§ SIR EDWARD BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
I rise for the purpose of calling attention to the present constitution of the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade, and the necessity for persons having practical knowledge of the fisheries of the country being associated with the same; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade as now constituted is not in accordance with the scheme by which the control of the fisheries was transferred to the Board of Trade, and, in order to carry out that scheme and to secure the proper management and development of the fisheries of England and Wales, they should be placed under an authority comprising, in addition to the officials of the Board of Trade, persons with practical knowledge of the Sea and Inland Fisheries.It may be asked why I should trouble the House with a matter which was fully gone into two years ago. My answer is, that my proposal which was made in March, 1886, has not been carried out as regards the question of practical men being associated with the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade, and as was agreed upon by my right hon. Friend the then President of the Board of Trade. There is no necessity for going into the matter at any great length, nor is it necessary to refer to the 881 importance of our fisheries; but it si desirable that I should refer to certain acts in connection with the fishing industry, as there are many hon. Members present in this Parliament who were not Members of the last Parliament, and whose constituents are, no doubt, interested in the question. I think the House will agree with me as to the importance of our fisheries, whether as regards the food supply of the country, and the hard-working and brave men who are engaged in the fishing industry around our coast, or whether we regard it as a nursery for the Navy, or the safety of the lives of our fishermen. I trust that all will admit that on these grounds steps should be taken to encourage the great fishing industry, and not let foreigners supply our markets with fish instead of our own fishermen. In order to carry out that object, it is most important that we should have an efficient and practical Fishery Department in England, not inferior in any way to those of foreign mercantile nations, but, as I should wish, superior. If the fishing industry is not considered of sufficient importance and magnitude to allow of a thoroughly organized and efficient Department, well and good; but I should like to hear the arguments of any hon. Member who will say so. The total value of fish landed in the United Kingdom last year was no less than £7,700,000, exclusive of sprats, whitebait, trout, eels, and other fresh water fish. There is also a doubt whether the statistics supplied from time to time are correct, and in my opinion the figures I have quoted are much below the mark. Four years ago Mr. Spencer Walpole quoted the annual value at £10,000,000. No less than 250,000 men are employed in the fisheries of the United Kingdom, and there are at the present time 45,254 boats engaged in the sea fisheries. When I referred to the matter in March, 1886, I pointed out the necessity of practical men being associated with the Fishery Board as a Fishery Department, and I made a special point of that. My right hon. Friend alluded in his speech to the importance of that point. I also referred to the unfortunate state of affairs which then existed, and to the fact that the Government Departments which had to do with the fisheries of the United Kingdom were scattered, and had not the advantage of one Central Department. I also referred to the importance 882 of employing a certain number of cruisers under the control of the Fishery Department to protect the fisheries in the same way as cruisers are now employed by the Scotch Fishery Board. What has been done since my Resolution was discussed in this House? There has been a transfer of the Fishery Department from the Home Office to the Board of Trade. An Assistant Secretary, Mr. Swanston, has been appointed, and three Inspectors, Mr. Barrington, Mr. Malan, and Mr. Fryer. The fishery interest, however, is waiting for the appointment of practical men in the Department, and my impression is that it will have to wait unless the Government take up the matter and assist the fishing interest. As regards the Vote for the Department, it has been increased but very little. I mentioned, on the former occasion, that the American Government voted annually no less a sum than £50,000, as compared with the paltry £1,500 or £1,600 we voted in England. One of the actions taken by the new Fishery Department was taken in February last, when the Department invited a conference of Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of the Board of Conservators of the Inland Fisheries, and they were addressed by the President of the Board of Trade. No results, however, of any consequence were forthcoming. I wish to say that I am still in favour of a Statutory Board as compared with a Fishery Department. My right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Mundella) stated in March, 1886, that he did not see his way to recommend the appointment of a Statutory Board, and he said that there were objections to it. The House, however, will recollect that the Royal Commission on Trawling reported in favour of a Statutory Board with certain powers. It is not necessary to read the recommendations of that Commission, as they are well known. One of the objections related, I imagine, to a question of finance. There is a very strong feeling indeed around the coast of England that the great herring fisheries should have the same, privileges and advantages which are already possessed by Scotland—namely, a brand for the herring fishery and one on the West of England for pilchards. The revenue derivable from such brand would be no less than from £6,000 to £8,000 a-year, and that sum would be available for a Statutory Board to carry out their most useful work. 883 My own opinion is that it ought to be assisted in a substantial way by the Treasury. I may be asked what can be done to give satisfaction to the fishery interest in this matter? There is a strong feeling in the trade that reform is needed in the Fishery Department, and an important conference has been held in London this year of representatives from all parts of the country, in which this feeling was strongly expressed. They did not want to have a repetition of the blunders of the past, but that the real requirements of the trade should be ascertained and dealt with in a practical manner. If the Department were made efficient, or if there were a Statutory Board, I believe that a great deal of expense might be saved with reference to the inquiries which are now held, from time to time, in different parts of the country. Practical men connected with the trade would be able to render the greatest assistance to any Government with reference to any international question which might arise. I may mention a matter which arose last autumn. A proposal was made in a friendly way by the Belgian Government to put a stop to trawling at night within certain limits in the North Sea, and to assign stated times for drift-net fishing. Practical men would have at once informed the Belgian Government that no such course could be adopted; but for a considerable time the question was left undecided, and the Belgian Government were left in doubt as to what our views were. Practical men would have said at once that the proposal could not be entertained. Then there are other questions upon which practical men could give great assistance to the Government, such as the question of inshore trawling. Trawling within the three-mile limit, the capture of immature fish, the conveyance of fish from the captor to the consumer, and the question of close time at the fisheries, can only be settled by men of practical experience. The question of practical men being associated with the Government is not a new point; because the Board of Trade, six years ago, adopted the principle in consequence of the disastrous blunders made in reference to international lights on fishing vessels, when they had to send to Grimsby and Yarmouth for practical men to get them out of the 884 difficulties into which they had fallen from ignorance; and in "another place," in the course of the present Session, the Board of Trade have introduced the Merchant Shipping (Life Saving Appliances) Bill. That Bill has been read a second time, and one of the proposals it contains is that a Committee should be constituted consisting of three shipowners, three shipbuilders, three persons practically acquainted with the navigation of vessels—three persons who are, or have been, able-bodied seamen, and three persons