HC Deb 09 March 1885 vol 295 cc585-94

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Select Committee on Salmon Fisheries (Ireland) do consist of Nineteen Members:—Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, Lord ARTHUR HILL, Mr. FINDLATER, Mr. HEALY, Viscount CRICHTON, Colonel COLTHURST, Mr. SEXTON, Mr. TOTTENHAM, Mr. MARJORI-BANKS, Sir HERVEY BRUCE, Mr. LEAMY, Mr. BROWN, Mr. THOMAS THORNHILL, Mr. CALLAN, Lord MARCH, Mr. BLENNERHASSETT, Mr. HENRY, Colonel MILNE HOME, and Mr. DEASY:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum."—(Mr. Campbell-Banner-man.)


said, that this was a subject purely and exclusively Irish, and that he found when Committees dealing with general subjects, or with English or Scotch subjects, were proposed, it was very seldom that the name of an Irish Member appeared in connection with them. Here, however, they had a Committee consisting of 19 Members, five of whom were either English or Scotch Gentlemen who could not in any way be interested in the subject of Irish Fisheries. There were two sections of Irish Members in the House—namely, the independent and nominal Home Rulers and the Nationalists, and he had to complain of undue representation having been given to the former section on the Committee. He contended that the Nationalist Members, looking at the interests they represented, were not in sufficient force on the Committee. It seemed to him that the Committee was most unfortunately composed—most unfairly and most injudiciously—and that no good result from its deliberations could be expected.


declared that the Committee would have to decide a very heated controversy which prevailed in Ireland between persons interested in the lower water of salmon rivers and the persons interested in the upper waters. The people on the lower waters earned their living by fishing, and it was to their interest that as few salmon as possible should go up the rivers; whereas persons interested in the upper waters were anglers, and were, of course, desirous of having as many fish in the upper reaches as possible. He had examined the names of the Committee as set down on the Paper, and it seemed to him extremely unfortunate that the Committee should be loaded with the names of Gentlemen who had an interest in perpetuating the present laws in regard to salmon rivers. The action taken by the Committee of Selection on this occasion drew attention to the way in which Committees generally were appointed. It was, no doubt, a difficult task for the Government to pick out men to serve on Committees. He quite admitted that there was a difficulty in getting hon. Members to serve; but once the "Whips had made their selection and the names were fixed upon, the House was muzzled. In this case it appeared to him that there would be a number of Gentlemen put upon the Committee whose interest it would be to prevent any change in the law being made—Gentlemen who would not be able to approach the subject with unbiased minds, and their action and evidence would tend to the perpetuation of the existing system. No doubt, it was desirable that the views of these Gentlemen should be expressed; but it seemed to him that it would be better to ascertain their views in evidence. Let them call witnesses, and, if necessary, drill evidence in that sense, but do not give them such excessive power on the Committee. He was convinced that this practice of putting upon Committees such a number of interested persons would not make those bodies of the value which they might otherwise possess.


said, his noble Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Richard Grosvenor) had, he thought, very fairly constituted the Committee. As the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Healy) had pointed out, the people living on the lower waters of the salmon rivers were interested in preventing salmon from going up those rivers, and if no measures were taken to check their operations, there would soon be an end to salmon altogether. The proprietors on the upper waters were surely quite as interested in this matter as the dwellers on the lower waters. The hon. Gentleman opposite asked what chance would there be of any alteration being made in the law when the Committee was composed in this way? The Committee might find that no alteration in the law was required, and that, on the contrary, the law should be made more strict. The question was a perfectly open one. He (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), however, did not desire to force any names on hon. Members. With regard to English and Scotch Members being appointed upon the Committee, the Gentlemen referred to were well versed in matters connected with fisheries, and their assistance could not but be valuable in the investigation of the subject. There was the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. Brown) and the hon. Member for Berwick (Mr. Marjoribanks), for instance, both being Gentlemen of considerable knowledge and experience in connection with salmon fishing. He did not think the hon. Gentleman could take reasonable objection to those Gentlemen being on the Committee.


Why did you fix the number of Members at 19?


We began with 15, and we found the Committee grew, as Committees always do grow, to 19.


