HL Deb 28 April 1981 vol 419 cc1141-60

3.57 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Mansfield)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Constitution of the Authority]:

Lord Balfour of Inchrye moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 10, at beginning insert ("Subject to the provisions of subsection (4A) below").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss Amendment No. 2 at the same time; Nos. 1 and 2 are completely interwoven. Looking at the Bill, it is clear from Clause 14, which deals with interpretations, that salmon and trout are positively excluded from the measure. But alongside the sea fish protected by the provisions of the Bill, salmon and trout swim in the same waters, face the same hazards as sea fish and have many mutual points of contact with the interests of sea fish, particularly in respect of conservation, and it is with that in mind that I move the amendment.

In other than rivers and estuaries, salmon and migratory trout are about the most neglected species of any fish which live in the sea and in fresh waters. I regret to say that I see little prospect in the foreseeable future of the EEC legislating for countries which produce salmon. The EEC members mostly prefer to catch, sell and eat the salmon from rivers to which they have contributed absolutely nothing in the way of production of fish. They gladly catch, they gladly eat, but they are reluctant themselves to breed any fish.

Therefore I believe that we cannot afford to neglect any chance both to improve knowledge of what is happening to salmon on the high seas and, from such knowledge, one hopes, to increase our prospects of successful conservation. My amendment is aimed at just that one purpose. I ask in the amendment that one of the 12 members should be designated to hold what I would term a watching brief on what is happening on the high seas and which might affect salmon and sea trout. My amendment imposes no executive functions upon anyone. It simply proposes that one of the members of the authority should be specifically asked to keep the authority, and those outside it, informed of salmon and trout interests which arise in relation to the activities of the association. Such information, passed on to those in this country who are anxious to aid the conservation of a species gravely threatened, as is the salmon, and given to bodies such as the Atlantic Salmon Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, might well prove a valuable contribution to technical knowledge and conservation of our fish.

In my drafting I refer to migratory fish rather than migratory trout, and I should explain that I do so because in the far north waters where some of our fishermen go there might be encountered the species of which many of your Lordships are aware, fontinalis, or char. I believe that in those far off areas they are deserving of the same interest as we hope will be given to salmon and trout. In my amendment I use the term "territorial limits ". Perhaps, if they accept the amendment, the Government can improve that wording; no one would be more glad than I if they were to do that. Estuaries and sea rivers already covered by fresh water legislation are not included in my amendment because it stretches beyond those to the high seas.

I think that the amendment presents an unanswerable case. I repeat that it is not an amendment which would cast any impost on anyone. I would term it as a humble, simple and desirable reinforcement of the words which the noble Lord, Lord Peart, used in the Second Reading debate on the Bill, when he said: I hope…that this Bill will become a milestone, if I may use that term, in the history of the fishing industry".—[Official Report, 31/3/81; col. 122.] That was reinforced by the words of the noble Earl who is to reply to my amendment. He said, at column 118: Quite simply the long term future of our fishing industry depends on effective conservation, and firm enforcement of the legislation is essential if conservation is to be achieved". This is a very simple amendment, and I sincerely hope that the Government will give it favourable consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I should like to support the principle behind my noble friend's amendment, though I have a reservation, which I shall outline to the Committee. My noble friend Lord Mansfield knows a great deal about salmon, his home being near the Tay, and so I shall not need to remind him about them. However I should like to remind the Committee that although this Part of the Bill deals with the sea fish industry and the authority is called the Sea Fish Authority, salmon and migratory trout spend a great deal of their lives in the open sea.

In Scotland we had particular problems in the early 'sixties when sea fishermen started fishing for salmon with drift nets, largely because of the new man-made fibres which made nets with that kind of mesh much stronger than nets used previously. In the past salmon had been able to break them, but from the 1960s onwards salmon could be caught or badly damaged by them, and it would have been possible virtually to wipe out the whole salmon population of Scotland by keeping up a 24-hour drift net operation around the mouths of rivers. As a result of the first Hunter Report the drift netting of salmon was banned in Scotland. I shall not go into the question of what happened off the shores of England because this is still a controversial issue between fishermen in England and those in Scotland.

Salmon and migratory trout have to return to the rivers in order to spawn and to continue their species. We have had trouble with Denmark and other countries which do not themselves have salmon rivers but have caught these fish right out in the Atlantic. That is of course the subject of international agreement. But I would remind the Committee that in my area of Scotland there was unfortunately very great hostility towards Denmark at the time that was happening, because this matter involves a very important part of the local economy. I refer not only to tourism and the sport of angling, and the amount of money that comes in from foreigners who take part in the activity, but also to the fact that much money that is raised in this form goes into the local government institutions and forms part of the financing of areas of Scotland which are not very highly populated but which have salmon rivers flowing through them.

