HL Deb 24 July 1962 vol 242 cc941-59

2.54 p.m.


My Lands, I beg to move that the Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, copies of which were laid before your Lordships on July 4, 1962, be approved. I hope that it will be convenient to your Lordships if I speak now also about the White Fish Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme and the two Schemes concerning grants for fishing vessels and engines; the White Fish Industry (Grants for Fishing Vessels and Engines) Scheme, 1962, and the Herring Industry (Grants for Fishing Vessels and Engines) Scheme, 1962.

If I may, I will deal first with the two Subsidy Schemes. Operational subsidies of this kind have been paid to the fishing fleet for some years now: but the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1962, which received its Third Reading in your Lordships' House very recently, makes possible certain changes in the methods of payment of subsidy. This is in accordance with the policy envisaged in the White Paper on the Fishing Industry published last August. I think that it would be helpful if I dealt with these changes first. A major change is that the Act provides for a new basic subsidy to be paid to vessels over 80 feet in length. This subsidy will diminish between the fixed limits of 7½ per cent. and 12½ per cent. each year over the next ten years. The Act itself did not prescribe the basic rates Which would be paid at the beginning of the ten-year period, but these were determined after negotiations with the English and Scottish trawler owners last autumn and published in an exchange of letters last November. The Scheme provides for these basic rates of £9, £13, and £15 per day at sea for near, middle, and distant water vessels respectively.

Your Lordships will know that the Scottish trawler owners have repudiated the agreement reached last year and have asked for basic subsidy rates to be fixed at a level very much higher than those contained in the Scheme. The fact that the Scheme contains the rates set out in the agreement indicates that the Government have not accepted the case put forward on behalf of the Scottish owners, and I should like to explain why this is so. In the first place, this agreement was reached as recently as last autumn. There would have had to be a very strong case indeed for the Government to tear up a voluntary agreement made so recently. It would have been particularly difficult to do so in this case when the British Trawlers' Federation, which represents the owners of four-fifths of the trawlers in the United Kingdom, wished to stand by the agreement.

Increasing the basic rates to the level suggested by the Scottish owners would have meant that the subsidy would represent about 40 per cent. of the gross earnings of these vessels. To fix the subsidy at such a level would call in question the whole basis of the Government's policy of achieving viability for the trawler industry over the next ten years. Indeed, the Scottish owners have made it clear that they do not think that, in the present state of the industry, viability can be realistically considered. I am sure your Lordships will agree that there can be no justification for giving up the policy set out in the White Paper and incorporated in the Sea Fish Industry Act, solely because of the results of one year's bad fishing. The Scottish vessels—and this is also true of the English vessels—did reasonably well in the two years before last year, and we hope that it will not be long before they are doing well again. This poor fishing may be one of the fluctuations which are a natural feature of fishing, and it would be quite wrong to fix a subsidy rate which would determine subsidies for ten years ahead on the basis of one such fluctuation.

The basic subsidy should cover the long-term needs of the industry, and in the short term the 1962 Act enables us to provide special supplementary subsidies for sections of the fleet which are or may be in special difficulties. The Scheme sets out the proposed special subsidies, and it will be seen that the Scottish ports are getting a good share of this assistance. Several sections of the fleet in England and Wales are also being helped, but there are of course some whose claims for supplementary assistance have not been met.

I would remind your Lordships that the Act places a maximum of £350,000 on expenditure on these special subsidies in any one year, and a maximum of £2½ million over ten years. The present proposals account for about two-thirds of the £350,000 for the first year, and we have thought it unwise to commit ourselves to more than this at the beginning of the subsidy year. There may well be claims from other sections of the fleet which find themselves in difficulties during the year, and those whose claims have now been refused may, if their difficulties continue, come back to us again and substantiate their case. If either of these things happens we have made sure that there are reasonable funds available to meet the claims.

