§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Hibbert.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, before he assented to the Motion for going into Committee on this Bill, he must ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of it for some explanation of the provisions contained in it. As the matter stood, he gathered that it was a proposal to amend the Freshwater Fisheries Act, which was only passed some three years ago, and the operation of which, so far as he was aware, had never been the subject of complaint. It was, therefore, difficult to understand in what respect the existing law stood in need of amendment. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would be able to remove his objection to Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair by supplying some further information than they at present possessed.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he had explained the nature of the Bill on the Motion for its second reading; but he might state, for the information of the right hon. Baronet, that the Bill had been introduced on the representation of the Fishery Boards that the present law was insufficient in respect of the size of mesh used in freshwater fisheries. The 184 Bill had been approved by every Fishery Board throughout the country, and its object was to fix the minimum size of mesh which might be used on the one hand, and the maximum size of mesh which a person could be compelled to use on the other. That was the only provision which the Bill contained, and to that no objection existed on the part of the Angling Associations of the country. He did not propose to do more than take the Committee stage of the Bill on that occasion.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, he hoped his right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would not press his objection to the Bill, because he considered it was a measure which might very well be allowed to pass. But before the House consented to Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, he should be glad to obtain from the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) some explanation as to how far he was disposed to admit of some substantial alterations of the present law being introduced into the Bill—alterations which had been practically agreed upon amongst anglers—such, for instance, as that of limiting the Exemption Clause of the Act of 1878, with regard to the taking of fish for baits and for scientific purposes in private waters. He was aware of the difficulty of introducing, or even seeking to introduce, such an alteration into a Bill of this kind; because it might be objected that it was not strictly germane to the chief object of the measure; and rather than delay or defeat the passage of the Bill he would not press an Amendment of that nature, although he considered it useful to ask the hon. Gentleman to take the matter into consideration, and to give some information as to the extent to which the proposal indicated would be favourably received. Subject to these considerations, he thought it would be well for the House to allow the hon. Gentleman to take the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH BAILEY
said, that however necessary it might be, in the interest of freshwater fisheries throughout the country, that some measure should be passed for the purpose of protecting the young trout and charr, he would point out that the Bill before them went considerably further than that. He had received a letter, so recently as yesterday, from the Presi- 185 dent of the Usk Board of Conservators, indicating Amendments which, it was thought desirable to introduce into the Bill. The objection made to the Bill in its present form was that, whereas it made provision for the alteration of the mesh of nets, it did not provide any protection for fixed nets set for the purpose of catching eels; and, in the opinion of skilled persons interested in that branch of industry, it was necessary that such protection should be given. Hon. Members knew very well that the eel, unlike the respectable trout which remained quietly in his pool, was a most disreputable fish, persisting, as it did, in going to the sea every year; and it was, therefore, obvious that the kind of nets he referred to were only of use for catching that "roving blade" on his journey to the sea. He need hardly remind hon. Members that the difference between the two kinds of fish was so great in other respects, that what might be necessary in the one case would be totally inapplicable in the other. If it was intended to give to Boards of Conservators power to decree that a net of two-inch mesh—or even of three inches, as was proposed by an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Birkbeck) in an Amendment on the Paper—should be used for catching eels, he ventured to say that it would be easier for the Prime Minister to catch a whole shoal of Conservative Members in the meshes of a rhetorical argument, than it would be for a fisherman to catch an eel in such a net as was contemplated in the Bill, the mesh of which would have a circumference of 12 inches. He appealed to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) to take this matter into consideration; because, unless an Amendment of the kind indicated were introduced into the Bill, a great injury would be done to a large and respectable body of men who lived by catching that peculiar fish—the eel.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he should be quite willing to consider any Amendment which might be proposed with regard to eel nets; and he would remark that the hon. Member (Mr. Birkbeck) had already put down an Amendment on that subject. As he had mentioned, he did not propose to take the clauses of the Bill until Monday next.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he hoped that the proverbial patience demanded of 186 anglers would be shown in not pressing this Bill forward with too much haste. When he remembered how many Angling Societies there were throughout the country naturally interested in the measure, he appealed to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) to grant a little more time for its consideration. He suggested that Monday week would be a fitting day on which to proceed with the Bill in Committee, instead of nest Monday, the date mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. He submitted that after experiencing the tremendous elocutionary power which had been brought to bear upon them by the Prime Minister in introducing the Representation of the People Bill, the House was not in a fit state to give this measure the consideration which it demanded. It was hard, indeed, to oppose any Bill brought in by the hon. Gentleman; and such was his confidence in the hon. Gentleman's good sense and kindness that he had not put down one of those Motions which he sometimes felt it his duty to place upon the Paper in respect of other Bills. In view of all the circumstances, he would ask the hon. Gentleman to say that the Bill should be brought forward on Monday week.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he believed that almost every possible representation on this question was made during the passage through the House of the Freshwater Fisheries Act of 1878; and he should, therefore, be glad of some further explanation of the reasons for introducing the present Bill. He was not aware that any complaints as to the working of the Act of 1878 had been made to Parliament during the last Session; and he would like to know whether the representations which had resulted in this measure had come from one district alone—that was to say, the Lake District, in which he was particularly interested; or whether there were complaints from other parts of the country; and, if so, how many? He should be glad to afford the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill every assistance in his power in passing it from the stage of second reading; but he desired to have beforehand some information as to the working of the Act of 1878.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that the Bill was brought in owing to the representations of one Fishery Board—namely, 187 that which included the Lake District in its jurisdiction. So far as he was aware, there was no complaint against the working of the Freshwater Fisheries Act of 1878; on the contrary, he believed it had given satisfaction in all parts of the country to those interested in freshwater fishing. With regard to the time when the Bill would be taken in Committee, he could not go beyond the statement that an opportunity would be afforded for considering any Amendments that might be proposed.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.