Therefore I agree with my noble friend that salmon and migratory trout must be regarded as sea fish as well as fresh water fish at various times in their lives. But I come now to my reservation. The Bill says that there shall not be more than 12 members of the new body, and there are a great many interests to be covered. At the Second Reading we recognised that there would be geographical claims from various parts of the country. The South of England has special problems; there are also problems encountered by the fishermen of the West of Scotland. We can all think of the geographical claims. But, in addition, there are different kinds of sea fish industries which have been active in the past. Unfortunately, the deep water large trawler side of the industry has been greatly reduced; but none the less its interests must be represented. In fact this particular side of the industry probably needs to be represented more than any other.

Then there are the inshore fishermen who in the past have had interests quite different from those of the distant water fishermen. They are now if anything expanding, with their seine net vessels and other vessels. It is a quite different kind of fishing, as well as a different structure, in that most of them are share fishermen; they are not employees of a company. They have quite a different attitude. There are also the herring boats, the shell-fish boats—the many different kinds of fishing industries. So I would say to my noble friend that it would be quite difficult to accommodate all the interests, of which there should be some knowledge—I would not say representation—on the new body.

Therefore, my request to my noble friend and the Government is that if they say that it is not possible to have one member of this new authority who is there solely to represent the interests of those who know about salmon and migratory trout, then there should at least be one member who has experience and knowledge of these matters. He may well have to be a member who also knows about other aspects of the sea fish industry; but I think the Government ought to make certain, perhaps by some other form of amendment if they cannot accept this one, that at least one of the members has knowledge and experience of the whole question of salmon and sea trout.

This is an exceedingly important asset to the United Kingdom. It is probably more important to Scotland than to other parts of the United Kingdom. It could easily diminish and disappear—this is not simply a rich man's sport; it is something which is of tremendous value to the country as a whole and, as I say, it would be a great loss to local government finance if the fish were to disappear. So I would ask my noble friend to look with sympathy upon this amendment, and if he cannot accept this then at least to accept something which makes sure that the expertise and the knowledge on this side of the fish industry is represented on the authority.

The Earl of Mansfield

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Balfour for tabling these amendments, because it gives us an opportunity to refer to the question of salmon and trout and migratory fish generally, even though it is not the intention of the Government that such fish would be within the competence, so to speak, within the control, of the new authority, any more than they were under the old White Fish Authority; and I hope I can persuade the Committee that this is a proper way to look at it.

So far as the conservation at sea is concerned, it is of course within the competence of the EEC, so to speak, to go into matters of conservation, so far as salmon and trout are concerned, beyond the territorial limits of the countries concerned. So that if, for instance, we were to put salmon and trout within the control of the authority, then the authority would have control, as it were, within the territorial limits but it would have no responsibility for maritime salmon conservation outside those limits. So there are some real difficulties in the way. When we discuss matters relating to international control so far as salmon are concerned, we use the European Community channels, and that applies particularly, for instance, to the salmon convention, which we hope will come into existence before very long. As the Committee may be aware, there is a proposed North Atlantic Salmon Convention. The Government are very keen to see progress made in negotiating this convention, which will, one hopes, have the effect of managing and indeed protecting salmon stock throughout the North Atlantic.

Noble Lords, I have no doubt, will be aware of the concern felt in the United Kingdom about the salmon fisheries at Greenland and the much more recent and expanding fishery in the Faroes. Both of these intercept salmon coming from British rivers, and we would regard control of these fisheries as essential to safeguard the future of our own domestic salmon industry. We feel that the convention offers the best prospect of achieving some form of harmonisation and control which will be agreed by all the countries interested. There are a number of problems which still have to be discussed and, indeed, solved. Discussions with other interested countries have indeed taken place—and they include Canada, the United States, Norway, Ireland, Sweden and the Faroes—and, as I have said, consultations with our own salmon interests have also taken place and will continue to do so before the next round of formal talks takes place in May.

I turn to the matter which my noble friend Lord Campbell touched on but which, with his well-known diplomatic instincts and skills, touched on, if I may say so, ever so delicately, and that is drift netting. There are, of course, certain interests which have to be regarded and, indeed, protected, and the Government have these matters under review at the moment. In each country—that is, in England and Scotland—we shall be consulting all the interests involved over the whole matter of salmon before very long, and as I think I said on Second Reading, each country is going to issue a consultative paper because the law and indeed the needs of each country are so very different. I have no doubt that this is one of the problems which will be discussed in the English consultative paper, and the various reactions which come forth, I have no doubt, will give rise to considerable debate. The Government will no doubt have to take stock of the situation in the light of the representations which are made following the issue of these consultative papers.

Perhaps I may come to the point of my noble friend's amendment. I respectfully agree with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy that it would be wrong and most undesirable to have sectional interests directly represented, so to speak, on the authority. It is, I suggest, no more appropriate to have somebody who is going to have regard to salmon interests written into this statute, as would be the case if my noble friend's amendment were accepted, than it would be to write into the Bill a demand that, say, shell-fish interests, deep water fishing interests, inshore fishing interests, pelagic fishermen or demersal fishermen should in some way be represented on this authority, and I hope that on reflection my noble friend Lord Balfour will see that this is right.

