§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the White Fish and Herring Subsidies (United Kingdom) (Amendment) Scheme 1968 (S.I., 1968, No. 200), dated 15th February, 1968, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd February, be annulled.The object of the Prayer is to provide an opportunity for the Minister to explain his decision to increase operating subsidies for certain of the distant water vessels and to have a brief and necessarily limited debate on the operation of the ships for which we are approving subsidies. I say straight away that we support the Minister's proposals in the Scheme and, therefore, there is no question of a vote at the end of the debate.
May I draw the attention of hon. Members to c. 653 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 26th July, 1967, where the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is reported as having said:The payment of supplementary rates of subsidy in addition to basic rates is authorised in the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1962, for classes of trawlers in special difficulties. The supplementary subsidies may not exceed £350,000 in any one year. This summer, the British Trawlers Federation put forward a claim for a number of classes which have recently found themselves in difficulties."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 653.]He proposed supplementary subsidies amounting to £85,000 for the six months starting in August last year. The present Scheme provides for the continuation and increase of some of these subsidies for the next six months. Last year the Minister referred to the difficulties of certain sections of the fleet, and it seems to have been established that those difficulties continue, and indeed have increased, for oil-fired steam and motor fishing vessels. Broadly speaking, the Minister's proposals are that grants are raised for steam vessels from £5 a day to £8 a day, and for motor fishing vessels the increases range from about £2 10s. to £3 a day when operating at sea. I also understand that these rates of subsidy would now be available to vessels operating from Hartlepools and North Shields, which were not included last year.
I would like to say a word about Scotland. A reference to HANSARD, shortly 174 after the quotation which I read, shows that the Minister rejected a claim for special subsidies for trawlers operating from Aberdeen and Granton. I presume that, as they do not appear in the Scheme, he has done so again, but I do not propose to intervene in Scottish matters. I will leave that to my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) who I hope, Mr. Speaker, will catch your eye at the end of the debate to deal with the Scottish question. I turn to a brief economic survey of the industry, because it is on the economic conditions of the industry today that the Scheme must be based.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member cannot debate the whole of the economic conditions of the fishing industry on this narrow Scheme. He must deal only with the points which arise in it.
§ Mr. Wall
I understand that, Mr. Speaker, but the Scheme refers to certain types of vessels which have received increased subsidies and I hope to be able to explain to the House the position of this type of vessel at the present time.
I understand that last year the British Trawler Federation vessels increased their catch by 3 per cent. on the previous year but that, because of a fall in average landed prices of nearly 5½ per cent., the earnings per day at sea last year fell by 2½ per cent. This loss of earnings must be seen against the background of rising costs in the industry. In 1966 costs rose by 8½ per cent. and from April to July 1967, the months under review when this Scheme was being considered, the average operating costs, I am told, were £4 to £5 per vessel per day higher than in 1966. Since July of last year the Suez surcharge of £20 to £25 per day has come into operation. New oil contracts are now being negotiated and will reflect devaluation costs. I submit to the House that costs have steadily increased during the past two years and look like increasing very much further. I imagine that is the justification for the increase in the subsidies referred to in the Order.
What does this mean to the distant water fleet? Losses increased in certain vessels in 1966 from just over £8 to £25 per day in 1967, depending on the types 175 of vessel. This figure represents as much as 9½ per cent. of the operating costs and it is getting worse, for the reasons to which I have referred. The worst losses occurred in the oil-fired steam fishing vessels referred to in Class A of the Order. I understand that there are 89 vessels of this class operating from British ports. It is clear that their future is precarious. Last year these 89 vessels provided 40 per cent. of the total landings from British Trawler Federation vessels. That is about a sixth of all British caught fish. Of those 89 vessels, 55 were built in 1951, or earlier, and will, therefore shortly be due for replacement. I am certain that the Minister will agree that replacement must be phased and gradual and, therefore, there is a need for a holding operation, part of which I imagine is contained in the Order.
It would seem, however, that both subsidies and prices will have to increase if a substantial part of our fishing fleet is not to disappear. I presume that the Minister is considering all these facts in his Fisheries Review, but I hope, when he replies to the Prayer tonight, that he will be able to give us some information as to how he foresees the future, particularly as this class of vessel is concerned.
