of service that I had given to the industry.

The same could be done for fishing. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central pointed out, the union and other hon. Members from the Hull area have constantly pressed that the suggested scheme should have been accepted by Governments, including the previous Administration. That was probably most relevant during the cod war with Iceland.

It is well known that I disagree with my colleagues and was inclined to support Iceland's case in the cod war. It was central to the argument that if Britain wanted to adjust to that situation, compensation needed to be made.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), who was a Minister in the Department of Employment at that time, managed to obtain a considerable amount of money from the Treasury to be used for redundancy payments. The Member for Grimsby at that time was Mr. Tony Crosland. He promised compensation from a deal arising out of one agreement with Iceland. That money was secured, but unfortunately it was not given to the fishing industry, although the general agreement was that the money could be used for decasualisation.

The reality was that the money was not given to the fishermen who were made redundant as a result of the Icelandic agreement, nor was it used to set up a decasualisation scheme. The only people who benefited were those in the Treasury, who got the money back. That was unfortunate, because the fishermen did not get anything out of that agreement, although the industry got some money. The industry might not have felt that the amount of money was sufficient. The ships were compensated, but the men were not. That is a deplorable principle for the House to endorse, and it should be changed.

The Minister is concerned with concluding an agreement with the Community that inevitably will involve a certain amount of compensation. Compensation has already gone from the taxpayer to the British fishing industry. Other hon. Members and I have been pressing for that matter to be dealt with because of the difficulties arising from the delay in arriving at a Community fishing policy.

No doubt, the Minister will receive a certain amount of money from the Community for the readjustment of the fishing industry. All too often, such compensation has been associated either with purchasing old trawlers or with compensating trawler owners in one way or another. Very little has been given to fishermen who have been in the front line, in terms of being made redundant. I agree that certain amounts have been given to share fishermen and to the industry, whether to uphold prices or to help in certain financial circumstances, but the thousands of men from the ships who have been thrown on the scrap heap have not been given a penny directly because of the casual nature of the industry.

If EEC compensation is possible, and if extra money is now to be made available for the industry, we hope that a little humanity will be shown in order to give these fishermen at least some compensation in the same way as compensation is normally given to workers in accordance with their period of service in an industry.

Over the years my hon. Friends and I have received many letters from people working in the industry who ask why they are not getting compensation when money is poured into the trawler owners' pockets. We cannot give an adequate answer. All that we can say is that we shall keep arguing the case and pressing for justice to be given to fishermen.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central referred to the problem of vessels that sink with the loss of the crew. We are concerned also for the relatives who are left. There are various charities that may assist in such circumstances, but I have in mind one case—I think that my hon. Friend had it in mind as well—the loss of the"Gaul", with everyone on board.

No one knew where the ship went down, and the courts found that negligence could not be shown. Naturally, under its insurance policy the company would receive compensation for the vessel that was lost. It simply had to show the loss. Thus, it was compensated for the loss of the ship itself, for its legal costs, and, I believe, to a certain extent, for loss of the cargo.

The relatives of the men who were lost with the vessel could not show negligence—I am not for a moment suggesting that there was negligence—so they could not establish a case for further compensation beyond the £1,000 given under the terms of insurance and six months' money. Frankly, that is quite inadequate. This industry should have a proper insurance policy under which, if men are lost—this is the most dangerous occupation of all—there will be money readily available to assist the relatives.

Perhaps I may add here a reference to the company involved—British United Trawlers. The three Hull Members of Parliament have been discussing the matter for some time. It was clear that the relatives would not be able to get any further money, and we felt that more should be done for them. We feel that special assistance should be given for the dozens of children and widows who are left, and we are grateful that the company continues to discuss with us the possibility of giving at least a little extra help to those who remain—particularly the children and widows—in difficult financial circumstances.

Those are but two examples of various aspects of the casual nature of employment in this industry. We regard it as deplorable, and since the industry is now undergoing considerable change, with a good deal of money involved, we consider that as a priority there should be decasualisation, with the establishment of the new industry arising out of the new agreements.

Mr. James Johnson

As the House will have gathered, my two hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and I have for some years felt very keenly on the question of decasualisation for the benefit of our constituents who go to sea in ships. It is a long-standing argument, and it is not finished.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central was right to remind the House that we nearly got a settlement after the Icelandic cod war. Jack Jones for the T and GWU, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) and Lord Peart, as he now is, sat down and discussed the matter and, as my hon. Friend said, money was put on the table. Unfortunately, it did not end up in payments to fishermen, who—it has been said half a dozen times already in the debate—deserve much better compensation and far better terms of service than they have had hitherto.