For the reasons which I have outlined to the Committee, we do not think that it is suitable for this authority to, as it were, extend its range into migratory fish, because different considerations apply to them. We are going to have regard to the whole question of salmon and migratory fish in general, as I have outlined; and in the light of what I have said I would therefore hope that my noble friend would see fit to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

I thank the Minister for his reply. I think he has more faith in future action of the EEC in a reasonable course of time than I have. I only hope that I am wrong and that he is right. Secondly, I cannot quite agree with him about the danger that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy dealt with, the danger of having sectional interests, because you already have sectional interests in the set-up of the authority. You have certain representatives of the fishing industry and you have certain representatives of consumers. What I am now suggesting is that there should not be an executive, such as is put forward in the Bill, for those interests, but that there should be a watching brief. However, if my noble friend feels that that is not desirable, while I retain my view I am afraid I have no option but to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved].

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.20 p.m.

Lord Peart

I want to concentrate on the structure, the set-up, in other words the organisation, of the sea fish industry. I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I believe that he welcomed this Bill, and I more or less agree with what he has said. I should like to ask the noble Earl this question. Which Minister, apart from the Minister of Agriculture, will be responsible in the end? What about Northern Ireland? I assume the Secretary of State for Scotland; but what about Wales? I hope we can have an answer on this. I want to stress the difficulties of Clause 1 which provides for the establishment of a Sea Fish Industry Authority consisting of not more than 12 members, four of whom would be independent of and eight of whom would be representative of the sea fish industry. The duties and powers of the authority are largely those of the White Fish Authority and of the Herring Industry Board—bodies which the authority replaces.

I emphasised on Second Reading how much difficulty could arise through thinking in terms of separate sections of the industry. I went on to say: The industry comprises catchers; salesmen; buyers and merchants; freezers; canners; smokers, and other processors; distributors; wholesalers; retailers; fryers and many other parts too numerous to list. The ratio of onshore and offshore employment is thought to be in the region of 5 or 6 to 1 …".—[Official Report; col. 123, 31/3/81]. Here is a clause the implementation of which may give rise to great difficulties. However, I hope we can be successful. While the authority should restrict its numbers as far as possible, we find it difficult to believe—or, at least, I do—that the many and varied interests of the industry can be truly represented by eight members. This is a very large industry. Furthermore, if the authority is to have executive powers, as appears to be the case, I think it is highly unlikely that such a variation of interest can ever achieve unanimity, let alone a clear majority. The Minister may be more optimistic.

This will mean inevitably that, more often than not, decisions are going to be taken by the four independent members. To achieve an efficient executive management, I think we should have a smaller non-representative board, co-opting the senior full-time executive. To satisfy the need for representation, there should be a larger advisory authority and the chairman of the executive board also should be the chairman of that advisory authority. We must get this policy, this restructure, right. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will carefully consider the points that I have made.

The Earl of Mansfield

Far be it from me to chide the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, but the Minister would have considered even more carefully what the noble Lord has said if it had been in the form of an amendment with a suggestion as to the course which the Government might have taken other than the course that they are taking. I say that humbly to the noble Lord, for whom I have great respect. I say this because this particular question as to the form of the authority, the number of members who should be appointed and their particular functions, was exhaustively debated in another place—I hope I do not say that too contentiously—and, indeed, the eventual conclusion to which the other place came was that this was probably a reasonable way of solving what everyone agreed would be a difficult problem. But certainly everyone was agreed that the arrangements would have to be different from what was originally contemplated as far as the White Fish Authority were concerned and that this is as good a way as any of retaining firmness of purpose and speed of execution with sufficient dexterity of manoeuvre to react to the changed conditions in which we find ourselves today and which have led to the establishment of this new authority.

The appointments will be made by the fisheries Ministers, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Peart, was a very distinguished member in his day. I do not need to tell him how the fisheries Ministers, like the agriculture Ministers act as (shall I say?) a team, not always unanimous to begin with but certainly unanimous by the time the appointments come to be made. It seems to work reasonably well and I have no doubt that the interdepartmental discussions and negotiations will go on as in the past and that it will be just as satisfactory.

The four plus eight, I suggest, is a reasonable way of proceeding. To add eight representative members to the four independent members, in the Government's view, will strengthen the body. The involvement of representatives from the industry will bring an expertise directly to the decision-making of the authority, and their presence will, we trust, assist the authority to command the confidence of the industry; and that is absolutely essential if it is to do the work that we hope it will. The industry iteslf was divided at first but eventually expressed a clear preference for this proposal. As far as the eight members are concerned, the fisheries Ministers will have to choose them to give the broadest coverage possible of the industry—and that applies both to sectors and to geographical considerations. I said in relation to the first amendment that I do not believe it is right to try to write such considerations into a Bill; and I think that on reflection most Members of the Committee would agree with me on that.

