§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DODDS
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, he felt himself placed in considerable embarrassment, in consequence of the opposition with which his Bill was threatened from two distinct quarters. The hon. Member for Radnorshire (Mr. Walsh) had given Notice that he would move that the measure be read the second time that day six months; while the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had brought in what he presumed he must designate a rival Bill. He thought those whose interests were represented by the latter hon. Gentleman might have accomplished what they desired by introducing Amendments into the present Bill, and thus have rendered it unnecessary for the House to consider two separate Bills, It would be in the recollection of the House that the measure on this subject, brought in by himself last year, received a considerable number of Amendments, and was reprinted; and he had hoped that those Amendments, with others which he was prepared to adopt, would have given satisfaction to all the interests connected with salmon fisheries in this kingdom, and that they would in that way have had a measure which, subject to the discussion of minor details, would have been generally acceptable to all parties. He would beg the indulgence of the House while he attempted briefly to trace the course of recent legislation on the subject. In 1860 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the 1102 state of our salmon fisheries, which was then most deplorable. The Commissioners, men of undoubted confidence and authority, visited and examined almost every principal river in this part of the kingdom, and afterwards made a most elaborate and exhaustive Report. They made a number of recommendations, and among them was this—that all Acts, both public and private, then applicable to the salmon fisheries of England and Wales, should be repealed, and a new and comprehensive measure enacted in their stead. In 1861 an Act was passed; but unfortunately it gave effect only to the first part of that recommendation—namely, the repeal of the existing Acts, 23 of which were entirely swept away, while portions of 10 others shared the same fate. The second part of the recommendation was included in the Bill of 1861 as originally introduced; but the Bill was attenuated and mutilated in the manner he had indicated during its progress through both Houses. Its shortcomings were well known. Even before it received the Royal Assent the general feeling among those interested in these fisheries was, that the measure could be received as only an instalment of what was required, and an agitation was accordingly commenced for its extension. In 1865 another Bill was introduced into that House, and became aw. It supplemented the Act of 1861 in three very important particulars—first, by providing for the constitution of Salmon Fishery Boards throughout the country, for the administration of the salmon fishery laws; next, by providing hat a duty should be charged upon instruments used in salmon fishing, by which a fund was to be raised which the Act of 1861 failed to establish; and lastly, by providing that special Commissioners should be appointed to inquire into the legality of certain fixed engines, fishing weirs, mill-dams, &c. The result had tended greatly to improve he condition of those fisheries; but experience showed that the present Acts were still insufficient to protect them effectually, and that additional legislation was needed. A good deal of dissatisfaction was occasioned, and in many Darts of the country threats to dissolve and discontinue the operation of the Boards unless the law was further improved had been used. In 1869 two separate Bills with that object were 1103 brought into that House, one by the Tyne Salmon Fishery Board, affecting their own river, the other by the then Under Secretary for the Home Department. The latter measure possessed many merits, and some were anxious to see it passed as another instalment; but at the time he himself took a different view, thinking it not so comprehensive a measure as was required for the effectual regulation of these fisheries, and he thought it was desirable to postpone legislation on the subject for one or two Sessions until a more complete Bill could be introduced; but he now doubted whether, in that case, he had not acted somewhat unwisely. The Bill of 1869 was withdrawn, and on his (Mr. Dodds') Motion, the whole question was referred to a Select Committee—To inquire into the present state of the Laws affecting the Salmon Fisheries of England and Wales, and to report whether any and what amendments are required therein.The Committee was reappointed in 1870, and in July presented its Report. He had hoped that in the following year the Government would have brought in another measure founded on that Committee's Report; but, their hands being too full, he had taken up the subject himself. Hence his former Bill, and also the present one. The Bill which he had introduced this Session incorporated many of the Amendments which had been suggested last year. Had