White Fish and Herring Subsidies
Captain Hon. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)
I am pleased to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) who brought a realistic note into the debate. I felt that before the hon. Gentleman spoke we had heard some rather exaggerated views. While some of those views are no doubt correct, I felt that some were rather exaggerated. The hon. Member for Grimsby mentioned that certain sections of the fishing industry were inclined to make too much of their case. It should be made clear that it is not so much the industry as a whole that does that but one or two of its spokesmen. Some of the letters that are sent out are exaggerated and it is often difficult to understand exactly what is the position.
Whenever we talk about subsidies we are inclined to think that the section of the industry about which we know most should have a bit more and that the others should have a little less. It is, therefore, rather easy to criticise the Government. On this occasion, however, we should not. Considering the economic position facing the country the subsidy position is not too bad on the whole.
We are to have the Fleck Report and the proposals that will emanate from it. We hope that they will be forthcoming in the near future. At the moment, I believe that we should take a much longer term view of what money is really needed to keep the industry as a prosperous going concern. I do not believe that changing things too much year by year will result in any good. There must be a long-term plan so that a proper basis may be worked out. I hope, therefore, that when we debate this matter again next year, or whenever it is, a long-term plan for subsidies will be produced by the Government so that we can look forward to the industry being so arranged that it can carry on in a prosperous way.
One of the most frightening aspects at the moment is the question of catches going down. I represent Fleetwood and I must admit that we have not really suffered from the difficulties in the Faroes, and thus I am speaking from a point of view different from that of other hon. Members. Nevertheless, even our catches have gone down from the home waters. Comparing the first five months of 1960 with the first five months of 1961, the catch per ship has gone down by over 16 per cent. As I say, this is more worrying than anything else, especially when it is considered that the gross earnings from trips have gone down by over 3 per cent. When we were discussing this matter last January, the Minister stated that he hoped that catches would go up by 3·5 per cent. They have, instead, been going down—with all our modern equipment—and this is an extremely serious position.
I appreciate that there has been a gradual increase in oil and wage costs, and there has, equally, been an increase in running costs. The recent dock charges system in Fleetwood has cost the port an additional£45,000, and to a small port that is an extremely large sum. I hope that those who are concerned with these charges will remember that this is, after all, an industry which is being helped by the Government and that it should not be knocked too hard.
A question about which many people are rather muddled and to which the hon. Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) referred—and I have spoken to the Minister about this—is what subsidies are received by the different vessels that are doing the same jobs. There is a feeling that ships of under 140 ft. regularly fishing in distant waters should get exactly the same subsidy as larger distant water vessels. It is felt that anyone doing the same job should get the same subsidy, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will check to see whether anything can be done along these lines.