I refer now to the latest obtainable figures about the operating costs of distant water vessels mentioned in the Order taken from 1st August last year to 31st January this year. They show that the larger steam fishing vessels operating from Grimsby, before allowing for depreciation, are making a slight profit, but that these class A category of vessels operating from Hull and Fleetwood are making a loss. Allowing for depreciation all these vessels from the major ports are making a loss. The average for Grimsby is about £25 per day per vessel at sea. The figure for Fleetwood is much larger, £69.4 per day per vessel at sea, to which I imagine my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) will refer later if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. The figure for Hull is a loss of just over £43 per day per vessel at sea.
Of the larger diesel vessels, only those from North Shields are making a profit 176 after depreciation. Diesel vessels in Category B of the Order operating from other ports are making a loss, allowing for depreciation, of between £4.6 and £39.8 per day per vessel at sea. One wonders where the W.F.A. repayments, interest and overdraft repayments are coming from in future. That is I believe a fair assessment of the figures for the larger distant water vessels concerned in the Order.
It is against that background that I want to refer briefly to the operations at sea for which the subsidies we are now discussing are voted. Here I would refer again very briefly to the sense of shock felt in all parts of the House on the loss of the three Hull trawlers and to repeat, once again, our sorrow and sympathy for the families who have sustained the loss of so many brave men. We in this House will do all that we can to make this hazardous calling safer. I congratulate the Government on their speed in setting up the Court of Inquiry under Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin. I hope that he will find it possible to issue an interim report, as I imagine the whole inquiry is bound to take some time.
Much has been written in recent months about the operations of these ships at sea, much of it highly emotional and some of it very biased. Yet no one has suggested that the loss of these three ships could have been prevented.
Some aspects of the fishing industry have been under attack, and I would like to put on record that when tragedies occur in our industry, many lives are lost in a few moments, and this makes comparisons with other industries difficult. The industry is second to none in its strike record, and on the whole industrial relations are good.
At sea the men operating these vessels earn a guaranteed minimum wage of £20 6s. 10½d. per week, and qualified fishermen get an average of £31 10s. a week. They certainly earn it, and their conditions can be improved, but let us keep a sense of proportion when discussing these matters.
In the present economic conditions, and with the growing importation of foreign caught fish, it will not be a question of fundamental changes in the structure of the industry, which has been suggested in certain quarters, but rather a 177 question of how an efficient modern fleet can survive in these difficult times.
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot on this Statutory Instrument discuss fundamental changes in the structure of the fishing industry.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Mr. Speaker, I accept what you say about the narrow bounds of the debate, and I shall do my best to keep within what might be termed the financial provisions of this Scheme.
On 26th February, 1964, during a debate on a similar Scheme, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary who is to answer the debate tonight, said:It would be impossible for me to introduce into the debate what is taking place outside the House, but it would be as well to understand that decisions may be made there that will have a considerable influence on the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1964; Vol. 590, c. 568]I could not agree more, and I hope that this will be said again this evening, because both my hon. Friend and I know that the industry is at a vital stage in its long h story in the matter of finance and aid by the Government.
I have taken care to study the Scheme, and I went to Hull in anticipation of this debate. I have spoken to skippers, to deck hands, and to other people in the industry, and I can confirm what was said by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) about finance. We are having a difficult time financially. We need this extra £8 a day, but these operational subsidies for deep sea vessels leaving Hull for the Arctic waters are merely a palliative for the next few months. I will quote what they are, because I do not think that they are even a shot in the arm for the future of the industry.
In Hull a few months ago our diesel vessels over 135 ft. long, of which we have 31, before depreciation were earning about £1 10s. a day. We are now losing about £40 a day—£39 8s. is the figure given to me by people in Hull. Our steam vessels were losing £14 6s. a day last year, and I think that the figure is now £43 2s. These are authentic figures. They were given to me by the owners, but I imagine that they will be furnished to the Government and to the White Fish 178 Authority if need be when we are discussing the next stage of financing after these subsidies have run their course.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has left the chamber. The vessels sailing from her area have done better than those sailing from Hull.