selected from Lloyd's Register. Here we have a proposal put forward by the Board of Trade for appointing practical men in matters connected with navigation. I am afraid the House will think that I am going to place the cart before the horse, but hon. Members will see my reason directly. I hold very strongly that there ought to be Local Councils at all our principal fishing ports or fishing districts around the coast of England; that such self-elected Councils might have certain defined powers, and be subject to the control either of Parliament or the Board of Trade. Among other matters, these Local Councils should have power to investigate such vexed questions as those of inshore trawling, and trawling within the three-mile limit, and they should, further, administer the Crab and Lobster Act, as well as ascertain the state of the mussel beds, and even the investigation of outrages, which, unfortunately, are sometimes committed. The Board of Trade, if that were done, would be saved the expense of sending down Inspectors to hold inquiries, and the Councils would be able to furnish fuller and more accurate statistics than those which are now supplied by the Board of Trade. Unfortunately, the statistics now supplied are not as accurate as they ought to be, and the Local Councils I propose would be able to assist in that matter with more advantage. I would further recommend that the Board of Trade official at the fishing district should be a representative of the Local Councils, and that the Councils should hold office three years. I would further suggest that the Chairman or Deputy Chairman should be periodically summoned to the Central Board in London, to form, in conjunction with a naval officer, a Consultative Committee, 885 so that the Board of Trade might obtain the services of practical men. The Board would be summoned from time to time to a monthly or quarterly meeting, or whenever any matter of urgency or importance occurred, and their expenses would be paid. The House will now see why I have put the cart before the horse. In that way a Consultative Committee would be formed; and I would further suggest that a naval officer should be attached to the Fishery Board, or to the Consultative Committee, and that the present Inspector of Fisheries should receive orders from that Board. I think the Board might have statutory powers to enable it to make bye-laws, and should also possess the other useful powers which the Irish and Scotch Members have, which powers have proved to be of great use. I would further extend such powers, and I should be glad to see more direct communication between the now Department and the Admiralty and Foreign Office. At present there is much delay in carrying out any proposal, and the loss of time involved is a cause of serious inconvenience when Parliament is not sitting. I have only dealt with the sea fisheries; but in regard to the inland fisheries, considering the importance, for instance, of the salmon fisheries of this country, there are certainly matters connected with them which ought not to be trifled with, but ought to have some representation on the new Fishery Board. For instance, it might be advisable to divide England into districts, so that the salmon fisheries should be under the control of inland boards, which might be associated with the new Department. At present, the Salmon Fishery Board complain that their interests have not been studied as they ought to be at the hands of the Board of Trade. It may be thought that I am crying down the officers connected with the Board of Trade. All I have to say is that that is the last thing that I wish to do. I believe that Mr. Swanston is a very able man; that he has done the utmost in his power, and that he has given great satisfaction. The same may be said of his colleagues, Mr. Barrington, Mr. Malan, and Mr. Fryer; but still they are not the practical men whom the fishery interests desire. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the Trea- 886 sury was the main obstacle in 1886 in making a Statutory Fishery Board. If that was the case, it was an obstacle which ought to be removed at once. I believe that my right hon. Friend opposite will be with me on this question. Last autumn he went down to Lowestoft. I will not refer to the remarks he made in reference to Home Rule; but in regard to the fisheries he said—He desired to obtain information as to the formation of a Fishery Board, that should be in constant touch with the fisheries and fishermen around the coast. It seemed to the right hon. Gentleman that many of the mistakes which had been made in the past were due to the fact that the authorities in London, however well-intentioned, had not been in touch with the localities.I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend said, and I believe that the fishing interest agrees with it too. I believe there are very strong grounds for reform in the direction I have indicated, and I claim that the fishing industry must not be allowed to suffer for want of an honest attempt to bring this proposal about. We should see whether in the case of this fishing interest, or of agriculture, we ought longer to put up sham Departments. What we want is a practical element, and I should like to see the present Government have the credit of carrying out what the fishermen have so long asked for, and what my right hon. Friend, in two or three passages of his speech in answer to my Motion in 1886, intimated that he was so anxious of supporting—namely, the policy of associating practical men with a Fishery Department. Taking into consideration the great things which are about to be done in connection with local government in England, I think it is desirable that the Local Councils I have suggested should forthwith be established by the State, and that a Fishery Board, or a Fishery Department, should be formed in the way I have proposed. With these remarks, I wish to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
In rising to second the Motion which has been moved by the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck), I cannot say that I have the same anxiety that the proposal he has made should be carried out by the present Government, or that they should have the credit of the reform now 887 asked for. I naturally do not feel the same interest in that direction as that which is felt by the hon. Member; but, at the same time, I am aware, from experience, what a pressing question this is, and I think it is emphatically not a Party question. I am afraid that it is one which has not excited the opposition of either of the two great political Parties; and, therefore, it might have failed to arouse a sufficient amount of interest in either of them to enable them to deal with it. I wish, from my own personal experience, to offer a few remarks in enforcing the necessity for something being done. The hon. Member for East Norfolk has studied the question more than I have, and he is much more able to advise the House as to the best practical mode of dealing with the question. At the present moment the fishing population is scattered up and down our coast, and is in a state of great disaster. In my own part of England the suffering and misery which they have undergone has been a byeword among the community. The fishermen and their families are, indeed, unable to get a living; and it is a matter of common remark that they are being crushed out of existence by a slow process of starvation. The fishermen themselves are unanimous on, at all events, some of the remedies they wish to be applied to their trade, such as trawling, the size of the meshes of the net, railway rates, close time, and so forth. The fishermen are quite unanimous on some of these questions; upon others they differ, having their own opinions; but, at the present moment, they are perfectly convinced that no one in authority practically understands their wants, and they are also, I am sorry to say, fully convinced that no one in authority cares about them. The fishermen are convinced of this, and I do not think their conviction is unjustifiable. People sometimes meet the question by saying that the fishing trade is necessarily depressed, as all other trades are, and that there is no practical remedy for it. At any rate, nothing has, so far, been done; and this House has no knowledge as to what it is possible to do and what is not possible. Only two or three years ago, a Commission was appointed to investigate the trawling question, a most important question indeed, and that Commission made a most moderate Re- 888 port; but, nevertheless, I believe that not one of its recommendations has been carried into effect. The fishermen think that they have suffered from want of regulation; and they want to see some new life infused into the Fishery