A further measure of assistance to the middle water fleet will be the removal, as from the end of this year, of the restrictions which have previously been imposed on distant water voyages by grant-aided vessels. The figures we have seen of the results of some of these voyages to distant waters show that the financial improvement this could bring about could well be equal to about £10 a day extra subsidy throughout the year. It may well be asked how this will benefit the smaller vessels which cannot make distant water voyages. If, however, the bigger vessels do go further a field, these vessels could benefit—and this, we think, is a probable consequence—by the easing of some of the fishing effort on the middle water grounds and the chance of correspondingly better catches.

Yet another measure of assistance is the moratorium which the White Fish Authority is prepared to extend to those owners who are in genuine difficulties in meeting their loan repayments and who have a reasonable chance of overcoming those difficulties. The Scottish owners have argued that the right way to deal with these difficulties is to increase the subsidy, but the Government believe that there can be no justification for a large increase in subsidy to all in order to help the relatively few who are in such difficulties. We can deal with these individual cases only on their merits, and this is what the White Fish Authority proposes to do.

My Lords, these are the main changes brought about by the Act. As was stated in the White Paper, the policy for inshore and herring vessels will continue as before; that is to say, the subsidy will be assessed each year on a judgment of their needs and circumstances. We have carried out the usual review this year of the circumstances of these sections of the fleet, and, as a result, the stonage rate paid to the smaller white fish vessels has been increased from 1s. 2d. to 1s. 3d. and the vessels between 60 feet and 70 feet in length will now receive a daily rate which should give them the same amount of subsidy as they got in 1961 from the stonage rate. Vessels between 70 feet and 80 feet in length are now classed as inshore vessels, rather than near waiter vessels, and the daily rate they have been receiving is now increased. Seiners making long voyages Will toe paid a daily rate all the year round, instead of for six months, which will give them more subsidy, although the rate itself will be lower. As for herring vessels, the stonage rate fox the smaller vessels has been substantially increased, and the daily rates for the other vessels adjusted one way or another according to their circumstances.

May I turn now to the two Schemes which deal with grants for fishing vessels and engines? The Sea Fish Industry Act, 1962, as well as prolonging the period during which grants for the acquisition of vessels and engines could be paid, made possible certain changes in the arrangements. These Schemes implement some of those provisions.

The Act enabled grants to be made for distant water vessels, and the proviso that grants should be paid only for vessels under 140 feet in length, which appeared in previous Schemes, has therefore been removed from these Schemes. The Act also made it possible to remove the distinction between working owners and non-working owners. In previous Schemes, working owners have been able to get a grant of 30 per cent. for the smaller vessels, but non-working owners have been restricted to 25 per cent. and were not able to get a grant for engines at all. The intention of this was to ensure that the higher rate of grant went only to inshore fishermen working for themselves and was not available fox bigger companies. It has, however, produced some anomalies and difficulties, and we have thought alt right to discard it.

The Act also made changes in the definition of vessels for which the 30 per cent. grant was available. Previously, these grants at the higher rate were limited to vessels costing less than £20,000, and there was a limit of £5,000 on each grant. Now they can be paid for vessels under 80 feet in length and are subject to a maximum of £13,000 on the grant. Grants can be given for engines for vessels of this size and up to a maximum of £2,500, instead of £1,250. Grants, of 25 per cent. are available for vessels 80 feet and over in length, and subject to a maximum, on any grant of £50,000 instead of £37,500. These increases in the maximum grants have been made to take account of higher building costs since they were originally fixed, and of the extension of the Scheme to include distant water vessels.

One change which is not directly related to the provisions of the Act, but which was discussed during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House, is that relating to the building of these vessels in foreign yards. No reference has been made in the legislation governing these grants to the question of whether the grants shall be restricted to vessels purchased in this country, but in previous Schemes made under this legislation there has been a requirement that applications will be entertained only in respect of vessels or engines built, or to be built, in the United Kingdom. There is no such condition in this Scheme. Since my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announced his intention of making this change a few weeks ago, there has been considerable discussion, both here and in another place. I hope that the effect of that discussion has been to convince those among your Lordships who have opposed this intention that the decision was not only right in itself but, in fact, the only one that could be taken.

