Committee on Finance. - Sea Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1959—Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

One of the justifications for this Bill in connection with pelagic fish vouchsafed by the Minister was that persons engaged in canning, fishmeal manufacture and deep freeze fish might find themselves short of supplies. It is astonishing the way the world can be turned upside down for the purpose of argument. I find it hard to believe that the Minister for Lands is not familiar with the background to this situation.

The fishmeal factory was started by me in Killybegs. If the Minister wants to look up the discussions that led to it he will find them all recorded solemnly in the files of the Department. It was patently manifest to us that unless and until you had fishmeal manufacturing capacity you could not say to Irish fishermen: "Go out and catch all the herrings you can in the absolute certainty that, no matter what quantity you bring in, you will never again be asked to throw it back into the sea." The purpose of establishing the fishmeal factory was to enable us to say that to the fishermen The fishmeal factory was put np as a safeguard for the fishermen.

I know, and the Minister knows, that since that decision was taken the European situation with regard to the supply of herrings has radically changed. Three years ago there was a chronic condition of surplus. Now this mysterious disappearance of herring from the North Sea has transpired and temporarily, at least, we can sell all our herring in the fresh fish trade. There is no question of surplus. But the fact that there is no question of surplus should, I imagine, be raising entirely different considerations in the Minister's mind. Instead of announcing that he is going to authorise all and sundry to go out and fish for herring, he ought to ask himself: are the fellows to whom we gave boats using them to bring in herring in greater quantity? I do not believe that all the existing boats are being used 100 per cent.

If the Minister has any confidence in the continuance of the present herring situation, and if he believes that the existing boats are being used to the limit of their capacity, here is the glorious opportunity for which we have been waiting for years in order to multiply and increase the number of owner-fishermen on those parts of our coast where the herring fishing is abundant. Just imagine the desirability of doubling the number of fellows who own their boats on the Donegal coast, up around Burtonport and Killybegs, in Ring in Waterford, and in Dungarvan, where the herring appear to be abundant, and in every part of the coast where the herring are present.

We are now in a position to say to the fishermen: "Go now and take full advantage of the abundant market that there is for fresh fish with the assurance that, if the situation ever deteriorates in the herring market into the state in which it was in 1955, 1956 and 1957, we are building in Ireland fishmeal factories which will absorb any surplus herring in the future, albeit not at the price that the ‘fresh' market is in a position to pay."

I planned to build the fishmeal factory at Killybegs through An Bord Iascaigh Mhara and the Department of Fisheries. Then there came along a German firm which expressed its desire to get the concession to build the fish meal factory there. I asked the Government to give them that permission, but I certainly would not have given that permission had there been any suggestion whatever that they would found on that permission a claim to operate trawlers themselves. I have no hesitation in saying to the Minister that, before putting his foot on that slippery slope, he should not hesitate to say to these people: "If you find yourselves in difficulty we will take the factory over from you." We want the factory there in order to put the herring fishing on a permanent basis. We probably want another factory of a smaller character somewhere in the South East, if experience teaches us that there is a chronic surplus of herring to be had. But we certainly should not allow the concessionaires in Killybegs to make any representation to this Parliament that the fact that they built a factory in Killybegs gives them any sort of prescriptive right to operate trawlers in order to bring in herring to supply themselves, because that was not the purpose for which the fishmeal factory was located there.

The whole thing is haywire, if you once allow companies to operate trawlers into this country. The whole price structure is founded on the proposition that fish will be landed here by owner-proprietor and, if you once depart from that, then the sensible thing to do is to do away with the whole system of a protected fish market in this country and, if you want to go in for manufacturing fishmeal, canning fish and industrial operations of that character, let these industrial operatives buy their raw material from the cheapest source of supply.

That is what has happened and I am warning Oireachtas Eireann but they will not listen to me for the time being until, probably, it is too late. This Government will get the bit between their teeth. Fishermen, farmers and everybody else whose livelihood is not based on an entirely industrial foundation will go down the drain in order that industrial considerations should prevail and, with that decision, a whole way of life will be shattered in this country which no subsequent administration can revive. It bewilders me that in a representative Parliament of this character a policy of that kind can possibly be foisted on our people. I look at the representatives of the western seaboard of this country who, a week ago, have seen the people of the undeveloped areas thrown overboard in the Undeveloped Areas Bill and now see the Government making ready to throw the fishermen overboard avowedly, according to the Minister for Lands, because he said that the canneries, the deep-freeze plants and the fishmeal plants are not assured of adequate supplies of fish.

I remember perfectly well fish canners coming to me when I was Minister for Fisheries and asking, if they set up a fish canning plant in Waterford, where would they get the herring? At that time, Bord Iascaigh Mhara did not deal with herring. They handled only demersal fish. I remember well saying in the Department: "We cannot as a Department of Fisheries, turn down a manufacturing enterprise based on fish on the ground that there will not be fish to supply them with and, whatever the cost to us, if these people are prepared to tell us that they want so many cran of herring per week, wherever we get them, we must provide the raw material." We did. It was not our failure to provide the raw material that brought the fish canning experiment to an end; it was the fact that they were unable economically to can fish. We insisted that the principle should be preserved that the importation of fish into this country, whether it was from the ocean deep or from external sources of supply, should be the exclusive prerogative of Bord Iascaigh Mhara representing the owner-fishermen of our own shores. If we depart from that principle, we will do an irremediable injury to that section of the community for which I understood the Department of Fisheries was established to cater. To think that this should be done at the instance of a group of wealthy fishmongers who are already addressing letters to the paper saying that the Minister is a Daniel come to judgment and that they, as the champions of the consumer, congratulate him most heartily on taking these measures to facilitate them in selling more fish!

