HL Deb 22 July 1980 vol 412 cc289-92

7.5 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill he now considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be now considered on Report.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the Government on the Bill and the fact that they have brought it forward. It is some months ago since I addressed myself to the Confirmation Order on the Ardveenish Harbour Bill. I can remember asking the Government at that time whether we could be assured that the Secretary of State would bring forward the necessary authority for financing it. I just discovered today, of course, that there has been no action taken to forward that harbour.

So I wish to congratulate first the Highlands and Islands Development Board on this occasion for actually having built the harbour; they have actually built the facilities and they are in operation. Your Lordships will remember that this was originally mooted because of the feeling that we should make arrangements for the fishing for blue whiting and putting this new harbour on the West Coast of Lewis. It is all there and, believe it or not, the ships are coming in. They are actually delivering fish, landing fish, and the fish are being gutted, filleted and dried in the facilities provided by the Highlands and Islands Development Board. There is only one point—they cannot charge anything for the landing of the fish until they get this order.

Therefore, my first question to the Government is this. Has there been any unseemly delay in bringing this matter forward because, certainly in these days of stress and strain financially, we do not want to deny the Highlands and Islands Board the opportunity of maximising what it can get from this. It must involve very considerable expenditure and I think that the final account must come to about £1 million. Can the Minister tell me whether any EEC grants are involved here and, if so, their extent?

On the whole there is nothing more to be said except to offer congratulations all round, especially to the Government for bringing it forward. Fancy this Government of all Governments confirming a public harbour instead of selling it off and letting it off to some private firm! There is a lot to be said for this new look as far as their policies in Scotland are concerned. I certainly welcome the Bill and express my hope that Breasclete Harbour will go from strength to strength, because at present the fishing industry is in a bad way. In fact, the Scottish inshore fishermen are not fishing, for the simple reason that prices are so low that they feel that it is not worth their while.

I hope that that will not happen here. I hope that the Government will sort the matter out in our negotiations with the EEC. If any section of the Scottish communities in the Highlands and Islands and in the north of Scotland merit support in their battle in respect of the future of their industry, it is certainly the fishermen.

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, the pier is in fact already in operation, but so is the factory—I know, because I opened it. The fish supplies to the harbour have not been entirely uninterrupted. As the noble Lord has implied, this is a highly specialised market so far as fishermen are concerned and there have been times when they have not been altogether keen to land at Breasclete because they could obtain better prices for fish elsewhere. But I am glad to say that fish landings this year are consistent with the requirements of the factory.


My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to interrupt and say that we on this side of the House really cannot hear him? It is not his fault. I know that the Hansard reporters cannot hear speakers, either. I am not referring just to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. I do not know what we can do about it. May I suggest that we need to speak right into the microphones?


My Lords, I can hear myself, and I love the sound of my own voice. It is rather like the noble Lord, Lord Ross, I fancy. On this particular occasion I must throw my voice, although I think that the loudspeakers work better on our side than on the side of the Opposition. I do not particularly wish to repeat myself. The factory provides employment for the equivalent of 20 full-time jobs, which is good, and up to 50 local people are employed on a part-time basis. In a place like Lewis that is very good indeed. The cost to the HIDB of constructing the pier and the adjacent service site, was £300,000—which, of course, was back in 1978. I am afraid I do not know whether application was made for a grant from the European Community or, if it was, whether it was granted. However, I will consult on that point and let the noble Lord know.

The hope of the Highlands Board—indeed, of the Government and all of us—is that this particular development will lead to further onshore developments which will provide more employment for the population of this rather remote community.