The Parliamentary Secretary knows that this is an old story. We have never had enough timber for barrels for the last three or four years. This is a tragedy, not only for the industry, but because of the present food shortage. I need not tell the House that herrings are not only an extremely nutritious article of food, but they contain much fat, and the shortage of fats is one of the greatest problems, if we are to believe nutritional experts, all over the world. If we had had enough timber for barrels 1pr herrings and salt, a great number of people on the Continent of Europe would not have suffered from malnutrition. What is more, a great many would not have died.
This situation is a by-product of the fuel crisis. If we were in a position to offer coal to those countries of Europe where there is timber, we should be able to get that much-needed timber in exchange. One of the reasons why they cannot give timber is because we cannot give coal. It is only part of the wider problem which we shall be considering in this House the week after next. In so far as it is part of their programme, I think that the Board of Trade is as responsible to the herring industry as to other industries which are suffering from this desperate shortage of timber. The Ministry of Food comes forward with various proposals about the use of herrings. The Herring Board urges fishermen to go out for maximum catches. But I say to the Board of Trade, "You have no right to ask the fishermen to catch this wonderful bounty which circles round our coasts in the summer and autumn unless you are prepared to deal with big landings." The only way to deal with these catches is to have barrels for the herrings, and the salt. I would tonight make an almost desperate appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to give the manufacturers of herring barrels top priority so far as timber is concerned. This is more important even than housing. It is more important even than any other purpose for which timber is used, and if I complain that the Government have not dealt with this matter rightly, it is because they have not appreciated the vital importance of cured herrings to many countries. In the interests particularly of Western Europe —more than that, in the interests of humanity, we should give this trade a priority which it has not had in the last two years. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some assurance.