HL Deb 28 November 1979 vol 403 cc402-4

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to meet the recommendations in the National Farmers' Union report last summer to mitigate the disadvantages from which fish farmers are suffering.


My Lords, the proposals of the National Farmers' Union, which were contained in their report produced in the summer of 1978, are being considered in a wider review of a number of policy issues relating to fisheries, fishing and fish farming in inland and coastal waters. Officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have held informal consultations with representative bodies, including the National Farmers' Union, with a view to making recommendations to Ministers. No decisions have yet been taken.


My Lords, I thank the Minister for that, on the whole, encouraging reply. May I ask whether he has seen in today's paper that £440,000 will be spent on exploratory work in voyages around Britain's coastal waters to look for unexploited species of fish, and whether some of that money might well be spent to encourage the fish farmers already at work inside the country?


My Lords, my right honourable friend has allocated that amount of money in order to try to finance voyages for the purpose of making an assessment of the commercial potential of currently under-utilised species, including horse mackerel in the South-Western Approaches. I cannot give any undertaking as to whether any money will be available for the type of interest which my noble friend has in mind, because it is not possible to anticipate that until the results of the review, to which I have referred, are known.


My Lords, will the noble Earl consult or join with countries which have already provided very important fish ponds—particularly Israel—as regards the potential of this particular system of providing food and how successful it can be, and will he act accordingly?


My Lords, yes; I entirely accept that there is this type of fish farming which can be successful, and indeed many people in this country are making it successful. The point which my noble friend has in mind is that there should be alteration in the legislation. That is a very different and difficult matter, because it imposes on a number of other areas, too.


My Lords, did I understand the Minister to refer to a fish called the horse mackerel? Can he tell us some of the characteristics of that fish and whether it is one that we should encourage our fishmongers to stock?


My Lords, I hesitate to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, because the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, might accuse me of planting the question—hut the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, would know that I would not do a thing like that! Oddly enough, I can tell him. The horse mackerel is otherwise known as trachurus trachurus. It is a scombroid fish like a mackerel, generally measuring 30 centimetres to 40 centimetres. It has a well-marked oily taste similar to that of mackerel and smokes well. Although there is little apparent present demand for it within the United Kingdom, exports and processing opportunities appear ripe for development.


My Lords, as the subject seems to have been widened, I should like to ask whether the EEC has been consulted about this matter. What will happen if there is a glut of fish farming? Are we to hand the glut over to the Russians at lower prices? Is that matter being considered by the Government? Have there been any consultations in the EEC about it?


My Lords, my right honourable friend is in perpetual consultation with EEC members about fishing matters.