HC Deb 02 December 1982 vol 33 cc386-7
10. Mr. McNamara

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now make a statement on his proposed aid to the Hull deep sea fishing fleet.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The form of the special £15 million aid is set out in a statutory instrument which was laid before the House yesterday.

Mr. McNamara

I am well aware of that, but that is not an answer to my question. I asked what specific aid the Government are to give to the whole deep sea fleet. What part of the temporary life belt that has been thrown to the fleet will go to Hull and the deep sea fleet generally? When will the right hon. Gentleman announce measures to rebuild the deep sea fleet to ensure that we have adequate catches from third country waters and Hull can be a viable port again?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I cannot say how much aid will go to Hull. It depends on the number of applications that are received from Hull and how many of those applications are eligible and approved. I expect that about £800,000 is likely to go to Hull, judging by the way in which the money has been distributed in previous schemes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that under the last three schemes, including this one, about £3.6 million has gone to Hull. We have already entered into informal discussions with the industry on future restructuring. We hope to have more formal discussions shortly on the future structure of the United Kingdom fishing fleet.

Sir Patrick Wall

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Humberside distant water fleet has been compensated for its loss of third country fishing grounds? If not, will my right hon. Friend give that matter further consideration?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As my hon. Friend knows, the loss of third country waters was a considerable factor in the European negotiations and a positive element in the calculation of the quotas. Therefore, that was a real part of the negotiations. In the interim, various arrangements for fishing—for example, sectoral quotas, which the freezer sector of the British fleet alone has enjoyed, and access to the herring fishery, which that sector of the fleet did not have previously—show that we have not ignored the needs of the distant water fleet, particularly the Hull fleet.

Mr. James Johnson

Bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister are kept well informed of the battle that we in Hull, from the Lord Mayor downwards, are putting up to salvage our deep sea fleet, will the Minister say something about our share of decent quotas in Arctic waters? What are the possibilities of our ships fishing in Antarctic waters in the South Atlantic? Will the Minister say something about the work that he is doing to save the Humber research laboratory in my constituency? All those things are important, as is aid for the consortium and co-operative of the city council and the workers, dockers and others in the Hull Landing Company on the dock.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I was glad to have the opportunity yesterday to meet representatives of the industry from Hull. We had full and useful discussions with them. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the loss of distant water opportunities seriously affected Hull and other deep water ports. I am sure he will welcome the fact that, in the final stages of the negotiations on the common fisheries policy, we negotiated an extra 3,000 tonnes of Greenland cod above the original offer. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that. It shows our concern for his section of the industry.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Will the Minister verify that the industry, both deep sea and near water, urgently needs a restructuring plan and aid? Vessels are earning enough money to keep going, but not to pay off debts or to finance new investment. There is an urgent need to ease the burden of dock charges on the industry so that British ports can compete for landings on equal terms with Continental ports.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands the problems of the fishing industry. One of the big problems of long-term structural planning is knowing precisely what the fishing opportunities will be. Once we have established what they will be, both in our waters and in third country waters, we can sensibly plan the structure of the fleet. Therefore, if as we hope, we have a common fisheries policy within sight, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman's support.

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