New schemes had to be made to take into account the changes provided for by the 1962 Act. When we made these Schemes we had to decide whether to continue a provision which, although it existed in the earlier Schemes made since 1953, was clearly contrary to our international obligations. We had to bear in mind that we, as an exporting country, could be at a serious disadvantage in drawing the attention of other countries to similar breaches of their obligations which affected our exporters, while we ourselves had such a provision in our own legislation. Clearly, we could not leave ourselves in this position.

Wheal we took this decision we considered carefully the interests of our fishermen, but, of course, such a change can only be to their benefit, since it will enable them to re-equip themselves with the best and cheapest vessels wherever they may be found. We also took into account the builders of fishing vessels, since they would now be put in the same competitive position as the rest of the shipbuilding industry. We thought that it would be right if this change were made to ensure that these people had an equal opportunity to compete, and my right honourable friend, in making his announcement, also made at clear that arrangements would be made to ensure that this would be done.

The shipbuilding and fishing industries are still being consulted about details of these arrangements, but the basis of them is that applicants who wish to build abroad will have to obtain at least three tenders from British yards, and if any of these tenders is lower than that from the foreign yard, grant will be limited to relate to an acceptable British tender. We have also made it clear that grant will not be given if it is proposed to place the order in a foreign yard which is known to be in receipt of a material element of subsidy. With these safeguards, and with the knowledge that it is more than likely that our fishermen will still wish to place their orders where they have traditionally gone before, I can see no need for alarm about the effect of this change. There might well have been cause for alarm, however, to us as a trading nation) if we had continued such an open breach of our international agreements.

My Lords, there are certain other changes in the Schemes which I ought to mention briefly before sitting down. The first is that these vessels will have no restrictions placed on them regarding distant-water voyages. The British Trawlers' Federation' have proposed that the restrictions on all the grant-aided vessels should be lifted as from January 1 next year, and Ministers have directed the White Fish Authority, under Section 31 of the 1962 Act, to take the necessary steps to release the owners of vessels built under (previous Schemes from their obligations. No Obligation of this kind is put at all on vessels which will be built in future. Since these restrictions are to go, there is no need to continue the lengthy control period which applied to vessels built under previous Schemes, and it is therefore being reduced from the present twenty years to ten years for vessels built under these Schemes. This change cannot, of course, be made retrospective, and vessels built under previous Schemes will still be subject, in some cases, to a twenty-year control period. The control period on engines is being reduced from ten years to five years to relate it more closely to the life of these engines for inshore vessels.

I hope that, with that explanation of the changes Which have been made, and particularly of the need for the removal of the limitation of grants to vessels built in this country, your Lordships will agree that these Schemes provide the right basis for the industry to continue to re-equip itself with new vessels, and will accordingly approve the Schemes. I beg to move that the Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1962, be approved.

Moved, That the Herring Subsidy (United Kingdom) Scheme, 1962, be approved.—(Lord St. Oswald.)

3.11 p.m.


My Lords, I take it from the manner in which the debate has been introduced by the Government spokesman that we are going to have a collective debate upon all the Orders concerned.


Except the last one on salmon.


Yes. I think it would save a lot of time if we considered them together, as was done in the House of Commons. First of all, I must say that we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, on his first major appearance on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. He is very popular and we hope he will be successful. If I may say so, it has been rather difficult to follow him this afternoon in his rapid delivery of a long and fairly technical brief, and I hope that he can adjust this a little in discussing detailed matters afterwards. I would also say that I am glad to see the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave. If I have made any mistake he will forgive me, but I regret that he felt inclined to resign at this time.

We are very much in favour of the continuance of the subsidy to the fishing industry. I do not know anybody in my Party's ranks who would want to Oppose it. Nevertheless, we are very conscious of the manner in which a fundamental change has been made to allow for the paying of grants for the building of ships in foreign ports. Both here and in another place, the Government have resisted the suggestion that there was any breach at all in the proper behaviour of the Government in dealing with this fundamental change. I am bound to say that, after reading the debate on July 16 in another place, I do: not think that the Government have made their case.

