HC Deb 21 March 1884 vol 286 cc551-6

Order for Consideration, as amended, read.

Bill, as amended, considered.

On Motion of Mr. HIBBERT, the following Amendment made:—In page 2, after Clause 3, insert the following Clause:— (Explanation of 41 and 42 Vic. c. 39, s. 5.) In the application of section sixty-four of The Salmon Fishery Act, 1865,' to trout and char in waters within the limits of 'The Freshwater Fisheries Act, 1878.' the words 'salmon river situate in a fishery district which is subject to a Board of Conservators appointed under this Act.' shall be construed to mean 'waters frequented by trout or char.'


said, he wished to move the insertion of a new clause after Clause 5, prohibiting the use of poison and noxious substances for the destruction of fish. The provision would have the effect of putting a stop to fish taking by dynamite.

New Clause—

(Prohibition of the use of poison and noxious substances for destruction of fish.)

Any person who unlawfully and maliciously puts any poison, lime, or noxious material in any water frequented by freshwater fish with intent thereby to destroy any of the fish that may then be or may thereafter be put therein shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding live pounds or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two months. Nothing in this section shall prevent a person being punished under any other Act, so that he be not punished twice for the same offence,"—(Sir Robert Buxton,)brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

Further Amendments made.


said, he wished to move, as an Amendment to Clause 6, the addition of the following words:— Except that as regards Ireland it is hereby enacted that the weekly close season for all fish shall not begin until 9 p.m. on Saturdays. By the Act of 1863, it was provided that as to Ireland there should be a close time on Saturdays as well as on Sundays. This restriction was caused by a compromise arrived at some years ago, at the time that the standing engines were abolished in all the great rivers of Ireland. All owners of standing engines had been obliged to take those engines out of the rivers, and the result of this was the infliction of great money loss on such owners. In order to afford them some compensation, it was provided that the net fishermen—who had profited considerably by the abolition of the standing engines—should only have leave to fish five days in the week. The fishermen had found this restriction operate very hardly upon then, and they complained very bitterly that they were only allowed to work five days out of the seven, whilst all other classes had leave to work six days in the week. No doubt, it would be alleged against a clause of this kind that it was necessary for the protection of salmon that there should be this close season; but those who were best qualified to, speak on the subject—for not being an authority upon it himself he had consulted those who were best entitled to give an opinion—declared that it would not do any mischief whatever to salmon if the not fishermen were allowed to ply their calling the whole six days. These gentlemen held that the close season of half-a-year was sufficient to provide for breeding and to give the fish the necessary protection and preservation. As a matter of fact, the Saturday close time was not strictly observed, as, under it, there was always a great temptation to poaching. The fishermen, many of whom were in very poor circumstances and found it a matter of no small difficulty to provide for their families, were very often tempted to poach on the Saturday. Their contention was that it was not a proper legislative restriction, and that there was no moral obligation on them to keep it, and, therefore, they were inclined to break in on the close time. The only people who were likely to object to a provision such as he wished to insert in the Bill were the anglers. Well, he had no objection to salmon fishing as a sport; but, at the same time, it should be borne in mind that the class of people who angled were of a different social position from those who fished in cots with nets; these were of the poorer class. Some of the fisheries belonged to great landowners, and they let them out to people, and, thereby profited by the labour and amusement of others. They did not suffer from the Saturday close time; but those who did suffer were the class who had to live by their own labour—who had to work for their daily bread. Even were it correct that the rod fishermen—the aristocrats—would suffer by this additional day being given to the fishermen, it would be a small matter compared with the great benefit which would be conferred upon a large number of working men. But those who really understood the question said that the anglers would be in no worse position even if the net fishermen got the Saturday. They alleged that the fish would be all the better for the little thinning they would undergo, and that the half-yearly close time and Sunday close time would be quite sufficient for breeding and protective purposes. He had this on the authority of a gentleman well qualified to speak on the subject. He did not know why this restriction should continue, seeing that it was imposed a quarter of a century ago, that it had not been productive of good, and was decided upon when the Irish fishermen were not represented in Parliament as they were now. It was decided upon as a kind of salve or compensation to the owners who had had standing engines in the rivers, and had so many of them that he was informed that, in 1863, on many navigable rivers they prevented boats from being run up. The nuisance was so great that even if it had not been for the sake of the salmon fishing the standing engines would have had to go in many places. The owners of some fisheries claimed their rights from the time of Magna Charta. He did not know how they could do that, seeing that King John never had any more power over Ireland than he had over China. But it was owing merely to an extraordinary construction put upon the law, backed up by a decision of the House of Lords, that these owners succeeded