Clause 1. — (Establishment of Herring industry Board.)

Orders of the Day — Herring Industry Bill. – in the House of Commons on 22nd February 1935.

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11.5 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Wallace Mr John Wallace , Dunfermline District of Burghs

I beg to move in page 1, line 17, after "industry," to insert: one of whom shall be a representative of the canning industry. Up to the present time no account has been taken of the important canning industry in connection with this Bill, and no representative has been selected to look after the important interests involved on the Herring Board. It must be remembered that this branch of the industry is in the process of considerable development and at the moment something like £1,000,000 capital is involved. The canning industry is anxious to develop an export trade, and so far has succeeded to a considerable extent. Surely it is elementary that all possible interests connected with the herring industry should be represented on the board and it should be remembered that the interests of the canning industry and the producers and salesmen are not always the same. Sometimes they run counter to each other. In 1933, for example there was a dispute between the fishermen and the salesmen and as a consequence no herring were sold for canning purposes, during that period, and the canners suffered a severe loss. Although at that time the canning industry offered the fishermen 25s. per cran, that is 10s. above the ordinary price, they could procure no herring because of the dispute and were as I have stated involved in heavy losses. The close season for herring also deprives the canning industry of the opportunity to procure herring of the particular kind they require, and very often they have to purchase at higher prices herring which are not so suitable for their particular industry.

I should like to know whether there is any valid reason why the fish canning industry should not be represented on the board. I am not an expert in the herring fishing industry, but as I have been to the North of Scotland for many years spending my time largely on the Moray Firth, I have learned something about the subject; how wide are the ramifications of the industry and what a fine and deserving body of men are engaged in it. I think the inclusion of a representative of the canning industry on the board would be for the general benefit of the industry and would be only an act of elementary justice to an important section of the trade. No branch of the herring industry employs a higher ratio of labour, and, of course, that reacts favourably on the tin trade, whose products are used in the packing of herring. I hope the Minister of Agriculture will consider this matter from the point of view of simple justice and allow the interests of the fish canning industry to be properly represented. Let me say that I have not the slightest personal financial interest in the matter and that I am solely animated by a desire to see that justice is done to an important section of the industry.

11.10 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON:

I beg to second the Amendment.

I support the proposal on the ground stated by the hon. Member, but also for further reasons. My experience abroad convinces me that there is a far better prospect for English herring when they are well packed in tins than in any of the other forms which were discussed in Committee. I think also that there is a good prospect for a development of the tin industry. The consumption of tinned foods has rapidly grown in this country, and the same is true all over Asia. Every prosperous family wants to have more of the appetising products of Scotland, and the only way in which they can be obtained cheaply and in good condition is by packing them in tins. The canning industry in this country is prosperous and developing, and deserves the fullest consideration by the Herring Board. Its interests are diverse and somewhat divergent from those of the herring industry as a whole and, therefore, I submit that we should be well advised to give them representation on the board itself.

11.12 a.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Samuel Mr Arthur Samuel , Farnham

I desire to support the Amendment. I agree with what has been said by my two hon. Friends, but I would point out that they seem to be confining their attention to fish which is packed in tins. There are other ways of treating fish. There is the way in which the Germans do it. They buy their herring here and after treating them sell them to English consumers in small barrels, with vegetables, oils, tomatoes and spices. They are put up also in bottles. I think we should have on the Board a representative of the canning industry who is also conversant with the other ways in which herring are treated.

11.13 a. m.

Photo of Mr Pierse Loftus Mr Pierse Loftus , Lowestoft

I sympathise with what has been said by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. There is an enormous future for the canning industry in the export markets as well as in the home market, but I hope the House will not accept the Amendment, for this one reason. In appointing this first board we must not narrow the selection, we must have the widest possible area and choose the most capable men we can find. Once we start representation of sectional interests, there are at least ten different sections of the trade—I believe there are twelve—you will have demands from all these other sections for representation.

Photo of Mr Pierse Loftus Mr Pierse Loftus , Lowestoft

Because you cannot admit twelve different representatives when there are only five places on the board. You will also have a demand for a Labour representative, and quite rightly. It was on these grounds that the Amendment was not pressed in Committee, and I hope that the House will not support it.

