§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Major Elliot)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is designed to deal with a situation among a section of primary producers similar to that with which, unfortunately, we have become familiar in the last few years. It is no exaggeration to say that the fishing industry is in a serious position, owing primarily to the fall in prices. The picture in regard to it is distressingly close to the picture that we have seen in several other spheres of primary production. Since 1929, the annual landings of British vessels in this country have increased by more than 1,500,000 cwts. It may be said that the industry, therefore, ought to be doing well, but, unfortunately, during that time, the price of white fish at the port of landing in Great Britain has fallen from about 25s. per cwt. to about 18s., and the gross earnings of British vessels engaged in fishing for white fish have fallen by about £2,500,000 per annum; that is to say, while the landings have increased by 1,500,000 cwts., the remuneration received for the fish so landed has fallen by £2,500,000 sterling.
In pursuance of various inquiries, accountants have gone through the accounts of a number of our chief fishing companies, many of them among the most efficient, and we have had in the Department the advantage of the accountants' reports. They show that the price of fish at the port of landing has not only fallen below the remunerative level, but below the replacement level. It is not possible under present conditions adequately to maintain even the plant and gear used for catching the fish, let alone return any reasonable measure of profit to those engaged in the industry. That situation is one that concerns every section of the industry. It concerns those who have their money invested in it, and it equally concerns those who have their labour invested in it. It concerns the fishermen very deeply—not merely the employed fishermen but the share fishermen since this is one of the examples that still sur- 1344 vive of an industry conducted to a certain extent on a sharing-out basis.
If the general situation had been normal, there is no doubt that we might say we have had depressions in the past and this will pass. But the general situation is far from normal, and the present crisis does not give us hope that, if we simply sit still and take no steps, the less efficient producer will be squeezed out while the more efficient will be saved. That is the theory under which we have operated for scores of years in the past that, if depression came, the efficient would be screwed up and the inefficient would be pushed out and that the restriction of supplies brought about in this way would restore the balance of price and you would again put the industry on a sound economic footing. We have had to examine that position in many other connections, and we have found that, as in the case of sea fishing, you very frequently get the anomalous position that, as the price falls, production increases instead of diminishing, and, owing to credit facilities of one kind or another which exist in the modern world, the efficient and the inefficient producer continue to produce, and eventually the whole industry is swamped and may finally founder. That is the situation with which we have to deal.
We have to consider, therefore, whether, in fact, there are steps which the Government can reasonably take in the matter. It was, of course, recommended by various bodies that, in any steps that were taken to impose tariffs on imports, the case of the fishing industry should not be left to go by default and, consequently, a tariff has been imposed upon supplies of fish landed but in spite of that, supplies have continued above what the market has shown that it could absorb.
How then are we to deal with it? There is I think an over supply of fish. There are those who argue that, with reduced prices, increasing consumption will take care of the increased production and the industry will once more become remunerative, but the most careful examination by committees of all kinds has failed to point the way clearly to any such steps that can be taken. We are all familiar with complaints of fish landed at the ports at such and such a price and sold inland at vastly enhanced 1345 prices and it has often been said that, if the fisherman could get the price of the fish as sold by the fishmongers, he would at least be able to keep his industry at a remunerative level. That spread between the producer and the retailer is one with which we are familiar in every quarter of life and, unless we can actually say, "Here are steps that can be taken, here are reforms that can be made, here are actual positive recommendations which will save the industry," we are not entitled to say that the industry ought to be able to save itself because there is a spread between producer and retailer big enough to carry the whole weight of the industry. We have to deal with facts as they are. With the danger of widespread unemployment, with the danger that an industry vital, if any industry is vital, to the life of the country may founder while we are talking about it, we must be ready to take immediate steps as well as discover what other steps there may be which for the future will enable us still further to improve the position of the industry.
No fewer than three inquiries have taken place recently into the production and distribution of sea fish. In 1927 the Food Council made a report, and the Imperial Economic Committee made a report, upon the marketing of fish, and in 1932 the Fishing Industry Committee of the Economic Advisory Council, which was set up with Dr. Addison as its chairman, and with a wide and representative membership, including several members who share the point of view of the party opposite, have inquired into the conditions of the fishing industry. I think it is true to say that we have not received any clear lead from them which would enable us to say that, by putting these and these recommendations into force we could save the industry. The Fishing Industry Committee actually reported that restriction of imports should be seriously considered. I do not wish to stress that too far, especially as Dr. Addison was not actually the chairman of the Committee when it made its report, but there is another recommendation, to which I hope the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) will allude, that as soon as financial conditions permit, a systematic marketing inquiry should be undertaken on lines suggested by the English and the Scottish Fisheries Department. That is a recommendation which we are implementing 1346 in this Bill. But it would, indeed, be giving those who have asked for bread a stone, if the fishing industry were to come to the House of Commons and put its case as it has been put by deputation, by letter, by argument in Debate, and in every way that an industry can constitutionally bring forward its case, and we were merely to say, "You have had three commissions of inquiry, the last of which recommended another one, and we shall carry out that recommendation, and meanwhile we are afraid there is nothing that we can do." We must be prepared to deal with the situation as we find it, and merely to continue marketing inquiries will not deal with the situation in which the fishing industry finds itself now and is likely to find itself this summer if no further measures are taken.
The position which we have taken up in this Bill is that there is, as far as we can see, a price below a remunerative level, and that there is a supply above what the market can take at a reasonable price under present conditions. We must see, therefore, whether there are not reasonable steps which can be taken to equilibrate supply and demand. Here, I think, we are in a fortunate position, because there are steps which cap be taken, which should be taken, which have been pressed not only upon this Government, but upon many Governments in the past, and pressed with great weight of scientific authority. Those steps would undoubtedly lead to a limitation for the time being of fish caught by British vessels and landed on the shores of this country. The story of the attempt to regulate the mesh of nets and the size limits of fish in this country goes back a very long way. As far back as George I an Act was passed which dealt with mesh regulation. That Act was subsequently repealed. More recently we have had for nearly 40 years recommendations from bodies of greater or less authority that the size of the mesh of nets was bringing fish into the vessel that were too small, leading to the destruction of immature fish, which had to be cast back into the sea, and to the landing of fish which were not fully grown, and therefore were not properly marketable. Consequently we were not merely producing a glut but producing a glut in the most undesirable way, namely, by eating the corn green by reaping the harvest before it had ripened, by carrying 1347 on what every angler agrees to be an uneconomic process, i.e., catching the small fish and not allowing them to grow to full size.
I do not deny that you will find authorities both practical men and, to some extent, scientific, who will say that these contentions are exaggerated, that it is impossible to over-fish the North Sea, that the small fish produce overcrowding, that the present method of fishing is hygienic, a kind of birth control of the North Sea. I am not at all sure that these contentions are accurate. The figures I have been able to secure do not bear them out. In 1913, the proportion of haddocks under the category of "small haddocks" landed in England and Wales from the North Sea amounted to 42 per cent. of the total catch of haddock. In 1932 the proportion had risen to 83 per cent. In the case of plaice, in 1913 it was 43 per cent. and in 1932, 67 per cent. In the case of hake, the proportion of the category "small" landed from all fishing grounds in 1913 was 17 per cent. of the total catch, and in 1932 it had risen to 66 per cent. Any Minister who is even temporarily responsible for the fishing industry of this country must look with very grave apprehension at the picture which those figures disclose and certainly when advice as to how to deal with it is pressed upon him both by national and international bodies he ought to pay the very closest attention to such advice.
I put it no higher than that but I do say that the picture shown is a picture which any Minister would neglect at his peril because, in addition to the small fish, there is a large quantity of still smaller fish thrown overboard at sea and wasted. Why, they do not even fulfil the simple desideratum of the Aberdeen trawler skipper who, on seeing one of the hands throwing some fish guts overboard in the middle of the North Sea said: "You might at least have kept them for our ain seamaws." I consider that that is carrying nationalism perhaps to an undue extent but I do think that to catch small fish for the purpose of throwing them into the sea to feed the predatory tribes of the ocean is an activity which in these hard times, we could very well do without. Of course, if we allow that it is impossible to overfish the North Sea, all 1348 that argument falls to the ground, but I ask the House to reject that view.
We desire the harvest of the sea to ripen before garnering it. If, therefore, any attempt were ever to be made to deal with this question, that attempt ought to be made now for two reasons: First of all the reason which I have already given, that the weight of fish in the market is greater than the market could be reasonably asked to take, but also because the nation's larder was never so well stocked as now with all forms of food, with great stocks of all kinds coming to the market and a falling cost of living figure. Therefore, if ever you are to envisage the limitation of the supplies of fish being landed on these shores, a time when every form of foodstuff is piling up upon our shores and markets, is certainly the time when it is reasonable to take the risk which these steps involve. We have, therefore, to consider how we can dovetail these proposals into the general picture which we are trying to make both for this country and the world.
I will first deal with the position as it affects this nation alone. We can, I think, say to the trawling industry that it is a reasonable thing that we should now bring in a Measure to allow the smaller fish to escape, and we can reasonably say that, even although it means that there will be a smaller quantity of fish landed upon these shores. The British fishing industry has also the right to say to us: "Unless in some way you deal with foreign landing of fish upon these shores, it simply means that we are making a hole to be filled with supplies from abroad, and in those conditions it would not be reasonable to ask us to co-operate in such a scheme." And unless we get the willing co-operation of the fishing fleets, then any such scheme as this is bound to be unsuccessful. I think we may say that in the proposals we have brought forward we have the support of the fishing industry as a whole and the support of the British Trawlers Federation. I notice my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Gritten) going through motions of disapprobation, but I would ask the House to disregard those motions of disapprobation, because I have had a conference with the British Trawlers Federation, and I am authorised to make, on their behalf, the statement that they do approve of the 1349 proposals as a whole which we have brought forward.
We have, as I say, to dovetail the provisions which we are making for the enlargement of the mesh and the consequent reduction of supplies into the picture of the fishing industry as a whole. Here we are asking an industry to accept certain measures of reorganisation, and here, too, we are able, and I think entitled, to make to the industry the same offer we have made to other industries, the other portions of the foodstuff industry of this country, that, "If you on your part accept a measure of reorganisation, we on our part will take steps to see that you are not drowned by supplies coming from outside while these measures of reorganisation are taking place." I think that that will meet with the general approval of the House, even the strictest followers of my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), whose remarks on other occasions have caused me pain, as they seem to indicate that I was transgressing the very strict limits which he had set down while in Opposition, and, to some extent, while in office. Consequently I took the trouble to look up the definition of the terms under which it would be reasonable to restrict foreign imports which he gave when we last debated these proposals. I think we have fulfilled, with almost ridiculous meticulousness, every one of the conditions he laid down at that time. But if we are to limit foreign imports, the House has a right to ask two questions —first of all, "Are we able to do this in harmony with foreign countries?" and, secondly, "Can you reassure us that this will not have an injurious effect upon the consumer?" It might ask a third question, which I should be happy also to answer—"How does this agree with the action, the speeches and the recommendations which both you and other delegates have made before the Economic Conference at South Kensington?"
Quite apart from the powerful aid of the right hon. Member for Darwen, I shall hope to show that it does not in any way conflict either with the spirit or the letter of the obligations which we assume, and ask other nations to assume, in the Economic Conference, from which I have taken a brief holiday for the purpose of coming down to spend an afternoon with my friends in the House of Commons. [Interruption.] I must not say anything 1350 which will interfere with the international atmosphere.
I think we can reassure the House upon these points: First of all, the steps which we are taking have been agreed upon with foreign countries—with the Scandinavian countries, and with Germany also. We were able to come to an agreement upon these points by persuasion, by conciliation and by the weight of argument because I think the proposals which are here enshrined are definitely reasonable. Secondly, as to the interest of the consumers and others, we are able to pray in aid the report of the Addison Committee—we are not asking the House to strain this too far—and the special recommendation which speaks of the necessity for a systematic marketing inquiry on the lines suggested by the English and Scottish Fishery Departments which we are initiating by the proposed Sea Fish Commission. Thirdly, as to the World Economic Conference, I propose to devote a few words specially to that aspect of the case before I sit down.
Let me now explain the actual proposals in the Bill. Our policy is fourfold (1) to regulate the mesh of the nets which may be used by British fishing vessels; (2) to regulate the size of fish which may be sold in Great Britain; (3) to prohibit the landing of sea fish caught in certain areas during certain seasons, and (4) to regulate the quantity of fish which may be supplied to our markets by foreign countries. The mesh regulations will, no doubt, interest those both within and without the House of Commons who are technically concerned with these matters. The object of regulating the mesh is to prescribe such a size as will allow round fish below the minimum size to escape, and the Order to prescribe the minimum size of sea fish which may be sold will be applied to both British and foreign supplies. The fish in respect of which we propose to make Orders in the immediate future are haddock, hake, soles, dabs and plaice.
The use of the mesh prescribed will allow the small haddock and hake to escape fairly easily while the net is being towed. It has been pointed out by some of my friends, and indeed we also have observed it, that the effect on a flat fish is not the same as on a round fish and that flat fish will have greater difficulty in escaping through the mesh than the 1351 round fish. I am advised that the sole will have a good chance of escape, because soles have great suppleness and muscular strength and because they are more intelligent than other kinds of fish, which, my scientific advisers assure me, are rather stupid. Nothing gives me greater respect for the scientists of this country than to find that they have been able to carry out the psychoanalysis of soles and show that they exercise great ingenuity in their endeavour to escape from the trawl. Soles can, in fact, practically change themselves into round fish for the purpose of forcing themselves through the meshes of the net. This would be a very remarkable thing to see. I have never seen, nor do I hope to see, a sole turning itself into a round fish, because I should suspect that possibly the hospitality which I had enjoyed in recent months was beginning to affect my eyesight. The plaice presents a considerable difficulty. It appears to be stupid and dull, my advisers say, and more willing than the sole to accept an adverse turn of fortune. But I am told that it would be very unfair to malign it in this way. It is true that the small plaice cannot get through the net like the small sole. I think that it is perhaps due to its physical structure. It is perhaps unfair to put it down entirely to its mental qualities. It is broad, more rigid and less muscular and consequently no one has yet been able to devise a practicable trawl net which would allow under-sized plaice to escape and at the same time catch all the desirable sizes of round fish and of soles.
For the improvement of prices of plaice, therefore, we have to rely on the regulation of size limits of the fish, and, to some extent, upon the regulation of foreign supplies. We hope that the regulation of size limits will in itself improve the price of plaice, because it will restrict the quantity landed. We hope that it may also deter fishing on the grounds generally inhabited by very small plaice, and in this way may lead to better catches of larger plaice in the future. This matter has been under consideration of Parliaments for a very long time; in fact ever since 1868, when the Act of George I was repealed. There was subsequently a recommendation of a Select Committee of this House but no action was taken. No action has been taken 1352 for 41 years, and therefore I confidently appeal to the House to give the Bill an easier passage. Norway and Denmark have imposed minimum size limits for plaice. There is an international convention regulating the plaice fishery in the Baltic. In fact, international action is waiting upon the action of this House, and I am confidently assured that if we pass this Bill it will be possible to get a much improved international convention within a reasonably short time.
I have also been told by my friends that we have entirely forgotten the fact that the mesh of the cod end of the trawl net effectively closes when the net is being towed owing to the weight of fish. We have carried out experiments on that point and they show conclusively that that is not the case. But we are taking powers in the Bill to regulate construction as well as the size of mesh. If any trawler owners desire to make experiments on a commercial basis with new types of construction we should certainly welcome such experiments and be very glad to receive particulars of the results. We should also welcome experiments by trawler owners with a size of mesh larger than the size we propose to prescribe in our first Order. A still larger size would perhaps be more beneficial. We propose to prescribe a mesh of three inches when the net is new. These three inches are measured between the inner sides of the knots at opposite corners of the mesh when these knots are pulled as far apart as possible. The method which we shall adopt to secure this size of mesh will be to prescribe by Order the number of rows to the yard when the net is new and untarred, when it is new and tarred, and when it has been used and is wet. These are technical matters which I do not wish to go into at length, but they will be of interest to the Members representing fishing interests in this House, and certainly of immense interest to the fishing community outside.
§ Major ELLIOT
I have to follow this out step by step. I come next to the actual size limits of the fish which we propose to prescribe in the first Order under Clause 4. For soles, plaice and dabs we propose a 9-inch limit; for haddock we propose a 9½-inch limit, and for hake we 1353 propose a 13-inch limit. These sizes are fixed on the low side, and later, in the light of experience, we shall probably increase them. I will only mention, in passing, that at, the recent annual meeting in Paris of the International Council for. the Exploration of the Sea, it was unanimously agreed that at next year's meeting the subject of the size limits which ought to be imposed for different fishes and the regulation of meshes which should be applied should be discussed with a view to a considered report and a recommendation on the subject to the 14 participating Governments. I hope that this discussion will be speedily fruitful, because it is only by international action that the fullest benefit can be derived from this regulation.
We want next to take power to prohibit the landing of sea fish caught in certain areas during certain seasons. Certain fish which we want to keep off the market in the summer months are for the most part very large and consist almost wholly of cod from Bear Island and Barents Sea. It is these grounds which have contributed the great bulk of the increased British landings in recent years. It may be said that surely it is a retrograde thing to limit the landings of fish from any part of the fishing grounds.
We have to consider the position as a whole, and also not merely the cause of the big trawling companies running long-distance vessels, either British or foreign, but the small man at home. It is true that, time after time in recent years, the small man landing a catch of fish, or his dealer, has made an inquiry at Billingsgate and the answer has come back "Billingsgate swamped," or "Billingsgate full; we do not want any fish at all" and his catch is useless. I have heard it said that this Bill is neglecting the small man. I think that this Bill is the Charter of the small man, because it limits supplies from long-distance vessels run by powerful companies such as those which go to Bear Island and Barents Sea. Nothing is more disappointing for the small man than to find a glut in the wholesale market and that it cannot take more fish. Somehow or other we have to deal with this abnormal problem. The actual situation is that from time to time these great catches come in and the prices go all to pieces, 1354 and the result is that there is not a remunerative price for the fishermen of this country. We therefore ask permission to limit these supplies by Order. The prohibition under the Order will, of course, apply to both British and foreign fishing vessels. We are not asking the House to take discriminatory action against one nation or another, but desire all nations to co-operate in an action designed to bring about, first of all, an improvement in the stock of fish in the North Sea, and, secondly, a remunerative price level for all those who are supplying the market, whether British or foreign. I have been assailed by hon. Members in various parts of the House with the simple slogan: "Why allow anything from abroad at all; why not cut out this foreign fish altogether?"
§ Mr. HOWARD GRITTEN
Why not? Is not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that British fishermen can supply all that is required in this country?
§ Major ELLIOT
It is a pity to get this sort of bow-and-arrow attitude in this discussion. Where would the Hartlepools be if everyone said "Shut out all this stuff from the Hartlepools." If we say "Shut out all foreign stuff which comes into our ports," where will the exporting industries of this country be?
§ Major ELLIOT
You must strike a fair balance. There is no false analogy about this at all. We have to deal fairly with the world, if we are to ask the world to deal fairly with us. To say "Why not shut out everything from this country which my particular section of the country produces" would be likely to result in placing those who are still interested in the exports of this country in a serious position. If every country were to demand the unlimited and unfettered right of shutting out everything it could produce itself, what would become of the cotton industry of Lancashire and the thousand and one export trades of this country? I hold no brief certainly for Free Trade. I am willing to carry out this argument at length upon the side of Protection just as I am now giving it upon the side of reasonable exchange. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member 1355 for Darwen need not be sarcastic about this matter. If he were prepared to go down and fight the Darwen Division of Lancashire upon absolutely unfettered competition from every foreign cotton-spinning country, I should be willing to go down and stand on the platform and compete against him there.
§ Major ELLIOT
My right hon. Friend has done so. If he will be willing to maintain an unlimited import of cotton goods into this country and some of its dependencies, he may do so, but it is the last occasion upon which we shall see him in this House. I hold neither with the right hon. Member for Darwen nor my hon. Friend the Member for the Hartlepools with the unrestricted import of all foreign goods to an unlimited extent into this market, nor with bringing down a guillotine upon all foreign imports and saying that nothing whatever shall come into this country which we can possibly supply ourselves from our own home resources. This country will have in the future, as it has had in the past, to balance up these things one against the other, and the very fact that I am subject to interjections from the die-hards on the one side and the ultra-montanes on the other shows that we have probably taken a very reasonable course in this Bill.
§ Major ELLIOT
I certainly do not wish to begin to ask this House to take action solely on the ground that action has been taken by a foreign country. This country is a maritime and trading nation, and it is—
§ Major ELLIOT
I must ask my hon. Friend to await the conclusion of my remarks, because I say without hesitation that I would sooner have the approval of the British Trawlers Federation than his approval, great though his authority may be, and I have the approval of the British Trawlers Federation for this proposal. We have, therefore, to consider the undertaking of the 1356 restriction of fish not merely by size of fish, but of fish from certain areas. The areas have been the subject of a good deal of discussion, and on the last occasion upon which I met the trawlers they took exception to certain of the limits which would come within the possibility of Orders as laid down in this Bill. As I say, it is my desire to work this in conjunction with and with the sympathetic co-operation of the fishing industry itself, and therefore I hope, when the Bill gets into Committee, to move an Amendment reducing the area over which it will be possible to make Orders as a result of the Bill. If the House will look at Clause 2, Sub-section (1) of this Bill, they will see that a line is laid down there:north of the parallel of latitude 62 degrees 30 minutes north.We propose to substitute for that the words:North of the parallel of latitude 68° north or east of the meridian of longitude 15° E.That is to say, Iceland will not come within the regions in respect of which it will be possible to make a prohibiting Order under the terms of this Bill.
I have said that I did not accept the argument that we should shut out all the foreign fish which comes into this country, but it is impossible to expect the markets of this country continually to absorb absolutely unregulated quantities of fish, which is the situation as it stands at present. We have arranged accordingly with foreign countries, and they are accepting the limitations which we put in, that is to say, that a 10 per cent. cut will be made upon their average annual imports, during the last three years, country by country. All countries will be treated alike in this respect, and the reduction of imports of white fish, we reckon, will amount to about 200,000 cwts. per annum on the average of the last three years.
If, therefore, we can get agreement among foreign countries, if we can carry through a process which will improve not merely the state of the market here but the fishing grounds themselves, surely it would be unreasonable to say, "You shall not proceed with this because there is a conference sitting which is discussing the question of the regulation of trade and the freeing of trade, so far as 1357 possible, from present restrictions." I come, therefore, to our proposals in relation to the Conference at Kensington. I contend that this Bill is in no way inconsistent with the policies which are being recommended at the World Economic Conference. The restrictions proposed in this Bill are not to be arbitrarily imposed merely for the sake of helping our own fishing industry, at the expense of the foreigner. They form a comprehensive policy of planning for the fishing industry with the object of raising the prices and improving the quality of fish in the British market, and the foreign suppliers also will have an opportunity of participating in this improved price level if and when we can bring it about. The restriction of foreign supplies in these circumstances is one of the well recognised and permissible exceptions to international arrangements for the abolition of import restrictions. This is not an ad hoc discovery or statement on my part, because in the International Convention for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions, which was framed in 1927, the following prohibitions or restrictions were specified as not prohibited by the Convention, namely:Prohibitions or restrictions designed to extend to foreign products the régime established within the country in respect of production of, trade in, and transport and consumption of native products of the same kind.I think also, when the countries mostly concerned have agreed to our proposals, it is fair to say that the countries concerned recognise that this constitutes a genuine constructive scheme for the restoration of the British fish market and for the improvement of the fishing grounds in the North Sea.