the rival measure of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) appeared to him likely to be more acceptable than his own, he should have been only too glad to give it his best support, and be relieved from further responsibility; but, unfortunately, their two measures were at variance on some essential points, and that of the hon. Member for Swansea was also at variance with the spirit of the Select Committee's Report, opposed to the requirements of the country, and, he likewise thought, not so well suited to effect their common object as his own Bill, on which therefore he must ask the judgment of the House. He would say emphatically that his Bill, though deviating in some trivial respects from the Report of the Committee, substantially embodied its recommendations. Its three first clauses defined the terms "fishing weirs," "owners," "close season," and "rod and line;" and as to them he thought there would be general 1104 agreement. The 4th clause would confer on the Secretary of State power to alter and re-combine fishery districts—a power shown by experience in many cases to be absolutely necessary, and expressly recommended by the Report of the Select Committee. The 5th clause was almost consequential upon the one preceding, enabling the Secretary of State, where fishery districts do not exist, to nominate the first Board of Conservators, in order to set the machinery of the law in motion. One of the principal points on which the hon. Member for Swansea and himself were likely to differ was the constitution of the Boards. By the Act of 1865 the justices in quarter sessions were to appoint the Boards of Conservators. In addition to the persons they appointed, there were certain ex officio members, who consisted of justices of the peace for any county within the limits of the fishery district, being either owners or occupiers at not less than £100, and having the right to fish in the rivers; and, in addition, persons paying a certain yearly amount of licence duty. He had himself been a member of the Tees Conservancy Board since its formation, and he was bound to say that the present mode of appointing Boards of Conservators was not altogether unsuccessful; but it was one thing to have a Board appointed in that way under the Acts of 1861 and 1865, and a very different thing to leave in the hands of a body so constituted the powers which he and the hon. Member for Swansea proposed to confer on the Boards in future. He would venture to refer to the authorities upon which he had acted in drawing up his proposal for the constitution of the Boards. The Royal Commissioners of 1861 reported that the scheme of local management that they would recommend was that which had been approved by experience in Ireland, and founded on recognized constitutional principles—namely, that of a Board of Conservators to be elected by and to represent the various interests along the whole course of the rivers placed under the management of the Board, including the owners of land, the owners of fisheries, and the fishermen who exercised their calling in tidal and navigable waters. The Select Committee of this House which sat to consider this subject expressed a strong opinion in favour of giving the Boards of Conservators an elective character before 1105 they were entrusted with larger power; and in order to carry out their recommendations he (Mr. Dodds) proposed in his Bill of last year that the Boards should be elected by licence duty and fishery rate payers; but his proposition was not approved by the House, and he had therefore abandoned it. He also proposed last year that one-third of the members should go out every year, and that there should be an annual election; he now, however, proposed that the Secretary of State should nominate the first Board, but that after the expiration of one year, the Board shall be elected for three years. It was to consist of not fewer than six, nor more than 30 members, 12 being suggested as the usual number. The persons qualified to be members were the owners of a several fishery within the district, or persons nominated by such owner, and licence payers. The electors were every person who shall have paid licence duty and fishery-improvement rate during the previous season, and a plurality of votes was given according to the scale of payments. He proposed that the electors paying the licence duty should be divided into two wards, to be called the upper and the lower wards. The former would consist of persons who exercised their calling in the non-tidal waters, the latter of tidal fishermen; each of these were to elect one-third of the members of the Board, the remaining third being elected by the riparian owners of the upper or non-tidal portion of the fishery district. He proposed also to place upon the Board as ex officio members riparian owners of five miles of the banks of the rivers or lakes constituting the fishery district, but their number was not to exceed one-sixth of the whole Board. The scheme thus propounded would allow every interest to be fairly represented, while a preponderance of power was given to the non-tidal interest. The