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Fishing Industry

Volume 980: debated on Wednesday 5 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to meet representatives of the fishing industry.

I meet representatives of the industry frequently and will continue to do so as the need arises. I certainly expect to meet them before the next meeting of Council of Fisheries Ministers.

Does the right hon. Gentleman maintain, as he indicated earlier, that under EEC regulations it is impossible to give financial aid to the fishing industry until a common fisheries agreement has been reached? Does he believe that the fishing industry in Scotland was helped in any way by the fact that 13 Conservative Members representing Scottish constituencies went into the Lobby last Wednesday to support the levying of a further £1,500,000 on Scottish fishermen. That occurred only a week after financial aid had been demanded.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have not made any statement or decision to the effect that it is impossible to help the fishing industry until the common fisheries policy has been decided. I have been saying that that is the most important thing for the fishing industry. We are giving urgent consideration to the suggestions made by the fishing industry. An announcement will be made shortly.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the fishing industry needs not only urgent assistance now but control for the future so that our fishermen can fish in free and equal competition with others who fish in the North Sea and the waters around Britain? Will he accept that it is a competitive industry?

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says. Such considerations will be uppermost in our minds when we negotiate a common fisheries policy.

Although the Secretary of State shows no practical sympathy for the fishing industry, will he show sympathy for his own Back Benchers? Does he recall that five weeks ago they were given four weeks in which to produce an answer that would help the fishing industry? Will he accept that they gave their pledge to do so? When will the right hon. Gentleman take action?

I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about the fishing industry, and I share his concern. However, we have so far taken just over a fortnight to consider carefully the proposals from the fishing industry, which is not unreasonable. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the proposals are being considered very sympathetically indeed.

As the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has established that other Common Market Governments massively subsidise their fishing industries, which results in our markets being flooded with cheap subsidised fish, what action does my right hon. Friend propose to stop that unfair trading by our EEC partners, which is contrary to EEC regulations?

I agree that the level of imports is causing great concern to the industry. As my hon. Friend knows, the industry has made proposals to us, and we are considering them urgently.

Is the Secretary of State able to tell us any more about the method adopted by the French to give a fuel subsidy to their fishermen?

Not at present, but I understand that in recent days the Germans have considered a similar scheme and are trying to implement it. We are lookirg into that as well.

I know that the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) wanted to ask a question about fishing, but he had better ask it about improvement grants.