There are one or two other points to which I should like to make reference. There is, for instance, the special case of the fishermen, the people who man the boats. The interests of the workers in the deep sea fishing industry are in a special manner bound up with the prosperity of the industry as a whole, and I have no doubt that when the Sea Fish Commission undertakes its inquiries, it will have regard to that fact. I hope that fact will be specially before its notice when it is carrying out the investigations which I hope it will carry out if this House so decides. There is the question 1358 of the small man, the in-shore fisherman, who, as I say, I think stands to benefit under these proposals. He of all men suffers from the swamping out of the market, and he gets none of the advantages from the sales of big catches, but he gets all the disadvantages when the big catch floods the market and destroys his chance of a remunerative price for his catch. He is safeguarded further under the proviso in Clause 3, which states that no Orders under that Section shall have effect within certain areas, and these are the areas which are covered by the inshore authorities to-day. Therefore, there is no danger of a divided authority bringing in new and partial measures against the inshore men. Furthermore, I am asked: "Will he not be subject to heavy expense?" I do not think that is so, because the replacement of gear which may be necessary under the Orders here is, first of all, not itself a matter of very great expense. It is a matter of replacing only the cod end of the trawl, which is a matter of shillings rather than of pounds. In the case of the small man's nets it is a. matter of 7s. 6d., and also, if necessary, we can put in an Amendment that anybody bond fide using such a net at the period when this Bill is introduced, that is, from to-day, should be allowed to continue using it until that net is worn out, so that it is merely a matter of purchasing a larger size mesh when, in the course of natural events, the replacement of the gear is necessary.
The only other point that I should like to bring before the House is the question of the Sea Fish Commission. The Sea Fish Commission is, I think, my answer, and should be my answer, to the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill which is to be moved by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I think this is in fact the marketing inquiry asked for by the committee set up under Dr. Addison. It has the power of going widely into the difficulties of the situation; it has the power to call for evidence on oath; it can make recommendations, as the House will see, going very widely into the structure of the industry; and, as I say, I hope that, with a small commission working over the inquiries which have already been made, with power to supplement them in any way by its own inquiries, we shall be able to get proposals which can be put into operation and will contain 1359 within themselves the possibilities of great advantage to the industry.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be kind enough to clear up one point of great importance on which we on these benches are not very clear? He said that this is not a Bill which conflicts with proposals now before the World Economic Conference, because it would treat alike the foreign producer of fish and the British producer of fish, and that if there were restrictions on supplies to the market, they would apply to all of them equally. Can he say what provision there is in the Bill for restricting the supplies to the markets of the British fishermen?
§ Major ELLIOT
Yes, without any difficulty. The first three Orders restrict, and drastically restrict, the supply of fish to the markets by the British fishermen.
§ Major ELLIOT
Yes. It is reckoned that the sum total of these restrictions will be a restriction of supply in actual weight, which is considerably greater in the case of the British supplier than it is in the case of the foreign supplier, and that the taking of all small fish off the market represents a very substantial contribution by the British fishermen, and in the only case in which an area is prohibited that area is prohibited for British and foreign fish alike. The sum total of these three Orders is a contribution of a very considerable size from the British fishing industry.
§ Sir MURDOCH McKENZIE WOOD
How does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman know that the vessels prohibited in one area will not go to some other area and get even more fish from the new area?
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not wish to analyse the conditions of the fishing industry in reply to questions, but I have gone into this question fully with the technical officers concerned, with the object of reducing the weight of fish brought on the market. This is a proposal which was first attempted by the fishermen themselves a year or two ago, with the object of dealing with the extra weight of supply, and it is the opinion of my technical advisers that a very sub- 1360 stantial reduction in the weight of supply will actually be brought about, not merely in theory, but in practice, by the operation of the first three restrictions. These, I think, cover the points which I wish to bring to the attention of the House.
§ Sir ARTHUR MICHAEL SAMUEL
Before my right hon. and gallant Friend resumes his seat, may I put a point to him? As it has been the practice of late years for trawl nets to catch herring, does this Bill in any way touch what are known as immature submersal fish, including the herring taken in the trawl?
§ Major ELLIOT
The whole question of the technical operation of nets against herrings is one that is recognised to be of such complexity that I do not wish to go into it now. These measures are designed to deal primarily with white fishing and not with any other industry, the herring fishing industry being a case by itself. The position of the herring fishing industry will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. The herring fishing industry, although not specifically dealt with in this Bill, is of the very greatest importance, and of greater importance to Scotland than to England. In the case of white fish we are dealing with imports, but in the case of herrings we have both the import and export of herrings, and a different set of negotiations must be adopted than in the case of white fish.
§ Mr. J. JONES
May I ask if the trade union organisations of the workmen engaged in the fishing industry have been consulted in regard to the provisions of the Bill?
§ Major ELLIOT
I thank my hon. Friend for giving me an opportunity of saying that I have had consultations with Mr. Bevin in regard to the position of the workers.
§ Major ELLIOT
I was asked if consultation had taken place, and I was able by what one might call a stroke of good fortune to give an affirmative answer. I would ask the hon. Member not to press 1361 me for a catalogue of the negotiations which have had to take place in the past and will have to take place in the future in connection with the provisions of this Bill. This is a Bill for which we are making no extravagant claims, but it will make a substantial contribution towards the solution of the difficulties in which the industry finds itself. It carries out many proposals which have long been under consideration both by practical men and theorists, and certainly it carries out a planned scheme for the better regulation of the fishing industry, which holds out great hope for the future. It is not a final Bill, but an enabling Bill. We shall operate under it, if Parliament gives consent to it, by orders, which will have to be worked out in close collaboration with the industry itself.
There is a good case for the Bill and for action being taken in regard to the fishing industry now, and I would say to our critics who do not agree with the action we are taking, that they must produce some plan which would work better and more fairly before they reach the conclusion that there is no case for the Bill which we are asking the House to accept.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:whilst recognising the urgent necessity for a greater measure of public control over the reorganisation of the fishing industry, particularly with respect to marketing and the prevention of waste, this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which proceeds upon the basis of restricting supplies of an essential foodstuff in order to increase profits instead of encouraging greater consumption through improved methods of distribution.I can sympathise with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman because of my own peculiar position. Not having been born in a fishing port and not having any technical acquaintance with the industry, I can appreciate the difficulty of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, notwithstanding his amazing capacity for assimilating all sorts of knowledge, in attempting to deal with this highly technical and delicate subject. When I listen to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether in regard to meat, wheat, bacon or fish, and I hear him telling us about the need for regulation and 1362 restriction and for improving the price level, the organisation of markets, ets., I always think that if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could have been in Russia there would have been no doubt about it that he would have been chosen as the one person who could have determined the Five Year Plan. He always starts by intimating that something must be done but that nothing final can be done for a period of years, but he hopes that by the end of a certain time things will have improved. That is a very sound and logical policy for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to pursue.
I was rather amazed, however, when he made the statement that if the price level falls the supply always seems to increase. I wonder if that is due to the sympathy of the fish. When the price is low do the fish, large and small, rush into the net so that they may be caught as quickly as possible? One thing emerges from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech which is not dissimilar from the deduction drawn from somewhat similar speeches in the past, and that is that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the need for more Government control over and more reorganisation of this particular industry. As in many other cases, he starts to solve the problem in the right style but the wrong way. In this case he leaves organisation to three years hence and proceeds forthwith to bring about regulation and restriction for the purpose of increasing the price level as quickly as possible. Having done that, he totally ignores one of the recommendations made by the Committee on the fishing industry, which reported in 1932.
He said that the committee did not make a recommendation as to how the industry should be reorganised. They did make recommendations with regard to the payment of crews, a settlement of the terms and conditions as regards the organisation of sales, marketing, the method of transport, freezing processes, canning, etc. As far as I can see, the only recommendation he adopts, which was not a recommendation, but a mere observation, is in regard to regulating imports for the purpose of increasing the price level. I can understand the discomfort of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) who, perhaps, ought to have been introducing this Bill, as repre- 1363 senting a port where they receive large quantities of imported fish, either direct from the fishing ground or as cargo. He might have been standing at this Box opposing the Measure for the purpose of supporting his own constituents.
We recognise that the depression in the fishing industry is due to numerous factors. First of all, it is due to the innate conservatism and individualism of the fishermen, which is the bane of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's life. No one knows more about that than the Minister of Agriculture. If the First Lord of the Admiralty would read the committee's report and note what they say about the innate conservatism of the fishermen, whether the trawler section, the inshore section, or the herring section, he would agree with me. A person who has begun to think is always on the right road that leads to Socialism, and that is why we think that there is hope for the Minister of Agriculture. We are not, however, now dealing with Socialism, Liberalism or Conservatism. We are dealing with the fishing industry, and I appreciate the difficulties of any Minister of any political party in attempting to superimpose the sort of organisation that will ultimately bring permanent prosperity to such an industry. We know that the perishable nature of the commodity, the difficulties of transport and the difficulties of marketing are all problems with which no single party can hope finally and definitely to deal. We recognise the difficulty which confronts the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in that respect and we know that if we merely set out, as in the case of Clauses 1 and 2, to restrict supplies for the purpose of increasing prices the problem at the end will be just where it is at this moment. No one knows the truth of that statement more than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
I want to ask a few questions in regard to trade agreements. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Bill in no way conflicts either with trade agreements or with any conversations taking place at South Kensington. Am I to understand that that was the intention of his observation?
§ Major ELLIOT indicated assent.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for that 1364 assurance. I understood him also to say that the maximum of restriction in Clauses 1 or 2, or any Orders made under those two Clauses, would be 10 per cent. That is very important. Having secured that information, I want to say in regard to the Bill that it is not unlike the curate's egg. It is good and indifferent in parts. We entirely agree with Clause 5. We think that perhaps Clause 5 ought to have been the only part of the Measure. We are not opposed to Clause 3 or Clause 4, for the report, in paragraph 338 ought to satisfy the most pessimistic Member of this House that something ought to be done with regard to the catching of immature fish, thereby depleting the fishing grounds. We think that Clauses 3, 4 and 5 are very desirable, not only in the interests of the fishing people but in the interests of the consumers of foodstuffs. Clause 2 is of a totally different character. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the definite and specific purpose of that Clause is to restrict imports of sea-fish caught in certain areas, whether in British bottoms or foreign bottoms. He tells us that that particular species of fish is of a large kind and of cheap quality. Clearly, if that quality, which is largely consumed by the working class, is to be restricted for several months in the year it can only have the effect of increasing the price, and as the price increases the consumption will decrease in a certain section of the community, and in all probability the second state so far as the fishing people are concerned will be worse than the first.
The Co-operative Wholesale Society have given me an example of what they have tried to do to help the fishing people as well as to help the members of the cooperative movement. They have established a system whereby they fillet fish at the port, packing them in 2 lb. and 3 lb. boxes and selling them over their grocery counters. They sold 30,000 boxes each week, thereby helping the inshore and the trawl fishermen by the quick disposal of the fish by well-prepared and carefully packed methods, but they go on to say that owing to restricted landings there was a 50 per cent. increase in the price and sales have fallen by 66 per cent. Now they are disposing of only 10,000 boxes per week. If the price level increased to the extent of anything like 50 per 1365 cent. there would be greater depression, poverty and destitution not only in the fishing industry but in all the subsidiary industries which to some extent cater for the fishing industry —boat builders, coopers, repairers, engineers and people of that kind. That is a very dangerous expedient. We can see the possibility of the reaction of the fishing industry being very great indeed. Clause 1 is really the kernel of this Bill. It cannot be called into operation until Clauses 2, 3 and 4 are operative and until an order under those Clauses is enforced; but Clause 1 seems to me to be the kernel of the regulation and restriction. The object, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman stated, is to increase the price. That, I believe, is wholly inconsistent with the report of the Fishing Industry Committee.
I want to apply three tests to ascertain whether or not there is justification for Clause 1. The first is, are retail prices at present excessively low? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman told us that during 1932 output or British landings increased by about 1,600,000 cwt. over 1929, but the price received was reduced by about £2,500,000. In paragraph 110, on page 35, the Fishing Industry Committee gives tables of figures showing the retail prices of fish and food as a whole. 1914 is given as 100, and they say that for 1928 the whole of food prices were 164; 1927, 160; 1928, 157; 1929, 154; and 1930, 145; while the retail price of fish for the same years, again taking 1914 as 100, was: 1926, 219; 1927, 215; 1928, 211; 1929, 214; and 1930, 209. In 1930, the retail price was still over 109 per cent. in excess of the pre-War level, and certainly much higher than the price of the whole range of foodstuffs in 1930. Therefore, it seems to me that unless the margin between the retailer and the producer is so large as to call for instantaneous reorganisation of the marketing methods employed, the excessive price received for so many years is no justification for Clause 1 of the Bill.
The second test of the Clause is this: Have imports influenced prices? If these figures are any true guide, imports have in no way influenced retail prices. They may have influenced the price received by the trawler companies. They may have influenced the price received even by the inshore fishermen. But certainly, if the retail price has been over 100 per cent. 1366 in excess of the 1914 price up to 1930, and imports have increased four times during the first half of the post-War period, imports have had little or no effect upon the price level of fish in this country.
Therefore the third test I would apply as to the justification of Clause 1 is, are imports increasing? If so, perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will find justification for taking the stand that he does with regard to limitations. The Fishing Industry Committee's report states, on page 128, that the total consumption of white fish in this country increased steadily during the post-War decade,as the result in part of a shifting of demand from herrings"—here I sympathise with some of our Scottish friends—and continued to increase for a considerable period of the present trade depression; but by September, 1931, a decline in consumption had become evident, reflected in a marked fall in the quantity of British landings, though not in imports.That statement is not at all consistent with the figures that are produced in the Fishing Industries Committee's report on page 179, for instead of imports having increased during the last two years they have actually decreased by no less than 600,000 cwts. The maximum that the right hon. Gentleman hopes to secure, as a result of Clause 1 or Clause 2, is to restrict imports by 200,000 cwts. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having completed the table given on page 179, which gives imports, home produced, exports and consumption as a whole and per head in this country. What do the figures show? They show that, not what the Committee state on page 128, but that while home landings decreased by something over 200,000 cwts. imports actually decreased by over 500,000 cwts. In fact imports in 1932 were the lowest since 1922. Therefore, while imports are diminishing it seems to me that this is the last moment when the right hon. Gentleman ought to be insisting upon further restrictions of imports, which must of necessity not only disturb trading relations somewhere, despite the Economic Conference, but are calculated to do the consumers and the producers in this country no good.
With regard to British landings, I see that even the "Times" to-day follows page 128 of the Fishing Industry Com- 1367 mittee's report but fails to look at page 179. The newspaper makes a statement to-day which is not consistent at all with the facts of the case, because imports have decreased more than 50 per cent. over and above any reduction there may have been in 1932 home landings. British landings in 1922 were approximately 12,000,000 cwts. In 1929 they remained at 12,000,000 cwts. But by 1932 they increased to 14,000,000 cwts. It seems to me that if the consumption was beginning to fall, as the Committee suggest, by September of 1931, and if the price automatically fell, too, there would be something to be said for the fishermen of this country organising production, relating production as near as difficult conditions permit to known demand, and stabilising as nearly as possible a reasonable price to producer and consumer. But with all the multifarious difficulties, some of them highly technical, between the port and the fishmonger's shop, I admit that it is extremely difficult to do anything on those lines.
I suggest that, though there is depression in the industry, a good deal of it might have been avoided if Governments of the past had exercised more instead of less control over this very vital industry. Unemployment there is in all sections, trawling, drifting or inshore, but that is not wholly due either to imports of fish, or shortage of fishing grounds, or to any huge surplus such as was referred to by the Minister. In fact, unemployment has been brought about in the fishing industry, to a very large extent, in much the way that it has been brought about in other industries. For instance, in 1913 there were 2,615 vessels trawling, and in 1930 there were 2,044, but the productivity of this fleet in no way diminished. The ships now plying for fish are producing 2,000,000 cwts. per annum more with infinitely fewer men than before the War. That is merely one effect of rationalisation. No one can complain about the trawler companies or those people who own communally any one of these trawlers, using the most up to date vessel. At all events the facts indicate that to attempt to solve the problem which confronts the fishing industry merely by restricting imports and increasing the price level is futile.
I suggest that the Minister should study the figures which I have quoted from 1368 the Fishing Industries Committee's report. There always has been a market for white fish in this country. That market still remains. The only possible means of destroying the market is to cause the price to be higher than the fish consumer can afford to pay. Between 1919 and 1922 we consumed 27 lbs. of fish per head per annum, but by 1931–32 we were consuming 37½ lbs. per head per annum. Clearly there is a development of which the fishing industry ought to take advantage. There does not seem to be any justification for restricting a commodity when the market is expanding. The only people who ought to complain about the expansion of white fish consumption are those in the herring fishing industry, who have lost a good deal of their trade. I notice that while the consumption of white fish between 1919 and 1932 has increased by 10 lbs., the consumption per annum of herrings in various forms has decreased from 14 lbs. to 8 lbs. That decrease, with other factors, has helped to bring about very serious difficulties.
The conclusion I reach is this: Imports are steadily decreasing and consumption is steadily increasing. Our ability to catch more and more fish is also on the increase. Then why take steps to restrict imports of fish? The right hon. Gentleman may have made out a case for some organisation of the industry, but he has made out no case for restricting the imports into this country. There is one other point I would put to him. Imports in 1931 were worth about £3,000,000. They were reduced in 1932, but I am not sure what the value was. Of the total imports plaice constitutes 33⅓ per cent. The Committee tell us in their report that with the exception of plaice it may be that British producers of fish can supply the whole of our needs. Therefore £1,000,000 worth, either direct from the fishing grounds or as cargo, is imported annually from Denmark. As we have no other fishing grounds to replace the high quality of plaice imported, will the Minister say what is going to happen to the price of plaice if a 10 per cent. restriction is imposed on the imports from Denmark?
Those are the sort of things with which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be confronted when he starts to deal with the problem by a process of restriction. If one deducts the value of plaice from 1369 the £3,000,000 worth of fish, the other qualities are the cheaper qualities which are largely consumed by the working-class population, and to the extent that you increase the price beyond the power of the workers to pay to that extent you will diminish the demand; and the second stage will be infinitely worse than the first. Hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies will no doubt be able to deal with the question of the herring industry, and all I need say on that is that it is a totally different problem to the white fish problem. The herring fishing industry has suffered acutely from the loss of its export trade, from depreciated currencies and the happy-go-lucky organisation of the industry. No case has been made out for the regulation of the imports of herrings in their fresh or cured state, but a good case has been made out for organisation by the committee which sat for two or three years. They have told us that while the fleet has been reduced from 3,121 to 2,148 there is still hope for that side of the fishing industry if there was some real organisation. Referring to the import of herrings they say:The bulk of the imported herrings arrive in the early spring and are converted into kippers when there is only a small supply of British herrings available for kippering. The imports are thus for the most part not in direct competition with the British drifting industry.They go on to say:Since, therefore, the sources of potential competition are so few and so inconsiderable, we consider that much would be gained by the exercise of effective control over the production of cured herrings in this country.In a further paragraph they say:It is at present almost a regular occurrence for something like 100,000 barrels of herrings to be cured in excess of the quantity which can be marketed at a remunerative price.Reference is also made in their report to the organisation of the industry; and, of course, it is always the blackleg who destroys these co-operative schemes. We are bound to confess that with the loss of exports and the other misfortunes which have overtaken the herring industry we should do all we can to assist that phase of the fishing industry, but more hope lies in the direction of organisation and co-operation than in an attempt to restrict imports. I do not think that the Marketing Supply Committee or the Sea Fishing 1370 Commission would in any circumstances recommend regulation for the herring industry. It is an industry for organisation; unless the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has lurking at the back of his mind the idea that by the simple process of increasing the price of white fish to a point which working people cannot afford to pay, he will develop the demand for fresh herrings and kippers. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, being a good Scotsman, has anything like that in his mind I hope he will tell us about it at a later stage.
We note with dismay that although there are 15 or 20 pages of recommendations in the committee's report that which relates to restriction is the only one of which the Ministry of Agriculture has deigned to take notice. The payment of the crews, where all sorts of abuses creep in, the cases where the directors of ice firms sell ice to the trawling firms, who are not supposed to make any profits out of the fishing side of the industry but make good profits out of the ice side; all these kinds of abuses were brought out in the evidence given before the committee. These questions of wages and conditions will be referred to by other hon. Members and I hope that they will leave the right hon. and gallant Member in no doubt as to what we think about this total ignoring of the recommendations of this committee. The payment of the crews, the conditions of employment, research, fish preservation, canning, the preservation of fish for longer periods so that; it will be in a consumable condition, these recommendations ought to be considered by the Government, as they are all very necessary and valuable.
Restriction and high prices will not do as a final solution to the problems of the fishing industry. What we ought to concentrate upon, whether it is the fishing or the trawling section, the drifter section or the inshore section, is to insure, as far as possible constant supplies at reasonable prices; and when we speak of reasonable prices we mean a reasonable price to the person who produces the fish. The fisherman is entitled to every penny he receives, and if this report is correct he is entitled to a good deal more than he gets at the moment. If this Government can devise ways and means whereby he can demand and obtain fair play from the trawling 1371 companies, whereby he can be satisfied when settling day comes that the net result available for distribution has not been boiled down by robberies in the form of charges for meat and coal, and ice, and provisions, we shall be pleased. We recognise the value of the work of the fishermen and the danger they run, and we want to see that they are cared for by the Government, not only the trawler companies to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman devoted so much of his speech. They may be important, but to us the fishermen are more important, and if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had thought more about the fishermen and the 46,000,000 consumers we should have had a much better Bill this afternoon.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
Having escaped from South Kensington, the House is indebted to the Minister of Agriculture for putting in a busman's holiday this afternoon, in order to explain what he hopes will be the working of this Bill. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is a bold man. He has attempted, on lines hitherto unfamiliar to this House, to deal with the agricultural question and raise the prices of primary products. He is now devoting his energies to an endeavour to raise the price of fish. After having ploughed the land he is now going to plough the sea. He has called his Bill "The Sea-Fishing Industry Bill"; really it should be called "The Trawling Industry Bill," because a very important part of the sea fishing industry is not dealt with by the Bill at all. The herring fishing industry, to which one is bound to refer in dealing with sea fishing, consider that the most depressed phase of the industry has been left out altogether, and I hope that whoever is going to reply to the Debate will be able to give us an assurance that something definite is going to be done to meet the difficulties of the herring industry to-day. It is suffering from the increase of duties which have been put on herrings in different ports and to the exchange difficulties as well, which have made it almost impossible to dispose of the greater portion of the catch. With Russia, unfortunately, out of the market, and not knowing when she is likely to come back, the future is very black in- 1372 deed. In hope before the Debate closes that some measure of hope will be extended to this portion of the sea fishing industry. Let me turn to the explanatory Memorandum on the Bill. It is stated there that the objects of the Bill are:To regulate the quantity, and to improve the average quality, of the supplies of fish coming into the British market, so as to restore prices at the port to a more remunerative level.The Memorandum goes on to say:These objects will be achieved.As I say, the Minister of Agriculture is a bold man. The Memorandum not only says that "these objects will be achieved," but it sets out the methods by which it is hoped to achieve them. Really 80 per cent. of the present Bill is contained in the first paragraph of the Memorandum: —The regulation of landings of sea-fish in the United Kingdom from foreign countries and by foreign vessels by means of Orders made by the Board of Trade under Clause 1.Upon that the whole work of the Bill depends; that is to say, the Bill sets out to increase prices at the port by creating an artificial reduction. That is contrary to the ideas of many of us as being the means best suited to rehabilitate the industry. We believe that the industry can be far better helped by teaching it to expand under good organisation than by giving it an artificial reward by creating a scarcity for its products. The Minister was at great pains to show that no discrimination would be exercised against foreign producers in comparison with our own men, and that nothing would be done under this Bill which would be contrary to what is being done at South Kensington or to the ideals and proposals which are being put forward there. I am not clear on that point. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there would be a 10 per cent. reduction on the average foreign catch landed on these shores during the last three years. I would like to know whether that represents the agreed quotas which are being mentioned in the agreements arrived at when the Scandinavian countries.