representative of the Duke of Beaufort, to whom the larger part of the fisheries in the lower portion of the Wye belonged, had already complained that his Bill gave too much power to those interested in the upper portion of that river. The Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea was most illusory in this respect, and proposed to leave the whole power in the hands of the nominees of the landed proprietors. He had been told by an hon. Member who intended 1106 to contest this measure, that the next portion of his Bill which referred to the mode of conducting elections was impracticable and unworkable. He did not himself know any part of it which would not work; but if any hon. Member would suggest a clause which would meet any such case, he should be most happy to give it his support in Committee. The clauses referring to this subject had been carefully adopted from he clauses in the Local Government Act, which had been found to work smoothly and beneficially in practice, and therefore he could not understand what valid objection could be raised against them. By Clause 21 effect was given to a recommendation of the Committee that power should be given to the Board, with the approval of the Home Office, to vary the licence duties in different parts of a river on a scale graduated according to the value of the fisheries; and by other clauses the Board of Conservators were enabled to raise the licence duties above the maximum fixed by the Act of 1865, and to raise an improvement rate not exceeding 25 per cent. upon the amount of such duties. The Boards would also be allowed to borrow money on mortgage of their improvement rates, to be applied exclusively in facilitating the passage of salmon up the rivers. Clause 27 proposed to confer the power of making by-laws upon he Boards of Conservators in reference to the fence time, the weekly close time, and to the size of the meshes of nets, the prohibition of netting within certain distances of the mouths of rivers, mill gratings, and the mode of fishing for fish other than salmon, which might interfere unnecessarily with the preservation of salmon. The hon. Member for East Cumberland (Mr. W. N. Hodgson) objected to the proposed extension of the powers of the Boards as contained in his Bill of last year; but he (Mr. Dodds) trusted hat the amended proposal of the present Bill would meet with the hon. Member's approbation. As to gratings, the Bill provided that they should be so placed as not to injure any mill or in land navigation. If it was thought desirable, there might be power of appeal to the local magistrates, or the Secretary of State; but he did not think any persons would be aggrieved on that head. The hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) proposed that the Secretary of 1107 State should determine whether a grating should be placed at a mill or not; but this was surely employing a steam hammer to crack a nut. The magistrates would have power to reduce any penalties to one-fourth of the amount, and the by-laws would be subject to the confirmation of the Secretary of State—a point on which he had endeavoured to meet the objections taken last year. The most important part of the Bill related to artificial obstructions to the passage of fish, and the three clauses on this subject would, he believed, effect a greater improvement in the salmon fisheries than all the legislation that had taken place on the subject since 1860. One effect of these obstructions was well known, and had been strongly pointed out by the Royal Commissioners in their Report. They said that of all the evils that affected the fisheries artificial barriers must be regarded as the most pernicious, causing a lamentable destruction of animal life and waste of human food; that the instinct by which these fish were impelled to quit the sea and ascend the rivers to deposit their spawn was one of the most beautiful arrangements of nature; but that it was often effectually thwarted by the contrivances of man, which, if unrestrained, would lead to the extinction of the fish; that the fish crowded together in their vain endeavours, fell an easy prey to poachers and depredators; and that this cause alone, in their opinion, would account for the disappearance of salmon in many rivers, and, unless remedied, would lead to the gradual extinction of breeding salmon in the rivers where the obstructions existed. At the Bywell dam, on the Tyne, large numbers of fish used to be seen fruitlessly endeavouring to leap over the barrier; but the owner of the dam, the senior Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Beaumont), had liberally removed it without compensation, and the result had been a marked improvement in the supply of salmon to that fishery. The Dimsdale dam, on the Tees, unfortunately still offered a great impediment to the passage of fish, and hence that river had not been improved nearly so much as it might have been. The Royal Commissioners attribute the diminished value of the salmon fisheries to the weirs, the fixed engines, and to the pollution of rivers; and these removed there was no reason to despair 1108 of