I recollect no period—and I want this to be perfectly clear—during which the fishmongers of this country could not get all the fish that they were in a position to sell, except brief periods when weather conditions made it impossible to land fish here or in Great Britain, and I never saw a period of weather conditions of that character occur, when everybody who was associated with the fish trade knew perfectly well that there must be a temporary shortage of fish because either the boats were not able to put to sea or those at sea were not able to fish, that the fishmongers did not immediately raise a wail of woe that the scarcity of fish was due to the obscurantist policy of the Minister for Fisheries who was restricting free access of supply, they knowing perfectly well that, if they had all the freedom in the world at that time, they could not get fish because there was not any fish either in Great Britain or here. But, of course, as soon as the bad weather passed, fish supplies immediately became available again and there would be peace until there was another interlude of stormy weather and exactly the same hullabaloo started all over again. But, they never succeeded in bluffing our Government out of the sound position that the fish market of this country was the prerogative of our own fishermen.

This Bill has only one significant purpose and that is enshrined in Section 4 and Section 5. So certainly as we are in this Dáil, those two sections are designed to destroy the market of our inshore fishermen for the benefit of the fishmongers, wholesale and retail, in this country and it will be a wicked shame if Oireachtas Eireann allows this act of folly to be consummated.

I want to say that, in regard to Section 2, the Minister is, to put it mildly, disingenuous when he says that great significance is to be attached to the words, "substitution of £3,000,000 for £1,000,000." I never was conscious as long as I was Minister for Fisheries of the slightest difficulty in getting any money I wanted for providing boats and gear to fishermen on the hire purchase system. I never even adverted to the fact that the figure £1,000,000 occurred in any Statute and it would never have crossed my mind that there was any such unalterable limitation on our activities. So far as I was aware—and I believe I am undoubtedly right—we were authorised to go full steam ahead so far as equipping fishermen was concerned until we ultimately reached the stage in the Gaeltacht boat scheme that our problem was, not to supply boats, but to find skippers for them.

These things are so familiar to us who are connected with the Department of Fisheries that one gets weary of repeating them in Dáil Éireann. I remember the day dawning when we had two boats and nobody to operate them. We had more boats than skippers and we had to get an officer of the Naval Services to go down to Killybegs and take one of the boats to sea with a competent fisherman who was not competent to navigate the boat and stay with him for about nine months to teach him the elements of navigation in order to make it possible to send the boat to sea. So far as I know, the same had to be done in respect of the second boat.

We were eager to place boats on the Connemara shore. I could not get skippers. I got one skipper on the Connemara shore competent to take a boat. My recollection is that we could not get another. The problem was to train them to take the boats that were available. I have never known an application for gear to be turned down on the grounds that we had not the means to finance it. I do not believe that any case has ever arisen in which an application for a boat or gear has been turned down on the ground of scarcity of finance.

I do not believe that this Bill can pass without a man like Deputy J. Brennan having something to say about it. He lives near Killybegs. He knows the conditions there. I cannot believe that Deputy P.J. Burke, who is familiar with the conditions of the fishermen in Howth and in North County Dublin, would allow this Bill to pass without contributing to the debate.

Deputy Dillon is throwing out sprats.

They must have some view. They are Deputies who know something about this business. They live amongst the men who get their living from it. I find it hard to believe that the Deputies representative of Waterford, who know the conditions around Dunmore and Ring, can be glad of legislation of this kind. I should be interested to hear men with whom I had contact when I was Minister, even though they were on the opposite side of the House, and to note what they would have to say on this. I cannot understand what they are up to.

I do not believe the Minister for Lands knows B from a bull's foot about it. I do not believe the Minister for Lands has any contact with the way of life which I certainly was concerned to preserve in the Gaeltacht and in the fishing areas of the country. I think the Minister may have been sold a pup by the fishmongers. I find that hard to believe because I am convinced he has adequate advice at his disposal to warn him of the true ambition of the fishmongers who are now so loud in his praise.

What astonishes me is the fact that when the Minister finds the fishmongers singing his praises in the Irish Times it does not put him on his guard. If he looks back on the history of the Department of Fisheries he will find there has been an unremitting clash of interests between the fishmongers and——

The Minister has full licensing control.

Why does he take power?

The Minister retains the licensing control. Deputy Dillon has been speaking for nearly an hour and he has not yet adverted to the section which gives the Minister complete control.

Why is the Minister taking the power?

At the moment, the provisions of the Act are not in force. I shall have the power. Evidently, the Deputy has not understood the Bill.

I understand it only too well and so does Mr. Dunne, the fish-monger who is writing to the paper.

The names of individuals should not be mentioned.

When individuals write to the papers exhorting all and sundry to throw their weight behind this farsighted Minister who has come to understand the grief and woe of the poor fishmongers, I think it is permissible. I hear loud and angry representations from groups of persons representative of the fishermen. I am not quoting their brief. I was for too long listening to frantic representations of vested interests on both sides of this business to be much troubled by the representations they now make. I am speaking from my personal knowledge.

The fishermen understand the position.

I wonder.

I discussed this matter at great length.

I am warning the Dáil and the fishermen. I speak and I know whereof I speak. They will be sold down the drain under Sections 4 and 5 of this Bill. Anybody concerned for the permanent welfare of the fishermen who own their own boats in this country should do all in his power to secure the rejection of this Bill so long as Sections 4 and 5 constitute a part of it.

Deputy Dillon is very eloquent and can make a good case for whatever side he takes up. He considers he is an excellent prophet. I gave the Deputy credit for more sincerity than even to pretend to think that the present Minister for Lands and Fisheries would be associated with any legislation which would be injurious to our inshore fishermen or that any members on this side of the House who support the Government would be associated with such legislation. I categorically deny the implications of Deputy Dillon. When he could not consider the Bill on its merits, then, in his usual uncharitable way, he said it is a fishmongers' Bill.