said, the hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) represented the interests of the upper proprietors in County Monaghan, and he (Mr. Callan) should have thought that he would have approved rather than objected to the upper proprietors being largely represented on the Com- mittee. He (Mr. Callan) could not understand why, on an exclusively Irish Fishery Committee, they should have English engineers or Scotch Fishery proprietors. What earthly right had the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. Brown) in Irish salmon fisheries? When they could have the evidence of such Gentlemen as Mr. Bailey, who was well acquainted with the Irish Fisheries, they would have evidence sufficient before them without having to appeal for assistance to an ex-Cavalry officer, like the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. Brown). Then, again, what had the noble Earl (the Earl of March) to do with Irish Fisheries? The hon. Member for West Suffolk (Mr. T. Thornhill) was, no doubt, an excellent Whip; but he was an Englishman, and what did he know about Irish Fisheries? What interest, also, had the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) in Irish rivers? Probably he knew something about the Tay or some other Scotch rivers, but was he familiar with fishing in Ireland? He would be a good man to have on a Scotch Committee, but they did not want him on a Committee dealing with Irish matters. He (Mr. Callan) objected to having Englishmen on the Committee. He knew how they would vote. No doubt, the Solicitor General for Ireland would be the Chairman, and directly he brought forward a Motion he would be supported by those Gentlemen, irrespective of the interests of Ireland. The English and Scotch Representatives would vote exactly as the Government asked them, and, as a matter of fact, he would rather not have a Committee at all than have the infliction of half-a-dozen Englishmen and Scotchmen, who knew nothing about the question to be considered, upon it, to the exclusion of Irish Whigs, nominal Home Rulers, and Nationalists. There was no one representing Limerick on the Committee, and yet no fisheries in Ireland were more important than the Shannon Fisheries at Killaloe, Castleconnel, and other places. Then they should have someone representing Derry and Tyrone. He would propose that the question should be adjourned, so that arrangements might be made for exchanging the names of those Gentlemen who were not interested in Ireland for those Members who knew something of the question.


said, that with reference to what the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Callan) had stated, he had always understood that, in striking Committees of this kind, it was desirable to put on them a certain number of Members who had an interest in the matter under discussion. On all Committees it was invariably the practice to nominate Gentlemen interested in the subject of inquiry, whilst, of course, on the other hand, Gentlemen were associated with them who had no such interest—Gentlemen who went into the subject for the first time, and were prepared to judge according to the evidence. The hon. Member (Mr. Callan) had spoken with some contempt of the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown). [Mr. CALLAN: No, no.] Yes; the hon. Member spoke of him as a mere Cavalry officer; but he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) must point out that his hon. Friend (Mr. Brown) was thoroughly conversant with the question of salmon fisheries.


said, he had simply stated that the hon. Member (Mr. Brown) was not an Irish Representative, and that he had no interest in the question to be inquired into by the Committee. He had said that all hon. Members from Ireland knew of this hon. Gentleman was that he was a Cavalry officer.


said, that the hon. Member spoken of had no special interest in this matter; but he had special information on the subject of fishing generally. So, again, had the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), who would be a perfectly impartial Member of the Committee. He had no interest in Irish Fisheries, but was a specialist on the subject of fisheries, and, therefore, a very valuable person to deal with matters of this kind on a Committee. If they said that whenever there was an inquiry as to one part of the United Kingdom other parts of the United Kingdom were not to take part in it, they would be laying down a perfectly novel rule, and a rule which might be very strongly objected to by the Irish Members at some future time. The Committee consisted of 19 Members, and he was reminded that of that number 14 were from Ireland.


said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had entirely appreciated the grounds of the objection of the Irish Members. They objected to some of the Members, not because they had no interest in the questions to be referred to the Committee, but because they had too much interest in them. The strongest objection was that some of these Gentlemen had a direct personal interest in the matter of Irish Fisheries. The Solicitor General for Ireland had a direct personal pecuniary interest in the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) also had an interest in the subject; but it was a very different thing to take an interest in a subject as representing a constituency, and taking an interest in it on distinctly personal grounds. Every hon. Member in the House represented some section of the country, but of the total number of 19 Members on the Committee there were four who had a direct pecuniary interest in Irish Fisheries. Therefore, he considered that the manner in which the Committee had been formed was little short of scandalous. An hon. Member beside him had reminded him that if the Standing Orders were adhered to—and he was sorry to say they were not except against the Irish Members—the votes of these four Gentlemen would be cancelled by any division which took place. So far as to the Irish Members on the Committee. Now as to the English Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer entirely misunderstood the objection which had been raised on this point. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) wished to ask a question. The right hon. Gentleman's defence for putting English Members on the Committee was that they were to take an impartial view of the subject under discussion; but what had been done in the case of the Railways and Canals Committee which had just been appointed? Why, there were 12 Members of that Committee, and of these just one was an Irish Member. No doubt, he was impartial on the subject; but unless they could get more than one impartial Irish Member to serve on that Inquiry, they ought not to put four or five impartial English or Scotch Members on the Fisheries Committee. The feeling on the Irish Benches was that the formation of the Committee was calculated rather to impede than to forward the object in view, and the Irish Members regarded the fact as an obstruction to just and reasonable legislation. He did not propose, at that hour of the morning (2 A.M.), to take any hostile step; but at the same time, if he could, he should be ready to prevent the appointment of the Committee altogether.


said, he was sorry that no Member who was interested in or who represented the counties of Limerick and Clare were to be nominated. Personally, he had no desire to serve on the Committee, though his mind was quite open on the subject of the law on the upper waters of the Shannon. He had constituents who were interested in both the upper and lower waters, and he was interested in another river in Ireland, facts which might make him an extremely objectionable Member of the Committee. Under all the circumstances of the case, however, he thought there ought to be upon the Committee an Irish Member who was thoroughly conversant in the salmon fisheries—such a Member, for instance, as his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan). If the hon. and gallant Gentleman were added to the Committee—[Colonel NOLAN: No, no.]—it was very possible hon. Gentlemen opposite would be satisfied. The hon. and gallant Gentloman had no personal interest in the fisheries; but he was thoroughly conversant with the fisheries of the Upper Shannon, and therefore he would prove a very advantageous addition to the Committee.


