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Volume 617: debated on Thursday 11 February 1960

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is aware of the importance of fish-meal revenue to the British fishing industry, which is now faced with serious losses through greatly increased imports of fishmeal from Peru; and if he will make representations to the Peruvians to curtail their exports to Great Britain and to expand their markets in other countries.

It is perfectly correct that the income derived from the fishmeal trade is an important element in the economy of the fishing industry, and that increased imports of meal from Peru have had a depressing effect on the trade recently. The question whether representations should be made to the Peruvian Government is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and I will pass on to him my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the exports of fishmeal from Peru have risen from 14,000 tons in 1954 to over 300,000 tons in 1958 and that this is threatening the British fishery industry? Will he and his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade support the efforts that the British industry is making to hold meetings in London between the British producers and the Peruvian exporters?

I know of nothing to stop the industries in both countries from getting together, but it should be remembered that the Restrictive Trade Practices Act might have some bearing on this matter.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is strong suspicion in the trade in this country that the Peruvian fish-meal is being dumped here at much below the cost of production? Will he take this into account when discussing the matter with the President of the Board of Trade?

Most certainly. I am, however, informed that there is no evidence of dumping. If the hon. Member can give me any evidence, I will see that it is passed to my right hon. Friend.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that while the President of the Board of Trade may be responsible for negotiations with regard to importation of fish meal, he is himself the Minister responsible for the British fishing industry and that any loss in connection with this product, which brings the industry an income of about £3½ million a year, is extremely important at the present time in view of the difficulties facing the fishing industry?

Yes. I have, however, suggested that if there was any evidence of dumping I would see that it was brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend. Of course, I am aware of my responsibilities to the fishing industry. If any practical suggestions are put forward by the hon. Member, I will certainly consider them.