It is well known on the dockside at Hull that the T and GWU desires, and has attempted to achieve for its members, those better terms of service. As the Minister knows, this advance has been opposed in the past by owners and by skippers. It has, indeed, been opposed by some of the men themselves. They have had this, so to speak, old-fashioned idea that they would keep their liberty by staying as casual labour, able to pick their ship and pick their skipper, able to stay in bed on a Monday morning, not go off with one ship to sea, but perhaps get the next one. But those are nineteenth-century attitudes, and we should regard our modern ships as floating factories.

In a factory on shore these men would have all the terms and conditions secured by, say, miners under the National Coal Board. We must try to get them for men who go to sea. When afloat they are denied the conditions provided by legislation for their fellow union members and their fellow workers ashore. On the quayside, indeed, members of the same union get far better conditions. Let us be blunt about this. They are literally—financially and physically—denied the rights enjoyed by their fellow workers. They are second-class citizens. One need only compare the terms of service and working conditions of miners. In terms of insurance for wives and dependants, for example, there is no comparison. The National Coal Board is of course a nationalised industry which sets standards.

What are we asking of the Government and of the Minister? I quote from what has become almost a Bible for us,"Fishing: the Way Forward", which states plainly, simply and factually: A fishermens' employment scheme, as envisaged by the T and GWU, would provide for continuity of employment, a regular minimum income, sickness and injury benefit, a pension and severance payment fund. That is hardly a revolutionary proposal. It is merely akin to what the majority of their fellow workers accept.

This scheme—and I hope that the Minister will knock this down if he thinks that it is a skittle that should not stand up—could and should be administered by a national fishing labour board. Its members could be scheduled and slotted in, to include vessel owners, union leaders and so on. It is not impossible to think in terms of local port boards administering the scheme, as the union envisages. They would do all that is done elsewhere. They would have a register of their workers. Any vessel owner who wished to employ fishermen, not being part-owners of his vessel, would be asked to register as an employer of labour in order to employ fishermen on the official list. What is the objection to that? Why are we not getting ahead with a civilised scheme of this nature for these men who go to sea in ships in such dangerous conditions?

9 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central spoke movingly about a certain vessel and a certain set of happenings. He referred, of course, to the"Gaul". I think that in 1976 we had lost three vessels in 10 days—the"Ross Cleveland" and two others. Then we lost the"Gaul". My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East put the case very plainly, simply and factually. As Members of Parliament, as parents and as local councillors, the community of Hull has thought for years that there should have been a better settlement. As has been said, we have had petitions, and we have done what we could. As Members of Parliament, we have met, and shall continue to meet, the BUT.

I end by saying to the Minister of State—who, I hope, has been paying attention to what I have said, and who I know is a humane man—that if only he will give us not just his blessing, but any help that he possibly can in this thorny and contentious matter of settling moneys for the loss of the men in the"Gaul", he will earn himself encomiums in Hull and its neighbourhood.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

The arguments for this amendment are well known. They have been excellently and movingly put by my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) from the other side of life's great divide—the Humber.

Any Member of Parliament from a fishing port knows of the problems which the amendment is meant to tackle. He knows of the desperation of men who are thrown on the scrap-heap but who want to continue fishing. For them, fishing is a way of life, and that is no reason why their enthusiasm for it should be exploited in the way that it has been. They want to continue fishing, but are unable to do so through no fault of their own. One can imagine the desperation of such people who suddenly find that they are not entitled to compensation or redundancy payments or to any of the benefits which other sections of society receive. It seems to the fishermen that some of those benefits are extremely generous. However, nothing comes to them.

That kind of shock comes in waves to Members representing fishing ports. As each crisis hits the fishing industry, and as more vessels are laid up, another wave of people face the same problems which should have been solved five or 10 years ago. Any Member representing a fishing port knows of the sort of social security problems which fishermen run into in the course of the alternation between work and unemployment which is part of the pattern of fishing.