Board, by placing practical men upon it, who shall have full power to deal with fishery questions affecting their interest. The right hon. Gentleman who was President of the Board of Trade in 1886 said he trusted that the Department would be so arranged in future that there would be no difficulty in insuring prompt attention for every question. I do not think that that is enough. There should not only be a Department established for regulating the fisheries, but it should be one in which the fishermen themselves should have confidence. At this moment the fishermen on many parts of the coast do not know of the existence of such a Department at all, and they never will until they are called to take some active part in getting men whom they know and trust appointed in the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade. I do not suppose that the Government will meet this Resolution in a hostile spirit. On the contrary, I have every confidence that the Government will meet it in a satisfactory way, and will propose something that may adequately meet the wishes of the hon. Member for East Norfolk. But we all know that when a Bill is introduced into Parliament its fate is very doubtful. Many of the Bills which are introduced cannot possibly be carried into effect. Therefore, I ask the House to consider what this trade is that is suffering so much at the present moment, and see whether it is not an industry which, more than any other, needs the active sympathy and support of the House. Although it cannot be called skilled labour, it is, at all events, self-educated labour; and with regard to the objection of expense in connection with the public funds, it must be recollected that so far the fishing interest has made very few demands on the public purse. They make no demands for education and grants in aid; they turn out every year a large body of men, thoroughly efficient in their own trade, and it must not be forgotten that being trained to a seafaring life they cannot migrate with the same case as other classes to our big towns, where, indeed, they would be 889 greatly handicapped. Their occupation has always been on the sea; their trade is a precarious one; and the plant necessary to enable them to carry on their trade is extremely expensive, and is liable to frequent accidents. They are themselves a hardy race of men, and, moreover, they are law-abiding, and give little trouble. All they desire is to prosecute their trade so as to enable them to earn a fair livelihood. Therefore, I wish the House to take into consideration the misery these men are now suffering, and to believe that it is not the less because it does not find any great expression. I feel bound to give, not only sympathy, but a warm support to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for East Norfolk. The demand of my hon. Friend on the part of the fishermen has been put forward in a manner which cannot be offensive to any quarter of the House, or any class of the community, and I should be sorry to see another Session pass without the question being thoroughly attended to. I hope that another Session will not be allowed to pass without effective assistance being rendered by the Legislature to a class which most needs its care. Upon these grounds, I beg to second the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade as now constituted is not in accordance with the scheme by which the control of the fisheries was transferred to the Board of Trade, and in order to carry out that scheme and to secure the proper management and development of the fisheries of England and Wales, they should be placed under an authority comprising, in addition to the officials of the Board of Trade, persons with practical knowledge of the Sea and Inland Fisheries."—(Sir Edward Birkbeck.)
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he thought it was high time that a Board of practical men should be organized in order to protect and look after the fishing industry. This industry was overweighted in two ways; the North Sea fishermen were heavily handicapped by the excessive differential rates charged by the Railway Companies, and those in the estuary of the Thames by the fact that their nets were destroyed and their fishing grounds ruined by the abominable practice of barges loaded with rubbish discharging it between Southend and Leigh. Unless some remedy were devised like that indicated 890 by the hon. Baronet (Sir Edward Birkbeck), the British fishermen would disappear, and with them would also go the Royal Naval Reserve, so that ultimately we should have to depend upon the foreigner for the supply of fish as well as for the supply of bread.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, there was a strong feeling among the fishermen upon the North-East Coast that their interests were neglected by Government. The fishing interest got crushed out whenever there was pressure of business at the Board of Trade, and he doubted whether anything had been gained by the Fishery Board being made a Department of the Board of Trade. In the many questions which of late years had interested the fishing industry they had always found a great want of knowledge on the part of the Board of Trade. He believed that if practical men connected with the trade had the opportunity of fairly bringing their opinions forward, it would be exceedingly useful to the President of the Board of Trade on many occasions. He went further than his hon. Friend the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck), and contended that there should be a distinct Department for Trade, Agriculture, and Fishing, and be free from the action of the Privy Council, of which the Board of Trade was only a Committee. There should be Councils at the fishing ports, with Chairmen who could correspond with the Head Department in London, and the President of the Board of Trade would be able to come to more rapid decisions upon the important questions submitted to him. He did not think that they would do much as long as the fishing industry was looked after by what was merely a Sub-Department tacked on to the Board of Trade. The Admiralty and the Foreign Office sometimes stepped in after the Board of Trade was ready and willing to grant what was asked by the fishermen. The consequence was a great loss of valuable time, although both the Admiralty and the Foreign Office were willing to do their best. Although he wished to go further than what was proposed by the hon. Baronet, at the same time he considered that these proposals would be an instalment that would prove of much good to the fishing industry. He begged to support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. MALLOCK (Devon, Torquay)
said, he was not able to speak with the knowledge and authority of his hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution. But as representing a constituency in which there was a large number of fishermen he desired to support the Resolution. Difficulties were constantly cropping up which he believed might easily be settled by some such Local Council as that proposed. There were constantly complaints of the interference of one class of fishermen with another, which interference was very awkward sometimes for the Member representing the constituency in which it occurred. Various questions, and very interesting questions, often arose with regard to the destruction of immature fish, which would be dealt with by such a Department as his hon. Friend suggested. A Department such as this, too, would deal with statistics, and he thought that if they had had fishery statistics at their demand, the vexed question of railway rates might have been dealt with long before this. It was well known that the fishing trade in all parts of the country suffered very much from the heavy railway rates that were now charged. He reminded the House that it was not only the fishermen themselves who were interested in this question, but that there were a large number of trades connected with fishing—such as rope making, net making, and boat building interested in it. On the prosperity of the fishing interest also depended the prosperity of a very large number of artizans who were living along our coast. He most cordially supported the Resolution.
§ SIR SAVILE CROSSLEY (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
said, he desired, as a Representative of one of the most important fishing constituencies in the country, to support the Motion. The fishing interest was deeply interested in the hon. Baronet's suggestion being carried out, and he trusted the Government would see their way to adopt the Motion, and so prevent the necessity of persons being driven from the Foreign Office to the Board of Trade, and from the Board of Trade to the Admiralty, when any fishery question cropped up.
