HC Deb 17 November 1983 vol 48 cc977-8
9. Mr. Austin Mitchell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on the subject of renewal of the temporary operating aid for the fishing industry.

Mr. MacGregor

We have received representations from two fishing organisations and one vessel owner.

Mr. Mitchell

If the Minister receives a flood of representations as a result of this question, will he remember that the operating subsidy is the only measure that has sustained confidence in an industry that has been crippled with debt and allowed some sections of the English fishing industry to keep going? Without a renewal of that operating subsidy those sections will be threatened, as will the confidence of banks that have made loans to the industry.

Mr. MacGregor

I discussed this matter with the National Federation of Fishermens Organisations, which drew attention to the problems in Grimsby. It would be difficult to justify an operating subsidy not only because our previous subsidy has been declared to be incompatible with Community rules but because we now have the possibility of more certainty in the industy as the common fisheries policy moves into operation. I snail shortly be announcing one part of that policy, the structures programme, which will be relevant to these problems and will put some cash into the industry.

10. Mr. Michael Brown

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement regarding the restructuring of the fishing industry.

Mr. MacGregor

We are working towards introducing, as soon as possible, grants for decommissioning and laying up fishing vessels, and for exploratory voyages and joint ventures. National and European Community grants for building and modernising vessels will also be available.

To ensure that finance is available to meet claims for payment in this financial year under the new scheme, provision of £4 million has already been sought for decommissioning grants in the Winter Supplementary Estimates.

Mr. Brown

While appreciating what my hon. Friend has just said, and following from the question asked by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell)——

The Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask his own question.

Mr. Brown

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does my hon. Friend accept that, while the fishing vessel owners and fishermen will be delighted with what he has just said, there are tremendous problems because of the high cost of landing fish at Grimsby? Will any restructuring proposals include some finance to alleviate the cost of landing fish at that port?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not believe that the restructuring proposals—the vast majority of which are linked to the EC programme—deal with the problem of the cost of landing fish, but, undoubtedly, they will be relevant to the Grimsby fishing industry in other ways.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister realise that fishermen in the north east of England find it impossible to put their hearts into restructuring discussions when they feel that they have been badly let down over such key elements in the fishing industry as herring and sprat fishing and lobster and white fish sizes, which make it impossible to maintain the type of fishery that we want?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman has asked a number of questions about the CFP, and I hope to answer these points later today. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to debate the CFP before too long. If so, I shall be able to go into the detail that the question justifies.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the Minister give an assurance that the restructuring proposals will make some recommendations about the entitlement of former trawlermen to statutory redundancy pay?

Mr. MacGregor

That is not part of the restructuring proposals, and it would not be a part of the European Community's programme — I am considering the national implementation. This matter is for another Department.