Fishing Industry (Aid)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17th March 1983.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00 am, 17th March 1983

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to announce his plans for temporary and restructuring aid for the British fishing industry.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

We shall shortly be consulting the industry about restructuring measures.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Opposition Whip (Commons)

Does the Minister accept the importance of urgent decisions and an announcement on further temporary aid to the industry, and on a restructuring plan, if the industry is to survive the crisis of confidence that hangs over it and over the ancillary engineering industries related to fishing? It needs such aid to avoid further bankruptcies and a reduction in the number of fishing vessels. Does the Minister further accept that the matter is important in the light of the poor prices realised at fish auctions so far this season? Does he also accept the need for urgent restructuring if we are to have a viable fleet that can match our competitors, who are developing their fleets?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

I should have had more respect for the hon. Gentleman's remarks about uncertainty had he at least acknowledged that the industry is now considerably less uncertain because of the satisfactory settlement of the common fisheries policy. Only three months ago we gave the industry £15 million in temporary aid. Had the hon. Gentleman acknowledged those facts, I should have had more respect for his other remarks.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

Despite all the aid given to the fishing industry, can my right hon. Friend explain why more and more retail fish shops are closing and why it is almost impossible in many parts of England to buy fresh fish?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

The position is not quite as bad as my hon. Friend describes. I should hate to think that the British housewife was discouraged from buying fresh British fish, which is an excellent product. However, there is enormous scope for improvement. I hope that my hon. Friend will welcome the work of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which will soon come forward with effective plans to improve marketing and to meet his and my needs.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

Does the Minister agree that the distant water deep sea fleet in Hull is in a unique position? Does he intend to help us? If so, when can he tell us about that help?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

The details of the structural proposals must be put in the form of implementing regulations, which I hope will be published later in the summer. However, in the meantime, we are entering into consultations with the industry on the outlines of the scheme to try to find the best way to use the restructuring measures. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the interests of Hull and of the deep sea industry will be fully taken into account. The industry will have the opportunity to work with us on those proposals.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

I am sure that the House and the people of Hull will welcome the statement that their interests are to be taken into account, but will the Minister now say whether his proposals envisage a role for the deep sea fleet based on Hull?

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , Angus North and Mearns

In these proposals we wish to look not only at restructuring but at quota management, now that we know our quotas. The consultation process that we are going into is worth nothing unless it means what it says. We intend to work with the industry on this, and when we have the documents ready, which we hope will be very soon, we look forward to as wide as possible consultation about it.