We need this first aid at the moment, but much deeper surgery is required. I want to quote one sentence about subsidies. Mr. Michael Burton, President of the Hull Fishing Vessel Owners Association, said:The grants are hopelessly inadequate.That was a somewhat naive and thoughtless statement, because people outside should know that the Government are doing, 100 per cent., what they can possibly do at this moment under this legislation in providing financial aid to the industry. We cannot do more at this time. We are the legatees of the Tory legislation of a few years ago. We are helpless in this matter. I applaud the wiser and more statesmanlike words of Mr. Austen Laing, the Director General of the British Trawlers' Federation, who said:Under existing legislation the Government can do no more than it has done…We are doing all that we can, but it is not sufficient.
§ Mr. Johnson
I shall not be tempted by that one, Mr. Speaker.
Those of us on Humberside know what the position is. We are here to help the people on Humberside—both the owners and the deckhands—and we want to help the Government to do the best they can for these fine men who go down to the deep sea in ships—these intrepid men. Hull has recently suffered enormous losses in terms of men and ships that have tragically gone down, and we must do our best to underpin the industry in the future. I support all that has been hinted or envisaged about what we must do in the future.
179 We must, while giving the maximum aid possible, look ahead to the future. For too long we have had too little help, and I say again—almost to the point of boredom—to the farmers opposite, that we in the fishing ports have been Cinderellas compared with those who have been lobbying and voting for their interests in the shires and counties of England. We hope that when this review has been worked out we shall have more help.
A few moments ago I mentioned the losses in cash for the fleets in Hull. We need some help indeed. All ports do. Fleetwood needs aid also, and I am sure that when the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) speaks he will be able to quote figures similar to mine concerning the vessels in Fleetwood.
We are in the middle of the Fleck era. In 1962 the Fleck Committee laid down the rate of subsidies that we are discussing. They are now completely useless. They are worked out. The industry is not viable under the set-up proposed by Fleck. We wish the Minister all success in working out a coherent, comprehensive and soundly based policy for the future, because the men who go to sea in ships deserve no less.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
You have had three enthusiasts in succession, Mr. Speaker. It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) in these matters. As both have indicated, this Scheme is a matter of first aid. It can be no more. We three have seen what lies behind the validity of these figures. When we visited the Humber ports last July we saw the state of the industry then and the prime fish which, instead of being sent for human consumption, was sent for cat food and fish meal.
That would mean lower earnings for the seamen and the vessels. It would put the industry in great difficulties in its attempt to get the modern replacement fleet which the fishermen deserve. The factors operating in the industry are beyond the control of the industry or the Government. This is our largest hunting industry and even the Tory 180 Government could not control where the fish went or where the fishermen would find them.
There is reflected in all these figures the fact that certain grounds have been fished out and it is no longer profitable for trawlers to operate there. This is the case with my own port of Fleetwood, where the ships have to go further than before, with reduced earnings for men and owners. Having congratulated the Government on giving as much as they can at this stage, I would stress that the losses are biting very deeply in my port. There the losses vary from £22 to £69 a day on the oil burners, and this cannot go on for very much longer. What worries everyone is that the ships will be laid up, and once that happens they may never come back again. Fishing ports have died before, and it could happen to Fleetwood, the smallest of the big three ports.
We have difficulties with our geographical position compared with the other ports, and this is a town revolving round the industry. It is, therefore, a matter of very great moment to us. I echo the plea made from both sides of the House that the review of the industry should be brought forward as speedily as possible so that the industry can get a clear picture of where it is going, and of the modernisation and the safety measures needed. I am quite certain that the hon. Gentleman will see that this comes as soon as possible.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I want to put on record my pleasure and appreciation of the fact that the port of North Shields has been included in this year's Scheme. It was monstrous that it should be left out last year. The success that we have had at North Shields shows how right it was for the Ministry to have had confidence in the operation of our trawlers. Having waged a tremendous battle, not against this Government, but against my own, to get grants for the building of these new trawlers, I am delighted that they have proved such a success. It just shows what good judgment we have on the North-East Coast and that we deserve the Ministry support. It is not often that I have the pleasure of speaking in favour of this Government, but on this occasion I am delighted that 181 the Government have done this, and I hope that they go on giving us the support that we so justly deserve.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
All who have taken part in the debate so far have reflected in some sense on what the fishing industry in the areas they represent is like. While there has been a general welcome for the subsidies under this Scheme, there is also a reflection of unease and lack of confidence about the future of the industry. It has been nice to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) congratulating the Government on what they have done, because she does not do that on every occasion. This shows that there is a certain degree of unanimity on this matter.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
Congratulations have come from both sides of the House, but when one goes further back into the economy of the fishing industry one does not find such a reflection of happiness as there might be.
