Sea Fish Industry Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:50 pm on 14th May 1980.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:50 pm, 14th May 1980

It has to do with the state of the fishing industry, which the Bill is supposed to help. It is relevant to look at the background to the fishing industry. We should have the same latitude in discussing fishing as was accorded to discussing energy in the previous debate.

It is tragic for me—having seen skippers laid off three years ago, when I was first elected, because of the backlog of the Icelandic dispute and being able to say then " This is a tragedy, but proper provision for redundancy payments will be made in the same way as everybody else is getting redundancy payments "—to find that, now that the second wave of disaster has hit the industry, there is no provision for redundancy payments and for decasualisation of the industry.

This crisis is generating a backwash of feeling against the White Fish Authority. This measure will do nothing to allay that situation, even though it allows a necessary adjustment and improvement in the White Fish Authority's finances.

Earlier today Members criticised the TUC's day of action. The problem in fishing is that we have had a year of inaction by this Government. In this period of mounting crisis for the industry, what have the Government done about the two main causes of that crisis? What have they done about imports and aid for the industry? They have done the very minimum that they could get away with politically.

First, there is the crisis of imports. I am not talking of imports to the docks coming in on fishing boats. That is no problem. We welcome them because they make a contribution to the dock and port charges that we all face. I am talking of frozen and block imports, of fish coming in on the roll-on/roll-off ferries in containers, which are swamping our markets; imports coming in, with the jobs taken out, which make no contribution to our industry. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) may not want these complaints of the industry voiced, but I am sure that his constituents do, because they are very relevant to the present state of the industry. It is an industry in desperate need of financial help from the Government, from whom they have had next to nothing.