asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will consider assistance to the producing section of the herring industry in view of the serious decline in the industry and the numbers of fishermen who form a naval reserve and in view of the rise in the price since 1935 of coal for fuel by 20 per cent., stores by 10 per cent., gear by 12½ per cent., and repairs by about 35 per cent. as a result of shortages caused by the armament programme; and whether he will make a statement on the increase in running costs?
I am aware that there has been an increase in certain working expenses of herring vessels in recent years, but I cannot agree that this is wholly or mainly due to rearmament. As regards the question of financial assistance, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given yesterday to the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Kennedy).
In view of the fact that not only the herring industry, but a large agricultural hinterland, are affected by the depression in the herring industry, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the question is serious enough to have a special inquiry made into the position?
The House recently passed a Measure which involved the payment of a considerable sum of money from the Exchequer for the assistance of this industry—£300,000 or £400,000—and I cannot hold out any hope that that will be reviewed at the present time.
Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate when the Government are likely to give their decision on proposals submitted to them to improve the distributive side of the herring industry?
I received some time ago representations on this subject from the county clerks of Inverness and Ross and Cromarty. The hon. Member is doubtless aware of the observations on the question contained in the report of the Scottish Economic Committee on the Highlands and Islands. It will be further considered in the light of those observations, but I am not in a position at present to make a statement.