§ MR. BOLITHO (Cornwall, St. Ives)
said, that inasmuch as he came from a part of England where fishing was carried on to a great extent, he thought he 892 would not be true to his colours if he did not say how necessary it was that something should be done to promote the interests of the fishing industry. It was well known—for it had often been stated—that the fishermen of England and Scotland were suffering most acutely at the present moment. Of course, legislation would not altogether work a cure; but there was no doubt that it could do much to alleviate the condition of our fishermen. He was fully persuaded that if the suggestion which had been made by his hon. Friend the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck)—who had shown himself in the past such a true friend of everything connected with the fishing industry—were carried out, good would be reaped by the people of this country. He could not think, in view of the spirit which actuated the Government in relation to measures affecting all classes of the people, they would turn a deaf ear to the suggestions which had been made, but would not only be disposed to adopt the proposition now made, but to give it practical effect.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
said, that two years ago, as a Member of the Royal Commission on Trawling, he went closely into all the questions connected with the fishing industry, and he then came to the conclusion that the settlement of these questions would best be promoted by the establishment of a Fishery Board, which would have power to make recommendations, and to secure to each particular class of fishermen the quiet exercise of his own sort of fishing. That opinion he then formed he still held, and he was confident that it would be a great advantage to the fishermen of England to have the same advantages as the Scottish and the Irish fishermen possessed by the establishment of a Fishery Board. The three Irish Fishery Inspectors had the very largest powers of regulating all the fisheries in the territorial waters, and regulating the manner in which the fishermen should carry on their vocation on the Irish coasts. The idea of the Commission certainly was that the time would come when the fisheries of England and Scotland would be united under one Board, which should have power to make bye-laws and regulations with regard to the whole of the fisheries of the United Kingdom; and, 893 from the tone of the discussion, he felt certain that such a united Board would be most beneficial to the fishing industry. The variety of the fisheries was so great that it was perfectly impossible to deal with them in little bits and small portions of the country; they must have a large-minded central body that was able to take cognizance of all the various aspects of the case, and to make general regulations for the fisheries of the whole Kingdom. He was afraid that this could not be done by such local bodies—as had been proved in America—as had been suggested by hon. Members in the course of the discussion. Year after year Committees and Commissions were appointed to inquire, and these were very expensive. He did not think it would be found in the end that the establishment of a Fishery Board would be an expensive thing; on the contrary, he believed they would save money by having such a Board, which would be of infinite service in instituting scientific inquiries into the movements, the food, and the spawning of fish and other questions. It was extraordinary the amount which the Americans expended on the promotion of their fisheries. During the last 10 years the United States Government had voted more than 2,000,000 dollars for the purposes of the United States Fishery Commission. He should, therefore, without pledging himself to the details sketched out by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck), support the Resolution in its broadest sense—simply that a Fishery Board should be established for England.
§ MR. ROUND (Essex, N.E., Harwich)
said, he had no desire to detain the House for any length of time; but, as the Representative of a long line of coast on which there were a large number of people whose interests were at stake in this matter, he desired to support the present Motion. He could corroborote what was said by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Sir Edward Grey) as to the precarious nature of this industry, and the grievances which it suffered in respect of railway rates and depredations by foreign fishermen. They were all glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in his present place; and they 894 trusted he would be able to take a step in the direction proposed. He assured the right hon. Gentleman that there was no body of men more deserving of having their interests safeguarded than the fishermen of this country.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
said, that all men connected with the sea fisheries of England were indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck) for the constant interest he had shown in this question. The hon. Baronet had urged that it was time the recommendations of the last Royal Commission should be carried into effect. There was a very strong argument indeed in the Report of that Commission in favour of a step in advance being taken on the part of the House. It was surely not to our credit at all that there was any occasion for the statement in the Report in question. The Commissioners stated that they could not pass from the subject without recording their regret at the absence of all official fishing statistics, with the exception of those relating to the herring fisheries and the ling fisheries in Scotland. The collection of such statistics was recommended by the Royal Commission of 1866, and, again, by the Royal Commission of 1878. Eighteen years had elapsed since the recommendation was made, and we were still absolutely without official statistics by which statements as to the decrease of fishing might be tested. He thought that was the most unfortunate admission, when, as they had been most clearly reminded to-night, the fishing industry round our coast was in a state of most serious depression. No attention whatever was paid until two years ago to the most urgent recommendations of the Royal Commission. Now some improvement had been made, which he, for one, most gladly acknowledged; but if hon. Members would only look into the statistics now presented they would see that England was still at a great disadvantage in this matter as compared even with the fisheries of Ireland or Scotland. Surely, on the very face of things, that ought not to be the case; and if the circumstances were examined, he thought it would be seen that it was a wholly indefensible position, because the fisheries of England were of far greater value than the fisheries either of Ireland or of Scotland. Yet there were Statutory 895 Boards, with full powers, both in Ireland and in Scotland; and we were going on with a Department with extremely limited powers—almost without powers at all. What were the actual facts? The value of the sea fish brought into the English ports last year was returned at £3,900,000. The value of the fish brought into the Scotch ports was £1,400,000, and of that brought into the Irish ports only £600,000; and yet the fishermen of England had to go on feeling that the Government were content to allow them to continue in a most inferior position as compared with that of their brethren in Ireland and Scotland, the value of the fish brought into English ports being twice as large as that brought into Scotch and Irish ports combined. The number of men regularly employed in the fisheries of England was 33,400, as against 30,000 in Scotland and 5,000 in Ireland. That, also, made a strong case for the English fishermen being placed on an equal footing with the fishermen of Ireland and Scotland. Then, again, if anyone would look into the matter, he would see that the statistics now supplied of the English fisheries were exceedingly meagre as compared with the Returns of the Scotch Board. He supposed the difficulty was a financial one. He had reason to believe that a far greater number of facts were sent up from our coasts to the Department than the Department published for the knowledge and advantage of the trade of the country; and he thought they might reasonably ask that all the facts that were collected, and could be collected, should be placed in an available form before the country. This question was assuming greater importance year by year. Hon. Members knew perfectly well that the North Sea was now becoming almost like an enclosed cultivated ground, or one ought rather to say an enclosed ruined fishing ground. There was a condition of things there which was wholly unknown a few years ago; and it was necessary, for the very sake of liberty, if he might so say, in the North Sea, that there