Sadly, this is a short-sighted industry. When things are going well, it does not want to introduce the kind of reforms that are necessary for its long-term future and which would give security to those who work in it. As a result, as soon as things start going badly, the crisis is enormously increased by the failure to prepare for it by introducing the kind of decasualisation scheme which should have been introduced some time ago. In that sense, it is an industry which has not known its own interests. However, this House should be aware of those interests and should do something about them. Certainly Governments have a responsibility to lead the industry in the direction in which it ought to go.

It is tragic that the agreement, which was brought together in the last period of the Labour Government, has still not been implemented. In the 1980s, fishermen are still second-class citizens in many respects. Apart from the casual nature of the job, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East pointed out, the last two tranches of aid given to the industry have not trickled down to the fishermen. I hope that in the next batch of aid Ministers will ensure that in some measure at least it is operating aid which goes to those working in the industry as well as to the owners.

The amendment relates to decasualisation for people who have no security or who receive no compensation. They are totally at the mercy of the employer in a contracting, shifting industry. They are desperate to remain in the industry. We are trying to hang the responsibility for the implementation of a scheme on the Sea Fish Industry Authority. We would not be doing so had the Government acted earlier. The fact that we are doing so at this late stage shows how desperate the need is and how anxious we are to break the log-jam which seems to have built up over this apparently simple and straightforward reform which still, after all these years, has not been implemented.

This is a question of humanity, decency and obligation to those who have devoted their working lives to the industry. They deserve something better from it than what they have been getting over the last few years. If attaching the responsibility to the Sea Fish Industry Authority is the only way of achieving it, it is vital that we do so.

Mr. Wall

A strong case has been made out for some form of decasualisation. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) was right to point out that when the fishing industry was prosperous it did not want it. The skippers, mates and crews were earning quite good pay and were prepared to take the luck of the draw. Now, through no fault of their own, the industry—certainly the distant water industry in Hull—is in bad shape. I am particularly worried that no redundancy pay is available to these men. That is unique, for the reasons that have already been given.

Having said that, I should like to know whether any investigation has been made into the cost of introducing decasualisation in the industry. I think that the hon Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) will agree that, given the industry's state, it could not pay for that. I wonder whether he, or anyone else, has estimated the costs involved.

Although the hon. Gentleman has made out a strong case, and although his case will receive sympathy from this side of the House, I wonder whether this legislation is appropriate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) said, perhaps an employment Bill would be more appropriate. The Government should give consideration to this issue, but I doubt whether the present legislation is appropriate to deal with it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

In Committee we had a good debate on this subject. Given its importance and the human factors that lie behind it, I am glad that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr.McNamara) has returned to it.

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman feels that what I said in Committee about the stage of discussions was misleading. He made that remark tonight and I have been unable to check the position. I shall follow the matter up and find out what the position is. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that I did not want to mislead the Committee or the House.

I point out to the House, and particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie), that I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Employment to this debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) rightly said, that Department has the prime responsibility for such matters.

I should like to respond sympathetically, but I return to what I said in Committee, and to what my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice has said. No matter how important the issue is—I recognise that it is very important to those who have spoken in the debate and to those who work in the industry—we must ask whether it is appropriate that this Bill should deal with the matter. More specifically, we should ask ourselves whether we should use the Sea Fish Industry Authority.

Mr. Prescott

Nobody else will do it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It is not a question whether no one will do it, but whether the Bill is the correct vehicle. If the will is there, we must find the correct vehicle. However, the creation of a new vehicle does not necessarily change the circumstances. This is primarly a matter for the Department of Employment.

As I pointed out in Committee and on an earlier amendment, we did not envisage that the new authority would have regulatory powers. They are implied in the operation of a decasualisation scheme. Therefore, to include that power, as the hon. Gentleman seeks, would run against one of the principles of the functions of this body.

It is important to bear in mind that the document of the Transport and General Workers' Union, entitled"Fishing: The Way Forward"—to which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) referred—recommends that a National Fishing Labour Board should be set up. It would be a specific, not a general, body. To judge from the document, this was regarded as a matter of specific responsibility for employers and employees.

9.15 pm

Although as a result of the amendment that we have agreed, the Sea Fish Industry Authority will have on it eight representatives of the industry, they will not be solely the representatives of employers and employees. Those serving on the authority will be much more widely drawn from the industry as a whole. Given these wider functions and the wider membership of the authority, I do not think that the authority or the Bill is the correct vehicle to achieve the objectives to which hon. Members have referred.