Exactly, that is a perfect name for it.

Despite the fact that the Deputy considers himself a prophet, that description of the Bill is untrue and the Deputy knows it.

The Deputy is not allowed to say that.

The Deputy must withdraw the statement.

The Deputy may not say it is untrue and that I knew it.

It is an exaggerated statement.

It is a cod of a statement.

He comes along then and cries for the inshore fishermen. I had the pleasure of travelling with the Minister from Howth to Balbriggan. He went out of his way to meet the fishermen. He did not want to see them in his office. He wanted to see them in their harbours. He wanted to see them with their boats. He wanted to see their way of life. That took place in my constituency. The Minister got a harbour expert with considerable experience to come over and report on the harbours. The Minister took that action in order to improve the harbours for the inshore fishermen.

The former Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries chooses to misrepresent a measure to the extent to which he has just done so. I have the utmost confidence in our Minister for Lands and Fisheries. I believe he is the best friend our inshore fishermen ever had. Before this Bill ever came along, he had power to regulate this market. He has established a board to do the job. If, at any time, the livelihood of the inshore fishermen was in any way being jeopardised, the present Minister for Lands and Fisheries would immediately go to their aid. I have the utmost confidence in his ability to do the job well.

In the course of the past week, along with the Minister, I met some of the inshore fishermen who were labouring under the strange fear that, because a boat came into Dublin with fish, their market would be destroyed. One of their representatives and myself got a personal assurance from the Minister that he was only too anxious to improve our fish market, that he was anxious to get people to eat more fish and to expand this industry. To some other countries such as the Baltic countries, the fishing industry is worth about £5 million. We are trying to develop our fishing industry. We must get more and more into the export market if we are to find increased employment for our people and carry on as economic unit. Why should the Minister or why should the Fianna Fáil Party who have always been deeply concerned about the interests of all sections of our people, irrespective of class or creed, do as Deputy Dillon suggests we are trying to do, take away the livelihood of approximately 1,600 inshore fishermen? I hope during the life of this Dáil, even before the next election, that the Minister will succeed in giving employment to hundreds more inshore fishermen and that he will succeed in expanding our fishing industry.

I am sorry that a responsible ex-Minister like Deputy Dillon should take up the time of the House dealing with this Bill in such a scathing manner as he has done this evening. We all welcome constructive criticism. It is understandable that when an industry is going through a transitional period, the people immediately concerned will be anxious in case their position is jeopardised when any change is made. If I, as a Deputy representing a constituency where there are a large number of inshore fishermen, thought their interests would be adversely affected, I would be the first to go to the Minister. I have no doubt about the Minister's sincerity. If I blame him at all, it is for being overzealous in the job he has taken on.

I welcome the provision in the Bill for £3 million in relation to the disposal of fish. When Deputy Dillon was Minister he had money for everything. When he was Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, he made many wild promises about what he intended to do in North County Dublin. He led me to believe that £150,000 would be available for the development of the harbour at Skerries, but the scheme never materialised.

No one can say that our fishing industry has been expanded to the extent to which it should be. We are importing fish here at certain times of the year. We have fishmeal factories which are not able to carry on for want of a supply of fish. There is no use in having quick-freezing plants, fishmeal factories, and so on, unless we have fish to supply to them. These are the problems with which the Minister and the Board are faced. I know the members of the Board and I have found them reasonable men who are anxious to help everybody concerned. My advice to the Minister is to continue with the work he has set out to do. The training of our boys to be good fishermen is a very important step the Minister has taken. If it was his intention to destroy the inshore fishermen, he would not have undertaken that work. He is going further than that by training skippers for the boats.

That does not seem to be relevant to the Bill.

I am answering the last speaker who went out a long way to deal with all aspects of the fishing industry, but I do not think he spoke about the Bill at all.

I suggest the Deputy ought to make up for it by referring to the Bill.

This Bill is an advance in the right direction. I welcome it.

That can be said about any Bill.

I do not think I am seriously out of order.

We had some vast generalisations from Deputy Dillon.

Deputy Dillon's attitude to this Bill was that we in Fianna Fáil came in here to destroy the inshore fishermen and I am replying to statements that have been made from the other side of the House. Our Minister has gone a long way to protect the inshore fishermen. He has made provision for the training of young fishermen to man boats and for the training of skippers. Boats have been given to these fishermen for which they have to put down only five per cent. of the cost. Fishing tackle can be procured very reasonably. The only axe I have to grind with the Minister is in relation to some of the harbours, especially the harbour at Skerries, County Dublin. We have so many inshore fishermen there who have acquired boats that the harbour is completely cluttered up. I would ask the Minister to expedite the extension of that harbour.

There must be some attempt at relevance. The Deputy is making no such attempt.

I should not like to see it happen but if the Deputy were to die and there were a by-election, the harbour at Skerries would be extended. I should not like to see it happen; it would be too dear a price.

This is a Bill to increase the limit of advances to the Board, and to provide for amendment of the period of office of members of the Board and amendment of restriction on licensing of vessels for sea-fishing.

I dealt with that aspect of the Bill. I just want to make this point. I am not going to go against the ruling of the Chair. I am dealing only with a few relevant things with which Deputy Dillon had already dealt. If one man is allowed to deal with things here and castigate everybody——

Dealing with harbours is surely not relevant.

But he did also. He dealt with various other aspects, too. If the Chair insists on my sitting down——

I am not asking the Deputy to sit down but to deal with the Bill.

I am dealing with the Bill all the time. If that is the attitude of the Ceann Comhairle, I shall sit down.

I must confess that, when I looked at this Bill, I did not see any hidden motive in it as imputed to the Minister by Deputy Dillon. I am not as conversant with the management of fishing from the top as Deputy Dillon or the Minister. I must admit that I am slightly confused and uncertain arising out of the speech of a man who was in the position where he should know what he was talking about.