The eight will not represent particular organisations. That would be quite wrong and self-defeating. The eight members will be representative of the whole industry, and I have no doubt that the Ministers will be concerned to select persons who will command the confidence of all the main sectors of the industry and that there will be consultations with the industry before these appointments are made. The Bill does not give the authority powers to regulate the industry. My noble friend Lady Hornsby-Smith is not in her place. It might have been thought from her remarks on Second Reading that she thought that the industry in the South-West would not be properly served unless one of the eight was from the South-West. But that is taking the wrong view of the powers and functions of this authority. The powers given to the authority over such matters as research and development, advice, training and the promotion of sales are not the type of function which call for the voice of each fishing community round the coasts to be separately represented on the decision-taking body. If they were, the body would be able to function only fairly incompetently.

One of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Peart, asked about was the position of Wales. Wales has a Secretary of State. He counts as a fisheries Minister and therefore he will play his part in what would be a triumvirate, except that there happen to be four of them—whatever the word is for that. I have no doubt that he will play a full part. I hope that the Committee will give its blessing to this clause being made part of the Bill.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Powers of the Authority]:

4.30 p.m.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 3: Page 3, line 9, leave out (" for assisting persons to meet ") and insert (" to persons incurring ").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting amendment which is designed solely to replace an awkwardly expressed phrase. The words" financial assistance … for assisting persons to meet expenditure "are replaced by the much simpler phrase financial assistance … to persons incurring expenditure ". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 25, leave out (" loan or grant ") and insert (" financial assistance ").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is consequential on one made in another place, which gives the authority power to give financial guarantees as well as to make grants and loans. The purpose of Clause 3(4) is to ensure that the authority's financial aid policies have the approval of the Government; and since the authority's scope for giving financial aid has been widened, this subsection should be widened similarly to bring the guarantee power as well as grants and loans within the requirement for Government approval. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Accounts and reports]:

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment. No. 5: page 8, line 2, after (" affairs ") insert (" at the end of the financial year and of the Authority's income and expenditure in the financial year ").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is made to avoid any possible doubt about the obligations placed on the authority in respect of its annual accounts. The provisions added reflect standard accounting procedures. The first words underline that the statement of accounts relates of course to the state of the authority's affairs at the end of the financial year. The rest of the amendment makes explicit that a statement of income and expenditure is required; this is the equivalent of what for a profit-making body would be its profit and loss account. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [White Fish Authority and Herring Industry Board: consequential provisions]:

The Earl of Mansfield: moved Amendment No. 6: Page 40, line 13, at beginning insert ("As from the transfer date").

The noble Earl said: This amendment simply provides a date on which the new authority is to take over two functions from the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 14 to 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Penalties for offences]:

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 7: Page 21, line 12, leave out ("fishing boat") and insert ("vessel").

The noble Earl said: It may be convenient if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 8 and 9. These three small amendments are consequential on additions made to the Bill in another place, relating to powers to license vessels that receive fish by trans-shipment. A subsidiary power was provided to disqualify owners from holding licences if certain offences were committed; and this power was written into an existing parallel disqualification in respect of licences for fishing boats. Because the disqualification provision now relates both to fishing boats and to receiving vessels the references to fishing boats elsewhere in the subparagraph should be widened to cover also receiving vessels; and this the amendment achieves. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 8: Page 21, line 13, leave out ("boat") and insert ("vessel").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 9: Page 21, line 17, leave out ("boat") and insert ("vessel").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 25 to 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Enforcement of Community fishing regulations]:

4.36 p.m.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 10: Page 26, line 36, after ("11") insert ("12").

The noble Earl said: It may be convenient if I speak to Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 together. Clause 30 provides powers for the enforcement of Community fisheries legislation in our waters, including legislation which would follow from agreement on a common fisheries policy. In subsections (2) and (3) of the clause are subsidiary powers needed for the enforcement of the Community provisions, relating, for example, to the setting of maximum penalties for offences, and giving British sea fishery officers the powers they need to examine vessels. I am advised that the present lists of powers in subsections (2) and (3) are incomplete and that it would be of advantage in enforcing the Community law if the full range of enforcement provisions currently available to our enforcement authorities for enforcing existing United Kingdom laws should also be available to them in enforcing the Community provisions.

Section 12 of the 1967 Act is thus added to the list in subsection (2). This will mean that, as for offences against existing United Kingdom laws, where a body corporate commits an offence, an officer of the body shall be liable to prosecution if the offence was committed with his approval or consent. In respect of the offences against Community pensions covered by subsection (3), it is appropriate to give Ministers powers to draw as appropriate from the full range of the existing powers available to them under the 1967 and 1968 Acts. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 11: Page 27, line 7, leave out from ("to") to second ("the") in line 8 and insert ("any relevant provisions of the said Act of 1967 or").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 31 [Financial assistance]:

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos moved Amendment No. 12: Page 27, line 29, leave out from beginning to (" the ") in line 32.

The noble Lord said: It may be convenient for the Committee if I deal with Amendment No. 13 at the same time as this amendment. This clause received a good deal of attention in this House, in another place and in the press as well. I should like to say immediately to the Committee that I welcome the clause so far as it goes, and other clauses which deal with fish farming. The clause enables the Government to introduce a scheme under which those fish farmers who may be able to benefit from EEC grant aid qualify as well for a corresponding United Kingdom grant. This is of course a normal prerequisite for obtaining the EEC grant in the first place. As I said, this is all right as far as it goes, but many of us think it does not go far enough.

