asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to make the announcement envisaged in the White Paper
Merchant Shipping: Legislative Proposals (Cmnd. 239) on the arrangements for local office arrangements for the new fishing vessel register.
The Merchant Shipping Bill now before Parliament makes provision for a new system of fishing vessel registration. My Department, together with the Fisheries Departments and HM Customs and Excise, has consulted fisherman's organisations about local office arrangements under the new system. If Parliament approves the proposals in the Bill, we envisage that those arrangements would be as follows.The existing system for registering fishing vessels, hitherto operated from 86 Customs and Excise offices and from six offices of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, will be placed by a central register when regulations, to be made under powers contained in Clause 12 of the Bill, are brought into force.This central register is necessary so that the new ownership requirements can be applied both consistently and effectively. It will be held by the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff. Vessels will, however, continue to be registered as belonging to one of the existing 112 ports of registry.Many fishing vessel registrations are already conducted by mail. All registry business conducted by mail will be handled from the central register in Cardiff. To encourage the conduct of business by mail, it is intended to discount, where appropriate, for postal applications the fees which will in future be charged for all registrations.Occasions may nevertheless continue to rise when it is helpful for the industry to be able to conduct business personally at local offices. Certain offices of the Fisheries Department will therefore have facsimile or telex links to the Registrar-General, and will hold stocks of the necessary forms. These offices will be able to provide certified transcripts of the register, to access the register and to place "markers" on it where a transaction is about to be conducted. Owners and mortgagors will be able to attend in person to carry out transfers of ownership or registration of mortgages.The fisheries offices which will provide a local office service are as follows:In England & Wales: offices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at North Shields, Hull, Grimsby, Lowestoft, Hastings, Poole, Brixham, Plymouth, Newlyn, Milford Haven, Conwy and Fleetwood.In Scotland: offices of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DAFS) at Campbeltown, Ayr, Oban, Mallaig, Ullapool, Stornoway, Lerwick, Buckie, Peterhead and Edinburgh.In Northern Ireland: by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland at Belfast.It will also be possible to conduct business personally at the registry in Cardiff.Once a period to be specified in the regulations has elapsed, the existing registers of fishing vessels will close, and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise will no longer be involved in registration of fishing vessels. (Customs will continue to handle the registration of merchant ships). However, Customs' staff will continue for the present their existing role in measuring and certifying marking of unclassed fishing vessels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while DAFS will assume these duties on the East as well as the West Coast of Scotland. Stocks of the new declarations of ownership will be held at Customs registration offices (which, as part of a separate exercise, are being reduced over the next year or so from 86 to 15 regional offices, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Hull, Ipswich, London, Dover, Southampton, Plymouth, Cardiff, Liverpool, Lerwick, Peterhead, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leith and Belfast).