The Bill appeared to me to be a very simple one—a Bill whereby the Minister desired to increase the sum available for the Board to carry out projects for the advancement of the fishing industry. I certainly think I would subscribe to that and I feel that my Party would subscribe to it without any question or doubt. A doubt has arisen in my mind due to the speech made by an ex-Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, as the service was then called, but I think that the solution to that will be easily found as I shall indicate towards the end of the short speech I intend to make.

I am not committed because of the fact that I am a Deputy from a fishing area. In County Waterford, fishing has appeared in the news to a great extent but I am not so sure that my county availed itself to the full of the facilities that we could have either from the employment content or the financial reward that could be secured from engaging in the fishing industry. I hope that will improve in the near future.

Like all Deputies, I take it for granted that we would be jealous in regard to the question of the employment of 2,000 fishermen or so engaged in the fishing industry. I would not want to be a party to any act that might place their livelihood in jeopardy. I take that attitude myself and I think Deputies on all sides of the House have that honestly at heart. Whether or not this Bill might unwittingly create a position that would injure the inshore fishing is another thing. If an injury arises from it, it has the same effect as an injury deliberately planned and manoeuvred. Because of that I have some doubts.

Deputy Dillon went on to point out that the public purchased their fish at some 30 per cent. above British prices because of the fact that we wanted to reserve for Irish fishermen the home market. While we are all desirous of reserving for Irish fishermen the home market and while we are all desirous of seeing them in steady employment, I am not at all so sure that the prices of 30 per cent. above normal marketing prices in Britain find their way into the pockets of our Irish fishermen.

I had on an occasion some short time ago to point out to the Minister the fact that the fish prices which obtained in Dublin on certain days were in no way reflected in the prices paid over to the fishermen who went out and braved the dangers of the deep to bring in the fish. Since then, without mentioning any names or making any individual claims, the Minister has got sufficient correspondence to warrant an investigation into it, which I understand he is carrying out.

I have no doubt that he will find my statement on that occasion was warranted by facts—which the Minister at the time doubted. I do not blame the Minister for that. I myself would have doubted it, had I not been absolutely certain of what I stated. That is simply by the way. My point is this: Because of the statements made by an ex-Minister here—Deputy Dillon—I feel it is necessary that the Minister should, in his reply, make clear whether or not I misunderstood him when he said that the members of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara supported this Bill.

I have a high respect for the members of that Board. I believe they are non-political. I believe they are inspired by motives of endeavouring to promote and protect the fishing interests of this country. Did I understand the Minister correctly that he, by way of interjection or answer to Deputy Dillon, said that the members of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara believed in this Bill and supported it?

It is correct. They do support it.

That to me means a good deal. I approach this Bill purely from the point of view of whether or not it is a good Bill for the fishing industry. The Minister's speech impressed me as a reasonable attitude to it. I was amazed, as I say, when in his speech Deputy Dillon suggested that the Minister simply used Section 2 of the Bill as an excuse to get through various other sections that would be detrimental to the fishing industry. While I am keenly interested in the rights of fishermen to secure the home market, I am also keenly interested in the right of the public to get value for their money.

I am aware that fish is not available on market days in my own area. All the fish available is sent to Dublin. This is a Catholic country and every Friday we must have fish or some alternative to meat on Fridays. On most Fridays in a town of 5,000 population within two miles of one of our fishing areas, there is no fish available. That is a deplorable situation. It shows that the market could be extended. If the Minister's project makes fish available to the public in my area in Waterford and in the rural areas around Waterford at a reasonable price, by means of the extension of our fishing industry, I feel that will be a good thing for the public in general.

As the Minister has given an assurance that any outside trawling will be subject to licence and the conditions in the licence will enable him, or enable whoever will be in charge, to see that the exercise of their rights as fishermen will not be detrimental to those of the native fishermen, I see no reason to refuse him this Bill. Because of the fact that Deputy Dillon made such a ferocious attack I was left in doubt but I feel now that the members of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara are in agreement with this Bill and I, for one, believe that the Minister is seriously and honestly trying to help the fishermen and I support him.

I know nothing about fishing and I want the Minister, when he is concluding, to explain how he proposes to reconcile what appears to me to be irreconcilable, that is to say, the interest of the person who is going to go out in the big deep sea trawler with the interest of the inshore fisherman. I agree that possibly with the bigger deep sea trawlers we are going to get a more regular and more plentiful supply of fish landed in the country. If we do get that from the deep sea trawlers, and we shall get it, I cannot see how by the landings from the big trawlers we shall avoid displacing the markets that the small inshore fishermen have at present.

If we displace these markets then we may get greater fish landings here at home but we create another problem for ourselves in so doing. All along the western seaboard the inshore fisherman is somebody who tries to eke out a livelihood, in the difficulties inherent in that area, by some inshore fishing. If the effect of bigger trawlers means that his market is eaten into, or that his market is gone, then you are creating another problem for him and it is not going to be a problem that will be easy to solve.

It seems to me that we are on the horns of a dilemma. If we are going to carry on, as I understand it is the Minister's desire to carry on, with heavier, deep sea trawlers which will bring in very much greater landings of fish, then equally you will have social problems in the western seaboard thrown upon you more and more as time goes on. We have to make up our minds whether we want fishing on the western seaboard to be something akin to a social service to some degree, or whether we are ruthlessly to cut out any portion at all of that fishing as being a social service.

Some of the Gaeltacht industries are in exactly the same position. They are not the most economic or the most businesslike proposition but they assist a very substantial number of people in that congested area and if it were not for the assistance they give in that way a very much greater sum would have to be spent in direct social services. The Minister for Lands will need to be careful, in his efforts and in his anxiety to produce what I might term streamlined fishing and a much bigger fishing industry by means of bigger trawlers and more regular and larger landings, that he does not at the same time create an even worse problem on the western seaboard.