should be legislation of one kind or another. Just in the same way as bye-laws were necessary when populations increased on land, so, when they had a bit of sea trawled over by thousands of fishing boats, some with steam 896 and others with sails, belonging to five or six different nations, it became absolutely needful that legislative enactments should be passed which were totally unnecessary many years ago. He would only urge further that some representative elements should be provided in the Fishery Department of this country. On this point, perhaps, the best argument was to be found in the Report of the Royal Commission. The Commissioners said it was impossible that the power of dealing with trawling within the three-mile limit could be exercised with advantage by any Government Department without special knowledge of fishing questions, and an intimate acquaintance with the various localities was necessary if hardship was not to be inflicted upon certain classes of fishermen. He thought that those who had been brought intimately into association with fishermen would entirely agree that whilst they recognized the courtesy and attention of all the officers of the Board of Trade, with whom they were brought into contact, there was a serious blot in the application of the laws at present, and there was a lack of confidence in the Board, because there was so little touch between the Head of the Department and the fishermen along the coast. The Board of Trade was undoubtedly exceedingly competent to deal with the fishing questions of this country; but everyone knew that the life and habits and thought, and, indeed, the very language, of the fishing population was totally distinct from those of the shipping population. Therefore, the Department might be most admirably adapted for dealing with the great mercantile interests of this country, and yet be altogether unsuitable to deal with the fisheries along our coasts. From what they had already heard from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, he felt great confidence that they would not appeal in vain in this matter. They had received a most courteous response from the right hon. Gentleman, both this year and last, and he (Mr. Rowntree) would only now join in the appeal made, that there should be no more delay in this matter, because he and others who represented fishing constituencies had at present no answer to the men who were appealing to them most earnestly that the recom- 897 mendations of the Royal Commission made in their favour should at least receive some attention from the Legislature of this country, and that they should not be left in a position inferior to that of their brethren in Ireland and in Scotland. This was a most urgent question. It was really the denudation of the fish supply along our coasts that we had to face. He could appeal with confidence to the Government, because he felt sure they would receive the most ready assistance of Members of both sides of the House in this matter. If the Government could only see their way to carry out the recommendations of the last Royal Commission, he was persuaded it would be found a most valuable piece of legislation.
§ SIR HENRY TYLER (Great Yarmouth)
said, that as representing one of the largest fishing ports in the Kingdom, and as having been for 23 years on the Board of Trade, he desired to say a few words on this question. He rose to support the Motion of his hon. Friend (Sir Edward Birkbeck) because he had no doubt the hon. Baronet was wiser in his generation than he (Sir Henry Tyler) was. It would certainly be an advantage to his constituency that the fishing industry should, so long as the Fishery Department was attached to the Board of Trade, be represented at the Board of Trade by experts. He, however, would propose to go a deal further than his hon. Friend. His experience at the Board of Trade had taught him that the Board of Trade was a valuable Department of the State, and very careful in the performance of all the duties it undertook, but that it was not a Department which was fit for the control of the fishing industry of this Kingdom—an industry so important, so large, and so special. The Board of Trade was excellent in exercising advisory, and some deterrent functions, but it was not a Department well qualified to foster an industry which required to be furnished with information, to be nursed, to be protected, and to be developed; and, therefore, his own view was that it would be far better to set up a general Fishing Board for the United Kingdom. They heard very often of justice to Ireland and justice to Scotland. This was a case of justice to England. England had never been properly considered or officially represented or had 898 fair play in respect of fishing. The experiment had recently been made of starting a Department at the Board of Trade, but it had not been successful. Therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would reconsider the whole question in the spirit he had indicated, and would come to the conclusion that so large an industry, which required to be specially fostered, which required special knowledge, and which was different from all other industries, should have a Fishery Board to itself by which its affairs could be properly looked after.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
said, his hon. Friend had complained that the arrangement or understanding come to when he brought forward his Motion in March, 1886, had not been carried out. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend that a step was taken, but it was only a tentative step. What was the state of things in 1886? The fishing interests were scattered over some six or seven departments. Some were looked after at the Home Office, some at the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, some at the Harbour Department, some at the Admiralty, and some at the Foreign Office. The Government of that day endeavoured to make a department by the creation of a secretary and three Inspectors, and to bring all the interests which were looked after in the several departments he had mentioned under one department. His hon. Friend had appealed to the House to supply themselves with fish, and not to let the foreigner supply it. Whatever might be thought of statistics, he thought they at least proved that the English fisheries were the largest in the world, and that the value of the fish caught within the waters of the United Kingdom was greater than that caught in the waters of any other nation, not excepting America. But there was no commodity more difficult to value than fish. Its value all depended upon when it was valued. Large quantities were wasted, and that, together with the cost of transit, was one of the most important matters in connection with the fish supply. If anything could be done to bring the fishermen into more direct contact with the consumers, it would be an immense gain not only to the fishing industry, but also to the consumers of fish throughout the 899 whole Kingdom. He admired the system of the American Government in spending £40,000 annually on their fisheries and in scientific investigations. His hon. Friend (Sir Edward Birkbeck) had started quite a new question by stating that there was a strong feeling springing up for a brand both for herrings and pilchards. He very much doubted whether the fishermen themselves would consider a brand an advantage. He had observed that since the establishment of the Fishery Department in 1886 very excellent statistics had been furnished, and year by year the Department got much better in touch with the fishing industry. There could not be a bettor head of the Department than the present Secretary, Mr. Swanston, who spared himself no pains to keep himself in thorough sympathy with the fishermen, and to see that his Inspectors did the same. The friction which formerly existed between the fishermen and the authorities had vanished entirely. Mistakes had occurred in the past, and he agreed with his hon. Friend (Sir Edward Birkbeck) that if anything more could be done to satisfy the reasonable demands of those engaged in the industry, and to make their wants better known, for them to have better information, or supervision, it ought to be done, sand he believed the Board of Trade would be ready to consider any proposals. The establishment of Local Councils had been suggested. He could remember that on the occasion of a deputation to the Board of Trade in 1886, he recommended the establishment of local associations as the first step towards Local Councils. Local Councils must be elected by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, kept well in touch with the Board of Trade. He could see no reason why chambers of fishing should not do the same thing. While he did not think it was possible to give the Local Councils powers to make bye-laws and enforce rules and regulations—for if they