HC Deb 08 August 1889 vol 339 cc787-8

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether the attention of the Secretary for Scotland has been called to the evidence led before Sheriff-substitute Fraser, at Stornoway, on the 12th June last, in the prosecution, at the instance of the Fishery Board, against Mr. George Colville, fishcurer, Stornoway; whether it is the case, as reported in the newspapers of that date, that in delivering judgment in the case the Sheriff-substitute expressed himself as follows:— I conclude from the evidence led as to the impossibility of making a lot of barrels which will turn out to have the same exact capacity, that some of these 25 are even above the standard. That being so, I think it is clear that in this case Mr. Colville had no intention to contravene the law, or to do anything to cheat the foreign market. The object of these Statutes of George III. was to provide against cheating in point of size. It is clear Mr. Colville had no intention to do so. Those seized were some time exposed to the air and sun, and got affected. I think that may be held to account for the deficiency in most of them. That being so, it appears to me that the prosecutors acted rather sharply in forfeit- ing barrels which came so very near the standard.… I therefore feel, whatever my own opinion may be, I may probably be wrong, probably I am, but I am bound to follow the decision of the Supreme Court. If this case is appealed, the High Court may see fit to reverse it decision in the case of Loudon; but with all these matters before me, I am, therefore, bound to convict Mr. Colville of a contravention of the Statute; and in terms thereof I declare the barrels forfeited; and whether the Government intend to introduce a Bill to repeal those sections of the Statute 94 of 55 Geo. 3, which were enacted to meet conditions and requirements of the herring fishery in Scotland which no longer exist, and which impose on the fishcurers of Scotland antiquated restrictions that do not exist in England or Ireland, and which place them at a disadvantage in the foreign markets?


The Secretary for Scotland is acquainted with the facts of the case referred to. There is no reason to doubt that the quotation in the question is a correct statement of what Sheriff Fraser said, but owing to the short notice given by the hon. Member I have not been able to ascertain this for certain. I will, however, assume that it is so. The Government have under their consideration the provisions of the Statute referred, with the view of making a change in the law regulating the size of herring barrels, should it appear on further inquiry that such a change is necessary.