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 James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West 12:00 am, 10th March 1970

I am not a lecturer in social science. It is stupid to talk about an authority and try to divorce from it the people in it who do the work. Let us be helpful, not obscurantists sheltering behind semantics. I was at the last meeting when the Minister saw the fish merchants. I said in the House at Question Time that I thought that there had been some plain speaking—there always is from people who come off fish docks—but that it was an amicable meeting.

I appeal to people such as Mr. Jack Allison, President of the Port Merchants, to attempt to meet the Minister and the White Fish Authority and to pay the levy. They should not boycott it in this way; wiser counsels should prevail. I will do what I can in Hull. This lying back is a dead end.

The National Association of Frozen Food Producers said recently that the situation in the fishing industry had changed greatly in the 18 months since the scheme was launched. There is an article in Fishing News entitled "The Time to Advertise." The position has changed completely. The North-East Atlantic has been over-fished. Catches are falling and prices are rising. It is the worst time we have had since August/September, 1968. I foresee that fish will be in demand and will become a dear food. With fewer fish to be caught in the North-East Atlantic, I foresee the desire of small nations like Iceland to extend their fishing limits. I do not wish to be a Jeremiah, but this may lead to a quota for international fishing. In the same way as the number of seals and whales has diminished, so has the number of cod.

I have here a hand-out from the White Fish Authority, which says that the principal aim of the advertising campaign must now be: To persuade housewives … and other consumers … to pay higher prices for fish; a food which people tend to look upon with a feeling of apathy and boredom. I do not agree with this. I think that fish is a popular food, and I do not understand the hysteria about fish on the benches opposite. The conclusion of the advertising consultants is: We must now be concerned basically with changing attitudes to, and increasing awareness of fish, rather than primarily increasing consumption to eliminate a substantial surplus of fish landings. What does this mean? It is a very fine distinction—a distinction without a difference.

The purpose of advertising is to sell more of a given article. Fish is an article which will be in demand, and yet we are embarkintg on this expensive campaign to try to persuade people to buy more fish when there will not be enough fish to meet the demand.