It is true that the original Act, its amending enactments and the Act of 1957, refer to the continuance of the administration of the schemes by statutory Orders, but the introduction for the first time of grants to be paid for building ships in foreign shipyards was a fundamental change. There was not the slightest mention made of it in the House of Commons during any stage of the passage of the Bill authorising these changes; and when the Second Reading of the Bill came before your Lordships' House, the Members of this House had not the slightest knowledge, when the principle was being discussed, that there was to be any change of this fundamental character. On the following day, however, in another place, an obviously inspired Written Question was on the Order Paper and was answered by the Government, to the effect that there was going to be this change, which would make grants available for building in foreign shipbuilding yards.

The feeling of my Party in both Houses is exceedingly strong about this matter. It is an abuse of practice, even if it can be said that there are precedents in the actual printing of the matter at the same time. In our view, any Government are guilty of a very grave breach if they do not explain in full to the House of Commons, which is responsible for the control of the finances of the country, exactly what changes affecting finance are going to be introduced on the Second Reading of any Bill. No Treasury Order ought to be passed unless the full facts are revealed and are known to the legislative House. It was said over and over again, on the Bill we had before us, that the same drafting formula was followed as in previous Statutes. But the House of Common's has been completely deprived of the right to make any amendment to the authorising Act on this point, because it did not know about it. It was never informed by the Government.

When we come to deal with the Orders before us, two points come up right away. We cannot move an Amendment to either of them. All we can do is either accept them or reject them. But the Government knew and the civil servants knew—and must have advised the Government accordingly that the best way to deal with this matter was to blanket it— that all of us are committed to the policy of subsidising our trawling industry, and therefore would not want to see a Statutory Order of this kind rejected as a whole. Yet we cannot amend it.

I think that this puts the matter as clearly as I possibly can. It is not fair to another House, nor is it fair in our case. From time to time, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has referred to precedents for the conduct we should pursue in dealing with the increasing number of Affirmative Statutory Orders now required by legislation. Yet I think it has become a firm practice that, so far as possible, there is never a Division against a Statutory Order, especially one which has financial implications, in this House. We cannot, therefore, and we will not, try to throw out either one of these Orders. But I want to make this strong and fundamental protest against the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in the previous passage of the Bills through both Houses, and to say that I still hold the view that there is no real necessity, in the present state of the shipbuilding industry in the small yards, as well as the large yards, of this country, for grants being made, and spread abroad.

We hinted on the occasion of the passage of the Bill that perhaps the Government wanted to make a little bit of good feeling in connection with their strong and persistent efforts to get into the Common Market. I think that, judging by Mr. Heath's reported statements yesterday (I agree that they are only reported), the difficulties seem to be increasing in that direction. If, therefore, Mr. Heath now fears that it may never be possible for this country to enter the Common Market, as was reported this morning, perhaps the Government might think again. Let them have their Order to-day, but as soon as possible produce some amendment of the practice hereby authorised in these Orders to pay the taxpayers' money for subsidising foreign shipbuilding yards at the very time when we need all the work and all the employment of labour that we can get in our own yards.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I do not honestly think that this has anything to do with the Common Market negotiations; I do not think they enter into it. But, to my mind, nothing can excuse the Government for what they have done. They have, in fact, deceived both Houses of Parliament. You cannot get away from it. The facts outlined by the noble Viscount who has just spoken are absolutely true. The House of Commons was never given the opportunity to authorise the main Bill to do this; we were allowed to have a debate on Second Reading, without being told a word about it, and the announcement was then made the following day.

I do not think there can be any excuse for this. The condition of the boatbuilding yards of this country is really desperate. There is no concrete evidence of their inefficiency. I can say quite truly to your Lordships that about fourteen or fifteen have closed down in Scotland alone during the last two years. Now the Government come forward with a proposal to subsidise foreign boat builders. They say that we have been carrying on in breach of obligations. I can only say that we have been doing it quite happily for ten years, and this is a sudden thought on their part. I simply cannot understand it. I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, whom I congratulate upon his appointment, that I well know I am on the political shelf (and in view of recent events, I am very happy to be safely there), but my writ still runs, to a certain extent, in the fishing constituencies, and the Government will have a heavy price to pay for this step in those constituencies at the next Election.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that our fishermen should have the best type and most efficient boats available in the market?


