§ Order for Committee read.
§ MR. HOPWOOD,
who had given Notice that he would move that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day month, said, he should not persevere in that Motion; but, at the same time, he wished to make a few observations with reference to one of the Acts it was proposed to continue by this Bill —namely, the 24 & 25 Vict. relating to the Salmon Fisheries—and the particular section to which he desired to call attention was the 31st, under which the Fisheries Inspectors held their appointments. When the Act was passed, in 1867, it provided that two Inspectors were appointed for the term of one year. At that time it was contemplated that the appointments should only be of short duration, and the object of their appointment was that early proceedings might, if necessary, be taken under the Act. The powers of the Inspectors were extremely limited. They were merely to be authorized to make Reports to the Secretary of State for the Home Department when called on so to do. At any rate, he knew of no other duty they had to perform, or of any powers they possessed. They had no power to prosecute anyone for breach of the Act, nor had they the power of coming to any determination of their own. All they could do was to bring any particular matter under the notice of the Home Secretary. If they were the only persons having charge of the fisheries and the duty of inspecting them, he should still think there ought to be something found for them to do in order to justify their appointment; but from the expiration of 1952 their first appointment, a Bill had been brought in annually continuing their appointment, without imposing any real duties upon them. In 1865, it was found that the existing powers as to the regulation of the fisheries were not sufficient; and a Bill was brought in under which certain Commissioners were appointed, and one of the Inspectors was sent about to examine the different weirs and engines for the destruction of salmon and the spawn of salmon; whereupon the Commissioners adjudicated in a number of cases, and there being power of appeal given to the Courts of Law, many of those who owned the engines complained of availed themselves of the right thus given, and sometimes judgment was given in their favour, and at others in favour of the Commissioners. That body of Commissioners was a useful body. In 1868 or 1869, a Bill was passed in which the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had a great deal to do, and under that Act bodies of local conservators were to be created in different parts of the country by means of election, wherever need for such a body existed. The result of that measure was that the supervision of the fisheries had passed into local control, and there was no need for inspection; and, as far as he could judge, there had been since then little or nothing for the Inspectors to do. The usual way in cases where it was desired that appointments should be kept up for which there was no justification, was to give the persons holding such appointments something to do under another Act, and then say that they were useful public servants. One of the Inspectors had been employed as Commissioner in connection with the Deep Sea Fisheries or the Shell Fisheries; but, whatever his duties, they were quite outside the Act under which he was appointed, and he might refuse to discharge them if he liked; consequently, to say that the Inspectors were employed in duties for which they were not appointed was no justification for the renewal of their appointment under the existing Act, but was rather like making their office a sham. If were thought necessary to retain one Inspector, he doubted whether it could be shown that both were necessary, and he should like to ask, what were the duties that those two gentlemen had been galvanized into performing over a 1953 number of years? He had put this Question the other day, but as he had not taken the course which was generally most successful in that House— that of resorting to obstruction—he had obtained no answer. He thought he had made out a case requiring the consideration of the Treasury and the Home Office, which were both interested in keeping down expenditure, and which ought to exercise some supervision over the renewal of Acts of Parliament that were only passed for a temporary purpose, but which were afterwards allowed to sleep, as this Act had been, in order that certain appointments might be perpetuated. He hoped he should be considered as having done something that would not be without its advantage in calling attention to this matter.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he must apologize to the hon. and learned Member for having accidentally omitted to answer a Question on this subject which the hon. and learned Gentleman had put to him the other evening. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked why, if these Inspectors were approved of, an Act had not been passed to make their office permanent? He (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) could only say, in answer, that the difficulties of legislation were so great as to make it very often, in the opinion of the Government, better to retain a section in a Continuance Bill than to try to carry through Parliament a Bill embodying that section. These Inspectors had done good and important service to the country, as their Reports showed; and if they had not the full power which it might be well that they should possess, they acted under the authority of the Home Secretary, and had carried out important investigations in reference to the fresh-water fisheries in Norfolk and elsewhere, and to the oyster beds, and they had also made inquiries for the Board of Trade. No one could doubt these gentlemen were doing a good work, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was decidedly of opinion that it would be impossible, with any advantage to the country, to do away with them.
