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Fishing Vessels (Acquisition And Improvement) (Grants) (Variation) Scheme 1980

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 11 December 1980

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7.16 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Fishing Vessels (Acquisition and Improvement) (Grants) (Variation) Scheme 1980, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th November, be approved. The purpose of this instrument is to extend for a further period a scheme of Exchequer grants towards the cost of constructing and improving fishing vessels. The scheme provides fishermen with a grant of 25 per cent. of the approved cost of projects, and it is administered by the White Fish Authority on the Government's behalf. As has been the practice in previous years, it is proposed that the scheme be extended for one year only: in this case, therefore, to the end of 1981.

It will, I think, be common ground in this House that our fishing fleet must be continuously adapted and renewed, if it is to operate effectively and economically. The grants scheme has played a valuable role in encouraging this adaptation and renewal and the Government consider that it remains appropriate to provide this financial assistance as the fishing industry continues to adjust to future fishing requirements. Your Lordships will be aware that in the negotiations on a common fisheries policy, which we hope will shortly be concluded, there is the prospect of financial aid from the Community for restructuring the fishing fleets. Among the financial proposals under discussion is a scheme for grant aiding the construction and modernisation of vessels. It would clearly be prudent to provide for our current scheme, which has an identical purpose, to remain in force until the Community arrangements for grant aid are settled and implemented. At that stage, the Government will wish to review the form of the scheme to judge what amendments would be appropriate to ensure that it fully complements the EEC measures.

I would not wish to anticipate parliamentary proceedings on the Fisheries Bill which was recently introduced in another place, but your Lordships may have seen that it provides for the abolition of the White Fish Authority, together with its sister body the Herring Industry Board, and their replacement by a single new statutory body for the fishing industry, called the Sea Fish Industry Authority. As your Lordships would no doubt expect, the Bill contains provisions intended to ensure that the administration of the grants scheme before us today can be smoothly transferred from the hands of the White Fish Authority to its proposed successor, if Parliament so approves, so that the effective operation of the scheme is not prejudiced. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the scheme laid before the House on 26th November be approved.—( Earl Ferrers.)

My Lords, may I say to the noble Earl what I said previously. I think that this is right and proper. After all, our fishing industry needs to have support. We had a major debate not so long ago, as the noble Earl will remember, in which the future of the fishing industry was discussed at great length and in great detail. This will complement it, in the sense that this is something to be done, with financial aid to be given. This is a case where subsidies of the kind which can be given are necessary to the industry because the industry has been in difficulties.

With these few words, I wish it well. I am certain that all parties will back the scheme.

On Question, Motion agreed to.