11.14 a.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Petherick Mr Maurice Petherick , Penryn and Falmouth

I agree with the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus). If you once start devoting a special place to each sectional interest it will be extremely difficult for the Minister to find the best men. This is not an enormous trade, and it will be difficult to get five men who are prepared to give the necessary time to the service of the board. If you get special representatives you will not get that dispassionate consideration which is desired and, indeed, you may have a war between the canners and the curers on the board itself. I hope that the Minister will adhere to his determination not to allow sectional interests to be represented.

11.15 a.m.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

Hon. Members will remember that we discussed this point in Committee and on the assurance of the Minister that he would give fair consideration to the matter we did not press our Amendment that the interests of the consumers and of labour should be represented on the board. Once you start constituting a board by sectional interests there is no end to it, and you do not get the right kind of board.

Photo of Mr John Wallace Mr John Wallace , Dunfermline District of Burghs

I should be very glad if we could have a definition of "the remaining five members."

Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I am sure, that nay hon. Friend the Member of Dunfermline (Sir J. Wallace) will not take it amiss if I say that the Amendment would transform the Board altogether and change it from a general board into a board representative of sectional interests. That is rather a big point, and I do not think it would be fair to decide it upon the inclusion of one or other section of the industry, however worthy that section might be. If it is to be a sectional board it must be a board on which all interested sections are represented, a board which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) said, would consist of ten or twelve trade members. Then every issue would have to be fought out by the Board itself. I beg my hon. Friend not to press his amendment on this account. The interests of the canning industry are very great, and the importance of canning to the future of the herring trade as a whole is perhaps even greater because, as has been said, the chance of getting herring to the far distant sources of consumption to which we wish to penetrate does mean that we have to get a curing process possibly a great deal more effective than any curing process of which we previously had knowledge. I was very interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel), who referred not merely to canning but to bottling and other means of preservation and urged that it was necessary to keep an open mind.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) spoke of even remote regions of Asia which used the herring and had a great desire for the products of Scotland. That was a very pleasant compliment coming from one who could not be accused of any special desire, either because of his constituency or on personal grounds, to press the products of Scotland against those of England. But it is true that the board must represent the interests of the industry. If it does not do so the whole experiment of the board will fail. In particular the three independent members to be appointed by the Secretary of State and myself will have a special duty to see that sectional interests do not prevail. If we can agree, therefore, that it should not be a sectional board but a general board, and that the interests of new sections in this industry must be considered, they can better be considered by the three general members than by any ad hoc members put on to represent the interests of one or other particular section. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed.

Photo of Mr John Wallace Mr John Wallace , Dunfermline District of Burghs

In view of my right hon. Friend's statement and my understanding that there is no other section of the trade represented on the board, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Walter Elliot Mr Walter Elliot , Glasgow Kelvingrove

I beg to move, in page 2, line 41, to leave out "shall".

This amendment and subsequent amendments are moved to comply with a promise that I gave to the right hon. Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) and others during the Committee stage. They raised a, point of substance, that, if it was found impracticable to prepare a scheme for the election of the board, the fact should be made public, and an opportunity for debate in this House or at least public discussion should arise. This amendment and subsequent amendments require the board, if it finds the making of a scheme impracticable, to make a report to the Ministers, and the Ministers are required to publish such report so that the reasons which actuated the board will be available for those who are interested.

Photo of Dr Christopher Addison Dr Christopher Addison , Swindon

I must thank the Minister for having put these amendments on the Paper. I still have a little misgiving that the board might find the making of a scheme impracticable, but there does riot seem to be a method in the Bill whereby others might have a scheme prepared. However, we have to proceed by trial and error.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 2, line 42, after "purpose," insert: (in which case the Board shall make a report to the Ministers, who shall publish the report in such manner as they think fit) the Board shall.

In page 3, line 19, leave out "in every year," and insert: not later than the expiration of three months from the last day of each financial year of the Board.

In line 20, after "Board," insert "during that year."

In line 21, leave out from "Parliament," to end of Clause.—[Mr. Elliot.]