HL Deb 07 April 1970 vol 309 cc22-3

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the White Fish Authority (Minimum Prices) (Scotland and Northern Ireland) Scheme Confirmatory Order 1970, a copy of which was laid before this House on March 5 1970, be approved. The Order before the House to-day is an enabling measure. If it comes into operation, the White Fish Authority will be able to publish proposals for minimum prices for white fish for such species as the Authority may decide in such areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland as they may deter-mine. The proposed prices will be subject to the approval of Ministers, who will consider any objections raised against them and not withdrawn.

The Authority have for some time been of the opinion that a scheme of statutory minimum prices would help the fishing industry to create a stronger and more stable market. There has been a similar scheme for herring since 1951. The Authority's efforts in this direction have met objections in the past, but about a year ago, encouraged by the growing desire for such arrangements in Scotland and Northern Ireland, they decided to publish a scheme applicable to those two countries. The scheme was published in accordance with the statutory procedures set out in the 1951 Sea Fish Indus-try Act, and met with support from the catchers' associations in Scotland and Northern Ireland and with objections from Scottish merchanting organisations. The Authority subsequently decided to submit the scheme to Ministers for confirmation, and Ministers, after giving careful consideration to the objections received by the Authority, decided to confirm it, with certain modifications. The proposed modifications are set out in Article 2 of the Order now before your Lordships. The scheme as modified is set out in the Schedule.

Your Lordships will wish me to give a brief account of the scheme and the effect of the modifications. Once a scheme of minimum prices comes into effect, it will be an offence to purchase or sell white fish at first hand for human consumption below the appropriate minimum price. Provision has, however, been made to exempt retail purchases at first hand from this. Licences to operate, for which fees will be charged, will be required by producers, salesmen and buyers in areas where minimum prices apply. As a possible way of circumventing minimum price arrangements is to give away extra fish as a bonus, the scheme has also been modified to make it an offence for licensed per-sons to dispose of, or to acquire, white fish other than by way of sale or purchase.

The most significant modification is the removal from the scheme of the powers sought by the Authority to revoke, withdraw or refuse to renew a licence where there has been a contravention of the scheme. Any person contravening the scheme provisions will in any case be guilty of an offence under Part I of the Sea Fish Industry Act 1951. While appreciating the Authority's reasons for including the licence control powers in the Scheme, my right honourable friends decided that the penalties provided in the 1951 Act should be sufficient to en-able the Authority to administer the scheme effectively, and accordingly they have removed the proposed provisions. In deciding to confirm the scheme with these modifications, my honourable friends concluded that the industry would, in general, gain material benefit from it. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft White Fish Authority (Minimum Prices) (Scotland and Northern Ireland) Scheme Confirmatory Order 1970, laid before the House on 5th March 1970, be approved.—(Lord Hughes.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his explanation of this scheme, with which I think we ought to agree.