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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 what are his proposals to help the fishing industry.

The Government are fully aware of the industry's current difficulties and are urgently considering the requests that have been made for financial help. We hope to make an announcement shortly.

Will the Secretary of State be a little more explicit? The industry is becoming progressively more discouraged, more disappointed and more uncertain of its future. The crisis has now been going on for months. It is not only a matter of financial help for the industry. The market for fish has been totally disrupted and the conservation measures are not taking effect. Can the Secretary of State give a definite date on which the fishing industry will know its fate?

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I agree that there is great difficulty and uncertainly in the industry. As he will know, the ultimate fate, as he puts it, depends upon a satisfactory common fisheries policy being negotiated. That is the principal part of our policy. As I have already said, we shall make an announcement as soon as possible about whether anything can be done in the meantime.

In view of the meeting of all branches of the fishing industry in Aberdeen on 15 March, will my right hon Friend give some indication before that date whether something will be done in terms of providing temporary aid for the industry? Otherwise, there is real danger that the frustrations and anxieties in the fishing industry will boil over at that public meeting.

I appreciate what my hon. Friend says, and I hope that it will be possible to say something useful about that before the meeting.

The Secretary of State was apprised by the industry almost three months ago of the predicament caused by the imports of fish that have disrupted the markets. How can he say this afternoon that the Government are considering the position urgently? Clearly the Government have been lax and slow in coming to the necessary decision not only to restore stability but to provide financial aid to the industry in its hour of need.

As I think the hon. Gentleman will know, it is only just over a fortnight since we received the plans which the industry suggested we should consider. To have considered those plans in this time scale would be pretty quick work.

Will my hon. Friend accept that with the removal of distant waters, restrictions on catches, the continuing uncertainty about the CFP, and cheap subsidised imports, the economics of the fishing industry have gone totally crazy? Does he accept that, unless he gives financial help to the fishing industry now, there will soon not be a fishing industry to help?

I agree with my hon. Friend that he fishing industry is going through an extremely difficult time. I assure him that the factors that he has mentioned are very much those that we are taking into account in our considerations.

In view of the urgency and concern, will the Secretary of State give a pledge that he will announce positive aid for the industry soon and not wait until the conclusion of negotiations on the CFP, which may never happen? Can aid be given quickly?

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman says. I am not thinking of postponing any announcement until after negotiations on the CFP have taken place. I hope to make a substantial announcement before that time.