HC Deb 25 April 1865 vol 178 cc1024-7

, in moving for leave to introduce this Bill, said, it would be in the recollection of the House that the Act of 1861 was founded on the Report made in 1860 by a Royal Commission, which had been appointed to inquire into the causes of the diminution in the quantity of salmon in the different rivers of England. Those who had read the Reports of the Inspectors under that Act were aware that it had been successful to an extent which could hardly have been expected considering the short time it had been in operation. There had been a considerable increase in the salmon since that time. But while the Act of 1861 had succeeded to a very considerable extent, those who had in different localities in England taken rivers under their protection found considerable difficulty in collecting funds for the purpose of carrying out to the full the provisions of the Act. It had been suggested frequently that some amendments should be introduced into the Act, in order to give power for the formation of bodies for the protection of salmon, and to give these bodies jurisdiction over the whole of a river. Also that there should be a licence duty on rods, nets, and other engines for the capture of fish, so that means should be provided for the protection of fish during the spawning season. With this view he had at the end of last Session of Parliament laid upon the table of the House a Bill which had been during the recess circulated, and had been generally approved. The Reports of the Inspectors of Fisheries for the year 1864 contained an account of the meetings which had been held in different parts of the country, and it appeared that the concurrence of nearly all those interested in the fisheries had been given to the principles which were sought to be embodied in the Bill. Besides these two objects—the establishment of Boards of Conservancy and the furnishing them with funds by means of licence duties—there had been other suggestions made for the amendment of the Salmon Fisheries Act of 1861. A very important subject connected with salmon fisheries was that of "fixed engines" They were defined in the Act of 1861 in two separate places, but these definitions were not consistent one with the other, and a very considerable doubt had been entertained with respect to the application of the term, "fixed engine." There had been a decision upon an appeal before the Court of Queen's Bench, from which it might be inferred that a net held stationary across a river was not a fixed engine. Under the Irish Fisheries Act such a mode of fishing would be clearly illegal, and it was perfectly apparent to every gentleman that a net held across a river by men on each side, ought to be considered as a fixed engine. It was, therefore, intended to make the definition the same as that adopted in the I Irish Act. It was not intended to interfere with the Act of 1861, with respect to the reservation of the ancient rights of catching salmon. The House had determined that those who had exercised these rights at the time of the passing of the Act should continue to do so; but since then it had been found that these fixed engines had greatly increased. The expense and difficulty, of prosecution, was such that he thought the House would feel it necessary to take some steps in order to prevent the increased number of salmon with had been secured by the operation of the Act of 1861, being taken by these engines. He proposed to introduce into the Bill clauses which would establish for England the same tribunal as that which existed in Ireland—namely, a Commission to inquire in every district into the legality of these fixed engines, and whether they were in use at the time of the passing of the Salmon Fisheries Act of 1861. There would be power of appeal from the decision of the Commissioners to the Court of Queen's Bench. There would be other points of minor importance connected with salmon fisheries which would be introduced in the Bill, but which it would be better to discuss in Committee. He would be sorry to conclude his short statement without expressing an opinion which he believed was shared in by all who had paid attention to the subject, that the country was greatly indebted to the Inspectors of Fisheries, Mr. Ffennell and Mr. Eden, for the great ability which they had displayed in carrying out the intentions of Parliament, and the valuable advice which they had given to all parties consulting them.

Moved, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Salmon Fishery Act (1861).—(Mr. T. G. Baring.)


said, he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down how he proposed to constitute the Board of Conservancy. He quite agreed with what had been stated as to the beneficial working of the Act of 1861, but while it was desirable that Boards of Conservancy should be established, the House must bear in mind that there was another great question affecting our principal streams now under public consideration, and some comprehensive measure of legislation might be introduced, having reference to the drainage of towns into rivers, and perhaps giving powers to some public Boards to preserve them from pollution. It would, therefore, be wise to avoid imposing duties upon these Boards of Conservancy which other bodies might be appointed to carry out. It would be most inconvenient to have two public bodies having separate jurisdictions over the streams; and it might lead to similar confusion to that which we now saw in the streets of London. He concurred in what had been said as to the valuable services which had been rendered by the Inspectors of Fisheries.


said, the Bill which he introduced last Session fully explained the way in which these Boards would be constituted. They would be appointed at the Quarter Sessions of any county which contained a salmon river, and a joint fishery Committee would be appointed to determine the constitution of a Board of Conservancy extending over more counties than one.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend the Salmon Fishery Act, 1861, ordered to be brought in by Mr. BARING and Sir GEORGE GREY.