HL Deb 06 February 1973 vol 338 cc1009-11

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time. It is eminently straightforward but is nevertheless an important one for the fishing industry because it seeks to relax the time limits which Parliament originally imposed on certain enabling powers by which the industry is supported. The principal effect will be on powers which relate to the supply of funds for vessel loans by the White Fish Authority or the Herring Industry Board, on the grant aiding of research and development between these two bodies and on the operating subsidies. All these have, in one form or another, been a permanent feature of the assistance given to the industry for the last two decades or so, irrespective of which Party has been in Office. To that extent they have been extremely familiar to many noble Lords and especially, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, who took such a prominent part in developing them when he was Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. All we are now doing is to ensure that these powers, which otherwise would have run out at the end of 1972 or in the course of the present year, will continue to be available during 1973 and thereafter, subject only in this latter case to Parliamentary approval of the necessary subordinate legislation.

My Lords, the principle of a limited extension of this sort is very similar to that contained in the Scheme which covers fishing vessel grants and which was approved by your Lordships last week. As my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pointed out during the Second Reading debate in another place—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, will agree—it is extremely difficult to forecast the fortunes of the fishing industry in the future, subject as it is to so many unpredictable factors. This Bill permits freedom of action by allowing the support which otherwise would have to be stopped to be continued. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Earl Ferrers.)

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for introducing this Bill in such a precise and concise fashion. The Bill does exactly what the noble Earl said that it would do. It extends certain provisions from the original legislation and makes provision for the fishing industry in respect of the supply of boats and of grants. In that I concur. There is one other matter that we might mention. I do not call for a reply from the Minister in respect of it, but while Governments of both Parties have done their best to look after the fishing industry I am bound to record the concern felt by housewives about the present prices of fish. These prices have continued to soar over a long period and it seems to me that the industry, along with the Ministry, might have a look at the sale of fish to see whether there is some way in which the industry might be prepared to, if not control, at least restrict prices, so we should not be denying this very fine food to the poorest section of the community. I do not ask the noble Earl to say that this can be done, but I suggest that the Ministry might have consultations with the industry to see whether something can be done in this direction. Having said that, my Lords, may I say that I am delighted to support the Second Reading of the Bill.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, for what he has said. He is quite right to express concern about the rising cost of food. Indeed, earlier this afternoon we had a "go" over rising beef prices and now the noble Lord has mentioned rising fish prices. Of course the Government are concerned about this matter. I would only mention one or two points which are relevant. Fish, being a prime product, is, of course, influenced by the cost levels of other types of food. There have been smaller landings of fish recently and this has helped to increase the price, and the bulk of fresh fish comes to the consumer via the auction markets which are subject to the law of supply and demand. I take the noble Lord's point about the increasing price of fish and I can assure him that the Government are concerned about it, as they are about other increases in food prices which have occurred. Equally, I know that the noble Lord will recognise that the fishing industry is a dangerous and hazardous occupation, and for a number of years the fishermen have not had a great return from the capital invested. My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said.

On Question, Bill read 2ª: Committee negatived.