I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on the Government Front Bench, because the Scottish industry is also affected by these subsidies. It has certain very definite feelings about them. I cannot help reflecting on a simple point which has been mentioned by every other hon. Member who has spoken. These subsidies are required and a Scheme such as this is put forward only because the returns from the market are not sufficient to cover the costs of the industry and to give a proper return on the capital involved.
This makes one reflect on other factors in the industry which could help to reduce the amount of these subsidies and on which necessary action might be taken. One thinks of the anti-dumping legislation proposed in the Queen's Speech, but for which we are still waiting.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I raised this merely because it reflects on whether the subsidies are necessary to the extent to 182 which they are put forward in this Scheme. I shall go no further than that, and I hope the Government are having thoughts about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), who opened this debate, asked what assessment the Government have made of the effect of devaluation on the industry. This can have an important effect, not only on fishing but on meat products which could help the economy of the fishing industry. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) said, it is not just a matter of the subsidies themselves but of the general background of the fisheries review. I hope that we shall soon hear about that review and have an announcement about it. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry said last July that he hoped it would come before the end of the year, but that was not possible.
I turn to Scottish problems and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to answer, because there is considerable concern that Aberdeen and Granton have been omitted from these subsidies. Although they have had a more successful year than have some English ports, they have been faced with rising costs such as the whole industry has had to face. As discussed in our debate in July, the fuel surcharge, amounting to about £2 a ton, raised the costs of many fishing vessels by as much as £25 a day. When he opened the debate in July, the Under-Secretary said that these matters of cost for the industry in relation to the fuel surcharge were the result of political considerations in the Middle East and were therefore beyond the control of the Government. I wonder whether, having to continue the surcharge, the Government have full control of many economic factors—
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
These fuel costs affect the fishing industry and make it necessary for these subsidies to be paid. Are Aberdeen and Granton omitted from the supplementary subsidies because it is thought that the fishing fleets of those ports are managing all right? Or is it because the money available under this Scheme is not sufficient 183 to cover the industry in England and Wales and in Scotland as well?
I have seen the figures of profitability of the Scottish fleet based on the four months to 31st July, 1967. The 114 80 ft.-140 ft. vessels in the combined Aberdeen and Granton fleets showed an average loss per day of 20s. The 96 vessels in the Aberdeen fleet returned a profit of 24s., but the Granton fleet of 18 vessels showed a loss of 126s. Vessels ranging from 100 ft. to 119 ft. are common to both Aberdeen and Granton, and the combined fleet of 79 vessels gave an average loss of 72s. per day. The 61 Aberdeen vessels showed a profit of 4s., while the 18 Granton vessels showed a loss, again, of 126s. Those figures do not include the interest charged on White Fish Authority loans, or capital repayment. If one takes those factors into account an average of £19 a day has to be added to the costs of the vessels. It will be seen that there is no room or reason for complacency in respect of the Scottish fleet.
About 90 per cent. of the catch of the Granton vessels is landed at the Humber ports, which are given special consideration in this Order. If the Humber ports are to be so treated, I can see no reason why Granton should not get the same treatment. If low prices at the Humber ports have made the grant necessary, the grant should, in equal logic, be made available to the Granton boats as well. There is a feeling in Aberdeen that though their results are better, they are still just more or less breaking even and give no real reason for confidence.
That their figures are relatively better than those at some of the English ports is due to improved productivity. From the tables in page 36 of the White Fish Authority Report, one sees the much better productivity of the Aberdeen vessels, but what the Government must realise is that improved productivity is a result of modernisation. In calculating the basis for these figures no allowance, apart from depreciation on the vessels themselves, is made for the real capital burden involved through interest charges and capital repayment. It is felt in the Aberdeen fleet that there is not much encouragement to modernise unless there is a much better return on the capital invested.
