§ 2.47 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Herring Industry Scheme, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved. The main purpose of the draft Scheme is to extend the powers of the Herring Industry Board so as to enable them the better to deal with the problem of the herring industry. The draft Scheme, when made, will replace the Herring Industry Scheme, 1935, from which the Board derive their present powers. Most of these powers are included in the new Scheme, some of them subject to modifications. The Scheme also confers on the Board certain additional powers which experience has shown to be necessary for the proper discharge of their duties and for the development of the herring industry. The industry is faced with serious difficulties, particularly in the marketing of herring, both at home and abroad. The Board are expected by the industry to be able to step in and help to overcome these difficulties. They cannot do so, however, unless they are equipped with adequate powers. It has often been represented, both by the industry and in Parliament, that the powers of the Board should be extended.
There has been full discussion with the industry about the draft Scheme. An 161 earlier version was published in April, and was open to objection until May 31. Thereafter, the objections lodged were discussed with the principal objectors, and a number of modifications were put forward to meet the objections so far as possible. With the exception of relatively few points the objectors expressed themselves as satisfied with the scheme as revised and as presented to the House. It is symptomatic of the desire that the Board should be given wider powers that the draft Scheme was welcomed on both sides in another place by all who spoke and that the Resolution approving the draft was passed in the early hours of this morning without a Division. The draft Scheme will enable the Board to give more effective help to the industry to organise itself to meet the difficulties confronting it, and to secure a measure of stability which, unfortunately, is at present lacking. As a result, the industry should be better able to contribute to the prosperity of the fishing communities which so largely depend on it. There is an important fishing during the autumn off East Anglia, in which the Scottish and English sections both participate and it is most desirable that the Board should be equipped with their new powers before the start of that season.
§ Moved, That the Herring Industry Scheme, 1951, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved.—(Lord Morrison.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, there are one or two questions in regard to this Order which I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Morrison. I see that under Article 8 (a), the Board mayengage in herring fishing and do all things necessary for the prosecution of such fishing.Does that mean that they are thinking of buying and operating boats? If so, I feel that it is not a good idea. One objection I have to their doing so is that Article 17 of the draft Order says the Board may establish a system of licensing under which they have to license the use of boats in the industry. I believe that the licensing authority should not itself be an operator. That ought to be a basic principle. Otherwise, a fisherman who is deprived of his licence, possibly because of a redundancy of boats, may see Board boats sailing out and taking his waters; and their licence will have been obtained from the licensing authority 162 who are also the owners of the boat. I hope that the Herring Board will not engage in the fishing industry. I do not think that Boards of this kind are very successful in operating, for instance, wage rates. Only to-day we see a new claim reported in the Press—despite dividend limitation. It seems to me that in the fishing industry we should do much better to leave it with the herring fishermen to operate, so far as possible, as the crew owners of the ships, so that they can chase the herring; and even if it means working overtime, they will be able to go on while there are herrings to catch, and will not be restricted to particular hours. I should like the noble Lord, if possible, to give an assurance that the Herring Board will not engage in the fishing industry itself.
Article 17 also provides that the Board may prescribe that no boat except those that have a licence from the Board shall be used for herring fishing. I should not have so much objection to that if the restriction were confined to boats licensed to catch herring for sale. Under the Scheme, the Board can exclude particular classes of boats—I believe those exceeding 20 feet in length. What I do not want to see is that somebody who has gone out in a boat, perhaps on a pleasure cruise, and has dropped a line over the back and caught a few herring, or who goes out in a yacht and catches a few herring to eat for breakfast, is held to have offended against this Order merely because he has not been given a licence for his boat. Incidentally, I would ask the noble Lord what are the penalties for breach of this Order—they do not seem to be set out. I should be obliged if the noble Lord would give the answers to those two questions, because I think it should be made quite clear to the Board that they are not to prevent people not engaged in the trade from occasionally catching herring if they so desire. I certainly feel that the Board should not enter the trade and license their own boats, perhaps to the exclusion of those in the trade.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to add a few words in support of what my noble friend Lord Llewellin has said. As I see it, we are extending a system which, in principle, is not acceptable to the great majority of your Lordships—namely, that one person 163 should be judge in his own cause. In effect, that is what is happening here. The Herring Board are to be not only the operator but also the judge as to whether somebody else is to operate. Only yesterday, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, in one of those expressions of high principle which always give great pleasure to the House, said:We try not to be judge in our own case, or take execution into our own hands.As I read it, that is precisely what this draft Order is intended to do. It is intended to put the Herring Board into the invidious position of both operating and deciding whether or not somebody else should operate. That is a system which has caused offence in road transport, and in civil aviation; and it will cause offence as often as it is operated. In that part of the passenger road transport system which has a separate licensing body, I think everybody will agree that the system has worked very smoothly. But that is not what is being done here, and I suggest, with respect, that the principle here is entirely unsound.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I will endeavour to answer the questions put to me. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, did not tell me that he was going to raise this question, which is somewhat legal.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I ask the noble Lord whether he thinks the principle of ensuring justice is a purely legal expression? I think it is wrong to put it that way.
