Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 5 February 1986



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Chairman: Mr. Harry Gourlay

Atkins, Mr. Robert (South Ribble)

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia (Surrey, South-West)

Bryan, Sir Paul (Boothferry)

Cox, Mr. Tom (Tooting)

Deakins, Mr. Eric (Walthamstow)

Durant, Mr. Tony (Reading, West)

Gummer, Mr. John Selwyn (Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Hardy, Mr. Peter (Wentworth)

Hicks, Mr. Robert (Cornwall, South-East)

Home Robertson, Mr. John (East Lothian)

Kennedy, Mr. Charles (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

Lloyd, Mr. Ian (Havant)

Maxwell-Hyslop, Mr. Robin (Tiverton)

Randall, Mr. Stuart (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Soames, Mr. Nicholas (Crawley)

Torney, Mr. Thomas (Bradford, South)

Wells, Mr. Bowen (Hertford and Stortford)

Wiggin, Mr. Jerry (Weston-super-Mare)

C. M. H. Wookey, Committee Clerk

Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 5 February 1986

[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

Draft Importation of Live Fish of the Salmon Family Order 1986

10.30 a.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Gummer): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Importation of Live Fish of the Salmon Family Order 1986. We hope that both sides of the Committee will support the order. It arises because the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 made the importation of live fish of the salmon family illegal. This order is merely intended to allow us to bring such fish from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom. Health regulations in Northern Ireland are of a very high standard, and there is no reason why we should prevent the importation of salmon. Unless the Committee objects to such a manifestly sensible proposal, I need say no more.

10.31 a.m.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West): I promise that I shall not detain the Committee over the intensely important order that is before us. We shall not divide the Committee, but we should like some assurance from the Minister. I believe that in practice, the order will refer to rainbow trout rather than to salmon, or salmon trout. It is odd therefore that we refer in the title to the importation of live fish of the salmon family. Perhaps the Minister could tell us whether rainbow trout are in 2 the salmon family, because the layman who does not understand such matters could be confused. There is a large hatchery business in Northern Ireland, which has a limited market, and certainly we would not oppose giving it a bigger one. We feel that the trout farmers on the mainland could also benefit from the order because it would give them alternative suppliers. That is a good thing. However, we should like to know where the initiative for the order came from. Did it come from the hatchery industry in Northern Ireland, or from the trout farming industry—or from both of them? On 14 January, the Ministery of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said in a written answer that the conclusion had been reached that there should be a relaxation of the 1937 Act after extensive investigation had been carried out. That is a strongly worded statement, and I should be obliged if the Minister would tell us about those extensive investigations, and in particular, who provided the scientific advice and whether it came from Northern Ireland. I understand from the explanatory memorandum to the order that it will allow only live fish to be imported from regularly-tested hatcheries in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister confirm that that will stop the importation of live fish from Southern Ireland? I know that the Minister will take the matter seriously because I am referring to diseased fish. Abuse of regulations is possible. Live fish or eggs could be taken from Southern Ireland to a hatchery in the north and then transported to this country, carrying disease. The Minister is responsible in such cases, and it is important to ensure that there is no opportunity for abuse. We know that there is abuse in many parts of the industry. The NFU takes an interest in fish farming and is worried about the possible transmission of disease from Northern Ireland. That is why we support the general objective of the order. 3 Will the Minister tell us the size of the problem? How many hatcheries are there in Northern Ireland and how many trout farms are there in this country? How many inspectors will there be? He has stressed the need for careful investigation of the hatcheries, and I wish to know how often each hatchery will be investigated. Could the Minister also tell us the cost of the investigation?

10.36 a.m.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye): I appreciate the points put forward by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall). I shall be interested in the answers to his questions. I shall try to follow the rhetorical tradition set by the Minister this morning and say that the alliance welcomes the order. There is a genuine need for smelts to be imported—and I agree with the use of that word—into Scotland from Northern Ireland, which is preferable to their being brought from Europe.

10.37 a.m.

Mr. Gummer: As to the salmon family, it is as though a married daughter of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) had returned to the family home. She would be seen as part of the Randall family although her name might well be Snigginpoops. That is the nature of the salmon family, which includes both rainbow trout and salmon trout.

Mr. Randall: I do not like to bring my family into the debate. It would depend what my daughter had been doing in the meantime.

Mr. Gummer: I cannot be entirely responsible for the hon. Gentleman's daughter, but I assure him that I am responsible for the type of fish brought from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom. I assure him that the fish will originate from Northern Ireland. The statutory instrument clearly specifies: "Live fish of the salmon family which have been taken from Northern Ireland and have not at any time been in any country or territory outside Northern Ireland", 4 which includes the Republic. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which controls fish farms, deals with the health aspects in Northern Ireland. We are talking about one fish farm. No additional work will be involved, as the standards in Northern Ireland are the same as those in the rest of the United Kingdom; nor will there be any additional cost. The high standards in Northern Ireland cover the disease problem, so the NFU need have no worries about that. There are 278 fish farms registered in England, 38 in Wales, and 157 in Scotland—a total of 473. Northern Ireland has one fish farm, so it is not an enormous problem. Northern Irish industry and Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland have pointed out that there is no reason to exclude fish, as there is no health risk. As long as the fish meet the health requirements, it would be wrong to have barriers within the United Kingdom. The cost is negligible. I thank the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy), who spoke for which ever part of the alliance he represents—I have learned in agricultural matters not to refer to the alliance in general, as that usually gives half of its members apoplexy—for his support. Those of us who believe in the growing unity of Europe do not like the distinction between the United Kingdom and Europe. We are the offshore island, and it is the mainland. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) that there will be no distinction because of religion. Health will be the only grounds for distinction.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has, considered the Importation of Live Fish of the Salmon Family Order 1986.

Committee rose at eighteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Gourlay, Mr. Harry (Chairman)

Atkins, Mr. Robert

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bryan, Sir Paul

Durant, Mr.

Gummer, Mr.

Home Robertson, Mr.

Kennedy, Mr.

Randall, Mr.

Soames, Mr.

Wiggin, Mr.