HC Deb 21 June 1892 vol 5 cc1736-8


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

(3.52.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

This Bill is for the re-construction of the Scotch Fishery Board. We have already passed an Act for the purpose, and this is the second attempt at reconstructing the Board by this Parliament. I understood, when I assisted my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) in aiding the Government to finish their business, that no measures controversial in their character would come before us this Session. Here, however, is a Bill which comes to us from the Lords and is now down for Second Reading—an old friend of ours we discussed last year and were unable to agree with. Last year we asked that the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) and this Bill, which is a limitation of the Bill of my right hon. Friend, should be referred to a Select Committee that the whole matter might be thoroughly threshed out. This the Government refused, and now we have their Bill before us again. I see my right hon. Friend (Mr. Marjoribanks) has a Motion for the rejection of the Bill, but he is in Berwickshire now and cannot move that Motion, but it indicates that the Bill is of a contentious character. I do not know whether we are to contest it, but I can tell the Lord Advocate that we who represent constituencies interested are strongly opposed to every one of the proposals in the Bill. In the re-constitution of the Board we want the application of the elective principle, with a scientific member, a legal member and the Chairman of the Board appointed by the Government. We are opposed to the constitution of the Fishery Committees; we want them to be elective. We are opposed to the division of the districts into five—wo want eight or nine. It is utterly impossible to divide the Scottish coasts into five districts only; we are opposed also to the provisions in regard to mussel fisheries; and, in fact, the only way to arrive at a settlement of our differences is to take the suggestion of my right hon. Friend, and refer the two Bills to a Select Committee. Surely now, in the last hours of a dying Parliament, the Government will not seriously attempt to press forward a Bill bristling with difficulties which has not received a Second Reading? Under the circumstances, I am justified in moving the Motion of which my right hon. Friend has given notice.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Dr. Clark.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

(3.58.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

I am surprised at the line taken by the hon. Member for Caithness. He appears to think that this Bill has been brought down from the other House suddenly to surprise and astonish the House of Commons; but I may remind the hon. Member that in every statement I have made with regard to public business I have mentioned this Fishery Board Bill for Scotland as one of those we greatly desired to pass, and which we had every reason to hope would not meet with serious opposition. I confess that hope has been somewhat shaken by the speech of the hon. Member and the Motion which stands in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks). The right hon. Gentleman is not here for me to appeal to him; but I ask the hon. Member for Caithness to recollect that this Bill does meet a great want on the part of the fishing community of Scotland, and that if the Bill does not pass now it means that a settlement of this question will be postponed, certainly for a year and probably for a much longer period. It is a very serious responsibility for the hon. Member and his friends to undertake to prevent the use of public money for the purpose of mussel beds, and to say that these provisions for the encouragement of the fishing industry so earnestly desired shall be deferred because the hon. Member and his friends have not had time to consider the Bill. The provisions of the Bill are well known, they have been a considerable time before the House and are desired by the Scottish people, but if the hon. Member and his friends really mean to press their opposition to the extreme, of course we cannot hope to pass the Bill; but I must distinctly point out that the responsibility of preventing the carrying out of these beneficial arrangements in favour of the fishermen of Scotland—not the least deserving class in Scotland—must rest with the hon. Member for Caithness and the right hon. Member for Berwickshire. What view their constituents may take of that I cannot say; but, at all events, the Government are absolved from the responsibility of having failed to deal with the question, and the whole weight of the feeling of disappointment that may be raised must rest upon the hon. Member and his friends.

Question put.

(4.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 27.—(Div. List, No. 192.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.