§ LORD MORRISON
The noble Earl raised the question of whether the Herring Industry Board were to be judge in their own cause, and he gave illustrations of where, he said, such a system had not been a success. I am unable to give him an answer at the present moment. If I had known he was going to raise the specific point, I would have endeavoured to do so.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I raised exactly the same point, and I informed the noble Lord that I proposed to do so.
§ LORD MORRISON
Then I will proceed to endeavour to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin. I say at once that it is certainly not the intention that the Board should run their own fishing boats in competition with the fishermen. They are being given power to fish so that, when fishermen are no longer willing to take the risks, the Board will be able to do so. For example, they might undertake a search for the very fine shoals of herring which used to frequent the Barra fishing grounds in the Western Islands of Scotland. The power to fish is qualified in two ways. First, the Board must satisfy themselves that it is necessary for them to exercise such powerin order to secure proper provision for the needs of the herring industry.
§ LORD MORRISON
The words:in order to secure proper provision for the needs of the herring industryare from the Order. Secondly, the Board must, so far as practicable, consult with persons or organisations concerned. With regard to the noble Lord's point about licences, I would remind him that licences are necessary in order to secure proper control of the industry, and, for example, improved standards of kippering or processing. The Board are obliged to grant licences on request except in the circumstances set out in Article 19 (2)—namely, to undischarged bankrupts or to persons who have been convicted of a criminal offence involving fraud or dishonesty, or who have contravened any of the provisions of the Scheme or rules or directions made under it. Licences have been required under the Scheme since 1935 for everything except freshing.
The noble Lord also asked whether a licence was required to catch a few herring for personal consumption from a boat over 20 feet in length. I was not quite convinced with the suggestion that it might be necessary to throw a line over the side and catch a few herring for breakfast, because I understand that the only way to catch herring is with a net.
§ LORD MORRISON
In any case, I can assure the noble Lord that there is certainly no intention to interfere with the 165 practice of catching herring for consumption on board vessels. The construction of the Scheme is, of course, a matter for the courts; but it is thought that, having regard to the Scheme as a whole, the only type of boat which would require a licence is a boat constructed or used for commercial herring fishing. Similar provisions have been in operation since 1935 without giving rise to difficulty on this point. If, nevertheless, there should be any difficulty, the Herring Industry Board could, and probably would, take steps to meet it under Article 17 (1) (b) of the Scheme, which empowers them to exempt any prescribed class of boat or any particular boat from the necessity of obtaining a licence.
With regard to the point which the noble Lord raised about price maintenance, the proviso to Article 22 provides that the Board must not use their powers to give directions for the purpose of price maintenance, but must have regard only to the facilities available for the handling of herring. The object of this is to secure that in regulating operations of catchers under this Article, the Board do not deliberately restrict catchers in order to create artificially high prices for the fishermen. They must limit operations only if they think that more herring will be landed than can be disposed of by the handling facilities available. The final question the noble Lord asked was with regard to information about penalties. By declaring that contravention of certain provisions of the Scheme shall be deemed to be an offence, Article 24 attracts the penalties set out in Section 6 of the Herring Industry Act, 1935. These are, in the case of the first offence, a fine not exceeding £5; and, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, a fine not exceeding £20, and in both cases forfeiture of any herring or products of herring concerned in the offence or alternatively, an additional fine not exceeding the value thereof. I hope that these answers satisfy the noble Lord.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I hope that I did not misunderstand what the noble Lord said, but he mentioned something about the ordinary fisherman not taking risks. As one who in the past represented a great many sea fishermen in Parliament, I take great exception to anything suggesting that these most courageous men do not go to sea if it involves taking a risk. On occasions when they do not 166 go to sea, it would be very unwise for the Board to do so. I should like the noble Lord to explain what he meant.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, knows perfectly well that I had no intention of casting any reflection of any kind on fishermen. I myself was brought up amongst fishermen in Scotland. The fisherman has to earn his living and, therefore, he cannot spend many days and nights in searching for the fish. If the activities of the Herring Board can assist him to go straight to where fish can be caught, it will be an advantage to him.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.