It is difficult to know how to deal in sequence with the extraordinary statements made by Deputy Dillon. Perhaps I might begin by pointing out that a good deal of the arguments of Deputy Dillon would seem to relate to some gigantic factory ship, or shipping liner, which could, by landing huge quantities of fish on the Dublin market in a single day, paralyse the market and bring down prices. Of course, one of the obvious answers to that is that the liner itself if it ever did land fish would lose money because prices would be low for it as well as for the inshore fisherman. That does not seem to have occurred to Deputy Dillon.

Secondly, Deputy Dillon has entirely misunderstood the relative sizes of the various classes of trawlers which could operate from our type of harbours and under our circumstances. Perhaps the best way I can deal with that is to say that the handful of larger trawlers which I think in most cases will be associated with processing plants of one kind or another will be of a size which can best be described in the following way. Most of our fishing is done by 56-foot boats. Five 72-foot boats are equivalent to eight 56-foot boats so that to say that 72-foot boats could overwhelm the market is nonsense. They can go out into deeper waters; they can go out when the weather is bad and individually each of them can supply larger quantities of fish to a cannery but their relative size is not of a character which would have a paralysing effect, unless I allowed a very large number of them to operate and did not exercise the controlling power which I have, and which is quite clearly indicated in the Bill, to ensure that methods of fishing should be of a kind which would bring and retain prosperity to the industry as a whole.

Even if we were to take the next largest size, the 80- to 90-foot boat, then five of those boats are equivalent to twelve of the large boats that we now have, so let us not have wild exaggeration in this matter. We are not introducing 10,000 ton factory ships which could land one month's supply all at once. We are simply raising slightly the size of boats to be used mostly for cannery purposes and processing plants and, now that Deputies have been given those relative figures, they will immediately see that Deputy Dillon was exaggerating just as wildly as he was when, some time in 1947, he said that "some day wheat like peat and beet will go up the spout and God speed that day." Deputy Dillon gets into that mood sometimes and makes most extraordinary statements. His observations on this Bill can be compared exactly with those remarks on three of our most important agricultural and rural industries.

I am surprised that the Minister has the audacity to mention the word wheat after the last general election.

We should not stray too far from the debate.

The Minister would not mention it at the moment in Meath.

The last Government left us a pretty problem to handle in 1957.

He did not mention it last Sunday in Meath.

I suggest it should be left alone.

The Minister introduced it first, not I.

Deputy Dillon suggested that the Bill was unnecessary and that the only important part of it was that relating to the licensing of fishery vessels whereas, in fact, in 1956 he himself introduced, and had passed through this House, a Bill increasing the amount which An Bord Iascaigh Mhara could borrow from £500,000 to £1,000,000. This Bill is absolutely essential because, without it, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara cannot borrow any more than the £1,000,000 and of that, only £14,000 is left. In addition to that, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara will have very great responsibility in the future because now, for the first time, State grants of 15 per cent are provided for the purchase of boats. Now, for the first time, the rate of interest is controlled at 4 per cent, irrespective of the prevailing Bank rate and now, for the first time, a rate of deposit as low as 5 per cent can be accepted from an applicant for a boat.

All that represents new policy designed to encourage our own fishermen to procure new boats. I might add that the fishermen evidently have some faith in the present policy because total applications for boats have to be sifted, and the number of applications by Irish fishermen for boats of all classes on the 31st May this year was over double that on the 31st May last year, indicating that their own industry is in a lively state. I am told we have received quite a large number of applications for the new training scheme for training fishing hands, deckhands, and that again indicates the interest of our own people in the fishing industry.

Deputy Dillon is a dire pessimist. He appears to be hostile to all sections of the industry except those in inshore fishing. The fishing industry in every country in the world consists of the fishermen themselves and the many people who handle the fish, people working in canneries, in processing plants; and the people working on the shore bear, in relation to those working on the sea, a proportion of anything from three to one to ten to one, according to the type of industries on the shore. Deputy Dillon does not seem to want to develop a full-scale industry to give both employment on the shore and employment on the sea. He seems to believe that our inshore fishermen cannot face up to or live with modern conditions.

He apparently believes that the Irish people are unchangeable in their tastes and habits, that they are incapable of eating more and more fish each year, and that they are not subject to the reasoning of advertising. I do not know whether his feelings on that subject are based on the fact that he himself once said in this House that he disliked fish, or not. The fact that we have done a great deal of public relations work in the last two years to introduce the word "fish" into the minds of the people all over the country does not seem to weigh with him. I am glad to say that at the present time you can hardly open a copy of a newspaper, any day of the week, without finding the word "fish" somewhere in it, and it has unquestionably created a demand for fish throughout the country.

I do not know why we should be the only small country in Northern Europe where there are no canneries, where processing plants are empty, and where there is no export of fish, or very little export of fish save that of salmon and some herring. I do not know why it can be that inshore fishermen can survive magnificently in Norway, Denmark and in the Moray Firth in Scotland. I cannot understand how they can survive there if they cannot survive here. Scotland is a small country; Norway has a small population and Denmark has a small population. Why must our fishing industry here remain in the same shape that it has for the last 20 years while other countries can retain their inshore fishermen in employment and, at the same time, expand their markets and consumption of fish with middle water trawlers and larger boats? Those are the boats that seem to be successful, not boats that are very very large, which are not involved in our case, or else boats of the kind I have described where five boats—I think that is the lowest common multiple—are roughly equivalent to eight or 12 of the boats we have at the present time, that is, the largest boats we have at the present time.