§ Major ELLIOT indicated assent.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman indicated that 1373 that is the case, but, surely, if we impose a 10 per cent. reduction on the foreign producer, without a similar imposition upon our own producers, that is discrimination. That is a quota placed against the foreign producer. He is limited as to what he may bring to these shores whereas our people are not limited. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman rather laboured the point in order to show that there was no such discrimination but, as I see it, a definitely discriminatory quota is placed upon the foreign producer. That being so I should like to ask whether it is the case that the foreign producer is to be blamed for the fall in prices? I have some figures here bearing on that point and if they are not correct I hope they will be corrected. Those which concern British landings I have taken from the statistics provided by the British Trawlers Federation and those which concern foreign imports I have taken from the Trade and Navigation Accounts.
They show a remarkable story. In 1928 the average British landings were 11,500,000 cwts. and the average price was 2.61 pence per pound. In 1929 the average landings had gone up to 12,300,000 cwts. and the price to 2.66 pence per pound. Then there was a considerable increase in the British fishing fleet, and during the three succeeding years, 1930, 1931, 1932 the average landings were 14,000,000 cwts., more or less, but the price steadily dropped from 2.24 pence to 1.90 pence and I understand to-day it is down to 1.73 pence. During those three years the foreign imports of fresh, frozen and cured fish went down. We should have to reduce the figures a little so as to get the position in regard to white fish, but taking the figures as they appear, they show that in 1930 there were imported 4,615,000 cwts.; in 1931, 4,161,000 cwts.; and in 1932, 3,143,000 cwts. That was a reduction in three years of about 34 per cent. in foreign landings, but during all those years, while foreign landings were becoming less and less and British landings remained at the same figure, the price fell all the time.
It is clear, therefore, that the fall in price is not due to foreign imports or to a glut caused by foreign imports. We have to look outside for the cause. As I see it, there are two or three contributory causes. In the first place I think 1374 we shall agree with what the Minister said that the North Sea has been terribly over-fished in recent years, with the result that a poor class of fish has been landed, and a poor class of fish naturally fetches an inferior price. I have here some figures in regard to the Scottish landings of North Sea fish in 1913 and 1931 and I give one or two instances to show the deterioration which there has been, particularly in the size of the haddocks caught in the North Sea. In 1913 the quantity of large haddocks landed was 142,000 cwts. and in 1931 that figure had fallen to 47,000 cwts. On the other hand, the extra small haddocks, the trashy fish had risen from 60,000 cwts. to 415,000 cwts. That demonstrates clearly the results of over-fishing in that area. That is one of the minor contributory causes of the fall in price.
But I think we must all admit that the main cause has been the disturbance in world conditions—the stoppage of trade and the upset which has taken place in connection with currency and monetary questions. We have seen the effect of these world conditions on other primary products. With regard to white fish I think I have demonstrated that there was no increasing amount thrown on the market, but rather a decreasing amount during the last three years. Yet the price has steadily fallen. Therefore, I think we may take it that we have to look to world causes for the chief reason for the fall in price. The question may be put to me: How are you going to remedy that? I am afraid the only answer is that we have to remedy the world's troubles and that we shall never get primary products back to a reasonable figure until world trade is going again and until the difficulties which are being considered at South Kensington are behind us instead' of being in front of us. Then there is the question of the purchasing power of the people to which the hon. Gentleman opposite referred. If we want to increase-the sale of fish, if we want to follow out the slogan of "Eat more fish," then lots of fish must be provided at reasonable prices, but in order that the people may be able to buy more fish at those reasonable prices, they must have the money to do so. Again, we come back to world conditions. Millions of our people to-day unfortunately are living on a very low level, and when we can get those millions back to a higher standard of living they 1375 will have more money to spend and the fishing industry will benefit in the same way as other industries.
Although I have made these criticisms on the Bill, I do not wish it to be thought that there is not a great deal in it which is of value. The proposals in the Bill refer, in the first place, to the prohibition that is to be placed on fishing in certain areas in the North. I do not quite understand the alteration which the Minister suggests is going to be made in his Amendment. I understand that in future the Greenland and Iceland fishings will not be subject to prohibition, but that the Bear Island, the Barents Sea, and the White Sea fishings will be subject to prohibition. Suppose that a prohibition is placed on one of these areas, subject to orders being made under other Clauses of the Bill regulating the quotas that may be placed on foreign countries, are those quotas to be concurrent in time with the prohibition, or if an order is made prohibiting, say, fish from the Bear Island fishing for three months in the year, is it only during those three months that the regulation order will be made, or will it run for the whole year?
§ Major ELLIOT
We should consider the order in force for the whole year even though the actual prohibition only lasted three months in the year.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I presumed that that would be the case because there would be difficulty in the allocation of the quota. On the other hand one realises that a prohibition might be put on for a very short period of time—for example, for a fortnight—and though put on only for a fortnight, you would get your regulating quota for the whole of the year.
§ Major ELLIOT
As this is a matter of some interest to the fishing industry I intervene to say that we intend to operate these provisions in good faith, and we shall not put on an order limiting, say, the Bear Island fishings simply with the object of bringing in a quota, because that would be regarded by the Scandinavian countries as unfair, as between them and, say, the Germans. We have to apply a regime which will be fair to all the suppliers in the market and that would involve fixing substantial periods of time. We mean that this should be operated in a bona fide manner.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. That is a matter which ought to be made perfectly clear. He said that a great deal of the fish brought from these distant fishing grounds interfered seriously with the prices obtainable by home fishermen and he mentioned particularly the inshore fishermen. I think I am right in saying that the great bulk of the fish which comes from these distant grounds goes to the factories in Aberdeen and does not compete directly with the fresh fish produced by our own fishermen. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well a very large portion of it, I understand, which comes from these Northern grounds goes to the factories and is made up for re-export. I will quote to the House figures which I have concerning the landings at Aberdeen only last month. There were 39 arrivals at Aberdeen from Iceland of German boats in May and they landed 98,000 cwts. There were only six local boats which came from Iceland and landed 5,000 cwts. I quote those figures to show the great importance to Aberdeen of these landings from these far-off grounds.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I know. I am only pointing out that the great bulk of the fish brought from far Northern waters do go into the factories, and are manufactured, and do not compete with what is produced by the inshore fishermen. The right hon. Gentleman I am sure is aware of the industry which is growing and developing in Aberdeen. I hope that nothing which is done under the Bill will interfere with the further development of that industry. There is another point to be borne in mind. When a prohibition is placed on one of these Northern areas what is likely to result? Surely, the boats will go to fish elsewhere. If they are prohibited from fishing in those areas, is it not likely that they may go into the North Sea again and you will have still further over-fishing there?
The other point with regard to size of mesh is, I think, extremely good. I am sorry that it was not adopted sooner. I know that there are difficulties in the way of adopting it, but now that we have the Bill which will enable it to be adopted, I hope that we shall see trawling companies willing to make experi- 1377 ments so that the fish which is too small will be able to escape, and we shall thereby be able to put better fish on the market and conserve the fishing grounds. Further than that, there is the regulation to prevent the sale of under-size fish. That is very important, because it is the principal means by which we shall be able to control the production of undersize fish. As long as we are not allowed to place undersize fish on the market, the fishermen will try to get fish of better size which he can place on the market. Therefore, I attach great importance to that provision. I regret, however, that we have no real international agreement in this matter. The Minister spoke as though he were half way to getting international agreement. Does that mean that the question of the North Sea Convention and the Moray Firth are at long last going to be settled? When we are dealing with a Bill which is going to have a tremendous influence on the whole fishing of the North Sea, it is most regrettable that these outstanding questions cannot be at last settled.
I hope that the Minister will not rest on his oars when he gets this Bill on the Statute Book, but will press forward with those outstanding questions in conjunction with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and get that vexed question of the fishing in the Moray Firth settled once and for all. The present position is intolerable. That is only one of the grounds concerned with the North Sea, and not until we can get an international convention to deal with the whole of the North Sea and all its breeding grounds, and with the effect that improper fishing may have in any part of the sea, shall we get a suitable, convenient and reasonable arrangement for all the countries surrounding the North Sea which fish in its waters, and which, for the most part, sell the product of those waters in our markets.
As regards the proposal to set up a Sea-fish Commission, I think that the Commission has great opportunities of doing very useful work. The Minister referred to researches which had been made by previously appointed commissions, and complained that nothing had come from their recommendations. It is a pity that nothing has come of those recommendations, because some of them, especially those made by the 1378 Food Council in 1927, were extremely useful. I hope that when the Sea-fish Commission is set up it will look into the recommendations that have been made and see whether steps can be taken to carry them out. I remember one recommendation made by the Food Council with regard to the questionable practice of the inland salesman being a commission agent and merchant at the same time. A matter like that could have been dealt with before, and I hope that it will be taken up and looked into by the Sea-fish Commission as soon as it gets to work. I observe in Clause 5 thatthe Commission shall, among other matters, consider the desirability, as regards sea-fish, of schemes similar to those which may be prepared by Agricultural Marketing Reorganisation Commissions under the enactments relating to the marketing of agricultural products.I do not think that we have got any result yet from the working of the schemes under the agricultural marketing enactments, and I am a little doubtful whether it will be possible to apply schemes in the case of the sea and the products of the sea similar to those that can be applied to the land and the products of the land. We have to remember that the land with which we are dealing is our own, and we have an exclusive right over it. When we plant a potato, we expect a potato to come up. When we are dealing with the sea, we are dealing with an element in which other people have a right to fish as well as ourselves, and when we let down a net to catch a haddock, we are not certain that we shall catch a haddock. I think, therefore, that there may be very, considerable difficulties when we try to put into operation schemes on the sea similar to those which are proposed under the Agricultural Marketing Act. To my horror I see the most terrible legislation by reference in Subsection (7) of the same Clause. It says:Subsections (1) to (4) of Section sixteen of the Agricultural Marketing Act, 1931 (which contain incidental provisions as to commissions) shall apply in relation to the Commission, as if it were a commission constituted under that Act,And so on. It is a great pity that we should have legislation by reference of that sort, especially in bringing an agricultural Act into a fishing industry Bill. What it is necessary to set forth might have been done quite well in terms appropriate to the Bill itself. Though I fully admit the difficulties of dealing with the 1379 proposition which the Minister has set for himself, and recognise the efforts that he has made to deal with the raising of prices which have fallen to an entirely-uneconomic level—for the world is absolutely upset and out of gear—at the same time, I cannot agree that we can get any hope of permanent improvement in the industry if we attempt to tackle its difficulties by artificially limiting production.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
I find myself entirely in agreement with everything that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir E. Hamilton) has said with regard to the serious condition of the herring fishing industry and the necessity of all possible steps being taken to assist it and to ameliorate its condition. I cannot help feeling, however, that his speech, in which he bandied his pet phrases, was an excellent example of the Liberal Free Trade doctrine of laissez faire, because apparently, while he does not dispute that the trawling industry is faced with overwhelming difficulties, he suggests that those difficulties are merely part and parcel of world economic conditions, and that really the only thing to do is to tighten one's belt and hope for the best and trust that, when prosperity finally returns to the world, the fishing industry will get a share of it. I am glad that my right hon. and gallant Friend does not take that view, and that he believes that a good deal more is necessary of a somewhat drastic character if the trawling industry is to be saved from extinction. That is the position with which we are faced to-day.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) who, I regret to see, is not in his place, thought it right to preface his remarks with an apology for his want of knowledge of the fishing industry. I should like to say that I think that, in spite of the alleged want of knowledge, he made out, from his point of view, a very good argument. He made a good case, but when one examines it a little more deeply, one sees that he was endeavouring to construct bricks without straw. Indeed, if we look at the Amendment which he moved, it is difficult to believe that anybody with even a slight acquaintance with the conditions facing the fishing industry to-day would 1380 have been responsible for placing such an Amendment on the Order Paper. It suggests that there is anurgent necessity for a greater measure of public control and the reorganisation of the fishing industry, particularly with respect to marketing and the prevention of waste.That is one of the objects which is particularly aimed at in the Bill which we are now discussing. The Amendment goes on to say that the House should declineto assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which proceeds upon the basis of restricting supplies of an essential foodstuff in order to increase profits.I suppose it is impossible to expect that any Amendment from the benches opposite can avoid some suggestion with regard to the crime of making profits. Then the Amendment adds:instead of encouraging greater consumption through improved methods of distribution.When we consider the conditions of the trawling industry to-day, it is really idle to talk about making profits. Furthermore, by the conditions that prevail in the industry, if profits are made there is no one who benefits more directly than the fishermen on whose behalf the hon. Gentleman professed the greatest anxiety. With regard to increasing consumption through improved methods of distribution, that seems to beg the question altogether. Does anybody seriously suggest that by any conceivable method of distribution we can increase the consumption of fish in this country—which is, of course, what we all want to see—within a measurable time such as is necessary to save the trawling industry from going under? It is no use talking about what might be done over a course of years. I sincerely trust, however, that every improved method will be employed in order to increase the consumption of fish in this country. That will be not only to the benefit of the fishing industry, but to the great benefit of the health of the nation. We cannot wait for that. Something has to be done more or less immediately. The hon. Member for Don Valley felt that he had some cause of complaint in what he described as the innate conservatism of the fishermen. I can understand that that is possibly why he objects to them, although I would venture to point out that it is due to the innate conservatism of the fishermen that I and a number of my hon. Friends have 1381 the privilege of being Members of this House, and we have no complaint on that score. Conservatism is very largely a matter of common sense, and no one, J think, has a greater fund of common sense than the British fishermen.
The hon. Member's chief complaint was in regard to the high retail prices of fish. I agree that the retail prices are high in a great many instances. I would gladly see any steps taken to reduce it, if possible, but, unfortunately, that is not the matter with which we are immediately concerned in this discussion. What we are debating is the price the producer receives, and not the price the retailer obtains, or the difference there is between producers' and retailers' prices. I venture to assert that there is nothing in the Bill which will increase in any way the price to the consumer. That is an important fact to be borne in mind. It does not in the least follow that because you restrict supplies you necessarily increase the price to the consumer. It does not work in that way. I regret also that the hon. Member thought fit to talk about robberies by trawling companies, and the exploitation of the fishermen by trawler owners, because I do not believe, from my own experience, that there is the slightest foundation for any such suggestions. I believe that, on the whole, a better relationship exists between the employers and the men in the fishing industry than in almost any other industry.
Some weeks ago I had the privilege of congratulating my right hon. Friend, when he outlined the provisions now embodied in this Bill, on being the first Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for a very long time to translate into action his responsibility for the fishing industry, and I think that although this Bill is welcomed by the white fishing industry on account of the proposals in it, it is welcomed most of all because they see in it an admission from the Government that the country really has a fishing industry. The outstanding characteristic of the fishing industry has always been the spirit of self-help, just as the spirit of sturdy independence is so strongly ingrained in the character of British fishermen, but at the same time it must be recognised by anyone familiar with the conditions prevailing in the industry that some outside assistance from the Government is urgently needed, and that certain prob- 1382 lems are facing the industry to-day which are beyond its own power to deal with unless it does get some assistance. It looks to the Government for that assistance, not as a permanent feature of the whole organisation of the industry, but in order to give it, as it were, the "shove off" which it so urgently needs in those directions. So far as I can see, it is only by Government action and through legislation that we can take any steps to regulate the size of the mesh. That cannot be done by the industry itself, because it has not the power to enforce penalties against those who infringe any regulation that may be laid down. Similarly, Government action is needed to restrict the sale of immature fish and to prohibit fishing in certain areas. Those are matters in which the fishing industry, however capable it may be of conducting its own business and working out its own salvation, really does need Government assistance.
The problem of the fishing industry today is a very simple one, a problem of prices, and therefore one is glad to notice that almost the first words in the explanatory Memorandum on the Bill show that it is intended to restore prices at the port to a more remunerative level. Many reasons have been suggested to explain why prices have fallen to their present uneconomic level. I do not want to pursue those suggestions at this moment, but I would call attention to the enormous increase in the unavoidable costs of production in the fishing industry, which even now, through causes over which the industry has really no control, stand at something like 60 per cent. above the pre-War level. In addition to that we have an over-production which it is beyond the capacity of the market to absorb, and a very large importation of foreign-caught fish into a market upon which our own white fishing industry is almost entirely dependent.
It is quite true, as has been said, that many of those engaged in the trawling industry believe that the real remedy—at least it is the remedy they would prefer—is a total prohibition of the importation of foreign fish. My right hon. Friend does not accept that view, for reasons which I think should commend themselves. He pins his faith to a quota system. It may be that in course of time the one may ultimately lead to the other, but there 1383 can be no question that there is room for enormous expansion in the fishing industry. We have already been reminded that between 1928 and 1930 no fewer than 130 new British trawlers were built, and that there was an increase of 2,566,000 cwts. in the catch, which is practically equivalent to the whole of the foreign imports in 1930. Therefore, I think it cannot be disputed that the fishing industry is quite capable of meeting the home consumption. But prices have fallen to such an extent that the industry is in very great danger to-day of being unable to carry on. What is required is a return to the average price level of 1929.
The hon. Member for Don Valley suggests that if this Bill is passed it will mean an enormous increase in retail prices, but I do not believe there is any foundation for that view. If producers could get another halfpenny or three-farthings per pound for their fish, it would mean all the difference between prosperity and the very serious state of affairs which confronts them to-day. When there is a fall in price the consumer very seldom, if ever, gets the advantage. There is no other commodity in the statistical tables in which there is so great a discrepancy between the price the consumer has to pay and the price the producer obtains. I believe it is true that since the War the producers' price has gone up only 22 per cent., whereas the retailers' price has gone up 105 per cent. That presents a problem, and a very serious problem, which will have to be tackled, but it is not the problem now being discussed on this Bill.
There is ample scope—no one denies it —for reorganisation in the fishing industry, and there is nothing to which this Bill attaches greater importance than the necessity for reorganisation. In fact, it is laid down by the Bill that unless reorganisation is carried out within a space of three years the advantages which the Bill endeavours to give to the industry are to be withdrawn. It cannot be denied that the Bill places the need for reorganisation in the very forefront. But how is reorganisation to be brought about? Through the industry itself. Marketing, distribution and so forth will all need to be intensively studied in order to provide the public with cheaper fish. There 1384 are suggestions on these points in the reports of the various inquiries which have been held but for the most part they are not suggestions for action on the part of the Government but for steps which might and ought to be taken by the industry itself, and the industry, I believe, is ready and willing to undertake such steps for reorganisation as may be within its power. But reorganisation needs both time and money, and, in all fairness, we cannot expect the industry to undertake great schemes of reorganisation if the result is likely to provide means for the foreigner to sell more fish in the British markets. We have to take reasonable steps to ensure that that market will be safeguarded for our own producers before we can expect them to embark on large schemes of reorganisation. The Bill proposes to set up a sea fishing commission. A great deal will depend on the composition of that commission. It should be a commission which will inspire confidence and ensure absolute impartiality, and be the kind of body which the industry itself will be able to trust. There should be no idea that it is composed of people with any particular line of view, it should be absolutely impartial, and I hope the setting up of that may be only a start in what is done for the assistance of the industry.
There are one or two small points in the Bill to which I would like to refer in a sentence or two, although some of them may be more appropriate to the Committee stage. I notice that in Clause 1 the President of the. Board of Trade is given power to regulate by Order the landing of sea fish in the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister to consider the interpretation which may be put upon the word "regulate." Will the Board of Trade have power under that word "regulate" also to prohibit, where it seems necessary to do so? I raise that point because there was some rather protracted litigation arising out of a matter in connection with my own constituency, a great deal of time being spent in discussing whether "regulate" also included the power to prohibit, and the judgment of the court was not very conclusive about it. It will be noticed that the Minister of Agriculture has power under Clause 2 to prohibit fish from certain areas being brought in. Unless the President of the Board of Trade, who apparently is the Minister charged with 1385 international matters, also has the power to prohibit similar fish being brought in by foreign vessels, it may well be that that prohibition will apply only to British vessels and that the foreigner will escape. In Clause 4 there is an important point, because the Clause begins:No person shall, in Great Britain, sell, expose or offer for sale.In other parts of the Bill the words used are "the United Kingdom"; only in that Clause do the words "Great Britain" occur. I ask the Minister whether there is any reason for excluding Northern Ireland, and whether there might not be there a loophole for evading some of the provisions of the Bill? There are many hon. Members who wish to speak, and I will only say in conclusion that I think that, on the whole, this Bill may be regarded as the most important Measure affecting the white fishing industry introduced into this House within living memory. The Minister said that it was 41 years since any similar Measures were brought forward. There may be some point of detail here and there that will need to be, considered during the Committee stage, but I have made careful inquiries in the industry in regard to this Bill and I believe it true to say that it has given the industry a very much needed encouragement. If that is so, it will be greatly welcomed by the House. We all recognise that this is an industry to which we owe a very great deal. It has been truly described as in every sense a vital industry of an island race.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Major MILNER
The hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul) gave expression to his admiration of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who has on many occasions addressed the House on matters of earth and heaven, and has now been dealing with the waters under the earth. He displays on all these subjects an almost encyclopaedic knowledge which most of us very greatly admire. I should like to pay my tribute also to the Minister for his persistence in bringing proposals before the House for assisting agriculture and the fishing industry. My complaint against him is that he plans the industry only for his friends, the capitalists who are engaged therein. This Bill will operate solely in the interests of trawler 1386 owners. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to rehabilitate the industry, in so far as it needs it, by putting profits into the pockets of the trawler owners. There is no provision whatever in the Bill for helping the in-shore fishermen, or those who carry on fishing in the small fishing ports. They need help badly, and they have, in the view of many of us, their national importance.
I regard the Minister's failure to give effect to a great number of the recommendations of the Committee on the Fishing Industry as a very serious one. I take the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft to task somewhat for the light and airy way in which he passed over the references by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley to the conditions of employment of those engaged in the industry. The Committee on the Fishing Industry paid considerable attention to that subject. One of my principal grounds of objection to the present Bill is that the Minister has paid no attention whatever to those recommendations. The House will remember that that Committee had before it a great deal of evidence as to the conditions of employment of those engaged in the industry. It is idle for the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft to say that if you give greater profits to trawler owners no one will benefit more than the fisherman who is actually doing the work. The Committee had before them considerable evidence as to the abuses which exist in this connection. They had evidence that there were those known as "ships' husbands," or "runners" who obtained sums as a condition of introducing men or signing them on for work on trawlers.
