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Ministers Of The Crown (Fisheries) (No 2)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the establishment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with special responsibility for fishery; and for purposes connected therewith.
The Bill, of course, is permissive, and implementation is wholly at the discretion of the Government. You will, Sir, recognise this Bill as a very near relation of a Measure which was read a Second time by this House on 25th June. It is not an identical twin, but it bears a numerical label to distinguish it from the other. This is its reincarnation, for we want to revivify it so that it can pursue the normal course of a Bill in this House.

The object of the Bill is clearly defined in its Title, and this aim has been approved by the House with no dissentient. We had a debate on the previous Bill on 25th June, and although the Bill had support from both sides of the House and although there was only one dissentient voice, it is no longer available to us. The object of my Motion is to see that the House resumes control of the Bill and has its say in its ultimate destination.

You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the prototype of the Bill was introduced by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall), supported by 12 of his hon. Friends, of whom only five were in the Chamber when we discussed the Second Reading. To our minds, that is a very sad commentary on the attitude of the House to this very important producing industry. It is deplorable that this industry, which is one of those on which we depend in the strategic field, and for food and employment, attracted so little interest that so many of the sponsors of the Bill did not see fit to attend.

We on this side of the House were canvassed for support, which was readily given. The arguments in favour of the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary with special responsibility for fishery were deployed with much force on both sides of the House. Although somewhat tepid at first, I myself have since acquired some zeal in promoting the Measure. As far as I can recollect, only one hon. Member spoke entirely against it—the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams); and as he is against everything, no one took much notice of him. He failed to appear when you, Mr. Speaker, collected the voices.

In spite of the powerful arguments adduced by the promoters, which I will summarise in a moment, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries told us that he was satisfied with the present arrangements. He told us how the present arrangements worked and how he had appointed one of his Parliamentary Secretaries to take a special interest in fisheries. We have known this for years; it is exactly the same procedure as that which has been followed ever since I have been in the House.

Incidentally, the hon. Member for Bodmin and I made our maiden speeches on the same day and we have frequently followed each other in debates on the fishing industry. We knew all that the Minister told us, and yet the Bill was promoted. In view of this blinding flash of revelation from the Minister, the promoters of the Bill asked leave to withdraw it, but that leave was very properly withheld. You proceeded to collect the voices, Mr. Speaker. There were no dissentients, and the Bill was given its Second Reading and was properly committed to a Standing Committee.

The hon. Member for Bodmin, acting fully within his rights, according to your Ruling, subsequently withdrew the Bill without any consultation with hon. Members on this side of the House, although I understand that he consulted his absent sponsors. After having raised the constitutional issue with you, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I now ask the House to give us leave to reintroduce the Bill.

May I give a resumé of the pleadings of those hon. Members on both sides of the House who supported the Bill in the previous debate? In the first place, there was the hon. Member for Bodmin, who said that the fishing industry was suffering from the fact that there was no Minister responsible for it. He continued:
"Were such a Parliamentary Secretary appointed, they would know and he would know that he would sink or swim according to whether or not he did his job by the fishing industry, and that question would be judged quite apart from what Ministers did about agriculture, with which he himself would not be concerned."
He proceeded to quote from some fishing organs, including "Fish Industry." It said that this proposal:
"…has often been advanced during the past 30 years from the back benches but it has always been opposed by the Government of the day.'
It also said:
'Certainly it would be reassuring to know that the Government consider the problems of the fishing industry of sufficient importance to warrant such an appointment.'
Then in February of this year that magazine said:
`The appointment of a Minister of our own would not take away our troubles overnight, but would give new heart to all to try to overcome them '."
We had the opinion of probably the best-informed Member on the fishing industry, the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) who said:
"I should like to see the responsibilities for the industry co-ordinated under one new Parliamentary Secretary whom, if necessary, we could pillory in the House."
It seems to me a rather thankless task for a man to be appointed just for the sake of being pilloried, but that was the argument.

Then we had the hon. Lady the Member for Down, North (Mrs. Ford) who said:
"The Minister of Agriculture is concerned with so many matters that the industry feels that it would be of enormous advantage to have someone who would concern himself especially with fisheries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1954; Vol. 529, c. 772–84.]
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) broke into verse on the subject. He wanted not only a Parliamentary Secretary but even a Minister. I could quote all the hon. Members who spoke on that day. There was a strong feeling on the subject, and these hon. Members represented the fishing industry. The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) also spoke warmly of this project, and the whole tenor of the argument was that the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary was absolutely necessary to the prosperity and development of the fishing industry.

The Minister then told us precisely what was being done—no more and no less than has been done for the last 20 years. The sponsors of the Bill asked leave to withdraw it, which was refused. When the Question was put, there was no dissentient voice, so that the Bill had a practically unanimous Second Reading. I therefore now ask the House to give me leave to reintroduce it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Edward Evans, Mr. Ede, Mr. Bing, Mr. Donnelly and Mr. Hector Hughes.

Ministers Of The Crown (Fisheries) (No 2) Bill

"to provide for the establishment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with special responsibility for fishery; and for purposes connected therewith," presented accordingly, and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, and to be printed. [Bill 142.]