On Second Reading the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in dealing with this point, said—and I quote from column 151 of the Official Report of 31st March 1981: It is by no means certain at present that a capital grant scheme which is appropriate for agriculture would necessarily be applicable or indeed appropriate to seafish or any form of fish farming". No one is arguing along those lines. What we suggest as fair and reasonable is an amendment to the Bill which will enable—and I stress the word "enable "—the Government at some future stage, not now, following the consultation procedure to which the noble Earl referred, to introduce whatever scheme may be agreed at that time.

In the course of the debates which have taken place on this subject, three points have been made by Ministers, both here and in the other place. One is that grants already exist to help fish farmers. Of course, that is perfectly true. For example, there are grants to be obtained from COSIRA and there are grants under the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Scheme, and so on. We know all about those grants because they have been debated here and in the other place from time to time, and my noble friend Lord Peart and I at certain stages have been responsible for taking the necessary legislation through Parliament. But the point is that none of these schemes is primarily designed to meet the needs of the developing fish farming industry.

We are talking about this particular sector. In fact, many of the schemes relate to encouraging rural development, especially in Scotland and Wales: there are the Scottish Development Agency, the Welsh Development Agency, the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and so on. Those are the agencies which deal with the schemes to which Ministers have referred, and fish farmers in England are excluded from their provisions. This is about the only case I am aware of where the English are really at a disadvantage.

The second point is that the Government have said that a review document on fish farming is due to be published very soon. Ministers have said that this document will discuss the question of grants but, however welcome this may be, the Minister knows and the House knows that this takes action, if any is to be taken, well into the future. That is really the reason for these two amendments. There would be the usual process of consideration, followed by the process of consultation with all the interested parties. Then we would have to await legislation, and so on. We all know from long experience what that means in terms of time. Certainly I do not want to prejudice the Government's review in any way. I shall welcome it when it comes and I hope that this Chamber will have the opportunity to debate it very soon.

However, our amendment does not prejudice the Government's review. It will be recognised that we have the opportunity now in this Bill to take action to give the Government enabling powers to make a national grant scheme in the future. This will avoid trouble for the Government themselves in having to introduce legislation in the future. The Committee will be aware that Government legislation is like the mills of God, which grind exceeding sure but also grind exceeding slow, and we shall have to wait a very long time if we rely on future legislation for the very small benefit we are now seeking to obtain.

Your Lordships therefore have two choices: either to take this modest step now or postpone the matter indefinitely. I am quite sure that none of your Lordships on either side would wish that to happen. This Chamber was widely commended last year when it supported fish farming by bringing it into line with the rest of agriculture for rating purposes, and your Lordships will remember the very constructive debate we had at that time. I hope these amendments will be approved to ensure that there is a constructive basis for helping this small but important sector of agriculture in the future and also for removing the discrepancy of treatment as between fishermen of England and the rest of the United Kingdom.

What we are proposing is a most reasonable and constructive step. It does not go against the Government's intention: indeed, it is in line with the Government's thinking, because they themselves have said it is something they would like to do. We are opening the door to the Government and I hope that the Minister will have the authority to say he is accepting these amendments this afternoon. I beg to move.

4.47 p.m.

The Earl of Mansfield

The matter was discussed in the other place, as the noble Lord has said. As was said on behalf of the Government in Committee, and as I am happy to repeat now, we are by no means unsympathetic to the representations which fish farmers have made that they should become eligible for national capital grant assistance on a similar basis to agricultural farmers. I understand the wish of fish farmers to be treated like other farmers, and the Government's sympathy towards the industry has already been illustrated, at any rate in part, by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.

We have given a considerable amount of assistance; we have de-rated fish farms. Fish farmers are eligible for development grants under the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Scheme. Where fish farmers are involved in marketing or processing both their own and other fish farmers' production, they may qualify for a grant under the Community Marketing and Processing Scheme. Fish farming co-operatives may receive grants under the Agriculture and Horti- culture Co-operation Scheme for certain non-capital expenses. Fish farmers in England may receive grants from the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas and in assistance areas from the Department of Industry. In Scotland grants are available in proper cases from the Highlands and Islands Development Board, provided that the area is within their area of responsibility.

Clause 31 makes yet more assistance available. It will ensure that where fish farmers are eligible for grants from the European Community they can receive what I might call the necessary national backup. That is already so in Northern Ireland, where Northern Ireland Ministers have the appropriate powers. So there is no question but that the Government are sympathetic to the needs of fish farmers and indeed our minds are open, as was said in Committee in another place.

The question is as to how one puts this sympathetic frame of mind into action, so to speak, in a proper case. The only issue that I take with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, is that there will be not one but two consultative documents—one for England and Wales and one for Scotland—because, as I have already said, the conditions are so very different in the three countries.

That being so, I must repeat what my honourable friend the Minister of State said in another place. We are having a major review. We are by no means sure that an amendment such as this, well-intentioned though it is, would, in fact, by giving wide powers to Ministers, advantage the fish farming sector in the way in which it should be advantaged. We need to consider what aid fish farmers require and there may very well be different requirements in different sectors of fish farming.