§ Sir G. RENTOUL
Many of us tried to ascertain what the evidence was that had been given before that Committee while it was sitting, and on every occasion we were refused any information. I have made inquiries throughout the fishing industry, and I cannot find any reliable evidence on that subject.
§ Major MILNER
That is not a reflection upon what I am saying, but upon those who sat upon that Committee. The Committee said that they had that evidence before them, and they gave in part the source of it as "trade union witnesses." That is set out in the report. There is no secret about it. They said: 1387It does not appear from our evidence that such practices are widespread, though no doubt from time to time irregularities of this kind occur. For this and other reasons we share the view that it would he of advantage if the conditions under which crews of fishing vessels are engaged were placed on the same basis as those obtaining in the case of crews of foreign-going vessels.They made recommendations to the effect that crews should be signed on at Board of Trade offices in the presence of a marine superintendent. The Committee must have regarded the evidence that they had, and the complaints that they received, as serious, and as coming from a credible source, or they would not have made those recommendations. The Committee also dealt with another very serious topic, which the Minister has wholly disregarded in this Bill; that is, the matter of safeguards which are included in the Merchant Shipping Acts to ensure fair dealing between owners, skippers, and mates who are paid entirely by share, and who are entitled to receive from the owners a detailed statement of the receipts and expenses of the voyage. The Committee says:In a few cases the other members of the crew receive such statements, but, as a rule, the only statement open to their inspection is that hanging up in the owner's office. In some cases, we were informed, even this was not available.They set out the purport of other evidence which was given before them that at certain ports men were reluctant to lay complaints before the marine superintendent. From information that they have obtained, the Committee stated that in some ports men feared victimisation if they made complaints to the marine superintendent, and they recommended that legislation should be introduced to deal with those abuses whether they were rare or whether they were widespread. They recommended that:It should be made compulsory for owners to give to each member of the crew of a fishing vessel who is paid partly by share in the profits a detailed settling sheet in the form now furnished to skippers and mates. It should be made compulsory for the owner of a fishing vessel to furnish to the Marine Superintendent a certified true copy of the settling sheet issued to the skipper, master and crew. Failure to do so should be made an offence subject to a substantial fine.The Committee further recommended—again a Recommendation entirely disregarded by the right hon. Gentleman—that the Board of Trade: 1388should be given such powers as may be necessary to enable Marine Superintendents to satisfy themselves that settling sheets submitted to them represent a true statement of the cost of a voyage and of the proceeds therefrom.It is perfectly obvious—to what extent I am not in a position to say, but certainly to a substantial extent, or the Committee would not have taken action upon the evidence—that this industry is full of abuses of one sort or another. Crews have no assurance that they will be paid any share of the increased profits which will accrue from the operation of the Bill. To judge from the following paragraph of the Committee's report, I am not using strong language if I assert that the crews of these vessels are, to a considerable extent, jockeyed out of the true rewards of their labours in this very dangerous industry. In paragraph 64, the Committee's report sets out the allegations which were made in the evidence, to the effect that sometimes:the correct amounts that the fish fetched at auction were not set out in the sales notes which are used to support the settling sheets,on which wages were paid. It was also suggested that sometimes:the rate on such sale sheets is less than the rate at which the fish is actually sold,or had been knocked down:with the result that the full number of boxes sold is not credited in the settling sheet.It is an outrageous state of affairs that the men who go down to the sea in ships, in a most dangerous calling, equally dangerous with the calling of those who go down coal mines in the bowels of the earth, should be done; out of the true reward of their labour, in the manner indicated in this very plain and straightforward report. The committee, being satisfied that the complaints had some basis, recommended that Parliament should be asked to confer upon the Board of Trade power to prescribe, where they considered such a course desirable—that the sale by auction of trawled fish which affects the settling sheets between owners, skippers and crews should only be conducted by salesmen independent of the owners of fishing vessels.It is scandalous, in these so-called enlightened days, that sales should be conducted by representatives of the employers with no provision for the protection of the fishermen. Every one of those 1389 recommendations has been disregarded by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The House ought not to pass the Second Reading of this Bill unless an assurance is given to the effect that steps will be taken to insert some or all of the recommendations that were made under this heading by the committee. It is essential, in what we were told by the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft is the most important Bill affecting the fishing industry that has been introduced into this House during living memory, that we should have some regard to conditions of those engaged in the industry.
I will deal now with what is in the Bill, as compared with what is not, but ought to be, in the Bill. Clause 1 is, in my view, solely intended to put up the price of the commodity. There is no assurance that steps will be, or ought to be, taken to ensure the reorganisation of the industry, which it is apparently admitted on all hands requires carrying into effect. Clause 1 will make the formation of rings and combines and the exploitation of the consumer much easier. There is no protection for the consumer, once an Order has been made under the Clause. It is true that the interests of the consumer have to be considered before the Order is made, but, short of the matter being referred to the Sea-fish Commission which is to be set up, there is no protection in the Bill for the consumer after an Order has been made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley set out figures, no doubt taken from page 35 of the report to which I have referred, indicating the enormous extent to which the retail prices of fish are above the retail prices of other commodities. The Committee state that these prices are over double the pre-War prices, and only a little below the level of the year 1920, while the gap between the two sets of figures is steadily widening. What regard is going to be paid to that factor? Is the question to be referred to the Commission which is to be set up under the Bill, or ought it not to be referred to the Food Council, in order that the obvious exploitation of the consumer which is taking place to-day may be inquired into and altered? If the Minister assures us that he will refer the matter to the Commission, I might be more inclined to accept the Bill in its present form than I am at the moment. Clauses 2, 3 and 4 do deal with certain 1390 matters which for a long time have required legislation, and leading, as they will, to the conservation of supplies of fish, these Clauses are to be commended, and the Minister is to be congratulated on having included them in the Bill.
With regard to Clause 5, which sets up the Sea-fish Commission, I would point out that that Commission may be useful or it may be absolutely useless. Apparently it has no power unless matters are referred to it by the Minister; he is to initiate the inquiry. I should have liked to see, as in the case of other Committees, direct access to the Commission by the public, and I should like to see the Commission, and not the Minister, deciding into what matters they need to inquire. In that way the public would be more likely to get satisfaction from the operations of the Commission. The Minister might also indicate his view as to what should be the composition of the Commission. Is it to be composed of gentlemen of scientific attainments, or of people who are engaged in the industry, or what is his view as to its composition? It will be a very important body, and, operating under an energetic Minister in the general interests of the public, it can render good service.
I should also like to ask what is to become of the recommendation which the Committee made in regard to Billingsgate? It will be within the knowledge of the House that for over 20 years Billingsgate market has required extension and alteration in many respects. The Committee say that in their view this matter should receive attention, and that a scheme for the extension of Billingsgate Market would be one to which the Government might properly render financial assistance. Large public works would be involved. Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, as the responsible Minister, putting this matter forward to the appropriate quarter in order to obtain the assistance recommended by the Committee, so that the very important function of Billingsgate Market may be carried on properly and satisfactorily, and not, as at present, under every circumstance of difficulty and congestion, resulting in trade gradually leaving that market and going elsewhere?
I am not competent to deal with the herring industry, but I would point out that the Committee stated that there was 1391 in their view little or no case for any import restriction in connection with that industry. I gather that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) takes that view, which is supported by the Committee, and is one to which the House ought to have regard. Another question referred to by the Committee which has been disregarded by the Minister is the question of the salesmen at Billingsgate and elsewhere, who act as merchants or salesmen on their own account and also as commission agents on behalf of port merchants or salesmen. There again there is a conflict of interest which, for the sake of the industry no less than of the general public, ought to have had attention in this Bill. I hope that the House by its vote on the Second Reading, or by the indications in the speeches of Members, will show that it is not regarded as sufficient to bring in a Bill for the sole purpose of benefiting the trawler owners, without regard to any of these wider and equally important considerations which have been dealt with by the Committee. Personally, I shall support my colleagues on these benches in opposing the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
The speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) and of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), although phrased with their customary geniality, have disclosed a lamentable weakness in the opposition to this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds has declared that the case of the inshore fishermen has been entirely neglected, but, as the Minister pointed out, the Bill is really the inshore fishermen's charter, because the one part of it which might adversely affect the fishermen, taking the short view—that is to say, the part dealing with the mesh of nets—excludes deliberately the inshore fisherman when he is fishing within the three-mile limit.
Both hon. Members seemed to object to raising the price of fish, but, as was pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul), it is possible to raise the price of fish to the fishermen to a large extent without any harm to the consumer. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds also pointed out that, when 1392 the farmer or the trawler owner is benefited, the farm labourer or fisherman does not benefit, but it is obvious to us that, unless the trawler owner is making a profit, or at any rate avoiding a loss, there is no chance for the fisherman to prosper. The hon. Members' speeches seemed to me to answer to the Irishman's definition of a net—a lot of holes joined together by pieces of string. They seemed to me to consist largely of omissions joined together with extracts from Dr. Addison's Committee. As regards the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), the situation is different. At the end of his speech I was uncertain as to which way he and his party were going to vote. During the Minister's speech, I observed four very distinguished heads on that bench being put together, and it occurred to me as possible that they were coming to a decision as to what they were going to do; but their conclusion appears, from the speech of the hon. Gentleman, to have been inconclusive, and it will be interesting to observe whethervowing they will ne'er consent,they will follow the Government into the "Aye" Lobby, or whether they will seek their spiritual home in the "No" Lobby with the Members of the official Opposition.
The points raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland were of considerable substance, although, as I have said, it was a little difficult to understand what he was going to do about them. In the first place, he said that nothing is being done for the herring fishery, but I do not see how under this Bill it is possible to do anything for the herring fishery. If the mesh were widened, I am afraid the herrings would escape, so it is not very easy under this Bill to help that very important industry. It is obvious that the Government wish to help it in a different way, by trade agreements, and, if the Russian Government were so prudent as to release the two British prisoners in Russia, I am convinced that, when a new trade agreement was negotiated, the case of the herring industry would have every consideration. When we say to the Russian Government, "If you wish to sell to us you must also buy increased quantities from us," I have no doubt that the herring fishery of Scotland and elsewhere will receive very sympathetic consideration.
1393 While the hon. Gentleman praised some parts of the Bill strongly, he objected, apparently, to the regulation of foreign imports. That, apparently, was the one thing which shattered his Free Trade conscience. His own conclusion in regard to what should be done in that way was that nothing should be done. He said, and here I agree with him, that the cause of the fall in prices was the world disturbance, and he seemed to think that that would be cured by the Conference which is now proceeding in Kensington—what I might call the Kensington cure. The object of the Government is to mitigate the effects of the world disturbance, and they have been doing that ever since they were returned to office. One of the ways in which they are mitigating the effects on the fishing industry of this country is by the present Bill, which includes, and must include, if it is to be a success, regulation of foreign imports.
The Bill, in my opinion, is an extreme important one. The last Measure of any importance to assist the fishing industry was the Sea Fisheries Act, 1883. There have been others since, but that is the one of real importance. After 50 years we at last have a Minister of Agriculture who remembers that he is also Minister of Fisheries. There seems to have been for the last fifty years a consensus of opinion amongst all Ministers of Agriculture and that is the recognition of the inevitability of inertia. Many of us are thankful that we have a Government which is determined not to ignore the claims of the fishing industry when carrying out the comprehensive policy on which they have embarked. The Fishery Committee in the House of Commons has, I believe, done a great deal in the past to achieve the object for which it was formed, namely, to induce the Government to take some action. One of my predecessors in the representation of Penryn and Falmouth, Mr. Pilcher, worked hard for many years, and the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), whose lips are to-day sealed, has done more than any other man to open the eyes of the Government to the deplorable situation in which the fishing industry finds itself, and it must be a very happy day for him to see that part of his ambition has been realised.
May I now mention one or two things in the Bill itself? Clause 1 (3) says:No Order regulating the landing of sea-fish shall be made under this Section unless 1394 Orders made under the next three following Sections are in force.There is a possible danger in making these Orders dependent on Orders under the following Sections being in force. The right hon. Gentleman may possibly be tying his hands a little too tight if there is insistence on the fact that there must be an Order—before he can regulate imports of foreign fish—under Clause 2, that is to say, the prohibition of fish caught in certain areas. With regard to the size of mesh of nets, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will, in making such Orders, give reasonable time for the fishermen to use up their old nets, because every penny that they have to spend makes a considerable difference to them. I hope the negotiations with foreign countries with regard to the size of mesh will be actively proceeded with and will come to a satisfactory result before long. I hope that the different branches of the fishing industry will, as far as possible, be represented on the Commission. I speak for the moment for the inshore men. I am a little alarmed lest, when it comes to allocating the personnel, the chairman may, perhaps, be representative of consumers, the trawling industry may have a representative and the claims of the inshore men may be forgotten. There is one omission which might, perhaps, be rectified within the Title of the Bill, though it would perhaps be more properly rectified in subsequent legislation which, I understand, is now under consideration. There is a very curious position in the west country at present. During the season up to January last the Cornish and Devonshire fishermen fishing in Bigbury Bay, near Plymouth, caught £17,000 worth of fish in drift nets. That is quite a considerable sum. At the same time, about £424 worth of nets were destroyed by moored gear and the moored gear fishermen only got about £70 worth of fish and did £424 worth of damage.
How does that position arise, and what can be done about it? I have examined the position and it all goes back to the Act of 1883, which says, in effect, that moored gear cannot be set where drift net fishing is actually in progress. That Act was not challenged, to the detriment of the drift net fishermen. Until two or three years ago there were, as far as I know, no complaints at all of the destruction of gear, but lately there have been 1395 very serious complaints. It was found that the moored gear, in spite of the fact that it only had a very small catch, did an enormous amount of damage. I made inquiries and discovered that without fresh legislation there was nothing to be done, because inshore the position is governed by the Sea Fisheries Act, 1888, which gives power to local authorities to make by-laws. If the Devonshire Sea Fisheries Committee refuses to make a by-law prohibiting moored gear close to areas in which drift net fishing is in progress, nothing can be done. They either have to go somewhere else and fish or allow all the damage to be done to their nets. I would suggest that, where you have a conflict between two local sea fishery committees, where one either refuses to make an order or will not remove an order which it has made and they cannot come to some amicable agreement, the Minister should have some over-riding power. I can quite imagine that the local sea fisheries committees may not like it, but I think a case can be made out for giving the Minister some further powers. I congratulate him on the Bill, and I am greatly pleased that he has carried on the policy which the Government have been pursuing of dealing with each industry in the way that is most convenient to it. He has carried through very important Measures dealing with agriculture and he has now proved that, while he inclines a favourable ear to the moaning of the farmer, he is not deaf to the moaning at the harbour bar.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Sir M. WOOD
The Minister's speech rather emphasised the impression that I received of the Bill when I first read it. It is a matter of regret that the care of agriculture and fisheries should be combined in, the same person, because agriculture is such a large subject, and the right hon. Gentleman must of necessity spend so very much more time in considering it, that fisheries are bound to be the Cinderella of the family. It seems to me that the Minister has tried to apply to fisheries plans which he got ready made for agriculture. It is no doubt true that many of the problems that the fishing industry is up against are the same as the problems of agriculture. They are both taken up largely with the question of gluts, but they are 1396 very different gluts. A glut of wheat, for instance, must be largely the result of deliberate action. Making all allowance for variations in the bounty of nature, the supply of wheat must to a large extent depend upon the acreage sown. With regard to the fishing industry, it is different. From time immemorial the fisherman has had the same experience. At one time he will fish all night and catch nothing, and the next night he will have such a miraculous draught of fishes that his nets break. That is a condition of affairs which it is quite beyond the right hon. Gentleman's resources to control, even though he may be armed with all these powers of quotas, tariffs and prohibitions. It will not do for him to try to force into a mould which has been fashioned for agriculture an industry which will not fit that mould in any way. It is difficult to understand the Government's position with regard to these quotas that they propose to put on. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman tried to show that their policy squared with the policy of the Economic Conference. I was not satisfied with his explanation, but I suppose it is no use trying to argue that case further just now.
What is the cause of the admitted depression in the fishing industry? The Addison Committee stated that it was due to the fact that, on account of the depressed state of trade, the demand for fish had gone down, in other words, that people were too poor to pay for it, and, put shortly, the policy of the Government is simply to make it dearer. That is not the way to tackle a problem of this kind. Such a policy, I very strongly fear, will lead to making the case of the fishing industry worse at the end than it was at first. We were given a number of figures to show that the price of fish had gone down, but the figures were got by lumping all kinds of fish together and giving us the average per pound. It did not seem to me that that was a very scientific method of treating the subject, and I should have liked the right hon. Gentleman to analyse the figures before drawing any definite conclusions from them.
If, for instance, we are told that the average price of fish this year is 2d. per pound, and that the average last year was 2½d. per pound, before we can draw any proper inference from that we must know the nature of the fish in each case. We 1397 want to know whether, in the year in which the price was low, it was low because a large proportion of the fish was fish of a low grade character—indeed that has been causing the fall in price of fish in the last few years. We have been having gluts of fish of low-grade character at times when there was little demand. Prices went down, and by so doing they brought down the average price for the whole year. The figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave us ought, it seems to me, to be supplemented considerably before we are able to draw any real inference from them.
We must remember in this matter the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), and which I would like to emphasise, that the great cause of the trouble is not that there has been an increase of foreign landings, but of landings from our own ships. There has been no increase in landings from foreign sources during the last five years. The increase has been from our own trawlers which in the last two or three years have brought about 1,250,000 or 1,500,000 cwts. more. It will help us to understand the situation if we realise that the problem is not a problem, as so many are inclined to think, of foreign competition. We are going to impose a reduction of foreign imports of fish into this country. From one point of view that is not of much importance because the quotas are so large that it will not make much difference. The quotas are to be reduced by only 10 per cent., but we are told that the price is to be raised by this means. We are going to tell foreign countries that we will not let them send the same quantities, but we add: "Do not be alarmed. We will allow you to send less, but we will pay you the same or even more." It does seem a strange way of trying to assist the fishing industry. I would ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if I have not correctly stated the position with regard to these quotas.
We are proposing to prevent foreign countries from sending as much fish as in the past. What will these countries do when they are prevented from sending their fish here? They are largely fishing countries and we cannot expect fishermen to turn themselves into smallholders. These foreign countries will go on fishing. While we have, up to the present, 1398 imported large quantities of fish, we have also exported fish and we shall simply divert these supplies from our own shores to the countries where, in a large measure, we have hitherto exported white fish from this country. That will not benefit this country, and I hope the Government will keep this view of the situation strictly before their eyes.
Now I come to the next proposal, which is the prohibition of the landing of British-caught fish. The first thing that strikes one is something alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland. We say to our trawl owners, who have built ships for the special purpose of going to distant fishing grounds, that they are no longer to be allowed to land fish from these areas at certain times. What does the Secretary of State for Scotland think these trawlers will do? They are not, presumably, to be laid up. They will go on fishing somewhere else, and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has no guarantee that they will not go on landing as much fish as they did before, They are, indeed, bound to do so, as they cannot afford to do nothing There is, to say the least, a loophole in the scheme. The ships will come back to the North Sea, although we all agree that the North Sea is impoverished by over-fishing. These ships, driven out of the distant grounds, will come back and increase the over-fishing of the North Sea.
It is rather interesting that we should be taking these steps to prevent fishing in those distant grounds, because the Addison, or Scott, Committee recommended that ships should be built for the purpose of searching for new grounds, and the Government actually spent £180,000 in building a ship to look for new grounds. This committee states that it is still necessary to look for new fishing grounds to enable the fishing industry to work properly. In face of the recommendation to search for new grounds, we have the Government of the day coming down and proposing to put a prohibition on the landing of fish from our most recently discovered fishing grounds. Surely there is some contradiction in policy in these two things. No one can deny that the Government have spent £180,000 for this special purpose. We go searching for grounds, and we say it is necessary to do so. Immediately we are successful in finding them, we say 1399 we shall not use them although, presumably, we are to go on searching for others. I cannot understand a policy of that kind.
At this time of day I am not one of those who would suggest that it is wrong to attempt anything in the nature of planned production. I am quite prepared to consider any proposals of that kind, and if something along these lines can be achieved I shall be glad. But in any scheme of planned production you must remember that you must plan over the whole area, or none at all. We, I hope, have not forgotten the failure of the rubber restriction scheme. There the Government tried to control the production of rubber, but they confined their efforts only to the British Empire. The Dutch Malayan Colonies went on reaping a large harvest at our expense. That is what I feel is likely to happen in relation to this scheme. We are saying to our trawlers, "You are not to go to the Barents Sea, or Bear Island, at certain times of the year." These are fishing grounds we discovered. We publish to the world that these good fishing grounds are not to be operated by us, and that all our competitors may come in and scoop the pool at their leisure.
§ Sir M. WOOD
They can land the fish elsewhere, and they will still compete with us, although they do not land their fish here. A controlled scheme of that kind, which does not cover the whole area, is likely to play into the hands of the foreigner. It is impossible for me to go into everything with which I would like to deal in this Bill, and I hope, if I pass quickly from one thing to another, I shall be excused. I next come to the question of the landing of immature fish. That, of course, has been a great difficulty for a long time, and I am very glad to think that the Government are dealing with it. I notice that a great deal is looked for from dealing with the size of mesh. I honestly believe that that will not be of so much effect as some people imagine. The part of these proposals which is valuable is the prohibition of the landing of small undersize fish. That is highly desirable. It is long overdue, and I congratulate the Government on taking the matter in hand. There, again, we have a very serious 1400 criticism of the proposal. It only applies to our own vessels, or vessels going to land fish in this country.
The object of this proposal is to protect the North Sea as a fish nursery, so to speak, and the restrictions are applied only to our vessels, and not to all countries operating in the North Sea. For that reason, of course, the proposal is bound to fail to a very large extent. It is a matter of great regret to me that the Government should have started to deal with the matter in this way. This is a matter, like some others, which can be dealt with only by international action. I think it is our fault to a large extent that international action has not been taken in this matter before. We had an invitation from the Netherlands Government, which is certainly two years old, to join a conference to reconsider the whole question of the North Sea Fisheries Convention. We have not yet replied, because the Government for some reasons, with which I can quite sympathise, have not made up their mind what their own policy is. Until they make up their mind they will not be able to solve the question of fishing in the North Sea.
This Bill is largely a Bill for the trawl owners. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries said at one point that it had the approval of the fishing industry. On another occasion he said it had the approval of the Trawl Owners' Federation. I know it has the approval of the British Trawl Owners' Federation—it is their Bill. But I would like to know on what ground it is represented as having the support of the other fishing industries which are very important indeed. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will not be surprised if I am very critical of the Bill for the reason that the herring fishermen are entirely left out. of it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) seemed to think that that was the worst of it. I wish to goodness it was simply a question of leaving the herring fishermen out of the Bill. The fact is that Bills like this harm the herring fisherman, who is very much worse off to-day than he was a year ago.
The hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul) called for assistance from the Government for the white fish industry. I am inclined to think that the best assistance which the 1401 Government could give to the herring industry would be to leave it alone. It would have been a great deal better to-day if it had been left alone. Take the position at this time last year. It had just negotiated a contract with Russia for the sale of 100,000 barrels of herrings, and everything looked well. The contract was delivered, and it was on the point of arranging another contract of the same kind when the Ottawa Agreement came along and the whole thing fell through, and there has not been another barrel of herrings sent to Russia. Recent events have made the position even worse. Russia and Germany are the two great markets upon which in the past the herring fishing industry has relied. What is the position with regard to Germany? The duty upon herrings was about 3s., but immediately we started upon our tariff policy the German Government announced that they were to take steps to make themselves independent of our herring supplies and to set aside a large sum of money in order to build boats for the purpose of catching herrings, and they also trebled the duty upon herrings coming from this country.
The position of the herring fishing industry to-day is that they have to face a tariff wall in regard to Germany which is three times the height it was a year ago, whereas the Russian market has entirely gone, for how long no one can say. Surely, the herring fishing industry has a right to protest against this repeatedly injurious treatment which it is receiving from the Government. All the new proposals which the Government make for the assistance of the white fish industry provoke reprisals which are directed against the only industry which is defenceless, namely, the herring fishing industry. I have reminded the House on many occasions that before the War this industry exported three-quarters or even more of all the fish caught as cured herrings to the Continent and other parts, and naturally it presents a very fine target to any foreign country which wishes to retaliate against us when a tariff is put on against them.
Somebody said—I am not sure whether it was not the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries—that this Bill was the charter for the inshore fishermen. If he says that, it shows that he is not as con- 1402 versant with the fishing industry as he is with agriculture. No one who knows the facts can possibly suggest that it is a charter for the inshore fishermen. It would be more true to say that the Bill does absolutely nothing for the inshore fishermen. The inshore fisherman is quite independent of the trawl and the trawler. No one who knows anything about these matters would think of buying trawled fish if he could get fish caught by lines by inshore fishermen. The standard of the article is so much higher that there is really no competition between the two. The limitation of the amount of fish which may be landed by trawlers will not make any appreciable difference one way or the other to the inshore fisherman, whose difficulty at the present time is of a different kind altogether, and one with which the Bill is not attempting to deal, although the Government were invited to do so by the Committee. The inshore fishermans great difficulty is that he has to send his fish, except that which is consumed locally, to markets such as Billingsgate, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. There he is met with the difficulty that in almost every case the only men to whom he can send his fish for sale are men who are both salesmen and merchants. That is to say, they are selling for the fishermen who send the fish and buying for themselves at the same time. There is not a Member of the House who dare say that that is a proper system, or that the fishermen get a proper deal under conditions of that kind. A definite recommendation was made by the Scott Committee that legislation should be passed to deal with the situation. They pointed out that this had been the position in markets in Paris, and that legislation had been passed there to put a stop to it. I regret that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has lost an opportunity of dealing with the question in this Bill. He could have done it quite easily. There was a recommendation, and he ought to have acted upon it. The inshore fisher-men require better marketing. If better marketing can be carried through, their position will be safeguarded and improved in a way that nothing else can do.
This brings me to the proposal in the Bill which deals with marketing. It is said that there is provision in the Bill for 1403 the making of Orders, and that the making of an Order imposing a quota is to be conditional upon the making of certain other Orders. I ask the House to look at the provisions of Clause 1, Subsection (4). The Minister of Agriculture made a great point of saying that he was going to assist the industry on condition that the industry reorganised itself. But when we look at the Sub-section which deals with the matter we find that the reorganisation only extends to the catching and landings of fish, and not to the sale of fish. Why has the sale of fish been omitted, and how can any industry like this be reorganised effectively if the whole question of the sale of fish is left out of account? Surely, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot believe that he can do so. There it is in the Sub-section, and I should like whoever replies at the end of the Debate to deal with that particular question. I agree that there is provision for a report by the Sea Fish Commission about the sale, but the mere fact of providing for a report about the sale without provision for putting it into effective operation is of no value at all, and that is the position in the Bill at the present time.
I come, lastly, to the question of the Sea-fish Commission. Everyone who has spoken has, I think, commended that proposal, but I am very sceptical indeed as to the value of the Commission. We have had commissions and committees over and over again, and I do not see the need for having any more. The Commission is to investigate any matter relating to the catching, landing, stowage, treatment, distribution or sale of sea-fish. I would suggest to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that all the information he requires on these subjects is at his disposal practically at a moment's notice if he will only apply to his own Department of Fisheries or to the Scottish Fishery Board. There is nothing recondite about these matters. Anyone who has devoted his lifetime to them can give the Minister all the information he requires. We have in Scotland a Fishery Board with permanent officials and a number of other skilled men in the industry as members of it. It has been in existence for 50 years. For what purpose does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman think it exists if it is not to do the very thing he is proposing to set up a Commission to do? I am sorry to have 1404 to say it, but I think that this proposal is really of no value and will only result, I fear, in a waste of time.
I wished to draw attention to a number of recommendations of the Scott Commission, some of which are very valuable and some of which could easly be put into operation, but my hon. Friend who spoke a short time ago from the Labour benches devoted most of his speech to those recommendations, and therefore I do not propose to go over the ground again. But there is one point dealing with the question of the sale of fish to which I will refer. It is absolutely necessary, if the fishermen are to get a fair deal, that the salesmen who are to sell their fish on the pier should be neutral and not engage in selling and buying at the same time. They should be independent of buyers. If something is not done or cannot be done to put a stop to the present practice, which is very much worse in some places than in others, it may be necessary to adopt the practice which, I understand, is adopted in Holland in which the Government undertake all the selling so as to ensure that it is done in a neutral and impartial way. There is a great deal to be said for that proposal, and those who are interested had better consider it, because if something is not done, public opinion may force the Government to step in and do something to put matters right along those lines. I regret that I cannot say that this Bill will be of any appreciable benefit to the fishing industry. The recommendations with regard to the size of mesh and the landing of undersize fish are good, but beyond that there is practically nothing to recommend it, and in my opinion the House of Commons would be well advised not to let it proceed further.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) has been rather critical of most of the provisions of this Bill, and I hope before I sit down to answer his main contention, but perhaps he will allow me first to make one or two general observations in support of the Second Beading of the Bill. The claim of the fisherman is one which must always strike a sympathetic chord in a sea-girt land, for we are a seafaring race. From the earliest times our fishermen have 1405 played their part in building up our nation, and throughout the centuries there has grown up around our shores a strong, vigorous, and enterprising people. Measured by the numbers of our boats, our fishermen, or their products, Britain to-day is the leading fishery nation, and I further recall the fact that if the fishing industry is of importance to England and Wales, it is of relatively greater importance to Scotland.
I fear there is a prevalent idea that the holder of my office—I see my predecessor the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) in his place, and I do not know whether or not he agrees with me—is a. Minister whose interest in fisheries is limited to the herring industry, and that he is unsympathetic to those who, from the trawling and other ports,go down to the sea in ships, and do their business in great waters.I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that there is no greater fallacy. It is true, as my colleagues from Scotland have mentioned, that the herring industry is of special importance to Scotland, but Scotland has about one-fifth of the total steam trawler fleet of Great Britain. In 1932 the number of trawlers in Scotland was some 335, of which 247 belonged to Aberdeen and 78 to the Leith district. They gave regular employment to over 3,000 fishermen, and the value of their products, the wholesale price of their products, was about £1,750,000. These figures, I think, prove that the trawling industry is of importance to Scotland.
I desire, therefore, to associate myself with this Bill introduced by my right hon. and gallant Friend and colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, who continues to apply his great energy and imagination to the solution of the various problems which come before him. During the last generation immense changes, as my hon. Friends coming from these northern ports know, have come over the conditions of our fisheries. Great developments have taken place in the size, the power, and the organisation of the fleets employed, and the modern trawler is a powerful and costly vessel, highly equipped for the catching and landing of fish. The largest trawlers, I am told, often make during the year voyages of over 1,000 miles in length, to distant Arctic seas, and bring 1406 back heavy catches to our shores. At the same time, there has been a striking development in the smaller craft and in their methods of fishing. Steam boats and motor boats, using Kelvin and semi-Diesel engines, have largely replaced sailing boats, and new types of net and gear have been introduced and adapted to growing experience. All this development has created its own crop of problems, and the difficulty of these has been enhanced by the present economic crisis.
One of the troubles that has revealed itself in the white fishing industry is that in one sense the catching power has become too efficient. It is generally accepted, I think, that the nearer fishing grounds, especially in the North Sea, are being too intensively fished by the modern trawlers and the nets they employ. The aggregate quantity of the fish landed from these waters has not suffered, I understand, and it is landed in good condition. More and more attention is being paid to the handling of the fish at sea so as to land it in the best possible condition, but the average size of fish has suffered a great diminution. I am informed that the percentage of haddocks, to take one example out of many, classified as small since before the War, has increased from about 42 per cent. to 83 per cent., an enormous increase in the smaller fish landed at our ports in comparison with pre-War days. As the public want fish of a good size, this has no doubt operated to reduce the public demand and also to lower prices.
This change in the landings from the nearer grounds has naturally resulted in our trawlers going to more distant seas, where they have succeeded in catching fish of a larger size, but another difficulty presents itself, because with voyages of three weeks' duration it is in present circumstances difficult to land the whole of the cargoes in the state desired. Moreover, the quantity of such fish from the Bear Island and other distant grounds has at times exceeded the public demand. The result has been a sharp drop in prices, spreading over practically the whole of the fishermen in the industry.
The Bill itself attacks both of these problems. The first one, well developed by the Minister of Agriculture this afternoon, namely, the catching and landing of undersized fish, is dealt with by the proposal to regulate the size of mesh and 1407 of fish that may be landed. In this connection scientific investigation and industrial practice are working hand in hand, and I believe, after having studied this question with my advisers, that the soundness of these proposals is generally accepted by all concerned. Judging from the comments this afternoon, hon. Members from all quarters generally agree with that view, and there is every prospect of success in this effort to improve the stocks of fish in the North Sea and the value of that fishing ground to the countries which it supplies.
The Scottish trawl owners—and here I come more closely to my hon. Friends from the North—are, I think, deserving of special commendation for their attitude in this connection. There is one fish, I am told, in which they are specially interested, namely, the haddock, in regard to which the effects of these restrictions will at the outset be especially severe, and their beneficial effects not felt so soon. I want to add a word of praise to Dr. Bowman for his valuable research work, in conjunction with other scientists who have participated in the international investigations. The other problem, that of excessive landings from distant grounds, is also met by the provisions of the Bill, and the provisions made for the regulation of imports from other countries, which I beg the House to note, have been accepted as reasonable by the countries chiefly concerned, and should enable these measures to be carried out without being frustrated by excessive supplies from abroad.
The object of the Bill, quite frankly, is to raise the prices received by the fishermen, big or small, to a remunerative level. At the present time the fisherman, either big or small, is not getting a fair return for his lonely and stormy work in the Northern seas. I have been at pains to try to find out the actual average prices, and here my hon. and gallant Friend who preceded me took exception to the Minister of Agriculture's lumping the prices, but, believe me, it is very difficult to get accurate prices for any one commodity, and the only accurate price which I can give to the House is the average price.
§ Sir M. WOOD
But surely my right hon. Friend has just told us that recently there has been a much larger proportion 1408 of small and undersize fish, so that naturally the prices are down.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I am addressing myself to the hon. Member's criticism against my right hon. and gallant Friend that he did not give specific figures and that he dealt with the average. I addressed myself very definitely to avoid giving to this House average figures, and I have endeavoured to get accurate figures of the different types of fish, but I have failed. Here, however, are the average figures: If one takes the index price in 1913 as 100, the average price obtained by British white fishermen in 1929 is represented by 151 and in 1932 by 111; in other words, the price received by the fishermen for the products of these Northern Seas has only increased 11 per cent. on the average in comparison with pre-War years, while the costs of the ships and of all the commodities necessary for the carrying on of a great fleet have increased by a much larger figure.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the quantities of fish obtained in these respective areas where the prices have fallen?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The right hon. Gentleman ought to consider that it is not giving the House all the information in the possession of his Office merely to quote average prices without quoting the quantities landed.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I would willingly give them if I could, but I will see if the information is forthcoming. I have not the figures by me. It is difficult to follow these prices down to the consumer, because the quality of the fish landed falls into various groups, yielding to the fishermen prices varying from 1d. or less per lb. up to 1s. or more per lb. The retail sale of the fish takes numerous forms. Part of it goes to various classes of retail shops. Hotels, restaurants, and clubs buy large quantities direct from the merchant, while the fried fish shops dispose of more than one-half of the white fish landed on our shores.
The Bill aims at assisting the industry to set itself in order, if I may say so, both on sea and on land. I have already dealt with the former aspect. Let me now turn to the latter aspect. It is essen- 1409 tial that the fishermen should get a fair share of the retail price paid by the consumer. One hears allegations and complaints of wide disparities between the price paid to the fishermen and by the consumer. Allowing for the fact that this question cannot be entirely decided by averages, and that the price on the market to the consumer and for the fishermen are both high in the case of the best fish, there still remains a large field for inquiry as to whether the fisherman is getting his fair share of the price paid to the retailer.
My hon. and gallant Friend was rather critical of the Sea-fish Commission. In one sentence he thought that the marketing might be a success and in another sentence he doubted the value and the direct results of the Commission. I suggest to him that the Sea-fish Commission, entrusted with the powers which it will have under this Bill, may be enabled for the first time to reveal the true facts of the situation. I assure him that we on these benches are equally anxious with himself that the line fisherman, the fisherman who lands fish at our ports from all types of fishing, shall receive a larger share of the price paid ultimately by the consumer. In these remarks I must deal not only with what I call the large fishermen represented by the trawling companies, who have been referred to by hon. Members opposite, but also to the smaller fishermen who work from the small ports and harbours and coasts of Scotland. I ask myself this question. Have these individual and solitary fishermen round our coasts satisfactory opportunities for disposing of their catch at a reasonable price and securing the advantage of the inland markets when these happened to be favourable? It would be rather rash for me to dogmatise upon any of these questions, but at any rate there is a case for examination of the question whether the distributing side of the fishing industry is organised on the most efficient and economic lines.
I was hoping that we might have the support of hon. Members opposite for this Bill, but when we come to planning and incorporating our ideas in Bills there are always some Clauses to which hon. Members opposite take exception. I suggest that the appointment of the Sea-fish Commission proposed by the Bill will be 1410 of great assistance to the fishing industry and that this part of the Bill rounds off the other part, which is concerned more directly with the actual operations of the fishermen. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture made a brief reference to the herring industry. I am sure, judging from the speeches made this afternoon, that hon. Members from Scotland appreciate the importance of the fact that the main problem of the herring industry is entirely different from that with which this Bill deals. Here we are considering the problem of over-supply and the organisation of the home market, but in the herring fishing industry it is a case of under-demand from foreign markets.
§ Sir G. COLLINS
I know that is the view of the hon. Member. It may be said that if foreign herrings were excluded from the home market British herrings could be supplied in their place, but I am informed that the Norwegian herrings come here at a season when the home herring fishing industry is limited and irregular. Whether the herring industry could be organised and developed so as to provide for the particular demand is one of the questions which the Sea-fish Commission will no doubt investigate, but we are treating Norwegian imports of herrings on the same basis of regulation of imports which have been agreed upon with foreign countries in the case of fish generally. That is as a part of a general policy for controlling the supplies of fish in the home market.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) was concerned about the position of Aberdeen. May I assure him that Aberdeen is not affected by the Barents Sea prohibition. He was also concerned that nothing should be done by the Bill to affect the curers position in Aberdeen. Let me remind him that we are giving a drawback on cured white fish, and I do not think for one moment that there is anything in the Bill which will make it more difficult for the curers in the Aberdeen industry to succeed in the future. He very properly pointed out that the Aberdeen industry was being affected by tariffs and exchanges, and he told the House that the only solution was the solution of the world's stocks 1411 Members of His Majesty's Government are elsewhere trying by all their available power to secure the solution of those world troubles and it behoves us here to take minor measures to cope with the particular troubles with which this House is faced. It is because I believe that this Bill is conceived on lines in agreement with the fishing industry, conceived on lines in agreement with other countries, and supported as it is in its proposals dealing with the size of fish by scientific authority and the industry, that I commend it with confidence to the House of Commons.
§ 7.55 p.m.
The House has listened with very great pleasure to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has given many of us who are not closely associated with the fishing industry details that are very useful, but the speech still leaves us without any apology for the Amendment we have put forward. If there has been any speech in the Debate that justifies the Amendment it is the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Although I am a miner, I make no apology for taking part in this discussion, because there is a very close affinity between the miners and the fishing industry from many points of view, which we have always recognised. I wish to reiterate many of the things said by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the hazardous conditions of the fishing industry, the honourable nature of the calling they follow and the gallant and noble way in which they carry out their dangerous occupation. It is not because the Opposition wish to be contrary to the Measure, as such, that they oppose it. If we thought that it was likely to improve the lot of the fishermen or that more of the results would go into the pockets of the fishermen, having regard to the very high prices which are being paid for fish in the retail shops and markets, we should certainly support it.
What does the Bill propose to do? We have been told by the Minister who introduced it that it aims at restriction of imports so far as foreign fish are concerned and at the raising of prices. Three speeches have been made from the Government side and in each case they have admitted that the retail price of fish is far too high. I do not wish to contradict the figures given by the Secretary 1412 of State for Scotland, but if we may take it as a fact that the wholesale price of fish has only increased by 11 per cent. since 1913 while the retail price since 1914 as compared with other food commodities stands to-day at about 54 per cent. higher than any other food commodity, we say that there is something wrong between the man who brings the fish to the port and the price that the public pay for it. This Measure does not make one solitary attempt to reorganise the fishing industry on the basis of a fair share of the retail price going into the pockets of the fishermen.
The right hon. Gentleman who commended the Bill as a charter to protect the trawl owners was right. Hon. Members who have supported the Bill have done so in the idea that the trawl owners are all in the bankruptcy court, but there are a good many trawler owners still paying Income Tax. If this Bill reorganised the fishing industry in such a way that we should have co-operation between the trawler owners and the fish merchants, and selling agencies were set up with a view to controlling prices, so that the men who catch the fish would get a reasonable price, we might have been supporting the Bill, but when we find that retail prices of fish to-day are so high—I have here a list from the "Daily Mail" of the retail prices of white fish in London and the Provinces—it shows that there is something radically wrong. Our complaint is, and it is the reason why we oppose it, that the fundamental principles of the Bill are largely on the lines of the general policy which the Government have pursued ever since they came into office.
In a world of plenty there are thousands of British men and women who cannot afford to buy fish, but would willingly do so if they could. The only cure the Government have to offer is the raising of prices. They come here and suggest that if wholesale prices are raised, retail prices will not be affected. We have had some examples of that kind of thing during the last 18 months. In nearly every Measure that the Government have introduced, in the case both of tariffs and restrictions, the object has been to increase wholesale prices, and they have told us, "Do not fear; this will not affect retail prices; we can do this without affecting the consumer at 1413 all." We can no longer be fooled with a policy of that description. We are passing legislation which will affect the homes of millions of unemployed men, who are entitled to have fish as an article of food. From the point of view of its value as a food I wish they were getting more of it. But they cannot afford it at the present time. We cannot be made to believe that by increasing the wholesale price of food commodities the Government are likely to improve the position of the unemployed man and his family. The increase of wholesale prices will very soon be passed on to the retailer, and in the end the consumer will have to pay.
The report of the Fishing Industries Committee proves that the way the fishing industry has been carried on has been a scandal. There is no provision in the Bill for selling agencies for the fish. There is no provision which will ensure that a fair proportion of the returns go to the men who earn them. There are no terms of reference to the Sea-Fish Commission that they shall deal with the wages of men who are employed on smacks and trawlers. It has already been officially reported that the conditions under which some of them are working are a tragedy and a sin, and the way in which the money is shared indicates that, as in every other industry, the man who does the most and the dirtiest work gets the least pay.
These fundamental points make us oppose the Bill. The price now paid by consumers of fresh fish would, if matters were properly organised on a co-operative basis, allow both trawler owners and fishermen to get a fair sum. But the Government are not making any such provision. The only people to be protected are the trawler owners. We say that the Government could have brought in a Bill which would have reorganised the fishing industry on such lines that the price the consumer pays would go into the pockets of the people who are entitled to receive it. We make no apology for opposing the Bill. Take the price of the fish that goes into the homes of working people. I will not mention salmon, because the price of that is exorbitant, but take the price of cod-fish, haddock and whiting, which are very largely consumed by working-class people. We find that the price of cod-fish is 8d. to 9d. a 1414 pound, and of haddock and whiting the same. I suggest seriously that if that price had any relation to the sum received by the trawler owner and the fisherman, they would have a decent "carry on" without any necessity for raising prices further.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARD LAW
The hon. Member who has just spoken has made a mistake which has been made by more than one speaker who has opposed this Bill: he has very much over-stated his case. The Debate has shown already that the case against this Bill is a very weak one, but it is made very much weaker by the kind of over-statement to which the hon. Member has treated us. The hon. Member said that this Bill was all humbug, that the fishermen would not get any benefit from it at all. He said that prices would be raised by the Bill, and that the benefit would go entirely to the trawler owner and not to the fishermen. He stated that there is no guarantee in the Bill. But there is every guarantee in the custom and tradition of the fishing industry, as the hon. Member would recognise if his constituency were a little nearer the sea than it is. I would like some of the hon. Members who have said that fishermen would get no benefit from the raising of wholesale prices to make that statement to an audience of fishermen. I think they would find very soon that they were laughed out of court, or more likely thrown into the dock. I am certain that the fishermen will benefit very considerably from the raising of prices. The fisherman gets poundage; he gets a fixed wage, it is true, but he also gets a penny in the pound on the net sales of the voyage of his ship. It therefore follows that if the ship gets a bigger return on a voyage the fisherman and the fisherman's family are correspondingly better off.
The hon. Member also went into the question of the retail price and the wholesale price, and the enormous gap between the two. I do not know that much more can be said on that point than was said by the Minister. My right hon. Friend stated that commission after commission had gone into that question and had tried to find out what was the cause of this gap, but had not been able to do so. It is not very likely that 1415 another commission would be able to put its finger upon a point which has eluded detection so far. Yet I am not quite sure of that. Perhaps that is an overstatement on my part. Possibly the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) would be able to help the House in that respect. I suggest to him with all respect that he should go along to his local co-operative society and find out the cause of the enormous gap between the wholesale price and the retail price of fish.
The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) professed the greatest amazement that the Bill did not give effect to the recommendations of Dr. Addison's Committee. Again I say without offence that if South-East Leeds had been on the sea I do not think the hon. and gallant Member would have expressed such amazement. I cannot profess to be in the confidence of the Minister on this matter, but I suppose that the reasons why these recommendations have not been carried out are simply that the Minister and his technical advisers regard them in the same way as they are regarded by fishermen, as being very fine sounding but really of no practical use at all. I will take two points that were raised by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds. One point was the question of settlement. He said that the recommendation of the committee was that there should be a Government salesman, that otherwise the men might receive a false settlement, and might be cheated of the money which was due to them in the form of poundage. That seems to be an unnecessary recommendation. It is certainly not one for which there is any demand amongst fishermen. It seems to be the kind of recommendation that could have been made only by people who know very little of the circumstances in which the fishing industry is carried on.
