HL Deb 23 July 1985 vol 466 cc1162-4

7.21 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton rose to move, That the scheme laid before the House on 1st July be approved. [27th Report from the Joint Committee.]

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is an even more straightforward measure, I think, than the previous one, the purpose of which is simply to provide continued parliamentary authority for the payments which Community regulations allow member states to make to recognised fish producers' organisations in their early years in order to encourage their formation and to facilitate their operation.

By way of background it may help if I mentioned that Community regulations in the fisheries sector provide for fishermen coming together and setting up producers' organisations with a view to achieving more orderly marketing of their landings. Financial assistance to help these organisations in the first years of their existence was already a feature of the European Community's regime for the fisheries sector when the United Kingdom joined in 1973. At the present time there are 14 recognised fish producers' organisations operating in the United Kingdom. Eleven have received the full entitlement to formation grant. Specific parliamentary authority to cover the payment of formation grants in the United Kingdom was obtained in the Fish Producers' Organisations (Formation Grants) Scheme 1982—SI No. 498.

The need to seek approval for the present measure arises from the fact that, subsequent to this scheme coming into operation, a revised Council marketing regime for the fisheries sector became applicable. This is contained in Council Regulation 3796/81, which was followed by a number of implementing regulations. Legal advice was that it was necessary to amend the 1982 scheme so as to take account of the new regulations to the extent that they governed the payment of formation grants to recognised fish producers' organisations.

The amending instrument has been made under the powers contained in Section 15 of the Fisheries Act 1981, which allows Ministers, with the approval of the Treasury, to make grants for the purposes of reorganising, developing or promoting the sea fish industry. It will apply to all parts of the United Kingdom. The relevant Community regulations provide that 50 per cent. of the payments made by member states may be recovered from the guidance section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.

Basically, however, the amending instrument seeks only to allow Ministers to continue to make payments of the nature for which parliamentary authority has already been obtained. Financial provision has been made in the usual way for future payments and it is necessary that parliamentary authority be obtained so that the Government can continue to make payments to an important sector of the industry, which has a key role to play in the marketing of fish. I beg to move.

Moved, That the scheme laid before the House on 1st July be approved. [27th Report from the Joint Committee.]—(The Earl of Swinton.)

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, the noble Earl, I think, said that these regulations were even simpler than the previous ones, but there are about six items on the back page which one has to follow before arriving at a conclusion. However, we shall let that pass.

There is no doubt that grants to start up organisations, particularly for processing fish, and so on, are a great help to fishermen and are welcome. I happen to have connections with the Western Isles. In fact I have a fisherman staying with me this week from the Western Isles. Not only does he fish for prawns and other shellfish but he helps to organise schemes such as those which are the subject of the regulations. He said that he was rather doubtful that processing shellfish came under the scheme. He does not know of anyone who has a grant to process and market shellfish.

The other point is that five years seems a long time to have to keep records for fishermen who are working people. The Minister did not give any reason for extending the period from three to five years, and perhaps he could deal with that. Otherwise we agree with the alterations to the regulations and the necessity for bringing them in now.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, once again I am grateful to the noble Lord for the way he has received the regulations. As far as timing, grant can be paid to recognised fish producers' organisations to assist in their formation and development during the three years following their recognition by the member state. The grant is calculated according to a formula laid down in the EC regulation. In the first year it can be 3 per cent. of the organisation's sales over the previous three years, or 60 per cent. of its administrative costs in its first year of operation; in the second year 2 per cent., or 40 per cent. of administrative costs in that year, and in the third year 1 per cent. of sales, or 20 per cent. of the running costs. It is on the record of how the organisation is going that the grant is paid. That is why it takes the time.

I can assure the noble Lord, and I hope he will assure his friend, that shellfish are covered by the regulations.

On Question, Motion agreed to.