We have therefore decided that in these consultative documents the matter will be fully set out. There should then be a full debate as to the needs and priorities. I must stress that at a time of scarce resources there is no money to fling about for fish farmers, any more than there is for any other sector, however deserving it may be. Therefore, we shall have to establish some form of priority for this type of assistance and there must be a full debate, as is only right and proper. Then, in the light of the various consultations and debates, we shall have to take the action required.

One asks: if this amendment were written into the Bill, would fish farmers get one penny sooner than they would if the Government are allowed to continue in the way in which they want to continue; that is to say, by having these consultations and thereafter proceeding towards action? As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, has very fairly said, these are merely permissive powers, and I have no doubt that if they were written into the Bill they would not be acted upon until precisely the same consultations and debates had taken place as will take place under these consultative documents.

So far as the fishing industry is concerned, whenever the industry has proved that an urgent need has arisen the Government have acted very swiftly indeed. I believe that over this matter the Government will act just as directly and just as swiftly, when we realise what is required. By the list, which I have produced, of aid which has already gone to fish farmers in one form or another, the Government have already shown, as it were, an earnest of their intentions and goodwill towards the industry. In the circumstances, I can only ask the noble Lord and his—for this purpose—friends, who added their names to the amendment, to bear with us and I have no doubt that proper assistance will go to fish farmers in due course.

The Earl of Swinton

I have put down my name to this amendment. I am very sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is not here. I imagine that he is still waiting at Wick airport until the current dispute is finished and he can get an aeroplane south.

I am not very impressed by the arguments put forward by my noble friend the Minister on this amendment. I welcome all he said about the support which the Government are giving to fish farming and, although I declared an interest as a fish farmer when I spoke on Second Reading, it is only right that I should re-declare my interest, if there is such a word as "re-declare". But the very fact that he mentioned all the things that the Government are doing for fish fanning does, if anything, argue against his own case. He points out all the ways in which fish farming is being encouraged, and then says that we do not want to go the whole way and treat it as if it were agriculture. The very fact that the Government are treating it as agriculture, in so many ways, speaks against him.

I should also like to point out that in these amendments there is nothing at all about flinging scarce resources around to fish farmers. The powers are purely enabling. The Government make many points about the recession finishing, and rosy days being around the corner, so I should have thought it would have shown a very welcome intent on their part to accept this amendment, in the sure and certain knowledge, as they say, of the rosy days which are coming. The fish farmers will then have something when these rosy days arrive.

I did not like the tenor of my noble friend's last remarks, when he said that the Government would not act any more quickly if this amendment were passed than if it were not. That seemed to me to smack a bit of sour grapes, but I am sure that that was not what he was hinting at. These would be purely enabling powers, to put the industry on a par with capital grants for agriculture. It is something that has been promised by successive Governments since 1978. With all the goodwill in the world, the Government may think that as soon as their White Papers have been discussed they can get the legislation through. But with my very moderate experience of parliamentary procedure, I know that Governments do not always find it easy to get their legislation through quickly. This seems to me an ideal opportunity and I very much support this amendment

4.56 p.m.

The Earl of Radnor

I should like to support this amendment, while once more declaring an interest as I derive financial benefit from fish farming. I, too, am a little disappointed with my noble friend's answer. I am an English fish farmer—not a Scots or Welsh fish farmer—and no grants have come my way. It has always been my impression—and I say this carefully—that the industry has done extremely well in England through not having any grants. But there is no question of dishing out money to fish farmers. This is merely giving the Government the facility, at reasonably short notice, to provide grants outside Community instruments and so on. That seems to me to be the very greatest sense, and I back it up with only one point which I have made before.

The industry in this country is a very new one indeed; in fact, no one really knows what its needs are. So it seems only sensible to have this modest insurance, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, put it, so that should some need arise the Government could step in and provide aid. So as a fish farmer who is absolutely against any handouts, I should like to back this amendment, even though there is sometimes a little resentment against farmers in the Highlands and Islands who seem to come off better than we do in the South. But I feel that this amendment should be incorporated in this clause.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

Like the two noble Lords who have spoken I, too, am disappointed with the Minister of State's reply. I thought that on this occasion he could have been more forthcoming because, contrary to what he has just said about appeals to fling around scarce resources, we are not, in fact, asking for any money for fish farmers at this time. What we are asking for is that in this legislation proper preparation should be made for the future. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that, if and when it is necessary, the Government will act swiftly. I am sure that his own personal intentions are good, because he expressed sympathy for the industry. But he knows, and the House knows, that when the time comes Governments cannot act swiftly on a matter of legislation.

Government legislation takes time to prepare and to draft. He knows that perfectly well. It has to go through all the paraphernalia at official level, at Cabinet Committee level and in the Cabinet itself, before it becomes legislation. In which gracious Speech, I wonder, will this Bill be mentioned? It will be many years ahead. My gloom about the future was increased when the Minister of State corrected me about the review, and said that it is not one consultative document which the Government are proposing to publish, but two. This strengthens our argument enormously. There will be one document for England and Wales and, quite properly, another document for Scotland, where the problems are different. The whole procedure involved in consideration, consultation and debates will go on and on, well into the future.