the restoration of the salmon fisheries to their original condition. Now, the Bill proposed that the Special Commissioners for English Fisheries might, on the application of the Board of Conservators of any district, hold an inquiry, and if they found that the weir, dam, or other artificial obstruction, was a hindrance to the passage of salmon, might order a fishway to be provided over it at the expense of the owner, the fishway being thereafter kept in repair by the Conservators. The fishway was not to be more than a certain distance below the crest of the weir, and to be so constructed as not to interfere with the head of water above the weir; and experience had shown the feasibility of this. On the River Wharfe, an excellent salmon river, a fishway had been constructed at Tad-caster, and also Wetherby, in weirs belonging to Lord Lonsdale and the Corporation of Leeds. These were in full operation, and were in no way prejudicial to the owners and millers. Weirs in many cases were useful and proper, and with these the Bill would not interfere, though many of them were illegal and might be indicted as nuisances by any litigious person. With regard to the operations of the Special Commissioners, the limited powers with which Parliament had intrusted them had been very beneficially exercised. Up to the present time 536 cases had come before them—many of them, of course, relating to fixed engines. Of these 143 had been allowed, 15 had been partly allowed, and in 300 cases the obstruction had been declared illegal, and dealt with accordingly; while 18 were still under consideration. Their decisions had been appealed from in 40 cases, of which 7 had been remitted to the Commissioners for re-consideration, 7 had been withdrawn, 11 abandoned, 10 affirmed, 2 reversed, and 3 were still pending. The present system had worked satisfactorily and ought to be extended. The cost was, or ought to be, inconsiderable, local Courts being held in the immediate vicinity of the places to be investigated, and the witnesses being examined on the spot at little expense. He believed, indeed, that the inquiries in his own district had not cost more than £10 each, with the exception of the Dimsdale case, where the owner unnecessarily engaged two barristers, and made the inquiry a comparatively lengthy one. The Bill would 1109 remedy one of the defects of the Act of 1865 by giving compulsory powers for the purchase of fixed engines and dams, with a view to their removal. A Board of Conservators desirous of removing such an obstruction might present a petition to the Secretary of State, who might thereon, if he thought fit, make a Provisional Order; the Order was to be confirmed by an Act of Parliament, and would then come under the powers of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Acts. Of course, the full value of the property would have to be paid. At present, owing to an oversight, the Special Commissioners had no power to inquire into obstructions belonging to the Crown. This oversight in the Act would be rectified by the Bill, the Office of Woods having sanctioned the Amendment, and the assent of the Crown to it would, at the proper time, be signified. No fishing was to be permitted within 50 yards above and 100 yards below a weir or mill-race, except with rod and line. This Bill would give power to the water-bailiffs or constables to search persons found on highways who were suspected to have salmon unlawfully obtained; which was a power analogous to that contained in the Game Acts. He hoped there would be no objection to that provision, but he was not particularly wedded to it. Some persons supposed that the Boards of Conservators did not support this Bill, but that they supported the Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea. His impression was that if the Boards of Conservators thoroughly knew the provisions of this Bill they, would prefer it to that of the hon. Member for Swansea. And so far from opposing this Bill, he thought the hon. Member for Radnor (Mr. Walsh) ought to vote for the second reading, in order that it might be sent to the Select Committee along with his own; for the object of both measures was to amend the salmon fishery laws generally, and not to promote any particular interest. It had been said in certain quarters that he was interested personally in this matter. He took that opportunity of saying that there was no foundation whatever for that assertion. He was not an angler, nor a fisherman, nor an owner of a fishery. He was not interested in lower or upper proprietors, nor in tidal or non-tidal waters. His only object in bringing forward this measure was to 1110 remedy great defects in these laws. He was convinced that this measure, without injuring anyone's interests, would confer much advantage on the country. He should be much surprised if the House, after asking him to preside over the Select Committee, and after all the trouble he had taken on this subject during the last three or four years, would do so ungracious an act as to refuse him the second reading which he now sought.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dodds.)