Whenever a ship comes into dock and the fish is sold, the skipper of the boat or the mate has a right, which he uses, to stand by the side of the salesman and see that there is no "monkey" business going on. That is one safeguard which the crews of trawlers have against any possible unscrupulousness on the part of the fishing-vessel owner. There is another safeguard. The accounts of all these companies are audited, and the 1416 fishermen, I understand, have a right to go to the Board of Trade and demand an investigation of the accounts, or demand to see them. It is all very well to say, as I have heard it said, "Oh, yes, they have this right, but they are intimidated; they are too frightened to do it." That is simply not the case. Anyone who looks into the matter will find that every year hundreds of fishermen go to the Board of Trade and verify the accounts of their employers. I think that that disposes of the recommendation that there should be a Government salesman.
Another point was put forward by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). He said that vessel owners are robbers; that they say they are making no profits, and that it may be true they are making no profits out of their ships, but that they are making profits on their ice contracts. In some ports, he said, the vessel owners also own the ice factories, and they sell the ice to their own ships at exorbitant prices, and they make a profit on the ice if they do not make any on the operation of the ships. I wonder whether the hon. Member really took any trouble to verify his statement. I cannot speak of every port, but I know that in Hull there is such an ice company as described by the hon. Member for the Don Valley, and I know that the ice is sold by that company to the ships at a rate which is far lower than the ordinary commercial rate. That disposes of the other point brought forward by hon. Members of the Opposition.
I am sorry to see the Liberal benches so completely empty at the moment, but in spite of that I must say a few words about the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood). The Secretary of State for Scotland has described the speech as being in some respects inconsistent, but he did not; really expose all the depths of its inconsistency. I admired the fervour and fire of the hon. Member for Banff but I found it difficult to understand at what he was driving. The only thing I did gather was that he did not like the Bill very much, and the grounds upon which he dislikes it are worthy of a little more examination, because they are the most inconsistent justification for an attitude that I have ever come across. The hon. Member, in the first place, was at great pains to say that the depression in the fishing industry was not caused by 1417 the importation of foreign fish; therefore, the Bill was no good. He Bays that it is caused, first, by the enormous quantity of cheap fish coming in; therefore, in his view, the Bill was no good. The whole point of Clause 2 is to control the quantity of cheap fish coming into this country, but the hon. Member seemed to be quite unable to see that the Bill does meet the objection which he raised. Again, he said that it was not only the cheap fish coming in but the enormous inflated quantities of fish which were coming in; and the Bill does not meet that. That is just the contingency which the Bill does meet under Clause 2.
There is one point in his speech which I should like to assist him to clear up. It is a point upon which he got very excited, obviously because he had just discovered it, and was highly delighted at having made the discovery. But it is a point of absolutely no importance and really has no bearing on the Bill at all. The hon. Member says, it is all very well to prohibit British fishing vessels fishing on certain grounds at certain times of the year, but what is to prevent these fishing vessels going somewhere else and bringing back just as large catches, which will be just as damaging to the markets of this country? That is the great point which has has discovered. The answer, of course, is quite simple. The waters around these islands have been completely charted, and it is well known that there are no fishing grounds like Bear Island and the White Sea which are within normal steaming distance of this country. It may be true that there are waters which have not been charted where there may be fishing grounds teeming with life similar to those in Bear Island, but they are in the prohibited area; and however much a fishing owner may wish to employ his ship in bringing back an enormous cargo he will not be able to do so.
Fishing boats will not go out of commission, because those which used to go to Bear Island may now go to Iceland, but there they will not find the enormous stocks of fish they found in Bear Island. Ships which may have brought in 2,000 kits of fish into the British market from Bear Island may now go to Iceland, and bring in 1,000 kits of fish, at an enhanced price. In that case everyone is satisfied; the price goes up and a glut is avoided. I was so interested in listening to the 1418 speech of the hon. Member for Banff that I have expended rather more time upon it than it was worth, but in spite of that there is one more thing I should like to say. The hon. Member said, with immense pride, that he was not one of those who objected to the whole idea of a planned industry. That must be gratifying to the House. But while he may not object to a planned industry, he is quite unwilling to accept any of the implications of planning. It is impossible to plan an industry unless you have some control of the markets which the industry is to supply. The fundamental distinction between the kind of criticism passed on the Bill by the hon. Member for Banff and the attitude of the Minister of Agriculture is simply this; that the hon. Member is perfectly prepared to have a national planning of industry if he can have it without any kind of protection. He wants to have it both ways; and, as he cannot have it both ways, he says that it will be much better to have universal Free Trade rather than a planned industry and protection. The Minister of Agriculture, on the contrary, is perfectly willing to do what he can with the material which lies at his hand, and although in this Bill he may not have been able to produce at once a prosperous fishing industry, yet I believe he has done a great deal towards planning an important industry of this country, and making it fit into the new conditions with which the world is faced to-day.
There has been a great deal of praise of the Bill from supporters of the Government, and I should like to echo some of that praise. I do not pretend—I cannot pretend—that the Bill gives the fishermen of this country everything they would like to get. It is true that the fishing industry would like total prohibition of foreign-caught fish, and if there had been such prohibition the industry would have been able to fill the gap. At the same time, it is obvious that the Minister of Agriculture cannot, and could not if he wanted, exalt the fishing industry at the expense of every other industry. The fishermen themselves realise that as well as anyone else. The Minister has done a very remarkable piece of work in producing a Bill of this kind which gives so much positive help to the fishing industry and which at the same time keeps within the bounds of the 1419 various Trade Agreements which the Government have made with Scandinavian and other countries. The Minister deserves the greatest credit not only for the determination and energy which he has shown in regard to the Bill, but also for the delicacy and tact which he must have shown in his dealings with the various countries with whom we have been in negotiation during the last few weeks.
Other Members have sought further enlightment on various points in the Bill and there are one or two matters to which I, in my turn, would like to refer In the first place there is the question of the prohibited areas dealt with in Clause 2. I would say something upon that mater which has not yet been said in this Debate. Clause 2 which prohibits the landing of fish caught in certain areas at certain times of the year, affects only the ports on the Humber. Only vessels from: the Humber fish those far Northern waters which will be affected by Clause 2. I may add that it is only on the Humber that men can be found with the courage and hardihood to man those boats. Such sacrifice as is implied in Clause 2 is borne almost entirely by the Humber ports and for the greater part by the port of Hull.
The Bear Island fishing ground was, practically speaking, discovered by Hull and has been exploited by Hull and as a result of the exploitation of that fishing ground there has come into existence the finest and most up-to-date fleet of fishing vessels not only in this country, but in the world. The working of those fishing grounds represents a tremendous amount of courage and determination on the part of the fishing industry and the fishermen themselves. It is much to their credit that they are prepared to sacrifice what seems a temporary good, for the ultimate good of the industry as a whole. It is only just to those ports that attention should be directed to an example which some other industries would do well to emulate.
On the question of the prohibited areas, the Minister knows that the export of salt fish, principally to the South American countries, is an industry of great importance to this country. In the normal course of events the fish used in that industry would be caught by Nor- 1420 wegians in the prohibited areas during the prohibited seasons. It is of the utmost importance that nothing should be done to interfere with the importation of the raw material of that very substantial industry. It is an industry which employs a great number of men and women and it is having a hard enough time now. There is nothing to be gained by the trawling industry and a great deal to be lost by the curing industry through putting on restrictions in this respect, and that is one point to which I hope the Minister will give attention.
Clause 3 deals with the size of the mesh and in that connection the hon. Baronet the Member for Farnham (Sir A. M. Samuel) said something about the case of ships trawling for herring. That is an important side line in the trawling industry and one which admittedly does no harm to the fishing grounds. About 1913 a commission inquired into the effects of trawling for herring and reported favourably on the general question of herring trawling. It is important that no powers should be used by the Ministers concerned in operating this Measure to enlarge the mesh of the net used in trawling for herring, to such an extent as to make herring trawling impossible. I thank the Minister and the Government for a Bill which will, I believe, be of tremendous benefit to the industry and to the fishermen. In regard to what has been said from the Socialist benches, if any hon. Member is doubtful whether he should go into the Lobby in support of the Bill or not, I suggest to him the consideration that if he votes for the Bill he will be voting quite as much as for the fishermen and for their wives and families, as for the owners of the fishing vessels, if the proposals of the Bill are carried into effect.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
One might gather from the concluding remark of the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. R. Law) that those who do not support the Bill do not desire improved conditions for the fishermen. That would be a wrong construction to put upon our Amendment. I feel sure there is no difference of opinion in this House as to the deserts of the fishermen and those engaged in this industry. As was truly said by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) the miner feels a natural affinity 1421 with the fisherman. I remember an old saying in the mining districts to the effect that the fisherman was just one bit better off than the miner because the miner was already in his tomb and the fisherman had a coffin plank to ride on. That sympathy, however, does not prevent us from examining these proposals critically and putting forward an Amendment which is quite legitimate, believing as we do that this Bill will not directly or indirectly assist the fishermen and that the methods by which the Government seek to aid the industry are doomed to failure. We say that you cannot by restriction and by artificially raising the price of a commodity mainly consumed among the mass of the people in this country, add to the volume of consumption and the general demand for that commodity.
The hon. Member for South-West Hull, who is always courteous and reasonable, referred to some remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who moved this Amendment, and who did so in a very excellent speech, as I think every hon. Member will agree. The hon. Member for Don Valley referred to the question of marketing in this industry, and he could have quoted from the report of this Commission to which hon. Members have already referred so frequently in this Debate. With permission, I shall now quote two or three passages from that report. On page 130 there is a reference to Billingsgate Market, the central market for fish of this country, and we find these words:The question of sales on commission was carefully considered by the Food Council, who pointed out that the root of the complaint lies in the fact that salesmen act both as merchants buying and selling fish on their own account and as commission salesmen on behalf of port wholesale merchants. Such a state of affairs inevitably leads to abuses. In the central food markets of Paris, salesmen are required to act as commission agents only and are prohibited from engaging in selling on their own account either in the market or elsewhere. We think that it would be of advantage if there were restrictions on somewhat similar lines in this country.On the next page we find the words:The methods of weighing fish in the market are very casual, but the rapidity with which catches must be sent into consumption allows little time for exact weighing and the congested conditions at Billingsgate make the weighing of all consignments difficult, if not impossible. These difficulties are enhanced by the fact that the fish is 1422 mixed with ice in the boxes. We think, however, the trade would derive considerable advantage by making a careful study of the steps which have been taken in recent years by other branches of the food-producing industry to improve standards of packing and grading. There was a consensus of opinion amongst competent witnesses that the universal use of non-returnable boxes is an ideal at which to aim. Their use by the trade, however, is not likely to become widespread until the cost has been materially reduced.I happen to know that there are people engaged upon the preparation of boxes and cases for the carriage of fish.
§ Mr. WOMERSLEY
That recommendation has been accepted by almost everyone in the trade, and they do it voluntarily.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
My hon. Friend was referring to the complete absence of all the recommendations in the Bill. We may have to wait a very long time before these recommendations become general. May I now describe this industry in order that we may lay down what we regard as the criticism against this Bill? The industry employs 2,044 vessels, and an hon. Member said in an interjection this afternoon that they were fine vessels and that there had been a good deal of improvement in their character, size and speed. No one denies that there has been a good deal of rationalisation in the fishing industry, and with a lesser number of vessels and of men the output of the industry compares favourably even with the pre-War output. This industry collects its harvest. It is not a manufacturing industry. It is not even an industry that works upon raw material, but it collects raw material and hands it over to the great catering industry for consumption. It gathers this raw material over a very wide area.
We are an island in the northern hemisphere, and our boats go down south as far as North Africa. They travel westward some considerable distance from the shores of Europe, and they go up within the Arctic circle and travel east and west of our own meridian in these northern regions, scouring the seas to a depth of 250 fathoms, collecting fish from enormous distances, and bringing it back to our markets. It is a great industry, an industry of adventure and enterprise, and anyone who realises the nature of the undertaking cannot fail to pay his respects to the men engaged in the industry. The 1423 catches come mainly from the North Sea. From Icelandic waters the catches amount to 3,000,000 cwt. From further north, from Bear Island, another 1,000,000; from the Barents Sea 750,000, and so on. There is a total landed in this country of 14,250,000 cwts. of white fish and about 8,000,000 cwts. of herring. A very large quantity of fish is brought into this country, and having regard to its great value as a food and to the great difficulty and enterprise expended in getting it on to our tables, the price on the whole is very low. The average price is about £1 per cwt. Complaint has been made that the price has been falling, and a justification for this Bill is that it has been found impossible, even with the limitations of a falling output, to maintain the price at a satesfactory level.
The Minister of Agriculture dealt with the various phases of the problem for which he now supplies a solution in this Bill. I was glad to hear him reject emphatically the argument that the North Sea cannot be over-fished. He said that smaller fish were being brought into this country, and that large numbers of still smaller fish were being thrown overboard after being caught. That is a form of waste that should be avoided if it is possible, and in view of the fact that our catches are tending to become smaller, the matter is urgent enough for direct attention to be given to it. The Minister said that while he was conscious of the glut, there were provisions in the Bill which he hoped would be satisfactory, and which would cancel and neutralise the tendency to over-fishing. I was glad to know that he relied upon a reduction in the size of the mesh and the prohibition of the sale of small fish. I hope that these particular provisions will be effective, and, so far as they go, everyone on this side of the House is in complete agreement with them. It is on other points of the Bill that we differ. While the Minister complains of the small fish that have been brought in, he goes in a contrary direction altogether when he deals with the large fish. Having found large fish in the northern regions where the fishings have not been exploited so thoroughly, he says that they are too large, and that we will not have any more because they are too large. Fish are either too small 1424 or too large to suit the National Government, so they take measures to deal with both classes.
What we object to in the Bill, and what we call attention to in the Amendment, is that this is a Bill not to regulate fish and improve fishing conditions, to preserve and conserve the fishing grounds, but a Bill to produce a scarcity in the market. That is consistent with the policy of the National Government and we shall have the same argument put to-night with the same sanctimonious justification from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. We shall be told, "This is an age of overabundance and plenty, and we do not want too much of these good things. Over-abundance has caused all our economic troubles. Our policy as a National Government is to prevent the people from getting the advantages." We on this side say that is not the way out of our difficulties as a nation, that that is not the duty of a Government which claims to represent the people of this country. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that not only did the Government believe in this policy, but that it-was proposed to fit it in to a general plan for the whole world: that we should induce other countries to follow our example and bring about a reign of universal scarcity all over the world in order to raise prices and benefit some mythical person who can be benefited in this way. We say that is not the way to benefit the producer, because, after all, there is an inexorable law in these matters. We cannot do what hon. Members opposite have in their minds, and I am surprised at the patience of intelligent people in all parts of the House in allowing these arguments to be put before them day after day.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
The Minister said he was going to stop the importation of large fish. That is one restrictive measure. He says to the adventurous captains and mates of the boats which go out from Hull: "You have been too adventurous. Come away from the new fishing grounds you have found up north." There is to be a "farthest north" prescribed by this country. It is fixed at the latitude of 68 degrees. There are another 22 degrees before one 1425 gets to the North Pole, but these people must not go there. Then there are to be restrictions on how far east they may go. Other restrictions are imposed by reducing the size of the mesh and prohibiting the sale of small fish, and finally the Minister says they propose to regulate the import of foreign-caught fish.
When we hear that there is to be a duty on foreign fish we naturally ask, What is foreign fish? An hon. Member tells me that it is fish caught by a foreigner. Out of 10 fish caught by foreigners which used to come into this country only nine are to be allowed in in future. One fish caught by the foreigner is to be sent back. That is the kind of childish and futile restriction by which it is hoped to save the fishing industry. An hon. Member said this was only playing at things, and the hon. Member for the Hartlepools (Mr. Gritten) was severely castigated by the Minister of Agriculture, who told him there were people in this House who had bow and arrow minds. When he was referring to them in these contemptuous and disdainful terms one was tempted to ask what he could expect, seeing this National Government was in power. It is these outré mondaine people who are responsible for the existence of this Government. The Minister must not fall out with his own following because he himself would not have been a Minister but for the "beyond the world" people of whom he complains.
I should like to show the House how ingenious the Tory mind is in trying to persuade hon. Members and the people outside that the Government are consistent in adopting this principle of restriction. Some time ago we were invited to pass an Abnormal Importations Act and were told, "This is not Protection, this is not an interference with normal trade, this is an attempt to stop imports which are coming here in abnormal quantities because we have gone off the Gold Standard." That was the pretence kept up for a bit and the House accepted it, to its discomfort. After the House had accepted the idea of dealing with abnormal importations we had Protection introduced. We remained at that stage for a time, until Ministers rose one by one and began openly to disavow Protection as a remedy for world conditions. The hon. Member who came under 1426 Ministerial censure a few hours ago is not so far back along the road to the bow and arrow stage as ministers themselves were 12 months ago. Now it is not Protection that we are getting, but it is prohibition. Enamoured of the success of prohibition in America, the Government have become prohibitionists, and want to prohibit everything. Really, we cannot get on along these lines. There must be arithmetic, there must be logic, even in political economy. Ministers cannot change their ground so frequently. There is no question of abnormal importations in this case. As the hon. Member for Don Valley showed, the importations are decreasing. Before the War, when there was no demand for Protection, one-eighth of the fish consumed here were foreign-caught fish. In this last year the foreign-caught fish are only one-tenth of the total consumed.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I will ask the hon. Gentleman to look up the figures in this report. I am not dealing with anything outside the report. What I have said approximates to the facts for all practical purposes. But hon. Gentlemen do not now rely even on Protection and prohibition, but on a system of rationing. That is the new system, and I am sure that if the speech of the Minister of Agriculture is fully reported the people who read their papers to-morrow morning will feel very great national concern. The Minister said that not only is there a plentiful supply of fish, but that perhaps it is rather too much, the market being too small to receive it all having regard to the large quantities of other kinds of food. The Minister fears the presence of other kinds of food! So the Government proceed to a system of rationing. There is rationing in regard to agricultural products and rationing in regard to the products of the seas, because they say they must stop the foreign fish coming in.
Let us examine this argument about foreign fish. In the case of other products the argument put up is that we suffer from the competition of cheap foreign labour or the working of long hours by foreigners or it is said that the foreigners have easier access to raw materials. Is it the argument here that there is competition from the cheap 1427 labour on foreign trawlers? If that be the case I will prove that cheap foreign labour does not pay the foreigner, because he has been losing ground year by year in the last three or four years. There really is no argument in that. The consumers are to be called upon to pay a penny more for their fish in order that the National Government may continue to receive support from people who have been classified in this afternoon's Debate as good Conservatives in the fishing industry. You cannot take 10 per cent. off the supplies of the markets and increase the price, without having a direct and consequential effect, for which there is no provision in the Bill.
You take your 10 per cent. off; what are you going to do with it? You increase the prices by 10 per cent.: will you be able, the week after, to sell as many fish? You certainly will not. Here are a Government who are planning. They say that their policy is all one piece which shall fit into a world mosaic, a world in which wages are cut down, prices are raised, goods are restricted and production is discouraged. That is the kind of world they have in view. Raise the prices if you like; will the workmen of this country be able to buy more fish? Will he be able to buy as much fish? Will the low-paid workman, or the civil servant, be able to buy as much fish? The one result will be that less fish will be sold and eaten. I invite hon. Gentlemen to work out a little sum in arithmetic. It is no use their shaking their heads; they have to work things out, and to use their heads.
We know the figures, because we have discussed them before. The wholesale price for fish is 1.73d. per pound, and it is stated that fish is much too cheap. When it comes to the market, as I find at my own door, it is not 1.73d., and it is not 3.73d. per pound, but it is 6d., 7d. or 8d. per pound for the cheapest kinds of fish. The 1.73d. is to be raised, according to hon. Gentlemen. It was stated in a previous Debate that if the price were raised to 2½d. per pound, all would be fairly well in the fishing industry. That is an increase of about 33⅓ per cent. If wholesale prices are raised by 33⅓ per cent., is it proposed that retail prices shall be increased? How much is to be the increase in retail prices? That is the kind of thing that we should like to know, 1428 and I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade whose knowledge of trade—I am sure that he has a most intimate knowledge—will prevent him from making any mistake in computation. I invite him to put this problem to us: By how much can you raise wholesale prices without raising retail prices to the consumer? If you raise wholesale prices without raising retail prices, you are going to take profits. We know that retailers are doing fairly well. Can you do all that you want to do for the producer of fish without adding an additional charge upon the retailer? If you can, why do you not put a provision into the Bill? We would support you if you brought in a Bill of that type, but such a Bill is not forthcoming.
I would like to pay tribute to an hon. Friend of ours, the hon. Member for Claycross (Mr. C. Duncan), who has been indisposed for a long time, and who sat on the Committee on the Fishing Industry. He dissociated himself, in the report of the committee, from the paragraph which makes provision for the restriction of so-called foreign fish, and he made a reservation in the report saying that he did not believe that that would benefit the fishing industry. In a previous Debate I urged the importance of the conservation of the fish supply. I am not a fisherman, and I have no technical knowledge of fishing, but I believe in making the most of our national resources. There is no better national resource than the sea, whose inhabitants feed themselves and multiply themselves along our shores. It runs a very great danger. The Minister of Agriculture worked out a theory this afternoon. He said that the trawling industry was working to some kind of population theory; he described it as a kind of birth control. The policy of destroying the small fish has gone too far.
I ask these questions of the Minister, and I ask him specially to reply to me, perhaps on the Committee stage. This matter has received considerable attention and recommendations have been made by experts. What do the Government say? Can they include in this Bill, in some form or other, the recommendation that fish parks shall be established, in the North Sea or elsewhere, as reservations where fish shall be allowed to be 1429 unmolested? It was suggested by some fishing experts that the best use that could be made of the German fleet, instead of sinking it at Scapa Flow, was to put it into some area in the North Sea within which fish should be allowed to grow up and develop, before they came outside. That is an aspect of the conservation of fish which should receive attention.
There is the question of pollution. When I asked a question of the Minister on this matter, he said that he would be considering it, and that he would make some kind of statement later on. I did not think that it would be possible to make direct reference to pollution in the Bill, but I would urge that if we are to make the fishing industry successful, both deep-sea and inshore fishing, we must look after our waters and keep them free from pollution. We have already destroyed very valuable fishing ground around the coasts, we shall make them barren and sterile of all piscatorial value and there will be no fishing in those waters, unless pollution is brought to an end.
In regard to the Sea-fish Commission, of which we hear so much, we do not know what that commission will be called upon to do. We should like to have an assurance from the Minister that the Government have not determined in exact and final form what the Sea-fish Commission is to be. Much will be said about this, when we reach the Committee stage. On this side of the House we readily respond to any idea of organised planning or marketing, but we are not prepared to hand over the fishing, the agricultural or any other industry to a small body of people who may act as a corporation, studying only their own interest. We want the interest of the consumers to be considered, and it is mainly in the interests of the consumers that we have moved this Amendment.
