HC Deb 14 August 1882 vol 273 cc1789-94

[Progress 12th August.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive, severally agreed to.

Clause 4 (Establishment and constitution of Fishery Board).


moved, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 26, to leave out the word "four," and insert the word "three."

Question proposed, "That the word 'four' stand part of the Clause."


asked the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate if he had considered the question whether the word "Sheriff" in the clause should include the Sheriff-substitute? The principal Act mentioned in the Schedule—namely, the 25 & 26 Vict. c. 97—defined "Sheriff" to mean the Sheriff of any county, and to include the "Sheriff-substitute;" and under that Act the Sheriff-substitute also had duties to perform. He believed there was a good deal of feeling in Scotland that in some cases the Sheriff-substitute might more suitably act under this Bill than the Sheriff-principal. He therefore wished to know if "Sheriff" would include "Sheriff-substitute" or not?


said, he would answer the question upon the Motion that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put, and negatived.

Question, "That the word 'three' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

On Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill?"


said, that, in reply to the question which had just been put by his hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Mr. C. S. Parker), he had to say that it was not intended to include the Sheriff - substitute under the term "Sheriff."


said, that he saw no reason why the Sheriff-substitutes should not be included, seeing that they had duties to perform under the Act.


said, the question had been carefully considered; but it was thought that, as many of these gentlemen resided at a long distance from Edinburgh, it would be inconvenient to call upon them to attend the meetings of the Fishery Board.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause 5 (Functions of Board. Herring fisheries. Deep-sea fisheries).


said, he should like to hear from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate what powers he proposed to confer upon the Fishery Board under the Salmon Fisheries Act? It must be borne in mind that hitherto the Bill had received no discussion. It was an important Bill in many respects, and a Bill which ought to have far more serious, consideration than it had obtained. As far as he had been able to read the Bill, and to understand its provisions, it involved a direct interference with the rights of private property in Scotland in the salmon fisheries and the salmon rivers. He looked upon that as a matter of very great importance, and thought that some explanation ought to be given by the Government. The next clause provided that the principal Secretary of State for the Home Department should appoint an Inspector, and the Inspector so appointed would have the right to pry into everything relating to salmon rivers, whether they belonged to the Crown or to private persons. Strong representations had been made to him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that this would be a great grievance. The House, in his opinion, would never tolerate, and ought not to tolerate, the conferring of unlimited and undefined powers upon the Fishery Board as was proposed in Sub-section 2 of the clause. If the Salmon Acts required amendment, let the subject be brought before Parliament, by all means; but he objected altogether to the Board having general superintendence of all the salmon fisheries in Scotland, and instituting regulations, probably, for some peculiar purpose of their own. Such a proposal was unheard of, and had never been made in that House before. If it was thought necessary to give powers to the Board, the Bill should state what those powers were to be. Not only were the powers undefined by the Bill, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had given the Committee no information whatever upon the subject. Under the clause as it stood, the owner of a private river might be examined as to the number of salmon he took in the season, and the value of them. No one liked to have people going about and inspecting their property, unless, of course, there was some good reason or absolute necessity for it. This portion of the Bill was so objectionable that he appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw it, and to allow it to be considered by a Committee of the House, with a view, if necessary, to alter the Salmon Laws; but, under any circumstances, to state what the powers of the Fishery Board were to be. If that were done, he thought they would be justified in passing the Bill. He wished the right hon. and learned Gentleman to understand that his remarks applied exclusively to the proposed powers of the Board with reference to salmon fisheries—against their supervision of deep-sea fisheries he had nothing to say.


said, the hon. and gallant Baronet who had just sat down (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was inaccurate in saying there had been no discussion on the Bill. It had been discussed on Friday night last, and again on the following day; and his recollection was that the proposal to introduce salmon fisheries within the action of the Bill met with the unanimous approval of Scotch Members.