§ MR. WALSH
, who had given Notice to move an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he would admit that the salmon fishery laws required to be reformed in many respects, but he doubted whether the present Bill provided the remedies required. He thought that one of the greatest grievances connected with the salmon fisheries was, that whereas proprietors of lower waters were allowed to catch and intercept fish by the best engines which the ingenuity of man could devise for the capture of salmon, proprietors of upper waters in certain rivers had all the trouble and odium of preserving the fish in those waters, although during the greater portion of the year they derived no substantial benefit from them. He was astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton state that the great objection to his Bill was, that it would give the chief power to riparian owners in the upper part of a river—whereas, the great objection to the Bill was, that in the Board of Conservators proposed by the hon. Gentleman, they would be left in a clear minority; and having placed them in a minority in the Board, the Bill would take away from them the power they had before of making a fair bargain with the lower proprietors, and thus they would be left completely at the mercy of the net fishing interest in the lower part of the river. As to the power proposed to be given to the water-bailiffs, he was surprised, after he had heard so many speeches delivered on the opposite side of the House against the Game Laws, that any hon. Gentleman on that side should make such a proposition, for the Game Laws contained nothing half so arbitrary as the 59th 1111 and 60th clauses of this Bill. What would the House think of a proposition to give power to holders of shooting licences in a district to make by-laws to enable gamekeepers to walk over people's land without let or hindrance, for the purpose of searching persons suspected of being unlawfully in possession of game? But both this Bill and that of the hon. Member for Swansea contained a provision of that nature with reference to persons suspected of being unlawfully in possession of salmon. He would oppose to the best of his power any Bill whatever containing a provision of that sort. He entertained as strong objections to many parts of the Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea as he did to this Bill; but he thought the Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea could be made tolerable in Committee, but he despaired of ever seeing such a result obtained in respect of this Bill, because the Bill removed none of the grievances under which the upper proprietors suffered, but rather aggravated them. He should move the rejection of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. W. N. HODGSON
seconded the Amendment, and said that it had ever been a rule with the House of Commons that the rights of property should not be injuriously affected without compensation; but by this Bill the rights and interests of individuals would be very seriously injured. A fishery, he submitted, should be looked upon as of the same nature as the estate, mansion, or park of any private gentleman; it was held by the same tenure, conveyed by the same process from vendor to purchaser, and the title hitherto had been regarded as safe as that by which real property in this country was held. According to this Bill, as he understood it, the government of rivers would be vested in a Board of Conservators, to be elected by persons who held, or had held, a fishing licence for the past year in the particular district—and for this license they might have paid only £1, or, in some cases, as little as 5s. In those parts of the country with which he had the honour to be connected, the lower parts of the rivers belonged exclusively to one, two, or three proprietors, while the upper portion was more divided in ownership. Now what right would 1112 persons who paid only the annual sum of £1 have to elect a Board to enforce the mode in which the fisheries of the lower part of the river should be conducted? By this Bill the Conservators would have power to alter the close season, to say what should be the legal mode of fishing with nets, to vary the licence duty, to impose the form of licence, to lay down in what way the licence should be exercised, and to prohibit the use of nets within a certain distance from the mouths of the rivers. Therefore persons who paid for an annual licence to fish by rod and line might dictate the mode in which the fishery was to be conducted by a proprietor who probably had had the fishery from time immemorial. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dodds) he thought hardly understood the nature of his own Bill when he proposed in this way to invest the Conservators with powers almost unlimited. But even if the mode of the election of the Conservators should be varied, his objection to the Bill would not be removed; his objection to the Bill was a radical one, and ran through its whole structure. His next objection—which was of a minor nature—was that the Bill required a double licence from persons who fished with two sets of fishermen. But it was evident that one net could take only a certain number of fish, whether with four men or only two. The power to fix the close season had hitherto been left to Parliament alone. It was Parliament who said when the close season was to begin and when it was to end; but the hon. Member proposed to give this great power to Conservators elected in the objectionable manner to which he had referred. He doubted whether the Bill could be worked at all in its present shape, and in that opinion he was fortified by a London publication of great authority, edited by a gentleman who was known throughout England for his great knowledge of the subject. The publication to which he alluded said that the Bill was made to be amended; that it would not work as it was for this, if for no other, reason, that in some places it was quite incomprehensible—for instance, the last Proviso of the 9th section, if it meant anything, meant that of the lower waters there was to be no representation at the Board, which would thus consist entirely of upper proprietors. Assuredly the hon. 1113 Gentleman could not mean that. For his own part, he was a resident on the hanks of an important salmon river, and he heard no complaint of the present law, which was working very well, under which the salmon in the North of England had very much increased, and would increase still more if the law was not interfered with.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Walsh.)