We believe that the interests of the producers can be safeguarded without adding an additional burden upon the consumers of this country. We urge the Minister to give consideration to the possibility of better marketing, and of ensuring an adequate supply of fish at reasonable prices. As the hon. Member for Don Valley rightly advocated, you should consider the consumers, thereby encouraging consumption. Invite the people to eat more fish, and I am sure 1430 that they will eat and enjoy more fish if it is offered to them at a reasonable price. If you go in the other direction, and try artificially to raise prices to already impoverished consumers, you will only strengthen the case for our Amendment.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. HARBORD
I have already expressed strong views in reference to the hardships experienced by the herring fishing industry of this country, and I desire now to express considerable disappointment that the herring fishery has not been included in the Government's Bill. It is equally deserving of consideration with the other branches of the fishing industry which are included. The Secretary of State for Scotland said this evening that the Government did not believe that the exclusion of Norwegian herrings from this country during January, February and March would be a good thing, but might I remind him, a Scotsman, that, according to the view of those who are competent to form a judgment, the exclusion of Norwegian herrings during those three months of the year would give opportunities for increased fishing around some parts of the Scottish coast? I need only mention the experience of my own port of Yarmouth, where last Christmas we had some 60,000 or 70,000 barrels of herrings which could not be sold, while all the time Norwegian herrings were being freely imported. We should not view this matter so seriously were it not for the fact that, in the new trade agreement with Germany, the herring industry has again not been included. I do not complain that the coal industry should be assisted in this way, but I think the agreement might have gone even further. The result of the Government's action has been to penalise those who are engaged in the fishing industry. It has been stated by the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) that the duty on herrings imported into Germany has been increased from 3s. to 12s. per barrel, with disastrous results to the industry.
The Government have been given power to exclude these Norwegian herrings if they choose to do so, and our fishermen could supply the home market, and even the foreign market which we used formerly to supply. I could have wished that some representatives like the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), Lord 1431 Cecil, and one of the leaders of the Labour party, who have never expressed any views hostile to Russia, might have gone on a friendly mission to Russia to smooth out the difficulties. I have no quarrel with the Russian people. As I stated on a previous occasion, I think we "backed the wrong horse" at the time of the Russian Revolution when we provided money to support the White generals. I would like to see a restoration of trade relations with Russia and a new trade agreement, because it would mean so much to those engaged in the herring industry, as it would open up their best market, and it would assist other industries as well. I would press upon the Government the fact that something must be done, and immediately, for the herring industry. The time for the autumn fishing is drawing nearer and nearer, and God help the industry if something is not done. The Government have the opportunity afforded by these trade agreements, and, if they fail, the blame will lie at their door.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. HOWARD GRITTEN
As one who obtained permission for the debate on the fishing industry in February last, and who opened that Debate, I am told that I am expected to make a few remarks. I do so with great reluctance, in view of the fact that I am singularly ineffective in speaking extempore, or from hastily made notes. I certainly cannot hope to rival the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). He suggested that I was looking him up in "Dod." I can assure him that there is no necessity to look up such a public character as he is, either in "Dod" or in any other book of reference.
The Minister, in his opening remarks, pointed out the serious condition of the fishing industry. In my view it is impossible to stress too much the gravity of the situation in that industry. It is a low estimate to say that, counting all those who are normally and directly occupied in the industry, such as the trawler-men and the inshoremen, and adding those trades and industries that are dependent upon it, they number something like 150,000 people. The Minister himself also pointed out that the unemployment figures would be greatly affected by the coming failure of certain in- 1432 dustries connected with the fishing industry. As I said on the previous occasion, there are trawlers all round the coast foundering in bankruptcy, and even fully qualified skippers, with their masters' tickets, are seeking casual employment at the dockside. I am sorry if I am repeating anything that has been said by other Members while I have had to be absent from the House during part of the Debate.
The Minister admitted that there is an over-supply of fish, but I would venture to underline my interposition by saying that it is impossible to over-emphasise the fact that our British fishermen, if given fair opportunities and granted their just rights, could fully, adequately and completely supply our home market. Therefore it is that some of us would cut out all imports of foreign-caught fish. I disagree with my hon. Friends on the Labour benches, who think that that would enhance the price. No such result would follow. If the supply is adequate to, or in excess of, the demand, there is, of course, no rise of price. But the perpetual theme throughout the speech of the Minister was, to quote his own words, "We must treat British and foreign fishermen alike." That underlay the whole exposition of his case, and it is precisely where some of us join issue with him. We contend that our own men should come first, that they should be the first to be considered. The foreigner practises no such plausible and specious altruism; with him his country comes first and last, and we maintain that we should take the same attitude.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in reply to my interjection, asked what would happen if manufactured articles were excluded from the Hartlepools and other places in the Kingdom. I ventured to say that that was a false analogy, and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to resent that remark; but can he not see that there is no analogy whatsoever between manufactured articles and fish—say between Japanese braces and socks and plaice and halibut? For a Scotsman, his logic seems extremely weak. He may be versed in anatomy and the functions of the psoas magnus, but apparently he has never studied the fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. I waited carefully to see if he would mention a tariff. I waited in vain. Not a word. Instead we had a 1433 camouflage of nets, gears, meshes, psychoanalysis and birth control, but through the holes in his meshes and smoke-screen one could plainly descry his endeavours to retreat from a Protectionist position. One must really ask—I do so without any desire to offend—whether he is not, like the President of the Board of Trade, really at bottom a Free Trader masquerading under a temporary Protectionist disguise. He skilfully skated over the whole question of Protection and tariffs. I suppose it was in deference to the feelings of his right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). He based the whole defence of the Bill on restriction. When I had the hardihood to interpose about France, he seemed to be put out of his stride and to be quite annoyed, which was really very curious in the case of such a skilled dialectician.
France has continually increased her quotas and tariff until she has excluded all foreign-caught fish, and thus adequately protected her 185,000 nationals. We cannot hide from ourselves- the fact that the little 10 per cent. tariff on foreign-caught fish has been ridiculously ineffective and futile. Its insignificance, in reality, has been the main cause of the over-supply to which the Minister alluded. He also seemed to find great gratification in the result of the negotiations with the Scandinavian countries. He must know that the fallacy of those results is that the pacts sacrifice the interests of the fishing and other industries to those of coal, and this agreement gave away all along the line the moderate amount of Protection which we had hitherto enjoyed, and which we had won with such great difficulty. I speak, perhaps, with special feeling on the subject, because I was one of the original band of Tariff Reform missionaries of the late Joseph Chamberlain and have devoted my humble political career to the advocacy of tariffs. When the Minister said that the British Trawler Owners' Federation was satisfied, I challenge him to say that they were satisfied in the first instance. If they are now satisfied, it must be because of the assurances that he gave them in the hours of conference that he mentioned. What the collateral promises and safeguards might have been we do not know, and I should like him to enlighten the House on the subject. 1434 He must know that the industry has from the beginning pressed for a tariff datum line of at least 20 per cent. I again urge that a tariff should be added to the quota, otherwise it seems to me that the remedies in the Bill will be about as effective as prescribing a pill for an earthquake or a teaspoonful of Kruschen for a hippopotamus.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
I cannot help feeling that the knowledge of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) of his own party's policy is imperfect because, on the one hand, he supports an Amendment against a Bill that proceeds upon the basis of restricting the supplies of an essential foodstuff and, on the other hand, his party's policy is definitely to stabilise prices and to control the importation of the same kind of essential foodstuff. I have here extracts from the official policy of the Labour party. They want to stabilise prices and they say:By this means the farmer would acquire a secure market and what would, in effect, be a guaranteed price on which he could depend.That is precisely what this Bill is striving to obtain for fishermen, but apparently it must be opposed by the party opposite. One of the leaders of the party, describing their policy, said:We propose to transfer the whole import of wheat into a public service, and to place the responsibility for it in the hands of an import board.We are trying here to exercise the same measure of control on the importation of fish. It is right when hon. Members opposite suggest it but wrong when the same idea is coined by someone else. I am glad the Leader of the Opposition accepts that.
§ Mr. STEWART
Here is a very important point which I commend to the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean). They say in their official statement:Co-operation among British farmers can only achieve partial results in cases such as wheat and meat, where the market is dominated by imported supplies.There is, if it means anything, a policy involving some measure of control of imported foodstuffs. This Bill asks for some measure of control of the imports of fish. I am most anxious that my hon. 1435 Friends should support the Measure, and I should like to address one or two remarks to them. One or two Members who have spoken have admitted that they do not know anything about fishing. I spent a week-end among the fishermen in Fife. There are many villages there that are concerned vitally with this industry-It; is the most important industry in my Division. I was at great pains to examine the Bill in detail with these men, and I can tell the House that it is supported strongly by the fishermen in East Fife. I am not now referring to towns like Great Yarmouth or magnificent Aberdeen. It is a division of small towns, and it is the fishermen of those towns who welcome this Bill. In our view, which is rather different from that of the Minister, it is founded on one general and indisputable proposition, which I shall state. The herring side of the industry is diminishing. Because it is mainly an export trade we have little or no control over it. Let us, therefore, turn to the white fishing side of the industry, which we can control because it is a home trade. Let us encourage and expand the white fishing side of the industry, because in that way we can afford profitable employment for the men rendered idle by the decline in the herring trade. I deplore the fall in the herring fishing, and I beg the Government, still further to explore the markets for herring. Nevertheless, it is a declining side of the industry, and I can see no immediate hope except to expand the other side of the industry dealing with white fish.
I cannot help examining the position through Scottish eyes. In Scotland the fishing industry is supremely important, much more important than it is in England. Unless some measures are taken, hundreds of miles of coast may become derelict and scores of prosperous villages rendered idle and helpless. It is a vital link in the industrial organisation of our coast, and it is no wonder that Scottish Members are so closely interested in the problem. The number of men employed in fishing in Scotland is now one out of three less than before the War. That is a very serious decline which is setting in. What is the present position of the fishing trade? I have been reading some of the reports of the Scottish Fishing Board in the last few 1436 years and I have seen there, year after year, phrases such as these: "The herring trade is languishing," "Demand is poor," "The outlet for herring becomes more and more restricted." All that is not new; it has been so for many years. It is certainly not the fault of the National Government, for this fall started before the Government assumed office. I need only go back to the time when hon. Members opposite were in power to see a rapid decline in the total landings of herrings in Scotland. Since 1929 they have dropped by 40 per cent., practically all of them being in British vessels. Three-quarters of the herrings landed in Scotland are exported, and in that huge trade in exported herrings from Scotland there has been since 1929 a fall of 60 per cent.
That is the real trouble with which we are faced in Scotland. Continental markets, which once took the great bulk of our cured herrings, are now reducing their consumption for various reasons. One hon. Member suggested it was due to tariffs, but the reduction had started long before tariffs were thought of. Among the reasons are economic distress, reduced purchasing power, and the changed habits of the people of those countries. Hon. Members like the hon. Member for Govan and others who are specially interested in the economy of small households know that in working-class households here and in other parts of Europe the taste for herring is changing. The Scandinavian and German housewives, like the Scottish housewives, are all out for the "quick quaker," which can be cooked and served without bother. It is that change of taste which is mainly responsible for the decline and, in addition, these other countries are setting up their own catching and curing organisation.
That movement has been going on for a long time, and it is both unfair and inaccurate to blame this Government or even the recent Labour Government for the fall. Some people, like the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), suggest expanding the home market, but I am afraid that I see little hope there. The effect of this decline in the herring market of Scotland is that it is depressing the whole industry of fishing. The catching of herring about Scotland takes place in three separate periods of the year—about six weeks in 1437 the early part of the year, about nine weeks in the summer, and another six weeks in the autumn. As the result of the fall in the demand for the Continental markets, those periods of six weeks and nine weeks are becoming contracted. The six weeks is becoming five weeks and the nine weeks eight, and there is an ever-increasing gap between the herring seasons. It is that gap which is the serious problem in Scotland, if not also in England. I beg my hon. Friends in the Liberal party to face that problem, which is the real and, indeed, the only urgent issue at the present time. How are we to fill that increasing gap between the diminishing herring seasons? I see no way of filling it except by extending, expanding and encouraging the only other side available, the white fishing side of the industry. In the white fishing side of the industry we are faced with a position of getting constantly increasing landings of white fish accompanied by a constant fall in price.
Many critics of the Measure have re-referred to this question of price. The last speaker made some play with it, and some of my hon. Friends on these benches have referred to it. I have here the figures for the landings by British trawlers in Scotland of white fish in various years, and I find that since 1929 there has been an increase of 10 per cent. in the quantity landed, while at the same time there has been a decrease of 17 per cent. in the price obtained by the producers. Nobody supporting the Bill suggests that, because they ask for a higher price for the producer, it should mean a high price for the consumer. That is not intended—precisely the opposite. I put it to hon. Members opposite, who claim to represent the consumers' interest in the country, that, unless we take care, the production of fish, on which very poor families depend, may fall so that there is no production whatever.
We must take care to guard the producer of these primary commodities. In the villages of Scotland dotted along the whole of the coast, east, north, and west, depopulation is setting in, and poverty stares them in the face for the simple reason that the price obtained for their produce is uneconomic and unremunerative. I beg hon. Members opposite, as representing the great consuming public of the country, to bear in mind the essen- 1438 tial place of the producer of the primary commodities in these islands. The Bill meets by various means the case of the fishermen engaged in the white fishing industry. It gives encouragement to them and some kind of security for that side of the industry. If for no other reason than that it is filling up the gaps and making possible and continuous a remunerative avenue of employment for Scottish fishermen throughout the year, I shall gladly and enthusiastically support the Bill.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. BURNETT
I support the Bill because it aims at the conservation of our fishing grounds and a long-range policy. I support it for much the same reasons as the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). We are in a position, as the Minister has said, of glut in which we have about 1,000,000 cwts. of surplus fish, and we have to consider how to use the knife on it. I think that my right hon. and gallant Friend is taking the best method by cutting off the fish which are most surplus and least indispensable, the small and immature fish. The figures which he gave as to haddocks were most convincing. The enormous rise in the small haddocks up to 83 per cent. of the whole haddocks caught shows that our fishing grounds are getting exhausted. I know that there is a demand for extra small haddocks in fried fish shops and that golden cutlets are made out of them. But it is something like living upon day-old chicks when one might be waiting for spring chickens.
The question of depletion was dealt with very fully in the Fishery Board Report for 1930. It spoke about the damage which was being done and the destruction of young fish life by the otter trawl, and said that numerous experiments with commercial otter trawls fitted with cod-ends of different sizes of mesh are being made. There is no doubt that the otter trawl is killing a great deal of the young fish life, and we have to consider whether modern developments may not change the present method of white fishing. The otter trawl boards sweep along the sea bed. The young fish are frightened, and the heavy bobbins, weighing 1 cwt., sometimes 10 in number, crush the life out of the young fish and large numbers of young fish 1439 are killed in this way. The Swedes have lighter nets and take an hour's drag instead of perhaps a three or a three-and-a-half hours' drag as we do, and consequently landing their fish in considerably better condition. We have the Danes going over to seine net fishing. They catch their fish by the use of light motor vessels which cost much less in regard to fuel and overhead charges. They can catch fish near their own banks and bring them across and sell them in this country in good condition at prices which are disastrous to our own fishermen. The Germans, too, in their motor cutters are taking to better methods of preservation by putting the fish into tanks and keeping them alive and so being able to sell them fresh in the market. The immature fish in both cases are thrown overboard.
This is a matter in connection with which the Government might later on be able to do something to help us by loans for building. Unfortunately, there is no building of trawlers going on at the present time. The cost of the otter trawl boats is fairly prohibitive. When one comes to a big trawler costing something like £18,000 one can understand that with the industry in its present condition it is very difficult to obtain money to meet such an expense. The question is whether later, in order to obtain modern up-to-date vessels, something might be done by the Government in the provision of loans on terms similar to these provided in foreign countries. But the first thing is to get the fishing grounds in proper order and then, when fishing becomes profitable as a result of the restriction in the fish caught and the regulations as to mesh, will be the time to consider the question of the rebuilding of our fishing fleet, which is a matter of very great urgency.
With regard to the preservation and landing of fish, we in Aberdeen have had something of an object lesson lately. A large invasion of the Swedish seine net fleet has been concentrated upon Aberdeen. They sold their fish, which was of first-rate quality, at prices considerably higher than the prices which our local trawlers have been obtaining. They get their fish on board, clean and gut it, and put it into boxes, which have ice underneath but not above so that the water cannot rot the fish. They have been able 1440 to bring in the fish in boxes and obtain from 10s. to 20s. a box more than our local trawlers have been getting. This continued for a short time, and then two of our local trawlers went out taking boxes of the same sort as those used by the Swedes. One vessel took 60 boxes and put as many fish as possible into them, putting in the ice after Swedish methods. The rest of the fish was laid out as usual on the shelves with ice. When they returned they sold the fish which was in boxes at from 34s. to 37s. a box, or some 10s. a box more than the fish which had been caught later and put on the shelves and which only sold at from 24s. to 27s. This shows that there is a great deal to be done by reorganisation in regard to the way in which fish is landed and marketed. That will be the business of the Commission under the Act who will see what can be done in that direction.
Brine freezing is a development carried out at the Torry Institute and the results have been most successful. Fish has been sent to me after having been preserved in brine for two months. I ate it and found it equally as good as fresh. When the Minister was speaking later he referred to the hardy Aberdonians who were able to eat fish which had been preserved for months. I am fastidious about the fish that I eat, and I maintain that the fish that we get in Aberdeen is a good deal better than what we sometimes get in the South, but I am quite willing, if the Minister is anywhere in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, to arrange that some of this fish should be supplied to him, and I think he will agree with me as to its quality. But if he does not take my authority for it, surely he will take the authority of the Fishing Industry Report, pages 118 and 119, which says that this fish, brine frozen, stored at a temperature of 5 degrees below zero, lost nothing in appearance and palatability and furthermore was highly suitable for smoke curing. Fish thus treated may be expected to be almost as readily saleable as fresh fish.
I think this brine freezing makes enormous possibilities as to what may be done with long distance fishing, which is referred to there. If our vessels can go to Iceland and bring back the fish caught in the first few days in proper condition, so that they do not have to go to a fish manure factory, it will mean 1441 an enormous difference in the price which they will get. The report speaks about the Greenland fishing and what is done there by keeping fish at low temperature on board large ships.
It may be that trawling will develop on one or other of the following lines. Long distance fishing may be carried out by factory ships with ancillary smaller vessels capable of remaining at sea for six months, or by trawlers that both catch and store the fish, but which are limited to a voyage of two months without refuelling.I think this is a Bill which ought to be supported for the prospects which it holds out for the fishing industry.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. SLATER
This is my first incursion into a Debate on fishing, and perhaps my reason is that I have had charge for 10 years of the largest fishing fleet in the North Sea, the Redcock and Gamecock Fleet, I, for one, rather welcome this Bill. It is perhaps a half-way house to what the industry would like, but nevertheless we have to be satisfied sometimes with half a loaf as being better than no bread at all. I have never disguised my feeling that the quota system is very dangerous, because it often puts a premium on inefficiency. I am rather interested in the Amendment of the official Opposition, which is, I think, a model of inconsistency. During this week they will perhaps support the Coal Mines Bill, which is definitely for quotas. In fact, they will go further and they will give to the coal mining industry what I should like to see the fishing industry get, and that is a minimum price. They have a minimum price in the coal business, by Act of Parliament. It may not be observed, but at any rate they have it, and if the law were applied, it would be necessary for the coalowners to conform to it, and I hope this House would support the coalowners conforming to that policy. But how inconsistent are the official Opposition in denying to the fishing industry what they will support for the coal industry? I find it difficult to understand such a position.
If quotas are to be the order of the day, I would like the Minister to tell the House and the public how they are to be applied. I should very much like to see an even quota, that is to say, in 12 monthly allocations. If it could possibly be. it would be still better that in the winter months we should give the foreigners an opportunity of sending in in- 1442 creased quantities. For example, in the six winter months, supposing we had 75 per cent. of the quota allocated to the foreign countries, and 25 per cent. in the summer months. Long experience has shown me that fish comes in from all quarters in the summer months. There 1s prolific catching from every ground that supplies this country, and the price of fish falls to absurd levels. There is obviously the greatest need for a contraction of the supplies to the market in the true interests of producer and consumer alike. In the winter, when there is obviously a ready market here for increased supplies, if we could take the kink out of the storm curve when winter gales interfere with the fishing, there is not the slightest doubt that the public would have cheaper fish, and to that extent a manipulation of this quota would be of great advantage. I therefore ask the Minister if it is possible, for the benefit of the fishing industry, that we should know whether this particular aggregate quantity which is to come from abroad can be so allocated that the incidence of its reception in this country should not be a detriment to our own fishing industry.
I feel that the Minister is the greatest planner we have ever had in the history of British Parliaments. I commend his work, and I would give him every praise for his work in the Agricultural Marketing Act and for trying to do the same thing here for the fishing industry. I think he is right, and I think we must support him in this Bill. I do not disguise the fact that I would prefer to have seen a tariff, and I believe that finally that will be the definite step that this House will take. I can only say to those who look askance at the idea, that I want them to understand, from a man who was in this industry for close on 10 years, that if the trawl owners of this country could get protection of only a halfpenny a lb., I am sure they would build and equip, and restore to the fishing industry such a state of prosperity as it has never previously had. This halfpenny per lb. would not be passed on to the retailer—not a fraction of it. It is not necessary at all. With just a halfpenny per lb., we could put this industry into a really first-class position.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, in introducing his Agricultural Marketing Bill, said that the Government stood for the 1443 economic replacement of the wages and expenses of the farmer; in other words, that the Government stood for the idea that the man who ploughed and sowed should have a harvest that would give him back the results of his labour. If that be the policy of the Government, I ask them to apply it to the fishing industry. There is a great interest in making the industry more prosperous. It is a 100 per cent. employment industry— wages, the building of ships, coal, nets, gear, engineering, boilers, all in the aggregate meaning employment to our fishermen, but you have fishermen out of work now and yet fish is coming in from abroad.
In their idea for proper employment for British fishermen I think the Government could well afford to try a tariff instead of quotas. I am not going to refuse quotas. They are a half-way house, but what I would like is the ideal thing. Therefore I ask the Minister to make the quota restriction as effective and as efficient as possible in maintaining the economic structure of the fishing industry, so that it will not depend on anybody else. I say to-day, as I have always said, that if we are importing cheap fish from abroad, caught in the same waters by alternative foreign vessels, while we see our people and our ships out of work, we are buying cheap labour from abroad and putting our people out of work. Let us get that in our minds and let us remember that for an extra halfpenny we could make this industry a prosperous industry. Let us have quotas if we cannot have tariffs. For these reasons I commend this Measure, and ask the House to give it full support.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
The constituency that I represent has always been connected with seafaring business and fishing, and I should like on behalf of the fishing people of Dundee to welcome the Bill. Our trawler fleet is now reduced to nine vessels. If we could regain some of the fishing advantages we had we could help in that distressed area to get more men into work. The critics this afternoon have varied in their arguments on every point. The only point on which they seemed agreed is that the haddock and cod should be caught in their maturity and not in their youth. Those 1444 who have criticised the Bill have found it very hard to get good points on which to found their criticism.
Under the Sea-fish Commission to be appointed the idea of reorganisation of the industry is clearly brought out. In regard to the increased price to the consumer, hon. Members opposite have pointed out the extreme sag in a great many cases in the wholesale and retail prices. Surely, if the industry can be better organised by the Sea-fish Commission the sag might be made less, so that the wholesale price might be increased by a small amount, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) pointed out, in order to save the industry, and the people of this country would not find that there is a great increase in the price they pay for their fish. I should have thought that all hon. Members would have welcomed this reorganisation scheme. Those who have criticised it have put forward no definite grounds for an alternative.