did there would be local conflict and difficulties—yet they might very well send their chairmen to London periodically, and the chairmen could then be brought into direct contact with the Board of Trade Department, and periodically deliberate upon all matters relating to the fishing industry. He suggested that some special arrange- 900 ment should be arrived at, whereby all the wants of fishermen might be brought fully before the President of the Board of Trade and the House, through that Minister, who would then be fully in touch with the industry. The Statutory Board which existed in Scotland was a source of constant grumbling amongst Scotch fishermen, because the fishermen were not represented on the Board. If a Board could be composed of the chairmen of the local associations, to meet periodically at the Board of Trade, any such difficulty would be got rid of. There could be no doubt that fishermen had very great grievances, and if this Board was constituted, all questions, including railway rates, could be properly and periodically discussed. He might remark, with reference to the advantages which Continental fishermen had over the English, that when in Italy he had been supplied daily with beautiful fresh turbot at prices cheaper than those of his fishmonger in the West of London, and he had reason to believe that the fish was caught in English waters. He thought that showed the great advantages foreigners had for cheap and quick transit and the superior facilities for the distribution of fish. Fish was an article which greatly varied in value, and it depended a good deal on when you valued it, whether in the morning, afternoon, or night. He had recently received from fish salesmen in Sheffield and other districts of Yorkshire, and from the Midland Counties, sale statistics of fish, showing that, after the cost of carriage and the profits of the middle-man, the fisherman got nothing, or nearly nothing, for his labour. It was very deplorable that the cost of carriage and the middle-man should swallow up all the profits and leave the fisherman almost without remuneration, and it was exceedingly desirable that, if anything could be devised to keep these local councils in complete touch with the Board of Trade, it should be adopted, as it would be a distinct public advantage. He believed that great improvement had taken place during the last few years under the direction of the new department, and he hoped the prospects of the industry would improve still further, and that the present President of the Board of Trade would see his way to accept his suggestion, and bring the Department into direct con- 901 tact periodically in the elected representatives of the fishing industry. If the Treasury would be sufficiently liberal to enable the Board of Trade to make such scientific investigations as might be necessary, he believed it would promote the success of the industry.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
said, that the House was greatly indebted to his bon. Friend for bringing before it a subject relating to one of the most important industries of the Kingdom—a subject in which, for many years past, his hon. Friend had taken an active interest, and which he had practically promoted, representing the fishing industry in that House. Having listened very carefully to the discussion, one result presented itself very clearly to his mind, and that was that, whatever opinion might be formed of the state of affairs two years ago, before the right hon. Gentleman opposite undertook to bring the various Departments connected with the fishing industry under the care of the Board of Trade, there still existed a large amount of dissatisfaction and a desire to strengthen the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade in the manner indicated by his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend divided his Motion into two parts. The first complained of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mundella), and asserted that the Fishery Department of the Board of Trade, as now constituted, was not in accordance with the scheme by which the control of the fisheries was transferred to the Board of Trade. That was practically an imputation upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite of not having carried out the undertaking he gave to the House when the subject was discussed two years ago. Having consulted the debates which took place on that occasion, and having made himself acquainted with the present constitution of the Fishery Department of the Board Trade, he must say, in justice to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that he thought he had carried out, not only to the letter but in the spirit, every engagement he gave to the House. He found the inland fisheries under the Home Office and the sea fisheries scattered among several Departments of the Board of Trade. He brought them all together by instituting a separate Fishery De- 902 partment of the Board of Trade, and putting at the head of it a gentleman of great ability and recognized experience, Mr. G. J. Swanston, to whom a well-deserved tribute has been paid. Then the right hon. Gentleman employed well-qualified persons as Inspectors of both inland and sea fisheries. Following that action of the right hon. Gentleman, there had been, he thought, a distinct improvement, which quite justified him in saying that the Department since that change had been more in touch with the fishing industry than before. The negotiations as to the North Sea Convention and as to the unfortunate differences with the Belgian fishermen and other matters signally showed the good that had been done by centralizing this Department. On behalf of the Department, he was bound to say that, in considering any question that might arise in connection with fishing interests or regulations, or other matters of that kind, the Department invariably communicated with the representatives of the local associations, the smack-owners, the fishermen, or other persons interested in the industry in order to avoid those mistakes which undoubtedly arose in previous years from acting without concert with those having practical knowledge of the subject. He could instance many matters in which this had been done, such as the requirement of arrangements for stanchions and life-lines, regulations for ballast, and other things which none but practical men could understand. As regarded the collection of statistics he thought the improvement that had been made had not been fairly considered; there were no statistics as to sea-fishing at all three years ago, and now they had the Return he held in his hand made every year. He was far from saying that what had been done was sufficient. All he was anxious to establish was that the right hon. Gentleman did carry out the undertaking he gave, and, therefore, was not open to the censure which the first paragraph of the Resolution sought to cast upon him. With respect to the second paragraph of the hon. Baronet's Resolution, it affirmed that—To secure the proper management and development of the Fisheries of England and Wales they should be placed under an authority comprising, in addition to the officials of the Board of Trade, persons with practical knowledge of the Sea and Inland Fisheries,903 Upon that he might observe that it could be interpreted, and it had been interpreted, in different ways by different Speakers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) interpreted it as entirely abolishing the connection of fisheries with the Board of Trade and placing them under a Fishery Department, which, as he understood, would be a part of the Agricultural Department.