We are asking for something which is very small; we are not asking for anything great. We are asking for provision to be made for this small but important sector of British industry which will provide food for our people. There is nothing more important in the world today as it develops than the provision of food. Here is an opportunity for the Government to take a small but important step. I am sure that the Minister of State finds himself in difficulty. However, if he can say that between now and the Report stage he will reconsider the position I shall of course be prepared to withdraw the amendment. If he cannot do that, then I must ask the Committee to divide.

The Earl of Mansfield

I must have been expressing myself very badly this afternoon. Even with my poor brain power I never felt that this amendment was designed to fling money about. What I said and what my noble friend, for one, obviously did not understand, was that in an era of scarce resources we have to have some system of priorities so that we can give aid—because that is what these capital grants are, no more and no less—from the taxpayer in the right proportions to the most deserving cases. If my noble friend were to cast his mind back to the Second Reading debate—and I have a suspicion that he would not be satisfied were I to do any less than accept the amendment and also give him a roneoed form on which he could claim his subsidy—he would remember that his main concern at that moment was whether aid would be forthcoming for those who were going to provide fish for sporting purposes as opposed to fish for eating.

It would be so easy for me to say to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, "Yes, I will go away and think about this again "—

The Earl of Swinton

If my noble friend will read what I have said he will see that I did not say anything of the sort. I merely asked my noble friend how one could discern between the two. I was in no way asking that aid should be given to producers of fish for sporting purposes. I was trying to find out how one differentiated between the two when they were swimming around in the same tank. I certainly was not asking for aid, either for myself or for anyone else, to produce fish for sporting interests.

The Earl of Mansfield

And if my noble friend wants to put up a massive shed at the side of a put-and-take pond and expects to receive public money for it, how is the matter to be resolved unless one goes into it fairly carefully? I was addressing myself to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. It would be very easy for me to say, "Yes, we will go away and think about this ". Before the matter ever reached the other place it was considered. It was considered very carefully in Committee there, and it was considered again before the Report stage. So it has had a great deal of consideration. I fully accept the point which noble Lords make, particularly when in opposition—I did it myself from time to time—that Governments have good intentions but that somehow they get sublimated by their own priorities and lack of time. I can only point to the Government's record in this field: that we said what we were going to do over, for instance, matters which were legally quite difficult, such as the derating of fish farms, and did them expeditiously, in a way which commended itself to the industry. I personally do not like the coward's way out, of saying to the Committee that I will take it away and look at it when I know very well what Government policy is. It will only lead to the same debate, possibly with an inevitable Division on Report. That is a waste of the time of this House when it is in the middle of a very crowded Session. I have explained as best I can—

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

For the noble Lord to say that he will take it away and look at it is not the coward's way out. It is the path of future Prime Ministers.

The Earl of Mansfield

I have no ideas above my station. I must, I am afraid, leave the Committee to take a decision on the matter, with this final thought. As Clause 31 is drafted, it is a perfectly adequate way to give expression to what the Government want to do in relation to this admittedly rather restricted community field. If this amendment were to be accepted, it would not provide a comprehensive, logical basis for capital grants upon which any Government could act, and it would wreck Clause 31 in so far as it relates to financial assistance from community sources. I repeat that the Government are extremely anxious to help fish farmers to the limit of their ability in proper cases. We do not yet know quite the best way of helping fish farmers, maybe, but we intend to find out as soon as we can. I can only ask the Committee to vote, if it has to, with its head and not with its heart.

5.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 12) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 77; Not-Contents, 76.

Ailesbury, M. Hughes, L.
Airedale, L. Ilchester, E.
Ampthill, L. Kaldor, L.
Aylestone, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Bacon, B. Longford, E.
Banks, L. McNair, L.
Birk, B. Maelor, L.
Blease, L. Mais, L.
Blyton, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Boothby, L. Mersey, V.
Boston of Faversham, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Briginshaw, L. Mountevans, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Peart, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Phillips, B.
Cairns, E. Radnor, E.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Sainsbury, L.
David, B. (Teller.) St. Davids, V.
Davies of Leek, L. Sandford, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Seebohm, L.
Diamond, L. Sempill, Ly.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Shannon, E.
Donnet of Balgay, L. Shepherd, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Stamp, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Foot, L. Stone, L.
Fulton, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
Gaitskell, B. Swinton, E.
George-Brown, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Glenamara, L. Underhill, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Wade, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Gregson, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hale, L. Whaddon, L.
Halsbury, E. White, B.
Hampton, L. Wigoder, L.
Hanworth, V. Wilson of Langside, L.
Henderson, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Birdwood, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Caccia, L.
Allerton, L. Cathcart, E.
Alport, L. Chelwood, L.
Auckland, L. Cork and Orrery, E.
Avon, E. Craigavon, V.
Balerno, L. Craigton, L.
Croft, L. Long, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Luke, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Lyell, L.
Daventry, V. Mancroft, L.
De La Warr, E. Mansfield, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Margadale, L.
Digby, L. Marley, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Melville, V.
Elles, B. Newall, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Norfolk, D.
Exeter, M. Northchurch, B.
Faithfull, B. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Falkland, V. O'Hagan, L.
Ferrier, L. Onslow, E.
Fortescue, E. Orkney, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Penrhyn, L.
Gisborough, L. Renton, L.
Greenway, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gridley, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Grimston of Westbury, L. Savile, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Selkirk, E.
Skelmersdale, L.
Hawke, L. Soames, L.
Henley, L. Spens, L.
Hill of Luton, L. Strathspey, L.
Hillingdon, L. Sudeley, L.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Trumpington, B.
Inglewood, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Killearn, L. Vivian, L.
Kinnoull, E. Waldegrave, E.
Kinross, L. Westbury, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