184 I make no apology for again referring to the five oil-burning vessels working from Aberdeen. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has stated previously that these boats are excluded because they are life expired, but are there not similar oil-burning boats of similar age based on Hull and Grimsby which are included in the subsidy scheme?
I pose again the question which I put earlier. Why are the Scottish ports not included? Is it because the £350,000 provided under the 1962 Act is fully commtted for this year to the English ports and the greater problems which they face? Over the five years from 1962 to 1967, about £727,000 was spent, an average of £145,000 a year, well below the amount which could be paid each year. I calculate that after this year's subsidies have been disbursed, about £1,500,000 will be left out of the £2,500,000 earmarked for this supplementary subsidy. In the present economic state of the industry, is the £350,000, which is all that is allowed by the Order, enough, and ought not the 1962 Act to be amended to allow it to be increased?
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)
The principal Act lays down that the subsidy in any one year must not exceed that amount. It is not laid down by the Order.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
If the hon. Gentleman had been paying attention to what I was saying, he would have heard me ask whether the 1962 Act ought to be amended in order that the limit could be increased. I appreciate that the Minister is working within the limits which are laid down. I am asking whether the limits are adequate. Does the Minister believe them to be adequate?
In the present economic state of the industry, does he feel that the £1,500,000 which is left in the kitty out of the £2,500,000 for which the Act provided is enough for the industry over the next four years? The industry deserves to know the answers to these questions. Unless it gets the answers, it will go into the future with a great deal of uncertainty, because unless the returns to the industry are improved—and I spoke about the fisheries review and the food policy generally—the Government will 185 have to consider seriously making available more money for supplementary subsidies than the present legislation allows.
Otherwise, confidence in the industry will go. Hon. Members have referred to the risk of the industry contracting and the country having to import more fish.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
The hon. Gentleman is starting on a general discussion, which is not permissible on this Order.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I was concluding by saying that while I appreciate that the Government are working to the limit, unless they are prepared in future to be more generous, as generous as possible to the industry in its present state, we shall reach a time when boats will be tied up, when the fishing fleet will contract and the quantity of fish landed in Britain from our own vessels will decline, a state of affairs which none of us wants. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can give us some reassurance about the future.
§ 10.39 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)
I know that hon. Members on both sides always welcome a debate on the fishing industry and its affairs. I do myself, and I have taken part in many in the years I have been in the House. Like the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), I cannot let the occasion pass without expressing my own sorrow, and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, at the recent grievous loss of the three trawlers with so many precious lives. I am sure that that reflects the feeling of the whole House. There is little I can add to what hon. Members have said already. Our sympathy goes out to the bereaved.
We all know of the inherent risks in fishing, and I am sure we all share my right hon. Friend's determination to see what can be done to alleviate them. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Haltemprice for welcoming the speedy action which the Government have taken to deal with the problem and the inquiry which has been set up for that purpose.
You have reminded us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as did Mr. Speaker a little earlier, that we should not be tempted to 186 comment at length on the general subject. We are concerned tonight with the deep sea fleet and with the Scheme before us. I fully recognise the difficulties of the industry. I know what it has had to go through, and I can tell the House straight away that there is no complacency about it. But it must be recognised that our ability to help is governed by the terms of the 1962 Act, which limits both the basic subsidies and the special subsidies covered by the Scheme.
Hon. Members who say that we have not gone far enough are saying, in effect, that the principal Act is wrong and must be amended. If that is their conclusion, I remind them that this policy is not of our making. It is on record that, in the debate in 1962, I said that I did not think that it would work. I hoped that it would work, but, from the very beginning, I did not think that it would work, and I said so. That reflected the opinion of some of my hon. Friends, too. It has proved correct.
The House knows—the hon. Member for Haltemprice and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) referred to this—that we have the industry under review. We hoped to have the conclusions by the end of last year. As I told the hon. Gentleman in reply to a Question the other day, we hope to announce the result of the review soon because, as the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) said, these special subsidies were never regarded as a solution for the industry's problems. All one had in mind was certain sections of the industry which, because of the year's out-turn, required some special assistance in addition to the norm. That is what was done, and that is what we are doing tonight.