I have looked at the matter since the amendment was tabled, and since the debate on a similar amendment in Committee, but I am sorry to have to advise the House that my view has not changed. Notwithstanding that, I shall draw the debate and its implications to the attention of Ministers in the Department of Employment. Despite the importance of the subject, I must advise my right hon. and hon. Friends not to accept the amendment.

Mr. McNamara

I shall not detain the House long, but I should reply to a number of points.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) spoke of the problems facing the share fishermen in his constituency. I do not know whether he was present in the Chamber when my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) referred to the same problems that he faced over the treatment of share fishermen during the latest stoppage. I understand from what the Minister says that he will draw the attention of Ministers within the Department of Health and Social Security to this matter. It seems to me, as an outsider with no involvement with share fishermen, to be a strange procedure when every ship has to be taken as a test case and one member of the crew has to be treated as a test case before a satisfactory solution can be achieved. With a couple of hundred vessels involved, it will take a heck of long time for the commissioner to reach a decision and then for it to be passed down.

I am not sure how I could draw an amendment to meet the Minister's desires. The amendment I proposed in Committee was too broad because it included share fishermen. Now an amendment that excludes share fishermen still does not satisfy him. I understand the honourable Gentleman's reason. He could almost be a Social Democrat. One does not know exactly where he stands on these matters.

The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) asked me about the cost of a redundancy scheme. Such a scheme has not been priced yet. One has not been able to lay down any criteria in view of the length of time this matter has dragged on since the last cod war. The principle behind the decasualisation scheme that was being examined was the establishment of a permanent register. With a permanent register, one would have a pool of fishermen. One would be able to examine it to decide who was taken off and who should remain on and what should be the terms of compensation offered. The essential factor was the establishment of the pool. With a register established at the start, both sides could go to the Government, to say whether it had too many or too few and that compensation was needed to settle the matter. That would follow a system of decasualisation.

My hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and I discussed this matter a lot at the time of the cod war. We believed that, at that time, we could have achieved a viable scheme by working on the discharge books. We were sorry that people in the industry did not think the scheme would work. We believed, together with our former right hon. Friend, the Member for Grimsby, the late Anthony Crosland, that we had worked out a specific proposal.

The Minister said that this Bill was not a suitable vehicle. It is not a question whether it is a suitable vehicle; it is a question of the political will. If there is political will on behalf of a Conservative Government or a Labour Government, a lift can be hitched. This is a vehicle on which we could easily hitch a lift. We would be happy not to have a national fishing body. We would be happy to have the new authority if it were to introduce decasualisation. We are not tied to any specific form of management, although we want employees and employers to be represented. We are not wedded to any particular title— What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. We want a scheme of decasualisation. If the Government have the political will to introduce such a scheme, that could be done.

The Minister felt that in an earlier speech I was accusing him of misleading the Committee. He took mild exception to that. If I have accused him of misleading the Committee—I shall read the words that I used—I immediately withdraw the accusation. I merely suggest that a scheme was agreed by both sides. It was necessary only for the Government to introduce it. Problems suddenly arose that had not been envisaged. It was suggested that alterations might need to be made.

The scheme appeared immediately after the general election, at a time when there was no great encouragement to introduce decasualisation. The Government did not push the scheme. They have not given it a degree of priority and they have not given reasons for not seeking to implement it.

Speeches have been made across the great divide. Fortunately, the divide will soon be bridged and we shall be able to offer refuge to those from Grimsby at Hull. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) might be the first refugee.

The fishing industry is basically the only industry in Britain that remains to be decasualised. The work force is dwindling and decasualisation is merely a matter of will and purposefulness. Given the demoralised state of the industry, decasualisation could come from the House with all-party support, even from this Government.

I urge the Minister and his right hon. and hon. Friends to reconsider their position between the ringing of the Division bells and the closing of the doors and to give us a majority.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 91, Noes 148.

