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Fish Farming

Volume 387: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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2.36 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any progress has been made in removing the inequalities between ordinary farmers and fish farmers, especially the legal disabilities from which the latter suffer.

My Lords, a submission by the National Farmers' Union on rating liability is being considered in the context of the Review of Local Government Finance. The Government look forward to receiving other specific proposals which the fish farmers intend to make in areas where they think the law needs clarification or change.

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply and knowing that he has always been extremely helpful in these matters, I am rather distressed that we do not seem to have got any further. I should like to know whether any factual proposals have been put forward by any of the committees which were set up with regard to the alteration in legislation which is at present penalising the fish farmers?

My Lords, apparently the National Farmers' Union study is taking longer than anticipated. We do not complain about that because it is probably not an easy matter. However, I must point out that it is not a Government committee; it is a committee set up by the industry to have talks with the fish farming organisations which are being co-ordinated by the NFU. We are waiting on them.

My Lords, does the noble Lord's answer mean that the Government are taking no action at all with regard to fish farming, but are merely waiting to receive the advice of other people?

My Lords, I am not clear what action the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, wants the Government to take.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, although fish farming has much to commend it as regards producing extra protein, there are certain dangers in the establishment of intensive fish keeping in the rivers of this country? Usually such establishments are located high up the streams and the intensive keeping of fish means a considerable discharge of pollutant material from the intensive feeding. There is also the possible danger of disease. Moreover, these establishments are often on rivers which have valuable fishing in the lower reaches, and it is most essential that there should be adequate controls both from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and from planning. As this development proceeds, will the noble Lord ensure that both these controls are adequately established?

Yes, my Lords, certainly. We shall take note of what the noble Lord has said.

My Lords, will the Minister consider that a little urgency should be attached to this matter, especially in view of the fact that the deep-sea fishermen are in deep-sea waters over their troubles and that fishing was mentioned in the gracious Speech? It is time that something happened.

My Lords, the fish farmers already enjoy quite a number of fiscal advantages. The Inland Revenue is prepared to look favourably on fish production for food, for taxation purposes. The fish farmers are eligible for selective assistance under Section 7 of the Industry Act. They can also enjoy and apply for grants under the Farm and Horticultural Development Scheme. As regards legal liabilities, the penalties have been increased under the recent Criminal Law Act against poaching. In Scotland farmed salmon is now excluded under the Salmon Industry (Scotland) Act 1976, and with stock and installations it enjoys the same protection under the law—in England and Wales under Statute law and in Scotland under common law.