§ Mr. Hoy
I do not think that we shall publish the whole result of the inquiry. What people will be interested in will be the end product and the proposals arising from it. We shall make our findings known. Changes will have to be made.
187 Under this Scheme, we have made the maximum provision available to us for those vessels which have suffered worst from the low returns which prevailed last summer. Out of the £350,000 available, we committed £60,000 in the Scheme of last July. The present Scheme provides for the distribution of the balance of about £290,000. The special rates of subsidy proposed are broadly equivalent to the basic rates for different classes of vessel.
About 260 vessels will qualify out of 570 vessels in the deep sea fleet. I have noted the criticisms which have been made of the selection of vessels to qualify. This is nothing new. This criticism comes every year. Those who are in are delighted, and those who are out have a complaint. It is inevitably a difficult and invidious task, with a limited sum of money, to take account of the claims of the many different classes of vessel operating on different grounds and from different ports.
I am not at liberty to comment on the detailed figures of costs and earnings supplied to us by the industry. It supplied them for our guidance, and the House would not expect us to disclose information which the firms supplied to the Ministry. But I can assure the House that we are giving the money to those who are in special difficulties and the greatest need. The special circumstance that justifies the payments is the weakness of the international market, which has depressed the price of distant water fish, notably cod. This obviously affects the Humber ports in the main, although it also affects Fleetwood to a certain extent. This in turn depressed the market in the distant water ports, and to a lesser extent elsewhere.
Assessing the extent of the problem, we found that the near and middle water ports of Aberdeen, Granton and Lowestoft were less affected. Indeed, Lowestoft might be placed in the same category as Granton, and it did not qualify either. Losses had been incurred by a minority of vessels, but they were on the whole relatively small and were not necessarily all attributable to the state of the market. I am bound to single out the special case of Milford Haven. We found that the position there was more serious and that special subsidies were justified. The prin 188 ciple on which we and any Government work is to try to meet the needs of those who have been most affected.
The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) raised the question of certain ports that were omitted. It is true that some were, but I should not like to feel that Scotland has done badly from this. Between 1962 and 1967 England and Wales received £465,000, and Scotland received about £275,000. We must remember that Scotland operates about one-fifth of the trawler fleet, so that on the whole it has done reasonably well. It has certainly not done worse. Those figures show that the profits of the Scottish vessels since 1962 have been higher on average than those of England and Wales.
When the hon. Gentleman said that the Granton vessels were landing at the Humber ports I am sure that he meant that they sold their catch there. A great percentage of the Granton catch is haddock, and the price of haddock was maintained. Haddock accounts for only about 20 per cent. of the catch in those ports, so that one is not comparing like with like. Granton did not suffer the general hardship. My information is that the average price realised was only marginally lower than in the previous six winter months, and higher than in the corresponding period of 1966. The hon. Gentleman will see that when we are to distribute a limited amount of money we must select the worst cases.
I am not saying that Scotland did not require assistance. If there had been one port to which I could have stretched it, it would have been Granton—even if for personal reasons. But that would have been impossible. If we had extended it there, we should have been bound to take in Lowestoft as well for the same reason. That is a step we could not have taken, because there are special difficulties in the ports being assisted this year. Indeed, it has been said—and I am certain—that more money is needed. We want to help the whole of the industry. We realise that there are difficulties in most sections of the industry.
I assure the hon. Member that the question of having sufficient profits to pay interest on the capital employed is not a new one. It has been used in agriculture debates on many occasions. It has been 189 used in fishing debates on every occasion. It is, therefore, always with us. What we have to do with the money available is to distribute it as fairly as possible.
It would be very poor on my part if I did not acknowledge the thanks of the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). Since we last met, I have had the opportunity of visiting her port and looking at the vessels which fish from there. I am glad that on this occasion we have been able to give assistance.
The hon. Member for North Fylde knows that I know his port very well. I know what is needed. I wish that I could give it all that is needed, as I wish that I could do for all ports. I hope, however, that as a result of what we have done tonight, we have at least brought a little succour to those who need it most. Perhaps, in the not very distant future, we will be making proposals which, I hope, will benefit the whole of the fishing industry.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.