HC Deb 09 March 1868 vol 190 cc1280-2

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill for the purpose of confirming certain Orders made by the Board of Trade under "The Oyster and Mussel Fisheries Act, 1866," relating to the Rivers Blackwater (Essex) and Hamble, said, as these were the first Orders made under that Act, it might, perhaps, be proper that he should shortly explain the principles which had guided them in granting these Orders and declining to grant others. The Act was passed, as the House knew, in consequence of the increasing scarcity of oysters, with a view to the encouragement of private enter-prize in the formation of oyster beds. The administration of the rights of the Crown in the foreshore having been transferred from the Office of Woods to the Board of Trade, they were enabled to grant leases of sea bed to companies or individuals for this purpose, for not more than sixty years. When an application was made they required, in the first place, accurate and precise information as to the area of the proposed fishery, the existing condition of the ground, the capital proposed to be expended upon it, and other particulars of a similar character. Should a primâ facie case be established, a draft Order was transmitted to the Board of Trade by the promoters, which was to be made as public as possible in the locality, by advertisement and in other ways, for the space of a month, during which time objections were received. At the conclusion of the month a local inquiry was held, by means of an Inspector, and on his report the Order was either granted or refused. He would enumerate the classes of concessions which seemed to the Board to fall within the scope and intention of the Act. They were—first, appropriations of moderate areas of unproductive sea bed or foreshore for the establishment of new fisheries. By "unproductive" was not, of course, meant unfavourable for the breeding or fattening of oysters, but ground which required stocking, and perhaps some artificial improvement. With respect to these there could be no doubt. No one was injured by the appropriation, and whoever made oysters grow where none grew before was entitled to the fruit of his labours. Secondly, the appropriation of small areas of productive ground in the vicinity of public beds. In this case there was more difficulty, because the rights of the public must be respected, although it would probably be conducive to the increased supply of oysters that the whole public bed should have the advantage of greater care and better management. They, however, considered that they were only justified in giving exclusive rights over such small portions of ground, that the public rights might not be curtailed in any appreciable degree. The third case they should entertain would be an application from an owner of an existing fishery for more complete powers under the Act to protect himself from depredation. It was clear, therefore, that it would not be fair to appropriate large areas of public productive ground, upon which bodies of fishermen gained their livelihood, though it might be an advantage to give those fishermen a quasi property in the grounds they had been in the habit of working, in order that they might clean the beds, and protect themselves from wasteful methods of fishing. Nor would it be right to give any person or company more ground than they could profitably cultivate, as this would be checking that competition they desired to promote. Nor could they delegate their authority to others, and allow companies to appropriate ground for the purpose of subletting or granting licences to others to work it. One or other of the objections he had stated proved fatal to many applications. The two cases in which Orders had been granted appeared to be free from such defects. Others were still under consideration, and which he hoped might be granted. The charge for obtaining these Orders, as far as the Board of Trade was concerned, was very moderate, consisting of a little more than the travelling expenses of the Inspector, hire of a room for the inquiry, and such like. A deposit of £50 was required to meet these charges, and in the two cases in which Orders had been granted a considerable portion of this would be returned. Where there was much opposition, and solicitors and counsel employed, other expenses, and probably heavy ones, were incurred; but with this they had nothing to do, and over it they had no control. With these few words of explanation he asked leave to introduce the Bill.

Motion agreed to. Bill to confirm certain Orders made by the Board of Trade under "The Oyster and Mussel Fisheries Act, 1866," relating to the Rivers Blackwater (Essex) and Hamble, ordered to be brought in by Mr. STEPHEN CAVE and Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH. Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 54].