§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON rose to move, That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1954, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday last, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is a year since I laid before your Lordships the first scheme under the White Fish and Herring Industries Act, 1953, for subsidy to the inshore, near and middle water catchers of white fish. That scheme is not due to expire until 31st July, 1955; but the losses which the near and middle water fleet incurred in 1953 and the increased costs which they have since had to meet on wages, coal and freight have led us to the conclusion that to keep them at sea an immediate increase must be made in the rates of subsidy payable to steam vessels of 70 to 140 ft. and to motor vessels of 100 to 140 ft.
§ The new scheme, which runs for one year only, until July 31, 1955, makes the necessary changes in the rates of subsidy for these vessels, at a total cost of £250,000, and leaves unchanged the subsidy paid to inshore vessels and to near 326 and middle water motor vessels between 70 and 100 ft. in length. This is a further increase in an already substantial subsidy, which we hope will merely be temporary. We believe that the long-term solution of the industry's difficulties is to be found in the international measures for the conservation of fish stocks which have recently come into force, and the rebuilding of the fleet with the help of grants and loans from the Government and the White Fish Authority, but in the interim we see no alternative to the increase in subsidy for which, in tabling the Scheme, we seek your Lordships' approval.
§ There is one change in the conditions of payment of the subsidy to which I ought to draw your Lordships' attention, In paragraph 14, the appropriate Minister is given discretion to vary the rate of subsidy paid to a vessel which, as a result of some structural alterations, has increased its length. Part of the subsidy to near and middle water vessels is paid according to the length of the vessel, with the rate of subsidy increasing for every 10 ft. in the length of the vessel. This means that a ship which is, say, 79½ ft. long may be altered, at no great cost to its owner, in a way which serves no other apparent purpose than to make it 80½ ft. long, and so eligible for the rate of subsidy payable to boats of 80 to 90 ft. instead of the lower rate payable to boats in the 70 to 80 ft. class. Under the present scheme, the Minister has then no discretion but either to pay subsidy at the new higher rate or to refuse it altogether. In putting this possibility to your Lordships, I am not drawing upon my imagination. Something very much like this is suspected to have happened in one case already, and we have thought it right that in such cases the lower rate should continue to be paid, unless the Minister can be shown that the alteration served some useful purpose such as improving the vessel's seaworthiness. I bee to move that the Order be approved.
§ Moved, That the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1954, reported from the Special Orders Committee on Wednesday, the 21st instant, be approved.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I think the increase of a quarter of a 327 million pounds in this subsidy is probably justified by the increase in the costs of the fishing industry. At the same time, it is a very large sum of money. Over £2 million was spent last year, and I think it would be interesting for us some time, but not on this occasion, to be told how the fishing industry is using this money in modernising the fishing fleet. Perhaps we could also hear something about the activities of the White Fish Authority—I am not suggesting that at the moment, of course. May I ask the noble Lord one question—namely, whether, in paragraph 1 (3) of the Order, he would consider using the name Outer Bailey and not the name Lousy Bank, as the latter might be misunderstood by those not knowing that Lousy Bank is situated south of the Faroe Islands?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I will bring the noble Earl's suggestion to the attention of my right honourable friend. With regard to the noble Earl's first two questions, there is a comprehensive Report of the White Fish Authority published on March 31 of this year, which perhaps he has not seen and which may be of some interest to him. With regard to the modernisation of the fleet, it is going forward fairly well. I think I am right in saying that in the last seven years something like forty-seven new vessels have been built.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.