My Lords, they should have boats built in the home market which are efficient and well built, and they should not have them from people in Norway, Germany or Holland, and subsidised by the British taxpayer.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I could make a practical suggestion to the Government on this matter, about which I think a great many of us are not at all happy. If I may take an old parallel from a long time ago which some of the oldest Members of the House may remember, I created and piloted a measure called the Trade Facilities Bill, which, 40 years ago or more, gave a Government guarantee for exactly this kind of operation. We guaranteed a large amount of shipbuilding and so on; and I think we gave a Government guarantee of about £150 million without ever coming on the taxpayer for a single penny. Nobody suggested at that time that that had to be applied all around the world, on a sort of most-favourednation clause, to the nations which treat us in the least favourable manner. But now, I understand, someone has suddenly realised that there is a thing called G.A.T.T. Nobody ever found it out before. It is really remarkable. I wish the mass of very able civil servants engaged on this business would try to devote their attention to finding out ways in which we can help ourselves, rather than ways in which we can defeat our own objects.

As my noble friend Lord Boothby said, we have been doing this quite happily for ten years. Here, apparently, we have been living in sin without knowing anything about it. I honestly do not see why we should not go on living in sin. G.A.T.T. is all very well—at least I do not think it is, but, anyway, it is there. But could we not treat G.A.T.T. like the Athanasian Creed or the Ten Commandments?—"Not more than four need be attempted", as in examination papers. It is what everybody else does. I do not want to create more difficulties with America—they are very sensible in the way they get round these things—but America to-day is, I am certain, in breach of at least nine of the ten commandments of G.A.T.T. But they get away with it all right. I am certain there are ways.

Of course we cannot amend this Order, and it must go through. But perhaps I as an old Minister may say this to my noble friend Lord St. Oswald—and I, too, am quite delighted at his promotion, both as a fellow Yorkshireman and on his own personal merits, and I congratulate him upon it. Quite a lot can be done in administration. And when you come to administer this, nobody can call you before G.A.T.T. because you administer it in a way which happens to help the fishing industry and the British ports. Like my noble friend Lord Boothby, I am on the political shelf, and have probably been there longer than he. I have no intention of coming off it, and am not in the least likely to be invited to come back on it. But perhaps I can still give a little useful advice to the new team, to whom I wish well, and tell them to administer the thing sensibly and nobody will ask any more about it.


My Lords, I cannot believe that, with the safeguards and the approvals that have to be given before you can order a ship abroad, anyone who wants to build a ship will ever get permission so to do. In view of what my noble friend Lord Swinton has just said about administration, I should have thought that these safeguards went halfway towards the administration that he desires.

3.28 p.m.


My Lords, I have already on another occasion expressed my opinion on the constitutional points raised by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, and I do not propose to weary your Lordships with that again. Butt there is a point which has not yet been raised and about which I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government. These Orders are quite obviously directed to helping the fishing industry and fishermen to pursue their avocations with the proper equipment. It is not much use pursuing the occupation of fishing in in river in which there are no fish, and I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have observed the proposals to prospect for oil in the waiters of the North Sea by dropping very heavy depth charges all along our coasts. The dropping and exploding of these charges must necessarily lead to the death of an enormous number of fish and, what is worse, the ruin of a vary large amount of fish spawn.

I should like to ask the Government whether they have taken this into account in spending this money to promote the fishing industry. A lot of it will be carried on in waiters which are apparently going to be entirely deprived of fish. Have they considered this prospect; and, if so, have they made plans for dealing with it? I should like also to ask the noble Lord in Change of these Orders whether he would he kind and allow me to read in Hansard his answer to that point, because I have another very important engagement which I am bound to attend. I only wanted to put this question to the Government because I think we all want to be reassured as to What; is going to happen about these oil prospectors, and what powers the Government have for stopping them.