§ MR. LEEMAN
said, he had presented an important Petition that morning from that part of the country with which he was connected in favour of this Bill. That Petition was promoted by a vast number of the Conservators of numerous rivers in the North of England. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Bill, had himself admitted that there were several portions of the Bill which, in his opinion, ought to become law. He (Mr. Leeman) would suggest that, under the circumstances, the business-like and sensible course would be to refer the Bills of the hon. Member for Stockton and the hon. Member for Swansea to a Select Committee, with the view of framing one measure out of both, which would be generally acceptable to the House. He did not wish that the Select Committee should call for further evidence, as the question of the law on the subject of salmon fisheries had surely been threshed out. He was sorry to see no one representing the Government present except the Under Secretary (Mr. Winterbotham), for he was anxious to know whether the Government would be prepared to recommend the practical course which he had suggested. If, however, they went to a division he should support the second reading, believing that the Bill contained many valuable provisions.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he thought the practical way out of the difficulty was to act on the suggestion of the hon. Member for York City (Mr. Leeman), and send both Bills to a Select Committee. The Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea was the Bill of the Conservancy Boards of nearly the whole kingdom, and if they did not know what was wanting, he should like to ask who did? He did not approve the manner in which the hon. Member for Stockton had framed 1114 his Bill in respect of the election of the Boards of Conservancy. The great fault of the Bill was, that the hon. Member started with dividing every river into two wards; the effect of which would be to perpetuate the antagonism which already existed, and which ought never to exist, because the object of both parties was identical—namely, to increase the production of the fish; and unless the House was to legislate in that spirit, they would legislate in vain. He also objected to setting aside the existing constitution of the Boards, as the Bill contemplated. The present Boards had worked well; they had increased the supply of salmon, and when an alteration was to be made, he preferred that it should involve the minimum rather than the maximum of change; but instead of incorporating in principle the existing Boards, the hon. Gentleman proceeded by constituting new Boards altogether. As to the arguments founded on the rights of property, which his hon. Friend the Member for East Cumberland (Mr. W. N. Hodgson) had adduced, he begged to remind him that English law never allowed any man to exercise the rights of property to the detriment of the rights of other people; and that was what those great fishery proprietors claimed to do, and what the House of Commons ought to set its face against. The hon. Member very properly proposed to continue the Board of Special Commissioners—and that was very proper so long as they acted as a judicial tribunal only; but when the hon. Gentleman proposed to entrust them with executive and administrative powers that was a principle to which he (Mr. Liddell) was strongly opposed. What was wanted was this—by an amendment of the existing law to enable the fish to reach their spawning grounds, and then they became the property, not of one, but of all the proprietors. He saw no way out of the difficulty except by reading both Bills a second time, sending them to a Select Committee, and thus, as it were, picking the brains out of both of them.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he did not see any use in referring to a Select Committee a Bill to which the House appeared to have a vital objection—namely, the division of the rivers into two wards, the effect of which would be to perpetuate dissension. What he wished to see passed was a measure which 1115 would reconcile the different interests of the upper and lower waters. Another objection to the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) was, that it would ignore the present Inspectors and the Home Secretary, and would turn the Special Commissioners from a judicial into an executive body. These objections were so vital that he hoped the House would refuse assent to the second reading.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, that the past legislation on the subject had been found beneficial; and the House was for the most part agreed upon the amendments which were necessary in the existing law; and the Report of the Select Committee had brought the discussion into very narrow limits. As to the two Bills—that now before the House, or that of the hon. Member for Swansea—either might be made into a satisfactory measure. At the same time, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, and in his own, the Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea was better suited to the necessities of the case than the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton. Substantially the former Bill incorporated the Amendments which had been suggested last Session by the Government. The chief objection to the other Bill was the proposed constitution of the Board of Conservators. No doubt the Select Committee recommended an elective Board, with more extensive powers; but he concurred with those who thought that the Board ought not to be made purely elective. The interests of those concerned in the fisheries were in some respects diametrically opposed, and the Government feared that upon a representative Board the interests of the majority would alone be consulted. Therefore the Government wished, while introducing into these Boards a suitable elective element, to retain a judicial or quasi-judicial element appointed at quarter sessions. The Government, for its own part, was quite content to adhere to the Bill of the hon. Member for Swansea, with some exceptions, especially the clauses conferring excessive powers on the water-bailiffs. It had been suggested that both Bills should be referred to a Select Committee, and if that should also be the opinion of the House, the Government would offer no opposition to that course being adopted. In that ease, the Committee would select one of the Bills, 1116 with the understanding that any Amendment which might be thought desirable should be introduced from the other Bill, as it was evident that the Committee could not consider the two Bills pari passû.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, that he should certainly vote for the extinction of the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton. If salmon were ever to become once more a staple article of food, they must be protected by special laws, and it should be remembered that there was a special reason for passing such laws. A goose could only be fed and preserved at the cost of food that, if the goose had not been there, might have been in other ways converted into use for mankind; while salmon required only to be let alone in order to multiply enormously, and surely it was not unreasonable to give them that degree of protection.