Those Liberal Members who have criticised it have not made one suggestion how the scheme could be improved. Because they have not made any constructive suggestions for improvement, I hope that we shall see them in the Lobby to-night voting for the one suggestion put forward, after 41 years discussion of the matter, for saving an industry which is one of the assets of our national life. We have been told in previous Debates that coal must be preserved because it is one of our national assets. I would ask the House to remember also that the character of our seafaring people and our ability to hold the seas and man our ships is just as much a national asset, and at the present moment it is not being preserved, and is not getting a fair chance.
We have been told of the different sorts of fish, and the different prices. The Sea-fish Commission will inquire into these matters. In Dundee we have had every sort of fishing. Now it is trawler fishing and sprat fishing. Formerly, our men were concerned largely in the whaling industry. They went north in order to get whale oil for the batching process in the jute industry, but since then we have used mineral oil. Now the increased price of mineral oil may mean that they will have to go north again for whale oil. I hope that hon. Members will give the fishing 1445 industry its chance under this Bill, that the net that the Minister of Agriculture has cast to-night may be of such a mesh that very few will escape into the Opposition Lobby. I hope that those Members of the Liberal party who sit on these benches, who have asked for reorganisation and who tell us that we shall get into contact with continental nations and base our agreements on continental agreements, will support the Bill, because that has been done in this Bill. I should have liked my colleague the senior Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) to have been present in order that I could have appealed to him not to be as subtle as the sole described to us by the Minister of Agriculture, in escaping from the net to-night. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on, at last, giving a chance to the fishing industry.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) have suggested that we ought not to have moved our Amendment. They are wonderfully unanimous in their opinion that the fishing industry might be revived by putting a halfpenny on the retail price.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I misunderstood the hon. Member. However, their point is that our Amendment is out of place. I suggest that it is entirely in place. We would not have moved it otherwise. The statement made by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Agriculture was practically the same. They said that the object of the Bill is to raise the price to a remunerative level. Our Amendment denies the right to do anything of the kind, because we believe that the retail price is sufficiently high at the present time.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am replying for the Opposition to the statement made on the other side and it will be left to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to reply on behalf of the Government. If I have misunderstood the statement made by the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland he will put me right. Up to now he has not put me right. Our Amendment gives our 1446 reasons why we are against this Bill. It states that:whilst recognising the urgent necessity for a greater measure of public control over the re-organisation of the fishing industry, particularly with respect to marketing and the prevention of waste, this House declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which proceeds upon the basis of restricting supplies of an essential foodstuff in order to increase profits instead of encouraging greater consumption through improved methods of distribution.We say that the only parts which have been taken from the report of the Committee that inquired into the fishing industry are those parts which affect the producing side, if I may call it so, the trawling industry, and takes no cognisance of the organisation of the industry. If this were a Bill as comprehensive as the Agricultural Marketing Bill, to which the hon. Member for Eastbourne compared it, there would have been a different position before the House. But he himself admits that this is only a halfway house. We are prepared to go the whole distance. It would be just as easy for the Government, if they had the desire and the will, to put into a Bill all the essentials for the proper organisation of the fishing industry.
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) referred to the herring industry in the East of Scotland and along the Moray Firth coast. I know that all those villages are to-day becoming almost derelict. I know that large numbers of people there have grown up, generation after generation, in the fishing industry. They have got away from the semi-agriculture and semi-fishing method of living and have devoted their whole lives to fishing alone. I know the conditions in which these people live. But this Bill is not going to help them to a better condition.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
They may think so. I understand that the hon. Member read the Bill to them and explained it. It was the Bill of this Government. Because of the hon. Member's representations they think that the Bill is going to benefit them. I am afraid they will have a rude awakening, because the Bill does nothing at all for them. The only thing is that after three years the Government may set up some kind of Commission or Committee. The Minister 1447 may set up a Commission and pass Orders for three years and three years only. The Government do not take these people into their considerations in this Bill. The Minister of Agriculture, as a Scottish Member, knows quite well that the people in the Moray Firth fishing villages are not really considered in this Bill.
The whole position of the fishing industry, as of the agricultural industry, ought to be reorganised. The Fishing Industries Committee made various recommendations, of many of which no cognisance has been taken by the Minister. What about the wages of the fishermen? Are they to be taken into consideration? What about the recommendation of the Committee that certain sections of the Mercantile Act should be brought into operation and applied to the fishing industry? Is there anything about that in the Bill? Has the Minister considered the conditions of fishermen who are on wages or on shares? Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the circumstances connected with the ships? If the right hon. Gentleman has read any of the evidence—it has not been printed, as far ase I can gather—which was submitted to the Committee as to the circumstances under which many of the fishermen had to operate on these vessels, he would know that they are conditions which would not be tolerated in any other class of vessel to which that Act applies.
While the Minister may consider that he is doing something good for the fishing industry by selecting a section and giving bigger profits to the trawler owners, he neglects entirely those who are on the ships working for wages, and he declines to accept the recommendation of the Committee. These are among the reasons why we decline to accept the Bill. During the Committee stage we shall do everything we can to frame Amendments which will embody some of the recommendations which we believe are necessary for the well-being of the fishing industry. The Fishing Industry Committee took evidence from all sections, from trawler owners, from representatives of trawling companies, from fishermen and from dockers, and in their report they brought forward certain recommendations which naturally they expected would be embodied in a Bill.
1448 The Minister and hon. Members who support him talk as though the Bill would not raise prices. But one of the signatories to the Fishing Industries Committee Report makes and underlines the statement that he takes exception to a certain recommendation in the report because it will increase the price of the commodity to the poorer section of the community. I refer to the proviso signed by the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. C. Duncan). I am certain that Members who know him will regret that because of illness he is not able to be present to take part in this Debate. The whole Bill is one of restriction. It excludes ships that at present bring fish supplies here. The whole policy of the Government is a policy of restriction. They say, "Reduce the quantities brought to this country, reduce the quantity that is produced here, and thereby get what every oconomist who has written a book terms a scarcity price." In the fishing industry, as in agriculture and everything else, the Government are out to obtain the famine price, the scarcity price, the monopoly price, the highest price that it is possible to wring from the community. When this Bill comes into operation, when its operation is felt in the country, when the fishermen realise how little has been done for them, and how ineffective is the Bill, I am convinced that these fishermen who, according to the hon. Member for East Fife have accepted this Bill after the explanation that he has given to them—
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I see. I always understood that a Member went down to his constituents and explained to them what was being done in this House. I am certain that the House, and particularly Members of the National Government who are sitting on the Front Bench, will appreciate the way in which the hon. Member's constituents have explained the Bill to him, and the excellent way in which he has conveyed their views of the Bill to this House.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Majorities do not always count for as much as the right hon. and gallant Member thinks, and a large majority can become a minority at a future election. I hope that the 1449 Government will give us an opportunity to put forward our Amendments to this Bill. We shall do all we can to bring into it the recommendations of the Committee, and if hon. Members have a real desire to see this industry revived by Government action they will assist us in carrying these Amendments. Whatever our views may be I hope that the result will be beneficial to the country and not impose heavier burdens on the community.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
The Minister of Agriculture has every cause to be highly satisfied with the reception of the Bill by the House, which has welcomed a Measure dealing with the primary products of an industry sadly in need of a helping hand. The Government, with wisdom' and foresight, have grasped the nettle and tackled the whole problem. The House has heard speeches from those interested in the fishing industry, politically and practically, from those who have acted as directors responsible for the operation of fleets, those who have actually explained this Bill to their constituents, and from others whose connection with the fishing industry has not always been apparent from their constituency. We have just listened to a vehement address, with all his usual fire, from the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean). I am reminded of the lines:No salmon is there in thy murky watersSave what is left adhering to the tin.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Let me answer some of the points put by the hon. Member. He started by a disquisition on prices. There seemed to be a little confusion as to whether wholesale or retail prices were meant, but may I remind him that on the cover of the Bill, in the fourth line, it is made quite clear that the object of the Government is to restore prices at the port. Those who have had anything to do with the fishing industry will know that the reason why prices of fish are low at the port is because of the waste, the amount that is not sold, and which has to be disposed of in another way. The object of the Government is to increase prices at the port, and that this need have no effect on retail prices 1450 is shown, as the House will realise in recent months, by a similar operation in the meat trade, of which I can speak with some personal knowledge. The hon. Member for Govan twitted the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater), and said that had the Bill been a comprehensive Measure on the lines of the Agricultural Marketing Bill, something different would have been said. Surely I am not dreaming. Surely the hon. Member and his party opposed the Agricultural Marketing Bill. Is it suggested that had the Bill been a shade bigger or a shade more drastic the opposition of hon. Members would have been a little delayed?
The real question brought before the House by this Bill is: are there as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and if not what action the Board of Trade, after consultation with the appropriate Ministers, is going to take about it? It is generally recognised, as will be seen from the Opposition Amendment, that there is necessity for a greater measure of public control over the reorganisation of this industry. It is recognised that there should be further provision with regard to marketing and the prevention of waste, and in the official Amendment objection is raised to this Bill on the ground that it would increase profits instead of encouraging greater consumption. But the whole point is that profits have long since ceased to apply. It is appropriate, having regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Govan about the accommodation for crews on trawlers, to remind the House that there is not a single trawler in course of construction at this moment. Why? Because the industry has no hope unless somebody takes it in hand. What is all this talk, then, that increasing the wholesale price is going to increase profits? For how long can you go on making losses without getting near a profit? What is this theory that gross receipts and profits have the same meaning? That line of argument will not bear examination.
The official Opposition Amendment asks that there should be greater consumption, and I wish to deal with figures which were brought to the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). As I had to be in another place when he was speaking, he will tell me whether I have rightly understood the argument which 1451 he addressed to the House. I gather he said that more fish were being eaten and fewer ships were catching fish and that therefore, so far from restricting the total landings, the Government ought to proceed on the lines of better distribution. I would like to put four points in answer to that argument. The figures which he quoted do not go beyond 1930. They substantiate what he said that in the years from 1910 to 1930 there was a rise in the consumption of fish per head of the population. I entirely subscribe to that view but, as I say, the figures stop at 1930 and there is ground for thinking that the consumption decreased from 1930.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I expressed thanks to the hon. Gentleman's Department for having brought the figures up to date. In the figures supplied by the right hon. Gentleman's Department the consumption. per head for 1931–32 was shown to be 37.1 lbs. as against an average in the period from 1927 to 1930 of 35.3 lbs.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but there is an indication from figures which I shall give that consumption has been falling. There is an indication that the catastrophic fall in the prices of foodstuffs has meant competition with which fish would normally not have to deal, particularly in the case of foodstuffs like bacon and eggs. I would like to remind him too that although there may be fewer ships many of them have a greater range of working and more modern, appliances, and it is a false argument to suggest that because there are fewer ships they are catching less fish.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
What I said was that in 1933 the number of vessels was slightly in excess of 2,600 while in 1930 the number was 2,044, but with 600 vessels fewer, the productive capacity was equal to that of the larger number.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Not only equal to, but very much greater. My task is to deal particularly with that portion of this Bill with which the Board of Trade is concerned. Quite a number of the Clauses, and their framing, wording and operation are already familiar to the House, because they are based on lines that are similar to those that we have already discussed at length in the Agricultural 1452 Marketing Bill. I should not like to disappoint the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) by not using the arguments which he felt sure I would use when I replied. No doubt in all these questions of glut, the regulation of glut and the consequences of glut, there are many causes entirely beyond our control, but we feel that there are many that are within our control, and that if we started by controlling those some good results would probably accrue. Certainly one of the things which we can usefully control is the amount of fish that reaches British markets. That is one of the main objects of this Bill. Let the part that the Board of Trade has to play be clearly understood. The Board of Trade only has power to make an Order under Clause 1 provided that something is already in existence under Clauses 2, 3 and 4. There is, therefore, no control of imports into this country unless provision has already been made for dealing with landings and for some sort of reorganisation, as explained in Clauses 2, 3 and 4.
As the House may find it a little difficult to appreciate exactly what Clause 1 gives the Board of Trade power to do, I have taken the trouble to rephrase it to show the reverse side, which may make the meaning a little clearer. The Board of Trade has power to make an Order to regulate landings of fish caught by foreign vessels or imported from countries outside the United Kingdom. I hope that is quite clear. It is fish that is caught by a foreign vessel or fish that has been landed, however caught, in some country outside the United Kingdom and sent here for sale. That is the ambit of the operation of the Board of Trade Order. Of course, the first point about which the Board of Trade has to be satisfied is the interests of the consumer. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) seemed to think that the official Opposition were the only party charged with the interests of the consumer. I am sure that that was a phrase that slipped out in between an explanation of the Bill by the fishermen, and was not a considered opinion. At any rate, without discussing whose interest it is, in the operation of this Bill it will be the concern of the Board of Trade to see that the consumers' interests are watched. Consequently, in Sub-section (2) of Clause 1, all necessary Clauses can be inserted in the restrictive Order to see 1453 that the operation and enforcement of the regulation are properly carried out. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) is not in his place, but he will be interested to know that in this Bill the words "not at variance with any treaty" still mean not in conflict with it as they did when we used them in another Bill. That he will have the pleasure of reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I am sure hon. Members must have learned geography from my right hon. and gallant Friend, and now know precisely where Latitude 62.30 North is, and will not wish me to draw it on a blackboard, or to give them a map in the beautiful form which I had prepared in case anybody wanted to know exactly where that Latitude took us, either on the Norwegian shore or north of the Faroe Islands or south of Iceland. It is a perfectly well-known geographical area, which does exclude fishing grounds intentionally, for reasons given by the Minister of Agriculture.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the Order to be made by the Board of Trade will involve the establishment of a quota system on foreign imports?
§ Dr. BURGIN
The Board of Trade regulate the landings. The Order to regulate may prohibit. It is not necessarily a quota system.
§ Dr. BURGIN
It may regulate in whole or in part. It may regulate to the extent of prohibition. It may regulate to the extent of reducing imports. If the right hon. Gentleman interprets that by a word which is much misused in journalism now, "quota," that is a matter of interpretation. I can only say that this Order is intended to be used as a sluice gate in order to ensure that these landings are controlled in such a way as the Board, after consultation with the appropriate Ministers, think fit. It may exclude totally or partially. I was going on when interrupted to refer to the Addison Committee's Report. It made very few specific recommendations, but the one specific recommendation which it did make was that there should be a marketing inquiry. The appointment of the Sea-fish Commission implements and extends the recommendations of the Addi- 1454 son Committee for an investigation into marketing. No doubt legislation may be found to be necessary in the light of such reports, but the Sea-fish Commission is intended to inquire into all branches of the marketing of fish and of the fish industry generally. Some questions were raised about the constitution of the Sea-fish Commission. The answer is that it is intended to be a committee independent in character and on similar lines to the Agricultural Reorganisation Committee, the Lane Fox Committee and other like bodies. It is not necessary now to discuss its exact constitution.
The hon. (Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Harbord) and other speakers expressed regret that the herring fishing industry was not more prominently mentioned in the Bill. The Secretary of State for Scotland explained why it was not possible to deal in this Bill, except to a limited extent, with the problem of the herring fishing industry. Export markets for cured herrings are outside the scope of this Bill, but perhaps I may be permitted to say, for the information of hon. Members who referred to the depressed state of the herring industry, that negotiations are actively proceeding with several of the countries where the demand for cured herrings has contracted of late, and that we are most hopeful that those negotiations will result in a gradual recovery of a considerable part of Chat trade.
The hon. Member for the Orkneys and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) raised the question of the Government's attitude as explained in this Bill in view of the trade agreements with other countries and the policy of His Majesty's Government as outlined to the World Economic Conference. I have particulars here of the relevant clauses in the trade agreements that have recently been concluded with other countries, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing in the Bill which in any way conflicts with any of those trade agreements. On the contrary, those trade agreements expressly foresee a Bill of this kind. I will add, for the benefit of the House, a fact that perhaps is well-known but that cannot be too much stressed; it is that countries responsible for between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. of the landings of foreign fish into the United Kingdom have 1455 voluntarily agreed to the restriction of 10 per cent. That includes the whole of the Scandinavian countries and Germany. That is a sufficient answer to the suggestion that there is anything in the Government attitude, or in this Bill, which is in any way contrary to the trade agreements, or to the Government's policy as announced at the World Economic Conference.
Let me return to this main consideration: Here is an industry in which the producer is languishing and in which it is necessary to safeguard the interests of the consumer. We have discussed the question with iron and steel, with dye-stuffs and with all kinds of food: Are you in the long run likely to help the consumer by driving the producer completely out of existence? We feel that, if we are not careful, a present glut may be followed by to-morrow's scarcity. If you make it worth while for the producer to continue in business, to re-equip his plant, to re-engage hands, to take apprentices and to look upon trade as his future livelihood, you are, in the highest sense, helping the consumer, for you assure to him in the future a guarantee and a continuation of supplies, not from over-fished grounds and of under-size fish, but of the right size of fish scientifically caught in the right latitude and longitude, and in the right manner.
We think, therefore, that there is a need for this industry to be reorganised, quite apart from the melancholy fact that there is no trawler being built and that this industry is declining. Trawlers are being offered for sale to foreign countries in all the ports around our coast, and trawlers are contemplating making journeys of many thousands of miles, to completely different grounds, in order to hope for something rather than to have the knowledge of nothing. I have particulars of the Billingsgate sales which I should like to give to the House. They are particulars of British sales, foreign sales and total sales, and the percentage. It is not easy to give prices, because the price argument is a separate one. What I am now giving to the House is the growth of the percentage of foreign sales at the Billingsgate market, a matter which very much affects the inshore fisherman and quite a number of the constituents of hon. Members.
1456 In 1910, there were 246,000 tons of British-caught fish. There were no foreign catchings worth recording. The total was just under 250,000 tons, and there was no foreign percentage. Ten years later, in 1920, the British total was 267,000 tons, and the foreign total was 17,000 tons. The grand total was 284,000 tons, and the foreign percentage of sales was 6½. That was post-War. Of the trade at Billingsgate market, 6½ per cent. was foreign-caught fish. Ten years later, in 1930, the British total had gone down by 50,000 tons, the foreign total had gone up by approximately 50,000 tons, the grand total was substantially the same, and the foreign percentage had risen from 6½ to 20 per cent. of the entire trade. [Interruption.] I am putting my finger on the spot by going to the market that matters. In terms of fish, as of language, Billingsgate is the key word to quote. I am referring expressly to the total sales at Billingsgate market.
§ Sir M. WOOD
Is it not the case that the total sales all over the country have gone down during the last five years?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am attempting to give the figures for one specific market for a period. I have given the 10-yearly periods, and I will now bring the 1930 figures down to 1932. The foreign percentage of the total has risen steadily all the time, while the British percentage of the total is falling. That is one of the factors to which the Board of Trade is having regard in taking power to limit, by this sluice-gate principle, the foreign landings. May I give the figures for 1932? The foreign percentage has risen in the two years by another 5 per cent., and is now one-quarter of the total sales at Billingsgate.
§ Sir M. WOOD
The hon. Gentleman is giving the comparative figures for foreign and home fish sold at Billingsgate, but surely the comparative figures over the whole country are more valuable. Is it not the case that in the last five years the imports of foreign fish have gone down?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House what proportion of the increased foreign sales at Billingsgate is represented by plaice imported from Denmark, or better qualities?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I entirely dispute the idea that chapter and verse can be given at a moment's notice. The hon. Member has had his opportunity of addressing the House—
§ Dr. BURGIN
I was. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) asks me whether the greater part of this increased foreign percentage is in plaice. That is a matter which has not come within the cognisance of the Board of Trade in the last few seconds, and I would ask leave to look it up. But Billingsgate is the big market for fresh white fish, and I am calling attention to the fact that, while in 1910 the foreigner had no share, in 1920 his share was 6½ per cent., in 1930 it was 20 per cent., and in 1932 it was one-quarter of the whole. I say that these figures, even if they are not for the whole country, but only for one market, do establish the need for at least an inquiry, and the Board of Trade intends to see that that inquiry is carried out. I would ask: Is there an evil? And I would answer that question in the affirmative. We are faced, then, with the question: Is there a remedy? It seems clear that scientific control of an industry is usually wise, and that the control of landings and the prohibition against the landing of certain kinds of fish will help the fishing grounds. The setting up of marketing schemes having to do with fish is not likely to be less effective than the setting up of such schemes for agricultural products, and we intend to give the fishing industry the advantage of that remedy.
Is this the right remedy? It is the remedy that is recommended by those who
§ have given a great deal of time, thought and consideration to the matter. It has the advantage of following on the lines of similar legislation in other countries, which have realised the need for preventing over-fishing and have brought in legislation to deal with the size of fish landed and with the means by which you can enable the smaller and less valuable fish to escape. No valid reason has been advanced against the industry being dealt with in this way, and I confidently ask the House now to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
A very important point has been raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater). He has advocated that 75 per cent. of the foreign stuff should come in in the winter. That is all right for Scotsmen and people on the East coast, but in the West country a lot of our fishing is done in the winter, and proportionately we should be hit very hard if this proposal was carried out. I do not wish an answer from the Government now but I hope, before the suggestion is acted on, they will consult the West country interests. It would also be a very awkward thing if it happened, because you might have a very serious difference between the President of the Board of Trade, whose constituency would be injured very badly, and our Scottish Minister of Agriculture and I should not like to see the Government broken up over a matter of that kind. For that reason I hope they will take no notice whatever of my hon. Friend's suggestion which is, I am sure, against the interests of our own people on the South and West coasts.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 210; Noes, 62.1459
|Division No. 245.]||AYES.||[10.43 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Brown, Ernest (Lelth)|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks.,Newb'y)|
|Albery, Irving James||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Browne, Captain A. C.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l, W.)||Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Applln, Lleut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Blindell, James||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Borodale, Viscount||Burnett, John George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Boulton, W. W.||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Balniel, Lord||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Castle Stewart, Earl|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Clarke, Frank||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Jennings, Roland||Robinson. John Roland|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ross, Ronald O.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Copeland, Ida||Kimball, Lawrence||Ruggies-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Law, Sir Alfred||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Leckle, J. A.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lees-Jones, John||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Davits, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Levy, Thomas||Scone, Lord|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. P.||Liddall, Walter S.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||MacDonald, Malcolm (Basset law)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Slater, John|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||McKie, John Hamilton||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somerset, Thomas|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Eimley, Viscount||Magnay, Thomas||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Soper, Richard|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Fox, Sir Gilford||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mills, Major J. D, (New Forest)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Milne, Charles||Spens, William Patrick|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Stanley, Hon, O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morelng, Adrian C.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Goff, Sir Park||Morrison, William Shepherd||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Templeton, William P.|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'ri'd, N.)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Graves, Marjorie||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Thompson, Luke|
|Greene, William P. C.||Nunn, William||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||O' Donovan, Dr. William James||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Grimston, R. V.||Palmer, Francis Noei||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Peake, Captain Osbert||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Pearson, William G.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Peat, Charles U.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Penny, Sir George||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Percy, Lord Eustace||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Petherick. M.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Rankin, Robert||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Ray, Sir William||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Worthington. Dr. John V.|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Remer, John R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hunter. Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Mr. Womersley and Lord Erskine.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zett'nd)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Banfield, John William||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Batey, Joseph||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Buchanan, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cape, Thomas||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Curry, A. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||White, Henry Graham|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mainwaring, William Henry||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (MIddlesbro', W).||Milner, Major James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Nathan, Major H. L.||Mr. John and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
Bill read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.