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Fishing Industry

Volume 978: debated on Thursday 14 February 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is now satisfied with the state of the fishing industry.

The United Kingdom fishing industry faces many problems. We shall continue to work closely with the industry.

Does the Minister think that the industry can survive at the same time as we have the high cost of fuel, subsidised competition, cheap imports of processed fish, and the uncertainties of the common fisheries policy? Will he follow up the speech made by the Secretary of State for Scotland with some action to help the industry?

The industry is faced with particular financial difficulties at the present time, for a host of different reasons. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we shall no doubt be discussing them in a debate later this afternoon. The industry has put to us a number of proposals. We are in discussion with it and shall certainly consider the proposal that it is making.

Is the fishing industry of Norway facing similar problems, and has the Minister any evidence that the Norwegian fishermen regret not being members of the EEC?

The Norwegian industry faces many difficulties and many problems. Indeed, the Norwegian Government have to pay for ships to be laid up. Whether their problems are greater or less than ours, I do not know, but they certainly have very great problems.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what has emerged from the inquiries that he instituted, through our embassies in the EEC countries, into the subsidies that EEC countries are making to their fishing fleets? In particular, can he tell us whether he has any precise information as to the extent to which the French Government are subsidising fuel to their fishing industry?

My right hon. Friend hopes to refer to this later on this afternoon, when we debate the EEC documents.

Is the Minister satisfied with the state of the deep-sea fleet in Hull where, because we cannot get our ships to sea, owners are now selling those boats to pay their short-term dues on the clock, where the boats just lie at anchor? Has he any plans to meet this problem, or any thoughts for the future?

As hon. Members know, last week I met deputations from Hull, and from Grimsby, where there are also difficulties. There are proposals from the industry that we are considering at the present time.