I want to make it clear that I have more faith in the future. At least I am going to make an effort, and the Government have agreed and indicated quite definitely in the Programme for Economic Expansion that an effort will be made to try to effect some total expansion in the fishing industry without endangering the fortunes of our inshore fishermen. Already there have been some very hopeful increases in turnover and in exports.

But the Minister has not told us how he is going to do it. Is that not the whole point?

Apparently the Deputy did not read the detailed plans, which were an extension of the statements made in the Programme for Economic Expansion, which I circulated to every Deputy in the House and, in connection with which, I have made at least three major speeches in the course of the last nine months.

Surely the Minister is not asking me to take account of all the speeches he makes?

I think the Deputy should take account of speeches made involving important changes in policy.

One has something better to do than to take account of all the Minister's speeches.

Deputy Sweetman can, no doubt, be just as rude and insulting as Deputy Dillon on this Bill.

One of the major reasons for making some changes in the licensing system—which has never been put into operation but which is there to be put into operation as an emergency arises or when the case demands it—is that we wish to establish canneries for canning mackerel, sprat, and herring, and the promoters are naturally anxious to procure sufficient supplies of fish. There is no reason why we should not employ 2,000 more people ashore if we can expand the industry but we do require a considerable increase, and a guaranteed increase, in catching power for those particular processing plants. The result of that will be that not only will there be inshore fishermen making a living from the sea but their families will be able to work in the canneries, to associate themselves with the many operations involved in handling great quantities of fish landed at our ports and harbours.

For the benefit of the House I must repeat some of the facts in regard to fish intake and fish markets, which show that the market is extremely buoyant and shows no danger of being over-supplied at the present time. The weight of fish of all kinds, pelagic and demersal, brought to our ports in 1956 was 377,000 cwts. By 1958 it had risen to 547,000 cwts., an increase of 45 per cent., and the total value of the pelagic and demersal fish went up by 30 per cent. in the same period. No one can say that there is any suggestion there that the market is beginning to collapse, or there is any danger of inshore fishermen suffering grave loss in revenue. I wish we could show the same results in all other aspects of our economy as the figures represent there.

The value of shellfish, lobsters, crayfish, prawns and the other species, increased from £233,000 in 1956 to £291,000 in 1958, and the total value of all fish caught in this country has gone up by 28 per cent since 1956, from £1,020,000 to £1,316,000 in 1958. The number of boats have not increased proportionately showing there has been a really lively and satisfactory increase in the turnover which is benefiting an increasing number of fishermen and which is a very satisfactory feature.

Landings last year went up 4 per cent in price on an average. I should like to stress again the fact that in the last three months of 1958, the intake of whiting suddenly increased by 76 per cent and the price went up by 9 per cent. I was amazed at the fact that a market could suddenly take so much additional whiting, without quite a severe contraction in the price, indicating that there were people looking for fish all over the country who had not been able to get it in the last three months of 1957 and who were able to buy it in 1958 and in spite of the increase, were able to pay a higher price per cwt. than they did in 1957.

For the first four months of this year, the total value of fish of all types caught has gone up compared with the first four months of last year by 35 per cent. Again, that increase consists to a large degree of a big increase in the intake of whiting which is our commonest fish. And, again, the total catch of whiting went up by 40 per cent and the total value by 75 per cent. There is no one who knows anything about the fish business or any other business who can say there is an immediate danger, barring accidents and unforeseen circumstances, of a collapse in fish prices at the present time, or that there would be any danger if a few trawlers, of the larger type, whose capacity I have indicated is not so much greater than the trawlers operated now, were to come and land fresh fish on the Dublin market.

That, of course, is not the main purpose of their operation. The main purpose is to supply canners. But I want to be absolutely frank about this matter. It so happens that there are three larger trawlers operated. They all happened to put their fish on the Dublin market in the same week. In that week, there was a total of 3,834 boxes of fish auctioned on the Dublin market. That was about two and a half weeks ago or some time within that period. Of that total, 538 boxes came from these three larger trawlers and the price of fish did not decrease that week, although there was a sudden immediate increase in one week of 14 per cent. in the amount of fish thrown on the Dublin market.

I was again surprised. I have already referred to these big increases in the intake of whiting in the last three months of last year and in the first five months of this year which were not reflected in decreased prices. It would have seemed that a sudden increase of 14 per cent. in one week when the weather was fairly warm and when a number of our education institutions, boarding schools, had closed, there should be some decrease in demand. But there was not, and I asked for a report on the market. I found that a considerable proportion of that extra 14 per cent.—not necessarily the fish that came from the trawlers but of the total amount of fish that came on the market—was bought by the wholesalers who specialise in selling fish in the working districts of Dublin so that the working people of Dublin were able to buy 14 per cent. more fish in the same week without there being any reduction in the price.

I mention these things to show how far it is possible to exaggerate the effects of a few slightly larger trawlers operating to supply fresh fish to the Dublin market. In the first five months of this year the price of whiting, whose intake was very much increased, went up from an average of £1 12s. a cwt. to £2 a cwt. We can ask ourselves what is to be the limit in regard to these increases in price. Have we reached the stage where we want a diversified industry in which every section will be able to make a reasonable profit and in which at the same time the interests of the inshore fishermen will be preserved?

I have already indicated that we are the only maritime State where there are not canneries all along the coast, where there are unfilled quick-freeze plants, where there are no trawlers going out to the middle waters, and I should state in that connection once again, that nobody can give me any reason why, as a maritime country, we should be taking only 10 per cent. of the total fish caught in waters classified as Irish when we have an export market available and when we can export fish into Britain, either landing them directly at ports or consigning them from our own ports free of duty, and when the British annually import fish to the total value of £33,000,000.

