Fishing Industry

Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th July 1980.

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Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:00 am, 24th July 1980

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, The continuing deep depression of quay prices for fish, the hardship created for the industry by the Government's failure to respond to its predicament and the urgent need for substantial financial assistance if the industry is to survive. This afternoon we had a statement that has covered some of the matters that should be the subject of urgent debate in the House. It is in the light of the statement that I think it right to put submissions to you, Mr. Speaker, for your consideration. In the normal course of events, I should have chosen to give you greater notice of my intention to raise this issue under Standing Order No. 9. As the issue arose from the statement, you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that it was not possible for me to give you prior notice of my intention.

That the matter is specific I have doubt that you will agree, Mr. Speaker, in the light of the exchanges that have taken place. The industry's predicament has been drawn sharply to the attention of everyone by the action of many members of the Scottish fishing fleet in not sailing this week. That it is of major importance was stressed by almost every hon. Member who spoke on the statement this afternoon. The only real issue is whether it should have the urgent consideration of the House under Standing Order No. 9 procedures.

This is precisely the sort of issue where that procedure is appropriate. During the statement on the business for next week and on the business for the remainder of the Session, the Leader of the House indicated in a clear answer that there would be no time for a further debate on the fishing industry before Parliament rises for the Summer Recess. Equally, he indicated that the House would probably not reconvene much before the end of October. As there will be a long lapse of time, and as the industry's predicament requires urgent attention, it would seem appropriate to consider such matters at greater length than was possible this afternoon, even in the lengthy exchange of questions and answers.

In observation of your strictures, Mr. Speaker, that questions and answers should be brief, it was impossible to do more than headline the industry's predicament during that exchange. It was also impossible to draw attention to the problems of particular sections of the industry. For example, there was no mention in the Minister's speech of the problems of the shellfish industry. I cannot now deploy the arguments that would be deployed in the course of a full debate. However, it is clear that the Minister did not give an undertaking, and he specifically refused to say whether he would offer any financial assistance to the industry. He took refuge by pointing to the fact that £3 million of aid had been given to the industry in the spring. However, the industry understood that that money was an interim offer of assistance. It understood that the Government would come forward with substantial assistance in July.

The president of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Mr. Gilbert Buchan, has made clear that he expected Government action in July, and not mere consideration of the issue. That being so, the Minister owes the House a full statement, indicating the Government's response, before the House rises. Hon. Members should be entitled to deploy the case on behalf of a suffering and important section of our industry.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Stand- ing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that arises from a statement that was made this afternoon, and that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, The continuing deep depression of quay prices for fish, the hardship created for the industry by the Government's failure to respond to its predicament and the urgent need for substantial financial assistance if the industry is to survive. I listened with great care to the exchanges this afternoon, and especially to the arguments that the hon. Gentleman advanced. I bore in mind that we are approaching the end of the time available for debate. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reason for my decision.

I listened with anxious care to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I must rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.