Scotprime Sea Foods Ltd.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:01 pm on 4th March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr 10:01 pm, 4th March 1993

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I said that all parts of the United Kingdom had suffered. Northern Ireland is every bit as much a part of the United Kingdom as Wales, Scotland or England. I take the hon. Gentleman's comments as they were given, and accept the points he made. If I reach the end of my speech in the not too distant future, I will address the hon. Gentleman's point about what should happen.

Once again, the French farmers have caused much disruption. Instead of being punished, they have been rewarded. In a parliamentary answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said: On 31 August the French Government announced a package of national aid, costing some £120 million, giving immediate help to livestock farmers".—[Official Report, 15 October 1990; Vol. 177, c. 760.] That followed a period of disruption. Once again, that was shameful.

At the end of November 1992, further action was threatened by French farmers. It was cancelled. On that occasion, the French Government promised to veto the general agreement on tariffs and trade oilseed agreement. The threat of violence seemed to work again. Surely that is not what the treaty of Rome or the Single European Act is about.

Last July, a haulier in my constituency, W. and J. Wallace, was trapped for two days in France. He lost a further four days getting out of France on a routine trip. The problem that time was the French lorry drivers. They saw the advantages to the farmers and fishermen and they rolled it over. They decided to follow their example. The French Government recognised the protest and that violence could pay off. They withdrew their proposals to impose regulations on those lorry drivers. Again, that is shameful.

The Road Hauliers Association in the United Kingdom currently has outstanding claims amounting to £325,000 against the French Government for the disruption during June and July last year. The largest claim is for some £27,000, but the figure does not include claims of less than £2,500. The members of that association are small business men. Their assets are their lorries. They need to achieve a high rate of utilisation of their vehicles. They lost two weeks of that utilisation, representing 4 per cent. of their operating time. They cannot afford that. I remind the House that the compensation still has not been paid or acknowledged by the French Government.

What actions are required now? France should be made to comply with articles 30 and 34 of the treaty of Rome to allow freedom of movement of goods within the Community. France must guarantee the safety of our lorry drivers, their vehicles and their cargo. France must compensate those who have lost so much in the past 12 months. It must bring to justice those who have created such mayhem. If it does not, the European Commission must act to ensure that it does. If it lacks the stomach to do so, the British Government must uphold the spirit of the Common Market. They, not the victims, must take the matter to the European Court or the International Court of Justice. I trust that my hon. Friend the Minister will agree.