§ MR. WHITWELL
thought the Inspectors ought to be permanently appointed, and that the system of continuing them by this Bill gave rise to the impression that they were only appointed 1954 for a temporary purpose. He wished to bear his strong testimony to the very useful services of these Inspectors in the North-West of England.
MR. J. COWEN
desired to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the present condition of the Corrupt Practices at Parliamentary Elections Act. The Government had embodied their suggestions and ideas on this subject in a Bill that had been put down for consideration that day; but which was only put on the Paper as a matter of form. He hoped he might be permitted to say that if the House were to take the ideas of the Government as thus formulated on this subject to be their ultimate decision, they were, in his opinion, very inadequate and incomplete, and did not cover the ground at all. He thought this matter was the more pressing owing to the near approach of a General Election, and he hoped that the Government would reconsider the whole question, and embody in the Bill a more comprehensive proposal than the one at present before the House. He would add this suggestion, which he thought was worth the consideration of the Government— namely, whether it would not be a wise step to associate with each Judge appointed to try Election Petitions two, three, or four Members of Parliament, or legal gentlemen, who might act in the capacity of assistants or assessors; the Judge being judge of the law, those who were associated with him being judges of fact? He believed that some such plan would remove the difficulty that was at present experienced in having Election Petitions settled absolutely by one Judge. This suggestion was not embodied in the proposal of the Government, and he would suggest that it should be adopted, if possible, before the next General Election. Another point to which he wished to draw the attention of the Government was the very unsatisfactory state of the law with regard to employment of cabs at Elections. They all knew that at borough Elections cabs were employed, and frequently at a very large expense. They also knew that this was an illegal system, and yet it was regularly indulged in. He had occasion recently to know something of the expenses incurred in this way in borough Elections, and he thought the Government ought to do 1955 one thing or the other—either legalize the use of cabs, or make the punishment for employing them a little more stringent.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was bound to add his testimony to the admirable way in which the Inspectors of Salmon Fisheries performed their duty. He believed it would be impossible for any Secretary of State to administer the law properly without their assistance.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses agreed to.
§ On the Schedule,
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, he had one word to say upon the Schedule of this Bill, although he did not propose to move the Amendment upon it of which he had given Notice. Some misunderstanding appeared to exist in reference to the duties of the Fishery Inspectors, because they were not employed in any way officially with regard to the oyster fisheries. He would not say that they might not have undertaken some duties of the kind; but the oyster fisheries were not administered under this Act of Parliament. His contention was that if these gentlemen rendered any services of this kind, they rendered them gratuitously, and that this was a state of things that ought to be put an end to. If they rendered valuable services, let them be paid for those services, and not for something else which they did not do. He would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, that in consequence of the passing of the Highways Bill, it had become necessary to modify the paragraph in the Schedule which continued the Locomotive Act. He therefore moved, in line 22, to insert after the words "whole Act," the customary words "as far as not repealed."
§ MR. MORGAN LLOYD
said, that supposing this Bill received the Royal Assent before the other, some difficulty might arise.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he would undertake that the Highways Bill should receive the Royal Assent first.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, considered.1956
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, looking at the period of the Session, and considering that this Bill would have to pass through all its stages in the House of Lords, he would trust to the indulgence of the House to allow it to be considered and read a third time. If that were not done, the Session would be prolonged. He took that opportunity of stating that it was proposed that the House should meet to-morrow at 3 o'clock.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
called the attention of the Government to what appeared to him to be an error in the reference made to the Statute 21 & 22 Vict. c. 50, or to the 5 & 6 Will. IV.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.