On the Motion of The Loud Advocate, the following Amendments made:—In page 2, line 18, after the word "of," insert "without interference with any existing public authority or private rights;" and in same page, at end of sub-section (2), add "but without prejudice to the powers of district boards."


said, he wished to state, with reference to Sub-section 2, that it conferred two powers. The first of these was that the Fishery Board should have the general superintendence of the salmon fisheries of Scotland; the second was that they should have the powers and duties of Commissioners under the Salmon Fishery Acts. Now, he would state that the first of these declarations was precisely the same as that contained in the English Act of 1861, which provided that the general superintendence of fisheries in England should be vested in a Fishery Board. This portion of the clause, then, was to extend to Scotland the identical power given to the English Fishery Board by an Act of Parliament now 21 years old. Then, with regard to the second declaration of the sub-section—this simply transferred to the Fishery Board the duties already discharged by the Commissioners under the Fishery Acts. There was nothing new in that either; and, therefore, he thought the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) could not, with respect to the two powers proposed to be given, successfully resist this portion of the clause. The Amendment which had just been agreed to by the Committee on his (the Lord Advocate's) Motion—namely, that the action of the Board should be without prejudice to, or interference with, the powers of district boards, had reference to the appointments which took place under the Acts of 1862 and 1868, which gave power to appoint district boards, who were elected by some fishery proprietors interested in the different rivers. It was by no means the case, however, that boards had been elected for all the rivers, and some of those which were at one time elected had since disappeared. The next sub-section provided that the Fishery Board should comply with any instructions which might be issued by Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, and should make an annual Report to him, containing a statistical account of the fisheries, and suggestions for their regulation and improvement, which Report should be presented to Parliament. That, of course, authorized the Secretary of State to issue instructions which the Board would be required to comply with, and carry out. The second part of the sub-section supplied that which had always been a great desideratum in Scotland—namely, the means of obtaining full information with regard to the Scotch salmon fisheries, and he trusted that the result of this provision would be to benefit those fisheries. It was stated by the hon. and gallant Baronet that salmon fisheries were in no different position from that of any other property of the kind; but that proposition he (the Lord Advocate) was unable to admit, either with regard to England or Scotland. Certainly, in Scotland, from the time of Alexander II. until now, salmon fisheries had been the subject of distinct legislation. On the whole, he thought there was nothing in the Bill which stood in need of any defence. There was no proposal to alter the law as applying either to sea or salmon fisheries. The Bill was simply for the purpose of constituting a Board to administer the law as it then existed, and, subject to any improvement which might be made therein, as they hoped it would exist for some time to come.


said, the thanks of the Committee were due to the hon. Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) for eliciting from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate the explanation he had just given with regard to the powers and scope of the Bill. It was evident that a rather strong feeling existed amongst the local boards in connection with the Bill. They seemed to fear that some mischief would result to them from it. They were, in fact, somewhat jealous of the authority that was to be created. He had himself presented a Petition from the district board on the Tay, which showed the existence of those feelings; but he thought the words which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had just inserted in the clause would do much to remove apprehensions of the kind. He hoped he was right in understanding that the words "without prejudice to or interference with the powers of any district board" would not allow any interference with the present balance of influence between the lower and upper proprietors. That being so, he should not be disposed to oppose the Bill on behalf of the Petitioners.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 (Salmon fisheries).

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be struck out of the Bill."—(The Lord Advocate.)


hoped there would be some explanation of the grounds on which the Tweed was to be exempted from the operation of the Act. If one river were exempted, he could see no reason why that should not also be the case with other rivers. He thought it was very much to be regretted that the Amendments which were being put from the Chair had not been printed in the usual way, so that hon. Members might have had an opportunity of seeing the alterations intended to be made in the Bill. With the exception of this Amendment, the rest were quite new to the Committee.


said, it was understood on a former occasion that the Tweed was to be exempted from the operation of the Bill. There were two reasons for that, as he had explained at the time. In the first place, strong objections had been expressed on the part of those interested in the Tweed fisheries to the inclusion of that river within the purview of the Bill; and, in the second place, the Tweed had always been the subject of separate legislation—it had never been brought under any Scotch Act. For these reasons, the course which had been long followed had been taken with regard to that river.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause struck out accordingly.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.