HL Deb 21 July 1970 vol 311 cc867-70

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the White Fish (Inshore Vessels) and Herring Subsidies (United Kingdom) Scheme 1970 be approved. This scheme provides for the payment of subsidy in the twelve months beginning August 1, 1970, for vessels under 80 ft. in length engaged in fishing for white fish and for vessels which fish for herring. All but a few of the herring vessels are also under 80 ft. in length. Your Lordships will no doubt recall that subsidy for the large white fish vessels of the deep sea fleet is provided under a separate scheme.

As the operating results for the previous year are one of the important factors in considering a subsidy settlement, I may mention that in 1969 the landings of white fish and herring by the vessels with which this scheme is concerned were valued at £19.3 million. This is about one-third of the United Kingdom catch and was £1 million higher than in 1968. The herring fleet in particular had a good year. Its performance was helped by increased demand from overseas, leading to a 44 per cent. increase in herring exports. The average profits of the Scottish inshore and herring vessels increased by 16 per cent. in 1969. The Northern Ireland fleet showed an increase of 20 per cent., while in England and Wales profits were down by about 20 per cent. We have only the statistics of landings to help us to judge the position so far in 1970, but I am glad to tell your Lordships that in England and Wales the value of the inshore white fish and herring landings up to the end of May showed an increase of about 25 per cent. compared with the corresponding period of 1969. In the same period the Scottish catch rose by 22 per cent. in value.

Against this background of a generally profitable year in 1969 and encouraging prospects for 1970, and after considering the views of representatives of the industry, the Government decided that the current subsidy rates should continue for a further year. The only changes which have been made are in the stonage rates set out in Parts I and II of Schedule 3. The purpose of these adjustments is to facilitate the change to decimal currency next February, and although one rate has been increased and the three others decreased—in all cases by very small amounts—it is estimated that the overall effect will be a marginal bonus to the fishermen. There are no significant changes in the conditions governing the payment of subsidy, but since your Lordships have shown a keen interest in the subject in earlier debates I may mention that the Statutes concerned with subsidy have now been consolidated in the Sea Fish Industry Act 1970, which enables a short preamble to be substituted for the complex wording found in previous schemes. We are also revoking the schemes listed in Schedule 4, as they are now spent.

The Government consider it important to promote the interests of the inshore and herring industries, not only for their value to the economy but also for the important social role they play in coastal communities. We, consider that the subsidies set out in this scheme are appropriate to this end, and I commend it to the House. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the White Fish (Inshore Vessels) and Herring Subsidies (United Kingdom) Scheme laid before the House on July 9, 1970, be approved.—(Lord Mowbray and Stourton.)

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to support this Order and I wish to express pleasure at the figures which the noble Lord has mentioned. The all-round increase in the results for 1969 and the indication that these favourable conditions have carried on to the end of May this year will give satisfaction to all of us. I have one query—I had two originally, but the noble Lord has explained that the changes arising from decimalisation are expected to balance out, more or less, at the end. The 11d becoming 1s. makes up for the other adjustments at the lower level where metrication has meant a fairly heavy percentage reduction, and I am content with what the noble Lord has said.

He also mentioned that the consolidation effected by the 1970 Act has enabled a simplification of wording, which may account for the remarkably large number of changes in language in the course of the Order—something which I do not think is desirable when Orders have to be made year after year. For instance, I found it difficult to understand why last year's Order used the words. …of which he is the owner or charterer", and in this year's version the words have become, …owned or chartered by such owner or charterer". I do not think there is any advantage in one or the other, and perhaps it is too much to expect that in these Orders we should have clarity.

There is one point about which I should like to ask. I appreciate that it is sometimes not too easy to be certain what is or what is not in an Order, but I noticed that in last year's Order there was an Article 9 which referred to arrangements …for the purpose of giving effect to but subject to the provisions of any agreement or arrangement for the remuneration of the officers or crew of a vessel. And then it set out certain conditions. There is no such section in the 1970 Order, a draft of which is before us. Is this change something which arises from the consolidation, or is it something which results from the new wage conditions in the industry? I should be grateful if the noble Lord would let me know—if not to-day, in due course—why there is this omission from the 1970 Order. With those comments, I am happy to give support to the new Order.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend one question? With regard to the improved figures for England and Wales up to the end of May, 1970, am I right in thinking that most of that improvement is in the white fish industry and not in the herring industry?


My Lords, with regard to my noble friend's question, I think what he suggested is mostly correct. As to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I will, if I may, take advantage of his offer and let him know in due course.

On Question, Motion agreed to.