The Joint Committee has called the attention of the House to the statutory instrument.
The scheme refers to the vessels fishing for white fish from three specified ports—Fleetwood, Grimsby and Hull. To that extent, it does not seem to be within the relevant section of the parent provision, section 49(1) of the Act under which the order is made and which provides for Ministers dealing with the owners or charterers of vessels.
The scheme is made by three Ministers. It seems that the intention of the Act is that it should cover the whole of the country and that there should be no discrimination in favour of any ports. Usually, if a statute gives a Minister the power to discriminate, it states that specifically. There is no such provision in the parent Act. Under those circumstances, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments said that it was an unusual but expected use of the power and that it might be held by the courts to be ultra vires.
I am grateful for the observations of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). The Government have noted the observations of the Joint Committee on this scheme, and I am sure that hon. Members would wish to join me in thanking the Committee for its careful and vigilant examination of the scheme.
We agree with the observations of the Joint Committee that an unusual use of the powers conferred by the statute is made by this scheme in so far as this is the first scheme restricting grant to the users of particular ports.
Since 1970 the sea fishing industry has been beset by many problems, all of them familiar to this House. In particular, the deep sea sector has had to face unusual difficulties which could not have been foreseen in 1970.
I have indicated that the situation which led to my right hon. Friend's announcement on 7 December was one requiring the most urgent action, and that is why this temporary and exceptional scheme has been brought before the House.
While it is arguable that the scheme is ultra vires, it is also arguable that it is intra vires, given that section 49 of the Act is very widely drawn, and the Government remain of the view that the scheme is intra vires. The Government will, however, take full note of the comments of the Joint Committee and bear them in mind should it be necessary to seek parliamentary approval for further schemes under section 49 of the Act.