§ MR. BROWN
said, he also had a strong objection to referring both Bills to the Select Committee. He thought that a division should be taken, and a definite opinion come to by the House, which Bill they preferred, instead of referring the matter to a Select Committee, which would probably have to come to the House again to decide the question. He hoped the House would reject the present Bill, and send that of the hon. Member for Swansea to the Committee.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, it would be hard upon the hon. Member for Stockton if, after the assiduous attention he had paid to this question, his Bill was thrown aside altogether, especially when they were going into an investigation of the state of the salmon laws. He therefore thought both Bills should be sent upstairs to a Select Committee, who might produce a satisfactory measure, doing justice to all, and conducing to the preservation of this most useful fish.
§ MR. M'MAHON
also thought it desirable that both Bills should go before a Select Committee. If, however, the House was called on to decide upon the merits of the two Bills, he should vote for that of the hon. Member for Stockton. The great object of all fishery laws was to allow salmon to reach their spawning grounds. Now, there existed 500 impassable weirs, whereby upwards of three-fourths of the spawning grounds of the kingdom were rendered inaccessible to salmon. The Bill of the 1117 hon. Member for Swansea afforded no means by which these weirs could be opened—and they might be opened without the slightest injury to the mill-owners. He thought, therefore, that the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton should at least be read a second time and referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. STEVENSON
also desired that the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton should be read a second time. It was the only Bill that did justice to the net fishermen. Some of his constituents fished for salmon in the German ocean, five miles off the mouth of the Tyne, and when the river was low, they furnished a quantity of food which the public would not otherwise procure. Out of the revenue of £1,200 a-year which the Tyne Conservators possessed, £950 was contributed by these net fishers. Under the Bill of the hon. Member for Stockton, these men would enjoy the fair share of representation to which they were entitled, but at present, on a Board representing three counties, and comprising 120 members—though they met in a room hardly bigger than the Table of the House—these net fishermen had no representation whatever. Last year the Home Secretary proposed to increase the rates from £5 to £20, which would be utterly destructive of the sea fisheries, and there was no occasion for any change in that direction. On the contrary, these men ought to be encouraged.
§ LORD KENSINGTON
said, the object of both Bills was to provide as large a quantity of salmon for food as possible. It was better, therefore, to read both Bills a second time, and refer them to a Select Committee, not empowered to take evidence, but to prepare from the two Bills a satisfactory measure.
§ MR. WHITWELL
agreed that it was of importance to improve the salmon fisheries; but his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. M'Mahon) should remember that the interests of the millowners must also be considered. He very much doubted whether it was possible to attach fish passes to all weirs, without interfering materially with the flow of water, and, therefore, in trying to improve the fisheries you might easily destroy a much larger interest. The mode of raising the revenue by the licence rate was very unusual, and would require careful examination.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
, having served upon the Committee, and being mainly responsible for the Report, agreed that the interest which the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Dodds) had taken in the subject entitled any measure emanating from him to the utmost respect. Several great salmon authorises who had spoken that day admitted there was a deal of good in both Bills; and those Members of the last Select Committee with whom he had been in communication, being a majority of that Committee, were of opinion that both of them should be referred to a Select Committee. In these circumstances, perhaps, that course would be the wisest that could be pursued.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 109; Noes 122: Majority 13.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.