3.31 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies, I should like to say a few words. I do not expect noble Lords would wish me to do other than say how much I regret that the shell-fishermen are not included in these Orders. We have raised that point several times in your Lordships' House, and I think the discrimination against one branch of fishing is to be deplored. The cost to the Government of giving a subsidy to the shellfishermen around our shores would be very small in comparison to the expenditure we have to meet in other directions, which I view with, less approval than the giving of assistance to a small section of the community to enable them to obtain a reasonable livelihood. Under the Act, the shellfishermen cannot come to the Government within a matter of ten years. The noble Lord, in introducing these Orders, said that the fishermen who are covered by them can come back to the Government to state a claim if their earnings diminish. That is not the case with the shellfishermen, and I think the Government have been wrong and, perhaps, a little parsimonious, in not bringing into the Act that number fishermen around our coasts who have to struggle on year by year.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, so far as the shellfish are concerned, they are wholly outside the ambit of the Orders we are discussing, and I will do no more than say that the matter was fully debated when the Bill was before the House, and the House deliberately took the view that the shellfish should be excluded from the Bill. I must say that, if this country is to survive as a trading nation, it must take a severe view about subsidies in general. I do not think we can look to the State, just because sums are small in the ordinary course, to subsidise economic activities.

As regards the matters which are before the House, I will, of course, ask my right honourable friend, and my noble friend, to look into the question raised by my noble friend Lord Saltoun about the prospecting for oil. I am bound to say that I was not expecting the point to be raised this afternoon, and I will try to let him know what the answer is, if my noble friend could charge himself with that.

I am always glad to hear advice from my noble friend above the gangway about matters of administration, in which he is such a master, but I thought he was effectively answered by my noble friend Lord Derwent, when he said that the safeguards which have been deliberately introduced into the Scheme were introduced precisely for the purpose of administering to our advantage, so far as we may. Although I have not the experience which my noble friend claimed to have about the analogy which he drew between GATT AND the kind of living that we have apparently been doing for some ten years, I would frankly say to him that when these things are found out one cannot really get away with it for ever. It is when they are not found out that one can continue the practice to which he was referring.


The noble Viscount is doing it. That is my complaint.


The noble Lord has evidently not remembered that we had all this out before, and in fact it was the Swedes under EFTA WHO drew the matter to our attention. The fact of the matter is that it is not, I think, respectable for this country formally to disregard international obligations.

I will say a word about the merits of this matter. I tried to argue, when the matter was before us during the passage of the Bill, that it is very much against the interests of this country to do anything other than we are doling at the moment. We stand to gain by the enforcement of these obligations, and, as several noble Lords pointed out, nations are constantly breaking the obligations against us. If we are once going to admit that that is a reason for disregarding them ourselves, we shall, as an exporting nation, be on a very slippery slope indeed. I should have thought that the true effect of the arguments which were putt both by my noble friend below the gangway and by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, was exactly the opposite of the way they had argued it. If we are to gain as an exporting nation by the enforcement of these obligations, we must at any rate put ourselves beyond reproach in these matters. The truth is that this nation has to pursue a policy of competitive efficiency in matters of this kind, and the policy which is being pressed upon us from the Cross Benches, and the Benches opposite, is a Luddite policy of sticking to protective measures in which there is absolutely no commercial hope for us at all


My Lords, how does Lord Derwent's intervention really help?


My noble friend quite nightly pointed out that our own fishermen must be given a fair competitive chance, tout personally I would rather rely upon their competitive efficiency. I must say I think the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has done a very poor service to those Whom he has befriended on many occasions in the past, because the ultimate implication of the whole argument, whatever he may say, however much he may disavow it, however much he would say the contrary, is that the boatbuilders cannot stand up to reasonable foreign competition.


My Lords, can the noble Viscount tell me how many British boatbuilding yards are at present being subsidised by the Swedes?


I think I answered that question before, and I said that it was a Wholly fallacious analogy, as nobody knows batter than the noble Lord, Lord Boothby.

