Orders of the Day — White Fish Authority (Publicity Scheme)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th March 1970.

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Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North 12:00 am, 10th March 1970

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) with amazement, if only because of his comments about my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

I am at a loss to understand exactly what the Opposition line is. The hon. Gentleman stated that we are not raising enough money to have a viable scheme, but his hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) criticised the amount of money being raised as too much of an imposition. We would like to know whether they prefer the balance that has been struck, to have no scheme, or to have a scheme that is more highly financed.

What some of my hon. Friends think to be one of the drawbacks of the firm promoting the scheme seems to me on reflection to be something of an advantage because, if what the hon. Member for Lowestoft said about its success in selling the Conservative Party is right, then when they have a good product like quality fish it should be able to do very well.

We have had a series of niggling comments about the White Fish Authority. Such statements are very damaging to the authority's morale and to the industry as a whole. Until recently the fishing industry was one of the most disorganised industries in the country in terms of its production, distribution and marketing. It has been chaotic. The only common factor that seemed to link the various aspects of the industry was the White Fish Authority. It is a highly individualistic industry, the members of which are quick to complain and blame everybody but themselves for every sort of situation. The authority, under a series of distinguished leaders, and with many devoted servants, has done a very good job for the industry, which we should recognise. I say this as one who has not always felt perfectly in tune with all the ideas of the authority. If we accept that one of our principal aims for the fishing industry is a recognition that we have a product which we want to sell and sell to a more discriminating market, we must have a scheme of this nature. It is very sad that whenever anything new is suggested the Jeremiahs within the industry throw up their hands saying, "We cannot afford it. It will not work. We have always got on well enough in the past." In fact, the industry has only just maintained roughly the same sale of fish. It has not been able to increase its market. It has not been able to capture people's attention in the way that many would wish.

We have said in the past when we have discussed the problems facing the industry that one of the things it seemed to lack was a vigorous and aggressive advertising campaign and attitude towards the public and the market. I think that the scheme will both support private schemes by firms within the industry and help create an image of fish that will give us a market that will enable us to expand, to pay the wages of the men in the industry, to give a fair return to the producers and the wholesalers, and to give the consumers a very good and well-priced product.

One of the main arguments is that quality fish of itself will sell. If that was correct, every time we have a glut it would sell, because in a glut we have the quality fish. But that is not the case. But when the port wholesalers tell us that it is the federation's opinion that the best method of selling fish is to have the highest quality in the shop and then it will sell itself, this is rather a remarkable performance for something that has been dead for a considerable time. I should have thought that there was need to bring to the attention of the consumer the fact that this high quality product exists.

This is all that the scheme seeks to do, something that many of us have asked for to be done for the industry for a long time. I urge my hon. Friends to support it.