§ 3.5 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD STRATHCLYDE)
My Lords, this Scheme has the same general purposes and is of the same general nature as the White Fish Scheme which has just been discussed. It prescribes the rates and conditions of herring subsidy which are to apply from September 1st, when the Scheme now in farce expires, until August 31st next year.
The herring subsidy in this form was introduced for the first time last year. Your Lordships will recollect that it took the place of a subsidy given through the Oil and Meal Scheme operated by the herring Industry Board. Its object is to give the herring industry broad equality of treatment with the white fish industry in the matter of subsidy and to arrest the decline over the last few years in the herring fleet, which had come to cause considerable concern for the future of the industry. So far as we can judge, it is having some success in that respect. The number of vessels now engaged in fishing far herring is approximately the same as last year. While the catch in the first six months of this year was approximately 10 per cent. less than last year, due principally to there not being so many fish in the sea, herring prices have been higher 14 and fishermen's earnings are just about the same as they were last year.
As in the case of the White Fish Scheme, we have reviewed, in consultation with the fishermen's associations, prospects for the ensuing twelve months, and, so far as we can judge, the economic position of the fleet is not likely to change much in that period. We have therefore decided to leave the subsidy rates unchanged. I ought perhaps to tell your Lordships that we have made one change in the conditions of the scheme—namely, that where two or more vessels are jointly operating the same gear their joint catch shall be deemed to be equally divided between them for purposes of determining their eligibility for subsidy. This should remove some difficulties and anomalies which have arisen in the past. This Order is important in that it gives practical assistance to our herring fishermen of a nature which during the past year has maintained both the fishermen's earnings and the size of the fleet. As such, I would commend it to the approval of your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1958 be approved.—(Lord Strathclyde.)
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I think this is a much plainer case than the other. I ought perhaps to apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, for quoting figures just now which apply to the herring industry and not to the white fish industry. These things look so much alike, and I find I was looking at the wrong Schedule. Nevertheless, the point remains, although it has been met in part in the other Paper by the reducing scale that I find there. With regard to the herring fishing industry, I should welcome an expansion of it. Herring is not so expensive to buy as some other fish, although it is not handled in anything like the same economic manner in the distributive trade that it used to be when I was a boy; to-day one has to pay far too much for things which do not add to the value of the fish. However, I think the general position here is good. I hope that everything will be done to try to assist the industry to restore to the Scottish and the East Coast handling ports something of the export trade that used to be so important a part of the industry.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.