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Reserve (Fishermen)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1947

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether he will make a further statement on the reinstitution of the R.N. Reserve; and whether he will give an assurance that fishermen called up for service will, if medically fit, give service with the R.N. so as to qualify for the R.N. Reserve.

On the first part of this Question I am unable to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member's Question on 5th February. The future organisation and functions of the R.N.R. are still under active consideration.

As regards the second part of the Question, the number of National Service entrants required for the Navy is limited. The automatic acceptance of all fishermen for the Navy might therefore result in the exclusion of some men from other walks of life who have higher qualifications for training in the Navy's technical work. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to give the assurance asked for by the hon. Member. Fishermen who express a preference for the Navy are considered on their individual qualifications as indicated in the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour on 27th February.

Did not the Minister of Labour on 27th February give an assurance that fishermen, if medically fit, would be called up to the Navy? Is it not most desirable for our defence that men who have a calling for the sea should do their service with the Royal Navy?

I understand that that assurance was given in answer to a supplementary question. In fact, it may not be possible to give a definite assurance that all fishermen, though medically fit, can be taken. I cannot give that assurance because we have other candidates, and we must see that we get the best for the Navy from whatever source.

Is there not a danger, if fishermen are not directed into the Navy, that on the termination of their service they will not be attracted back into the fishing industry? Is it not extremely important that recruitment for the fishing industry should have serious consideration by the Minister?

Yes, certainly. We want to do everything possible to encourage the fishing industry, but I cannot give a definite guarantee on this point. That is what I made clear.

Will the Minister take all these points into consideration and further take note that the whole of the personnel of the fishing fleets is absolutely invaluable to our security whenever it is endangered?