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, that he expressed the opinion that the Fishery Department should be separated from the Board of Trade, but in the meanwhile he supported the proposal of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said that the right hon. Gentleman had been perhaps a little unfair in his references to negotiations with foreign Powers; lately, at least, there had been no complaint to make as to prompt action in such matters; but whatever Department had the control of the fisheries it would be necessary for that department to have recourse to the Foreign Office in all negotiations with foreign Powers. Another interpretation put upon the Resolution by the right hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) was that an English Fishery Board should be established on the model of the Scotch Fisheries Board, comprising various persons of a quasi- independent character, who should have control of the English fisheries. He must say that that was a pattern he should not like to follow. He did not believe in the utility of such a board, either as a representative or an administrative institution. It would be absolutely impossible that all the various interests, or even a large portion of them which would require representation, could be brought on a paid or even on an unpaid Board. Some would certainly complain, as fishermen in Scotland now complained, that they were not properly or sufficiently represented, and whatever the interests left outside, the claims for admittance could not possibly be conceded. An unpaid Board containing a large number of members would undoubtedly be an administrative failure, and the real administration would go into the hands of the paid members just as it did on certain Boards with which he was well acquainted in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had affirmed 904 that Ireland had a fishery board. That was not so. There was a staff of inspectors precisely as in England, but there was not the same description of Board as in Scotland. His hon. Friend himself seemed to interpret the Resolution as being in favour of the institution of Local Councils, which should have certain powers, subject to the Board of Trade, in dealing with fishery matters, and which should send their chairmen or other representatives to consult with the Board of Trade. He fully shared that view, and he believed in the necessity for early legislation in this matter. He quite agreed that the recommendations of the Trawling Commissioners had been too long left unnoticed by the House, and he was now preparing a measure to deal with the matter from the point of view of his hon. Friend, which he hoped shortly to be able to lay before the House. How far it would be possible to give local councils power in such matters it would be difficult to say. He admitted all the difficulties urged by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for it was obvious that sea fisheries were not of so purely local a nature as affairs which they would allow Local Councils to regulate. Some power such as was possessed by the fishing authorities of Ireland and Scotland for laying down regulations for the protection of the coast fisheries was required for England. In any measure dealing with this subject he would take care to introduce provisions for the utilization of that local practical knowledge to which the hon. Member attached so much importance and which he himself valued as highly as the hon. Member did. He should like to see either the chairmen of the suggested councils or the representatives of the different associations who had taken such an active part in bringing forward proposals for the protection of our fisheries brought periodically into close communication with the Board of Trade and himself, in order that they might give them the assistance of their practical knowledge of the subject. That, however, was a different thing from establishing a statutory Board, and was, to his mind, a much better proposal. There were many other points connected with the Fishery Department which had not been touched upon which he need do no more than mention at the present moment. He did not think that 905 the present arrangements for collecting fishery statistics were perfect. The grant was to some extent wasted, owing to the inadequacy of the statistics collected, but with the expenditure of a little more money, which he hoped to obtain, this might be amended. The sum of £5,000, and an annual grant of £500 for five years, had been provided to enable experiments connected with our sea fisheries to be conducted. That was a grant that might be enlarged, it always being kept in mind that those experiments were not mere scientific investigations, but were intended to have a practical effect in increasing the food supply of the country. With regard to the question of police, he thought that the relation between the Admiralty and the Department which was responsible for the control of the fisheries might be somewhat closer than it was at present; but he doubted whether it would be possible to establish a separate fleet for the police service of the fisheries. Indeed, there were practical difficulties in the way of establishing such a fleet that appeared hardly to have been considered by those who had suggested that one or two police vessels should be attached to the Department. He did not mean to imply that the Admiralty were not perfectly ready to meet the requirements of the Department. He hoped the hon. Member would not think it necessary to press his Motion to a Division, inasmuch as the Government could not accept the first part of it on the ground that it contained an implied censure upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which was unmerited, and because the second part was so vague and so capable of different interpretations, that if he accepted it, the hon. Member might come down next year and charge him with having failed to perform something which he had never intended to do. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. Member would be contented with the discussion he had raised, the opinions he had elicited from the various hon. Members who had taken part in the debate, and with the statement he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had made on behalf of the Government of his intention to deal with the subject.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
said, that he had been chairman of a Commission appointed to inquire into our sea coast fisheries, of which the distinguished naturalist, Professor Huxley, 906 had been a member, and their object had been to obtain information with reference to the habits and the character of the different fish on our coasts. In the course of their inquiries they ascertained that, although they could depend upon the local fishermen for information as to the mode of capturing fish, those men know nothing of the nature and habits of the fish they caught. To take one instance in illustration of his statement, the Commissioners found that there was a close time, lasting several months, for herrings on the west coast of Scotland, which had been enacted at the instance of the fishermen themselves, but that that close time prevented the fishing for cod and ling, because at that time, when herrings prevailed, they could only be caught by herring bait, and that could not be got on account of the close time. They were great devourers of the herring, and got this advantage of the close time for themselves, which was not intended by the law. We did not know the number of cod or ling in the sea, but we knew how many were salted and dried. Now, giving to these the moderate diet of six herrings daily, they would have destroyed, had they been left in the ocean, more than were caught by all the fishermen of the Kingdom, and 600 added. This view of the case astonished practical fishermen, and close time was abandoned by a repeal of the Act. He wished to draw attention to the fact that in America they had established a Commission for fisheries which had largely contributed to increase the fishing industry of that country. That Commission did not ask the fishermen about the habits and character of the fish, because they knew that it was no use to do so; but they asked Nature. At a cost of some £70,000 per annum, £40,000 of which was contributed by the Federal Government, and £30,000 by the different States, they sent out vessels for the purpose of examining into the habits and the character of the fish. By dint of experiments they found that cod, which was the most important fish on the American coasts, would, like other fish, always return to spawn at the spot where they were hatched, and that by taking spawn from the coasts of Newfoundland, where the cod was accustomed to spawn, and transplanting it to the American coasts, when it was hatched, they educated or naturalized 907 the cod into always returning to the American coast to spawn, instead of going off into the cold waters of Newfoundland for that purpose. The cod that so returned to the American coasts to spawn were known as the Commissioners' cod. Let him give one other illustration. The American shad was a fish very much valued, especially by the working classes. This fish would only spawn in waters of a particular temperature, or within a range varying six or seven degrees. If the sea became too hot or too cold, the shad deserted the coast and went out to sea to spawn, and two or three years afterwards a famine of shad results. By watching the temperature of the sea on the coasts, the Commission know what the shad would do, and if they migrated, steamers were sent after them; the shad were caught and stripped of spawn, which was brought back to the coast and hatched. So now there are no more shad famines. Thus the scientific experiments which had been conducted by the Commissioners had had the practical result of largely increasing the food supply of the country. He did not think that the small sum given by this country for the purpose of conducting similar experiments here contrasted well with the large sum which the Americans expended in the improvement of their fisheries. The example set by America in this matter had been followed by Germany and France. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would not think that in making the grant of £5,000 and £500 a-year for five years, enough had been done to promote the fishing industry of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N. Lonsdale)