Division No. 95] [9.25 pm
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Eadie, Alex
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Eastham, Ken
Brown, Hugh D.(Provan) Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're)
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P) Evans, John (Newton)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Ewing, Harry
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Fletcher, Ted(Darlington)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Foster, Derek
Coleman, Donald George, Bruce
Concannon, Rt HonJ, D. Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cowans, Harry Ginsburg, David
Crowther, J. S. Grant, George(Morpeth)
Cryer, Bob Hardy, Peter
Cunliffe, Lawrence Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Dalyell, Tam Haynes, Frank
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)
Deakins, Eric Home Robertson, John
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Homewood, William
Dempsey, James Hooley, Frank
Dewar, Donald Hughes, Mark(Durham)
Dixon, Donald Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dobson, Frank Johnson, James (Hull West)
Dormand, Jack Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Kilfedder, James A.
Leighton, Ronald Park, George
Lestor, Miss Joan Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Lewis, Arthur (N'hamNW) Prescott, John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
Lyons, Edward(Bradf'dW) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
McCartney, Hugh Silkin, Rt Hon J.(Deptford,)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Silverman, Julius
McElhone, Frank Skinner, Dennis
McKay, Allen(Penistone) Spearing, Nigel
McKelvey, William Spriggs, Leslie
McNamara, Kevin Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
McWilliam, John Strang, Gavin
Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton) Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Welsh, Michael
Mason, Rt Hon Roy White, Frank R.
Maxton, John Whitlock, William
Maynard, Miss Joan Wigley, Dafydd
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Woolmer, Kenneth
Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Tellers for the Ayes:
O'Neill, Martin Mr. George Morton and
Palmer, Arthur Mr. Austin Mitchell
Alexander, Richard Gray, Hamish
Alton, David Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Ancram, Michael Grist, Ian
Arnold, Tom Grylls, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Gummer, John Selwyn
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Haselhurst, Alan
Banks, Robert Hawksley, Warren
Beith, A.J. Heddle, John
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
Berry, Hon Anthony Holland, Philip(Carlton)
Best, Keith Hordern, Peter
Bevan, DavidGilroy Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk)
Biggs-Davison, John Howells, Geraint
Blackburn, John Hurd, Hon Douglas
Braine, Sir Bernard Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bright, Graham Kimball, Marcus
Brinton, Tim Lang, Ian
Brotherton, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Brown, Michael(Brigg &Sc'n) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Bruce-Gardyne, John LeMarchant, Spencer
Bryan, Sir Paul Lloyd, Peter(Fareham)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Luce, Richard
Buck, Antony Lyell, Nicholas
Bulmer, Esmond MacGregor, John
Carlisle, John (Luton West) MacKay, John (Argyll)
Carlisle, Kenneth(Lincoln) McNair-Wilson, M'('bury)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) McQuarrie, Albert
Chapman, Sydney Major, john
Churchill,W.S. Mates, Michael
Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n) Mather, Carol
Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S) Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Mawby, Ray
Colvin, Michael Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Cope, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Cormack, Patrick Meyer, Sir Anthony
Corrie, John Miller, Hal(B'grove)
Crouch, David Mills, lain(Meriden)
Dorrell, Stephen Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Douglas-Hamilton,Lord J. Moate, Roger
Dover, Denshore Molyneaux, James
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Morgan, Geraint
Dykes, Hugh Murphy, Christopher
Elliott, Sir William Myles, David
Faith, MrsSheila Neale, Gerrard
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Needham, Richard
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'ghN) Nelson, Anthony
Fookes, Miss Janet Neubert, Michael
Forman, Nigel Newton, Tony
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Onslow, Cranley
Garel-Jones, Tristan Osbon, john
Goodlad, Alastair Page, John (Harrow, West)
Gorst, John Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Gow, Ian Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Gower, SirRaymond Pawsey, James
Grant, Anthony(Harrow C) Penhaligon, David
Pollock, Alexander Tebbit, Norman
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Temple-Morris, Peter
Proctor, K. Harvey Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Renton, Tim Thornton, Malcolm
Rhodes James, Robert Townend, John (Bridlington)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Wall, Patrick
Rossi, Hugh Waller, Gary
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Ward, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Warren, Kenneth
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Watson, John
Skeet, T. H. H. Wells, John (Maidstone)
Speller, Tony Wells, Bowen
Spence, John Wheeler, John
Spicer, Michael (SWorcs) Wickenden, Keith
Sproat, lain Winterton, Nicholas
Squire, Robin Wolfson, Mark
Stainton, Keith Younger, Rt Hon George
Stanbrook, lvor
Stevens, Martin Tellers for the Noes:
Stradling Thomas, J. Mr. Peter Brooke and
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Mr. Donald Thompson.

Question accordingly negatived.

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