in holding what they claimed. He would not go into these questions at the present moment, however. His contention was that it would only be a fair thing to allow the poor fishermen of Ireland to enjoy the same privilege of working six days in the week as was allowed to other classes of the community. He might be told by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Hibbert) that this was a thoroughly English Bill, and that, therefore, the present was not the time to raise a question of this sort; but he maintained that any time was a good time—whenever he got the chance. Opportunities of raising questions in the interests of the Irish fishermen were not so numerous that he could afford to allow an English Fisheries Bill to pass without endeavouring to engraft upon it some provision affecting Ireland. It might be said that the Bill did not affect salmon fisheries; but that was no answer to him—they should make it affect them. But the contentions to which he referred, by way of opposing such an Amendment as his, were merely technical, and he trusted they would not be put forward by a Gentleman of the breadth of view of the Under Secretary for the Home Department. If the hon. Gentleman opposed the Amendment, it was to be hoped he would do it on intelligible and justifiable grounds—not on any technical ground. He could assure the Committee that there was a great deal of soreness felt by the Seine net fishermen on this subject. It was a hard thing to say to men, with families to provide for, that they must stop work for the week on Friday night, and not do anything on Saturday morning like every other class of men—to say to them that they must rest on their oars, be to speak, and stand by while the anglers on the upper reaches of the rivers used the rod and line as much as they liked. The rod men did not pay as heavy a sum for their licences as the net men, therefore the restriction on the latter was additionally objectionable. He trusted that, after what he had said in defence of the net fishermen, the Committee would be induced to accept his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 8, to add, at the end of the Clause, the words "except that as regards Ireland it is hereby enacted that the weekly close season for all fish shall not begin until 9 p.m. on Saturdays."—(Mr. Healy.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, he was sorry to have to oppose the addition of those words to the clause. In doing so, however, he wished to explain to the hon. Member that he did not do it because he did not sympathize with the object the hon. Member had in view, he was obliged to take the objection which the hon. Gentleman appeared to think a technical one, and to his (Mr. Hibbert's) mind it was a very strong objection. In the first place, the Bill only applied to England, and the Act with which it would be incorporated—the Freshwater Fisheries Act—was an exclusively English one. This Act, indeed, contained a clause expressly exempting from its operation Ireland and Scotland. If the words now proposed, therefore, were added to Clause 6, they could not affect the operation of the Act. Then, again, as the hon. Member himself said, the Bill did not apply at all to salmon—salmon were not in any way dealt with in it. It merely applied to freshwater fish, and that, though it might be merely a technical reason, was, at any rate, a strong reason why the words in question should not be inserted. At the same time, he would draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that there were two Irish Bills already before the House dealing with this subject, one of them standing in a very good position on the Paper. The first Bill was not in such a good position on the Paper as the other, which would be the second Order of the Day on Wednesday, April 2nd. There was not much chance of the first Bill coming on. The English Bill would probably occupy the greater part of the day; but, no doubt, an opportunity would be given to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) to have his Bill considered. This was a Bill which dealt entirely with the question which the hon. Member had brought forward—namely, the close time; but he thought what the hon. Member had said as to Saturday fishing deserved consideration, and he hoped it would be considered when the Bill came before the House. Then there was another Bill which was fixed as the first Order of the Day for the 9th April—the Fisheries (Ireland) Bill, Second Reading. He did not know what the object of the Bill was; but it would apparently give the hon. Member an opportunity of bringing forward this question upon a Bill which affected Ireland and Ireland alone. He was sorry to have to refuse what the hon. Member proposed; but he hoped the hon. Member would not press his Amendment on this English Bill.


said, he was very sensible of the courtesy of the hon. Gentleman, and he had no doubt of the hon. Gentleman's sincerity. The case put forward by his hon. Friend was a very strong case, because it affected interests which were familiar to all men coming from Ireland. It was very hard that a needy body of men should be deprived of one day's labour and one day's profits in the week by a practice which excluded one class and conferred no benefit on anyone. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would be able to give a more favourable opportunity for considering the point than upon the Bill of a private Member, even though that Bill was the first Order of the Day. To depend upon such an opportunity as that would be to lean upon a broken reed, for, as everyone knew, the chances of a Bill which held the first place on a Wednesday going through Committee and passing into law were infinitesimal.


said, he did not wish to put the House to the trouble of a Division; but he trusted that, as the hon. Gentleman had shown a certain amount of sympathy upon this matter, he would, before the other Bill came on, consider whether he could do something in the direction indicated. He would now ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next.

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