5.14 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos moved Amendment No. 13: Page 27, line 34, leave out from (" be ") to end of line 35, and insert (" desirable for the purpose of developing the fish farming industry in the United Kingdom.")

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 32 agreed to.

Clause 33 [Exemption from conservation legislation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 33 shall stand part of the Bill?

The Earl of Mansfield

I think it is right that I should explain to the Committee—and this is the appropriate moment to do it—that we are considering the need for amendment to this clause and to Schedule 4, which is dependent on it. I should say that this is an England and Wales problem.

The clause is designed to provide exemptions for fish farmers from certain fisheries conservation legislation which is appropriate for the protection of wild fish but not appropriate for farmed fish. The principle of making such exemptions is generally accepted and we are not questioning the principle now. However, in the course of detailed consultations that we have had with bodies which have an interest in the matter, we have identified certain defects in the definitions of the exemptions from freshwater fisheries regulations, and we have concluded that the complexities of drafting the detailed exemptions are so considerable that it would be more appropriate to deal with the detail by subordinate procedures.

We intend, therefore, to recast the provisions as they affect freshwater legislation as an enabling power by which Ministers may authorise exemptions; in fact, we shall be following the general line of the arrangements which the clause already proposes in respect of exemptions from sea fishing legislation. I understand that in view of the difficulties posed by the present draft the bodies we are consulting are considering our new plans sympathetically.

I should have liked to be able to table the appropriate amendments in time for consideration in Committee, but the time-scale defeated us and it seemed prudent to complete the consultations with interested organisations and thereby ensure that the amendment that we submit to your Lordships will be properly thought out. I propose therefore to present a new text of the clause and the schedule in good time to enable the House to consider it fully at Report stage. With the renewed assurance that we intend no changes to the principles underlying the clause and that the amendment will be ready to be moved on Report, I hope that the Committee will agree that this clause shall stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clauses 34 to 44 agreed to.

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 14:

After Clause 44, insert the following new clause:

(" Amendment of section 22(2) of Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967

. In subsection (2) of section 22 of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967

  1. (a) in the definition of "the appropriate Minister" the words "and Wales" shall be omitted and after "Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food" there shall be inserted "in relation to Wales, means the Secretary of State concerned with the sea fishing industry in Wales";
  2. (b) in paragraph (a) after "Scotland" there shall be inserted "Wales";
  3. (c) in paragraphs (b) and (c)for "the Secretary of State" there shall be substituted "the Secretaries of State respectively" and after "Scotland" there shall be inserted "and Wales".").

The noble Earl said: It may be convenient if I speak to Amendment No. 16 at the same time. New Clause 44A amends the definition of the ministers in Section 22 of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. In that section as it currently stands, the appropriate minister in relation to Wales is the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. However, in 1978 a number of functions of that minister, including those functions conferred by the 1967 Act, were transferred, in so far as they related to Wales, to the Secretary of State for Wales, by an Order in Council. That order could not affect the future, so that any new powers conferred on the ministers by reason of the amendment of the 1967 Act contained in Part III of this Bill (for example, to prescribe different minimum fish sizes for fish caught in different areas) would, if Section 22 were left unchanged, have to be exercised in relation to Wales by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

That would clearly be an unsatisfactory situation which it is the object of this clause to avoid. The new clause amends Section 22 so as to specify that the appropriate minister in relation to Wales is the Secretary of State for Wales and to add that Secretary of State to the number of the ministers as defined for the purposes of the Act. Thus amended, Section 22 not only enables the Secretary of State for Wales to exercise in relation to Wales those new functions conferred by the amendments to the 1967 Act in Part III of the Bill, but also has the added advantage of bringing the words of that section into line with the legal and administrative position as it has been since 1978, thus making the law clearer. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 45 [Short title, repeals, commencement and extent]:

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 15: Page 34, line 5, leave out (" 37 ") and insert (" 36 ").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment with no substantive effect. It adds Clause 36 to the list of provisions which do not apply to Northern Ireland. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 45, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Repeals]:

The Earl of Mansfield moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 43, line 26, column 3, at beginning insert— (" In section 22(2) the words "and Wales" ").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Title agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.