The only reason why I rose to answer this question was to make this one other additional comment. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, referred to the conduct of the Government as inexcusable. To my mind the only inexcusable thing about this debate has been the repeated charges about the constitutional point, which has absolutely no foundation in it at all, and which can only cause trouble between the two Houses. The House of Commons is well able to look after its privileges in this matter. They have not been breached to the smallest degree in this particular dispute. The argument that the Change was not disclosed or debated in the Bill on Second Reading is wholly without foundation; because, as I pointed out before, the only logical consequence of the doctrine which the Leader of the Opposition attempted to bring forward would be that, after the Bill had gone through the Houses of Parliament, a change in the financial administration could not, without a constitutional impropriety, be introduced. The fact is that in all these Bills the contrary has been provided by Act of Parliament. The Bills are designed to last for ten years or more, and it is just as open to the Government to change the financial administration after the Bill has been passed as it is to do it while it is going through Parliament. The fact is that it has never been a principle contained in these Bills that the subsidy should be limited to boats built in British yards. This was a matter of administration which has been contained in the Orders. The Orders have been properly debated in both Houses now, and in my submission this is simply an attempt to make mischief between the two Houses of Parliament.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I must say that I strongly object to the last part of the noble and learned Viscount's speech. I have just as much Parliamentary experience as he has, or rather more, and I know what courtsey is usually accorded in another place by the Leader of the House, and the Minister in charge of a Bill, when there is to be a considerable alteration immediately in the policy of the Government in a matter of this kind. I can remember dozens of occasions when we have been informed, although the "blanket" authority given in the Bill to become a Statute, of course did carry on for years afterwards for future Orders. I think, therefore, that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has failed entirely to meet the position Which we have put to the House and which was also argued, and argued very successfully, by my honourable friends in another place. So I resent that very much indeed.

The other thing I would say is this: that the safeguards, which have been read out very hurriedly about this part of the scheme by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, I shall look at very carefully in Hansard; but none of these particular safeguards are in the Orders. The administrative matters that will be issued with the conditions of the grants should have been explained but have not. However, I will look at those safeguards in the morning. We cannot, and do not, wish to oppose this Order, because of the advantages coming to the fishing industry in general, but I hope that the Government will yet live and learn—if they are allowed to stay there long enough to live and learn—and not treat the Houses of Parliament like this in the future.

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, could I ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House this question? I am sure he understands the point that my noble friend and some others have made at an earlier stage: namely, that if important departures of policy are going to be made, especially when they concern finance, Parliament ought to be informed before Second Reading, and, at any rate, before the Committee stage of the Bill. May I ask him, therefore, whether in order to prevent these possible frictions between the two Houses which we should all deplore, he will make representations to his colleagues that this procedure should not be followed on future occasions and that it was a pity it was followed on this? He says that we are trying to make mischief between the two Houses, but it is the Government who have made it. And if my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition has raised this matter, he has done so in the interests of good relations between the two Houses, which is a change from the actions of Conservatives in years past, who occupied a lot of their time in making difficulties between the two Houses against a Liberal Government. But may I ask him whether, in view of this experience—and he is a considerable enough Parliamentarian to know that we are right—he will make representations that this sort of thing ought not to happen?

I am a former Leader of the House of Commons, and if I had known that a Minister intended to do this I should have jumped down on him pretty quickly and brought it up before my colleagues. The duty of the Leader of the House of Commons is to protect the rights of all sides of the House, and I submit, with great respect to the Leader of the House, that it would be comforting if he would undertake to make representations to his colleagues to prevent a real grievance of this sort from happening again. Perhaps he will be good enough to answer that point and suggestion.


My Lords, I have only two things to say to the noble Lord. The first is that I sat under him as the Leader of the House of Commons for a number of times and learnt a very great deal by the experience. He certainly would not have answered the question he has now put to me if it had been put to him. That I can tell him, based on very long experience. The second thing is that I answered the substance of the matter at great length in the debate on the Bill and I explained exactly how it came about that the announcement was made when it was.

On Question, Motion agreed to.