said, that at the meeting which was held last week in his Division, under the presidency of the noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Lord Edward Cavendish), it was arranged that the local Members representing the fishing constituencies bordering upon Morecambe Bay should bring this question before the House. He thought that every Member who represented a portion of the extensive fishery referred to should, he would not say support the Motion on the Paper, but, at any rate, draw the attention of the House to the position of the fishermen on that part of the coast. In the course of the 908 discussion which took place at that meeting, one section of the fishermen complained against another, and they begged that some Local Authority should deal with the various questions arising. He believed that during last year a commission was sent down to the neighbourhood to inquire into the Fishery question; but, although inquiries were instituted, nothing had resulted, and the fishermen complained that although they had given their evidence, no action had been taken upon it. He knew the hopelessness of expecting to pass a Bill to deal with the question, but he was satisfied if it were possible to do so, that the verdict of the House would be in favour of the fishermen, who had a particularly strong case in the eyes of Members representing the part of the country in question.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
said, he hoped the Session would not be allowed to pass without the right hon. Gentleman making an attempt to bring forward this Bill and pass it into law. Not merely was it necessary for the Board of Trade to secure more scientific information and to publish statistics, but he thought it was important that the scientific information gathered by the Board of Trade should be published in an accessible form. He had noticed that the Report of the Scotch Fishery Department was much fuller, much more interesting, and more valuable than the information published by the Board of Trade. And that difference was still more apparent in regard to the American Fishery Board, who took much more trouble to publish what was necessary and interesting to the fishing trade. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had promised to form Local Councils, and he believed that these would inspire confidence on the part of the fishermen in the Board of Trade, and bring them to know that the information which scientific men could give them was of the most vital importance to their interests. He thought, if the right hon. Gentleman would make these Councils really representative, he would secure for the Department over which he presided the trust of the fishermen in the matter of the regulations and recommendations which they made. The present complaint was that, not merely had ill-regulated trawling ruined and impoverished the inshore fisheries, but that 909 the fishermen had to pay for heavy and extortionate licences to the Board of Conservators, on which they had only a sham representation. If the right hon. Gentleman desired to have the Local Councils made of real value, they should be made representative, and then, as he had said, he would have the sympathy of the fishermen, and would be able to make them accept the valuable recommendations of men of Science.
THE EARL OF CAVAN (Somerset, S.)
said, he thought the fishermen would be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), but that they would not be thoroughly satisfied until Local Councils had been established throughout the whole of the counties on the coast of England. It would, in his opinion, be impossible to put a great deal of power into the hands of these Councils; but what the feeling of most fishermen was had been stated by his hon. Friend behind him (Sir Edward Grey), who said that the fishermen had a language of their own, ways of their own, and interests of their own, for which they wanted to find expression in that House, and until they had it they would not be contented. What was wanted, he (the Earl of Cavan) thought, was confidence in the minds of the fishermen in the action of the Board of Trade. They wished to see that their views, whatsoever they might be, were adequately represented on the Board of Trade. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad the right hon. Gentleman assented to that, because he regarded it as evidence that they had to-day made a very great step in advance; and he believed fishermen throughout the country would be exceedingly grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the position he had taken up. Not only with regard to the interest of the fishermen was it desirable that they should be heard, but also, in his opinion, with reference to naval affairs of the country. He thought they might look forward to great assistance being rendered to the country by our fishermen. If they were made to feel that in the event of depression occurring in their trade the Coast Guard or Naval Reserve forces were open to them, he felt that a body of men so intimately connected with the interests of the country, and so thoroughly acquainted with the coasts, would be of great use. He 910 trusted that that class might now look forward to the establishment of Councils on which they would be adequately represented.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he hoped that there would be some authority having the power to deal with the fish question as a whole. It would not be placed on a satisfactory basis until they dealt with something nearer home than Nature. He had read the other day a communication by a fish merchant of Montrose, who seemed to have a thorough understanding of the question. That gentleman stated that a cod on the quay in Scotland cost about five-eighths of 1d., when it arrived at Billingsgate, it was a little over 1d.; when it left Billingsgate Market, it cost 7d., and was charged to the consumer at the West End at 10d. or 1s. a-pound. Therefore, he thought they would not bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion until they dealt with the practice at Billingsgate, as well as other important questions affecting the carriage of fish.
§ SIR EDWARD BIRKBECK
said, he would ask leave to withdraw his Resolution, on the understanding that the President of the Board of Trade would, in the Bill which he proposed to introduce, insert a clause carrying out the proposals as to the Local Councils. He presumed that the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the Local Councils would, whenever they attended in London at the Department, be compensated for their loss of time, and paid their expenses to London and back. He accepted that as an instalment of justice; and he would tell his right hon. Friend frankly that the Board of Trade were on their trial; that the fishermen would keep their weather eye open, as they did at sea; and that if the practical element were not introduced, the matter would be again brought before the House. He did not wish in any way to blame his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Mundella), who, he thought, had done all he could in the three months during which he was at the Office; he simply wished to place it on record that during the two years which had elapsed since 1886, the practical element was not to be found at the Board of Trade. He also wished to confirm what he had said outside the House. He did not wish to say one 911 word against Mr. Swanston or the Inspectors; and he felt sure that his right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Honeage) entirely agreed with him. He said that Mr. Swanston had done his best, and that for what he had done the fishermen were thankful. He had been associated with that gentleman on the inquiry into the Belgian outrages, and he asserted that his duties had been carried out in a satisfactory manner.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) having intimated that the proposals for Local Councils would be practically carried out, he believed he would have no reason to complain of the result.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he thought his hon. Friend behind him (Sir Edward Birkbeck) had attached a rather more definite meaning to his words than he had intended them to have. He could not exactly state the precise form of Local Councils which it would be possible for him to propose, but his intention was to include a provision in the Bill for obtaining due representation of local wishes and feelings.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.