said, that before this Select Committee was appointed, he and his hon. Friends would like to have a clearer understanding as to what the special functions of the Committee would be. Those functions were not at all defined. If the Committee were to inquire into the Bill which was before the House and had been before the House for some time, the Committee were very badly chosen. In the first place, the most important portion of the Irish Salmon Fisheries were almost entirely neglected—namely, the fisheries on the Lower Shannon. It was only natural that the conflicting interests of the men engaged on the lower portion and of those engaged on the higher portion of the river would be brought into question. Now, the only Gentleman who represented on the Committee the interests of the fishermen on the Lower Shannon was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett). The hon. Member might be very well able to take charge of those interests; but it must be borne in mind that against the hon. Gentleman, supposing he did undertake to represent the fishing interests of the Lower Shannon, there were four or five Gentlemen who were interested in the fisheries of the Upper Shannon to be nominated. It was proposed to appoint as Members of the Committee several English Gentlemen. The custom of electing English Members upon Committees of this kind need not in itself be necessarily objectionable; but it seemed to him that in this particular instance their appointment was objectionable, because English Gentlemen who went across to Ireland to fish, as some of the English Members it was proposed to appoint did, went across to fish with the rod. English Gentlemen who went to Ireland to fish went with their minds biased against the lower river fisheries, and therefore it was that he objected to the appointment upon this Committee of any considerable number of English Members. Then, again, it was proposed to appoint upon the Committee Gentlemen who, it was well known to everybody in Ireland, had a distinct and direct pecuniary interest in the upper river fisheries. He was reminded by an hon. Friend that a block was put against the Bill by a Scotch Member who went across to Ireland every year to fish on the Upper Shannon, and that in deference to the wishes of that hon. Gentleman the Government put upon the Committee four or five English Members who, probably, were equally interested with him in the fisheries on the Upper Shannon. He (Mr. Kenny) noticed the names of Gentlemen whose interest in the question was so close that their minds were biased, and they were prevented from arriving at correct and proper conclusions. Furthermore, the Committee was unusually large; the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said it grew imperceptibly. He hoped that if the right hon. Gentleman persisted in the appointment of the Committee, he would take care to have the fisheries on the Lower Shannon properly safeguarded; that he would consent to have their interests taken into account and properly represented on the Committee, in view of the fact that the interests of the Higher Shannon anglers and sportsmen were guarded by four or five Gentleman who had direct concern in those interests.


said, it seemed to him that the lesson of this discussion was very easily learnt. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) said that when he made the selection, he was assisted by his noble Friend the Treasury Whip (Lord Richard Grosvenor). He (Mr. A. O'Connor) had no doubt that the noble Lord gave all the assistance he could in the best faith in the world; but he could not have the least idea of the quicksands of opposing interests. If he might make a suggestion, it would be that if a similar occasion presented itself in the future, the Chief Secretary, instead of going to the noble Lord, who had plenty of other things in connection with England and the Treasury Bench to occupy him, should go to those Irish Members who represented the interests which were affected by the provisions of the Bill. It was always an invidious and painful thing to have to make remarks about individual Members of the House. Whatever opinions men might have of each other, no one liked to get up and object to an individual name. It was a thing which anybody naturally shrunk from, and therefore he could understand the unwillingness with which his hon. Friends had approached this subject that night. He understood his hon. Friends did not wish to carry their opposition to anything like an extreme. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would take to heart the lesson he had learnt that night, and that he would, on similar occasions in future, take counsel with the Members from Ireland.

Ordered, That the Select Committee on Salmon Fisheries (Ireland) do consist of Nineteen Members:—Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, Lord ARTHUR HILL, Mr. FINDLATER, Mr. HEALY, Viscount CRICHTON, Colonel COLTHURST, and Mr. SEXTON nominated Members of the said Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr, TOTTENHAM be one other Member of the said Committee."—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.)


said, that simply as a protest he should take a division against this name, although he did not wish to connect any particular name with the matter.


agreed with his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Healy) as to the necessity of taking a division. He added that if the Government persisted in appointing on the Committee Gentlemen who had a direct pecuniary interest in the fisheries of the Shannon, their action would probably result in great embarrassment, because if he and his hon. Friends found in the Committee that the interests of the fishermen on the Lower Shannon were defeated by the votes of certain Members, they would certainly bring the matter before the House, with the view of having the votes disallowed.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 16: Majority 24.—(Div. List, No. 46.)

Mr. MARJORIBANKS, Sir HERVEY BRUCE, Mr. LEAMY, Mr. BROWN, Mr. THOMAS THORNHILL, Mr. CALLAN, Lord MARCH, Mr. BLENNERHASSETT, Mr. HENRY, Colonel MILNE HOME, and Mr. DEASY nominated other Members of the said Committee.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Five be the quorum.