HC Deb 29 April 1864 vol 174 cc1915-7

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, If it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill this Session to amend the Salmon Fisheries Act (1861)? The Report of the Inspectors had for some time been in the hands of hon. Members. It contained information from every part of the kingdom, and suggested the Amendments required in the present Act. One of those recommendations was that powers should be given to raise a fund for the protection of the rivers from poachers, and to secure the carrying out of the Salmon Fisheries Act. In certain places the Act was notoriously a dead letter, and it was certain that persons could be found everywhere who would break the law if they could do so with impunity. There were at the present moment many associations for the protection of salmon rivers, but they had spent every farthing they had obtained by private subscription, and they must certainly collapse unless other funds were forthcoming. In the case of the Fowey, in South Wales, after working with considerable success, the association had been compelled to give up and abandon the fruits of their labours to the poachers; he knew of poachers that had made£40 or £50 a year by the fish they took. The Inspectors were unanimous that powers should be given to raise funds, and almost unanimous as to the best means of doing so—namely, by assimilating the law of England to that of Ireland poaching might be, to a large extent, prevented. In 1848 an assessment Act was passed for Ireland, and the country was divided into districts, containing one or more rivers, and power was given to charge a duty on every engine or rod used for taking salmon, the duty varying according to the destructiveness of the engine employed. The benefit of that system might be seen by a comparison of the two rivers, the Shannon and the Severn; both drained an area of about 4,500 square miles in extent, and possessed equal natural advantages for the production of fish. On the Shannon the sum received was £1,339 annually, which was expended for the protection and improvement of the fishery. In the case of the Severn, only £138 was last year raised for the same purpose by voluntary subscriptions, and that to a great extent from persons who were not individually interested. He hoped the Government would bring in a Bill this Session for the purpose of assimilating the law of England to that of Ireland on that subject, with the view to remedy the present state of things which was productive of serious injury. It might be urged that it was very strange that the proprietors of the Fisheries did not combine together for the purpose of protecting the rivers, but he assured hon. Members that it was quite impossible to carry out objects of this kind by voluntary efforts; they might as well attempt to collect the metropolitan water rate on voluntary principle. The only way to meet the evil was to compel those persons who fished for profit or pleasure to contribute towards the preserving of the rivers. That might be done by the assessment of a small rate, and he was sure that the poorest man engaged in the Fisheries would not object to pay 10s. for a licence in order to provide for the protection of the river against poachers. He did not now refer to the injury done to the Fisheries by the pollution of rivers, as that was a subject of such great importance that it should be dealt with in a separate measure?


said, the answers to the queries which were issued by the Fishery Inspectors showed a very great unanimity of opinion, that some method of collecting a fund for the protection of the Fisheries was necessary and should be established by law. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) had, he thought, stated fairly the principle on which such a rate should be levied when he said, that those persons who derived profit or pleasure from fishing should be called upon to pay for protecting the Fisheries. The question, however, was one of some intricacy, and it required great care to put into a legislative form a provision for enforcing the collection of revenue by means of licences, and more especially for arranging the assessment of different interests in a river for the purpose of levying a rate. Both those matters were under consideration, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir George Grey) was in communication with the Fishery Inspectors, and with the assistance of his right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. H. A. Bruce), who had paid great attention to the subject, he hoped it might be in the power of the Government to introduce some measure in the course of the present Session which might to some extent at any rate meet the wishes of those persons who were interested in the Fisheries. He could not give a pledge on the part of the Government that any measure would be introduced in time for it to be passed this Session. All he could say was that further attention would be given to the subject.