I am perfectly aware that there are difficulties in all these things and I do not promise any rapid changes of any kind. If we can bring about an increase in the turnover of the whole industry ashore and afloat, a steady increase, we shall be doing the best thing possible. Of course it depends on the general co-operation of private enterprise and equally on the continuing work of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

I should mention the fact that it so happens that the Galway processing plant and the Schull processing plant which are now opened, were finally sanctioned by Deputy Dillon. In the case of the Galway plant the plans had been made by the previous Government but in 1955 Deputy Dillon had the opportunity of examining the plans before the working drawings were accepted. The same thing applies to the Schull processing plant. In fact, I think that plant came into being as a result of sanction by Deputy Dillon. There is also the Killybegs An Bord Iascaigh Mhara quick-freezing plant. Those three plants, operating full time, can take anything from 70,000 cwt. to 140,000 cwt. of fish per year and two of them are situated in places where, up to now, there has not been any great herring fishing. That means they were intended to quick-freeze white fish, demersal fish, cod, plaice, whiting and so on. That represents an increase of anything from 20 to 33 per cent. of our present demersal catch.

Why were those plants built unless it was envisaged that there would be sufficient catching power to fill them? The position at the moment is that we have not what is termed in other countries the dual price system for fishermen under which the amount of fish that is coming in sufficiently large so that in times of relative scarcity the price of fish is at a higher level and at other times the supplies of fish can be quick frozen and preserved for a number of months and put on the market again when the scarcity comes, at a lower rate than normal. The market for fish among our own people for immediate consumption is so large that it is almost impossible to purchase that fish either for those plants or for the fairly considerable quick-freeze storage facilities in Dublin. There are, I think, three firms who have cold storage where normally fish is quick frozen and is retained for scarce periods.

As I have said the market has been so lively and the market for fish has grown to such an extent that we are probably the only country in Northern Europe with quick freeze plants empty and our fishmeal plant unused and closed.

I am very glad that the people are eating more fish. I am delighted to see that it is possible for us to encourage a new policy in an atmosphere of buoyancy, which I am not exaggerating in the slightest degree.

To give another illustration of market buoyancy, three or four years ago, at this time of the year, everybody rather dreaded the state of the fish market. If the fish was extremely fresh, it was possible in warm weather to buy some for quick freeze. If the weather was very warm, there tended to be a temporary collapse, at least, in prices, due to the closing of institutions and the weather conditions. Nothing of that kind has occurred this year or in 1958. We have to go back to 1957 for a period in June, when for a brief period of two weeks there was a collapse in price for some varieties of fish, because of these conditions, the closing of institutions and the very hot weather. We have not had to face anything of that kind this year.

No one wants to see a fishmeal plant, that can take 10,000 tons of fish a year, idle. The plant has been built under the auspices of the Atlantic Fisheries Company, which is ultimately a branch of the Venner-Gren Enterprises. Mr. Venner-Gren has decided to leave all his enterprises, when he dies, as trusts for the scientific education of people who are concerned with the industry. In view of that, I should like to see the fishmeal plant operate as soon as possible.

I should make it clear that, even although the east Anglian herring fishery has declined and that, as a result, prices are livelier for herring and, therefore, it is difficult to supply the fishmeal plant with herring because prices are so high, the fact remains that in a number of countries in Europe there is an industry which specialises in fishmeal and in Denmark there are boats that even under present conditions do nothing but fish for fishmeal. I am not saying that we could, easily, repeat those conditions here. I am merely saying that I think I am correct in stating that this is the only country in Northern Europe where the fishmeal plant facilities are unused.

In other countries, the fishmeal plants are operating, even though prices for herring are high. The company which established this fishmeal plant have stated that they intend to build a cannery, so that they will be able to diversify their operations and employ their workers in Killybegs for some parts of the year on fishmeal and at other times of the year in canning. It is because of that diversified operation that I was particularly anxious to ensure that they could provide adequate catching power for themselves. The purpose of the Dutch trawlers in Killybegs is mainly to supply the cannery and the fishmeal plant and, when the occasion serves and without bringing down the value of fish to catastrophically low figures, they will put fish on the market.

I should like to make it clear again that this horrific picture, of the inshore fishermen being ruined, also affects the economies of the larger trawlers. The overhead costs of large trawlers are very high; they cannot afford a big decrease in the price of fish. That has to be considered in examining this whole question.

The home consumption of fish, I am very glad to say, bounded by approximately ten per cent. in one year. There are very many towns where no fish can be obtained. As Deputy Kyne said, there are towns within 20 miles of harbours where fish is impossible to procure on Thursdays and Fridays. There are inland towns where there is a grossly insufficient supply of fish. Fish is so expensive in Dublin, both in relation to the price paid to the fishermen and to the retail price that for weeks at a time many people have ceased to buy it. I am convinced that the general standard of living in this country has increased sufficiently to ensure an increased consumption of fish of anything up to 50 per cent. in the next three years. Any person circulating in the country and going to public functions, seeing the many occasions of reunions of the many associations of every description, will notice that wherever fish can be obtained, more often than not it is put on the menu at the dinner or lunch provided. Even in the case of associations of all descriptions representing all sections of the population, the whole tradition is changing in regard to the consumption of fish.

There was a very terrible time in our history when the last recourse of the desperately poor was to buy salted mackerel. People remember that. That tradition is passing away. The establishment of modern stoves in countless rural residences makes it easier to cook fish in a variety of ways. One of the satisfactory features of our modern life, thanks to rural electrification, is to go into the houses of farmers of 15, 20 or 30 acres and although they have a hard fight to live and although the incomes are naturally small, you will see a modern cooking stove; and a modern cooking stove means the capacity to cook fish in a variety of ways and to have it when it is available.

We have not even begun to advertise fish. I, unlike some people, have a real and absolute belief in the power of advertising. We have that recourse, if it should be necessary at any time to stimulate the sale of fish.

There are a great many grocers and other retailers throughout the country to whom I have spoken myself in my wanderings, who tell me that they are not prepared to stock fish, with all its difficulties and messiness, until they can be assured of an absolutely certain supply, at least every Thursday and Friday. They say it is not worth while and I do not blame them. Nobody would want to set aside a place in a shop, to provide all the cleaning facilities and to take all the care to ensure that the fish would remain fresh, if it is to appear one Thursday and then not appear for three weeks because of scarcity.

We know that absolutely fresh fish is the best of all; absolutely fresh fish quick frozen under perfect conditions and maintained at a low temperature can be very much more satisfactory than second-class fresh fish, and it retains its taste. We have not even begun the work of extending the quick-frozen distribution, using quick-freeze cabinets, throughout the country. That is only in its infancy. Some of the grocers who had enough initiative to instal quick-freezing machinery of that kind have found supplies irregular. I hope they have been able to use the plant for other goods—for turkeys, chickens and other foods. The supply of quick-frozen fish has been grossly inadequate for the expanding market. I think I have shown that we anticipate an increase in the consumption of fish in this country.

In regard to the export market, I have to rely on the experts in relation to exports of pelagic fish—herring, canned mackerel and sprat. There is no doubt that we can see an era of expansion. In regard to white fish, as a result of contact with the Billingsgate market, as a result of sending our own officers over to Great Britain and as a result of sending some of the executives of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to Great Britain, I am absolutely certain that we can take advantage of the extreme freshness of our fish. I know from my own contacts with Billingsgate that if we can ensure that white fish, surplus to our own needs, is absolutely fresh and well iced, it will get a satisfactory price on the British market. They will be willing and anxious to take it.

We have already arranged for certain reduction in freight rates along the whole southern coast, from which the exporters are deriving benefit. A special freight rate can be arranged for bulk quantities, I am quite certain, from Dublin to London as soon as the supply becomes regular. The one essential requirement in the export of white fish is that the supply must be regular. Nobody will bother dealing with odd quantities of white fish. The fish must be known for its quality and its origin must be reasonably ascertained. If it is really and genuinely fresh, then I am certain we have an export market for our white fish.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about that export potential. As everybody knows, in the past ten years the variety of our exports has grown enormously. We have today a great many exports we did not have before the war and we did not have in 1947, and why should not fish be one of them? Why should we be forever deprived of an export market for white fish as well, as for pelagic fish, herring, and so forth? Some of our fishermen, even in large boats, are fishing for lobster and making a very satisfactory income therefrom, particularly at certain times of the year.

A number of fishermen have specialised in the catching of what we call Dublin Bay prawns along the north eastern coast and have made additions to their income in that way. It has been very fortunate that there has been a supply of prawns available because the general intake of fish in the Irish Sea has not been very satisfactory either this year or last year. We are unable to determine the reason with certainty. It may be overfishing or some temporary condition, but that has been reflected in the figures from British boats in the inshore and middle water fisheries in the Irish Sea. But there has been the growth of the Dunmore East industry and also the growth of Dublin Bay prawns, or what is known in the world at large as Norwegian lobster.

Summing up the position, I believe and trust that there will be a considerable increase in consumption. I believe and trust that exports are possible, and, in fact, exports have increased by thirty per cent. in the last two years.

In what categories of fish?

The total exports of fish have gone up in value from £1,000,000 to £1,300,000. The export of salmon has remained more or less the same. Most of what we exported was herring or shell fish.

I believe that the retailers are capable of making a far bigger effort at selling fish as soon as supplies become regular. I believe we should establish canneries and increase shore employment. We have a rigid quota on the importation of fresh fish as a protection for the Irish fishermen. We have also the clause in this Bill which enables me, as Minister in charge of Fisheries, to ensure that trawlers of over a given size fish by methods which are conducive to the general prosperity of the industry. In that way, it is possible for me to ensure that these disasters which have been predicted will never eventuate.

I need hardly add it would be most unlikely for me to increase the grants for boats, lower the rate of interest, subsidise ice and provide training schemes for fishermen if I really intended to demolish the inshore fishing industry. I do not know whether any other Deputy thinks I am insane, but I should like to reiterate that it is not my intention to destroy the fishing industry. Such operations have been carried out in a number of small European countries; and, through this method of control quite clearly left open for me to use, I do not believe that any of these disasters will happen.

I should say, in conclusion, that I have spoken with the National Fishermen's Association on the matter. While some of them are disturbed at the fact that there has been a change and that three trawlers slightly larger—not much larger—than the boats which are fishing at present are supplying white fish to the market, I think they have accepted my promises. I attended a meeting on Saturday last and at the end of the meeting there was no indication that they were not prepared, at least for the moment, to trust my judgement in regard to the matter. When I speak of my judgement I mean the advice given to me by the very excellent officers of the Department and by the directors of An Bórd Iascaigh Mhára. When I receive that advice I have to use my own common sense and judgement, for what it is worth, in making the necessary decisions.

I believe that the fishermen understand the position now. I am very glad in some ways that there was a procession of fishermen through Dublin. They have never been organised before. Long before any of these events took place, I asked the fishermen in the major ports to found a National Fishermen's Association. I hope it will long survive and that, by that means, we can have more close consultation between all sections of the industry. I do not want to see the position in which the inshore fishermen, the retailers and the wholesalers are at loggerheads with one another. There is a far more friendly feeling between all interests than there used to be; and, as is the case in agriculture and industry, there are contacts between all the groups. I hope that the Fishermen's Association will help us to establish much closer contacts at all levels of production and distribution.

I do not think I need say any more except once again to point to the fact that I have the power to control the numbers of larger trawlers, that I intend to use it for the benefit of the existing fishermen and also to enable us to diversify the industry and increase the volume of inshore employment which, in turn, would benefit the fishermen and their families.

Question put and declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 21st July, 1959.