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Fishing Industry

Volume 884: debated on Thursday 23 January 1975

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has completed his consideration of the case for a temporary operating subsidy or fuel subsidy for the fishing industry; and whether he will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action the Government are taking concerning the present position in the fishing industry, especially in relation to increased costs of operation.


asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he can now make a statement regarding the extent of financial aid in the form of subsidies that he intends to give to the fishing industry.

As I informed the House as recently as 16th January—[Vol. 884, c. 667]—the Government are actively considering the question of aid for the fishing industry. I shall make a statement as soon as possible.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that his statement is anxiously awaited, that as time elapses the catching capacity of the fishing industry is being reduced by vessels being sold or laid up and that the situation with fuel costs and gear costs is getting worse and not improving?

I appreciate that need for an urgent decision, but the claim for the resumption of the subsidy, largely due to fuel cost increases, which is a national problem, raises many difficult questions. We are dealing with this as quickly as possible but further inquiries have had to be made. We shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's anxiety.

One accepts that this excellent Government need time to make a decision which is wise and helpful for the industry, but will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the old system of operating costs per day worked well, was accepted by the industry and, I believe, will be welcomed back if and when he makes his decision?

Yes. My hon. Friend will know that operating subsidies were available for fishing vessels until the end of July 1973, by which time the general profitability of the fleet made subsidies unnecessary. However, I shall certainly take note of his point in the context of the other aspects which must be urgently considered at this time.

In considering these matters of subsidy, will the Government bear in mind that far more important for the future of the fishing industry is the preservation of the fishing grounds by proper extension of this country's limits?

I certainly welcome the emphasis that the right hon. Gentleman places on that matter. We are urgently considering these aspects and others against the background of the Law of the Sea Conference and quotas and other discussions which are now taking place.

Will the Government accept that these answers are not good enough? We have known for months that this situation would develop at the turn of the year, yet nothing is ready and organised to help the fishermen. Will the hon. Gentleman take urgent action and try to give us a report within the next two or three weeks?

I certainly appreciate the hon. Member's concern. Although we can use the data available to deduce whether the fleet as a whole or significant elements of it are operating successfully, there are other questions of judgment that the Government must consider, including how long the developing situation might last, the consequences and whether intervention is justified in certain respects in the national interest. But I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety.