§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ *THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Sir G. TREVELYAN,) Glasgow, Bridgeton
I rise to move the Second Reading of a Bill which is not a Party measure, and which I hope the House will not treat in a Party fashion, and which I certainly shall not introduce in a Party speech. It is very fortunate for a Member in this House when he gets his speech ready-made for him, and such a speech exists in my case in the shape of a Resolution which was passed unanimously by this House on the 8th March, 1892, and I venture to read that Resolution to the House—Resolved, That a large representative element should be introduced into the Scottish Fishery Board; that a sufficient number of district fishery committees should be instituted to take charge of local fishery interests on the coasts of Scotland; that powers should be granted by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to such district fishery committees to issue licences to fishermen to fish for salmon on suitable parts of the coasts of Scotland; that proof should be required of the titles under which Scottish mussel scalps are claimed and held; that power should be given to district fishery committees in Scotland to regulate, acquire, and work mussel scalps within their several districts.Now, Sir, that Resolution which I have read to the House, and which was passed unanimously by the House, is practically the Bill which I am now going to recommend to the attention of the House. Now, Sir, first as to the administrative 1389 system which the Bill proposes. In this country, and especially in Scotland, there are all sorts of administrative Boards which are charged with administrative affairs, but there are only two sorts of administrative Bodies which can administer effectively. Either you must have a representative Body of convenient size and properly elected, which will represent the various interests, or else you must have a purely administrative Body which is responsible to the Minister, who is himself responsible to the House of Commons. Now, Bodies of both sorts exist in Scotland; but if you are to have a representative Body, it must be really representative; that is to say, the Members of it must be returned by a free and equal suffrage on the part of those people who are interested in the subjects with which the Body has to deal. Now, Sir, with regard to the Scotch Fishery Board, at present it cannot be said to be representative at all. It. consists of nine Government nominees who have ail done their duty well, as Scotchmen always do, but who are no more a representative Body than is the Board of Trade. Now, the Scotch Fishery Board ought to be representative, and Parliament was quite right in passing that Resolution that it should be so, because the Scotch fisheries are undertakings which are very extensive in their nature, that differ the one from the other according to their locality, which are not understood at all at a distance from the locality where they exist, which are very far indeed from Whitehall, and which cannot possibly be well controlled except by a representative Body existing on the spot. But, besides being representative, it is necessary that the Fishery Board of Scotland should contain an administrative element, because the Fishery Board has to deal with public money voted by Parliament; and, in addition to that, questions are very often asked about the Scotch fisheries in Parliament, and it is necessary that these questions should be answered by a Minister who has under his control, and responsible to him, certain administrative officers. Now, we propose a Fishery Board in this Bill which shall contain both these elements. In the first place, of the present administrative element the Chairman and Secretary are both appointed by the Crown. There is 1390 likewise a scientific officer who is appointed by the Crown. Then we require a legal adviser, and a legal adviser in Scotland may well belong to the order of Sheriffs. But you may have too much of a good thing, and on the present Board there are three Sheriffs. We propose to have only one; and having that number of appointed members, we then have the representative element, which consists of eight, members who are elected by each of the four fishery districts in Scotland, and who will bring to bear on the Board the local feeling of those districts. So much for the Central Fishery Board, but under this Fishery Board we propose to have local committees. We shall have eight such committees, consisting of inhabitants of the district from which the committees are elected, elected freely by the fishing population of the district, which fishing population will be distinguished and segregated from the rest of the population by the assessor, who will draw up the roll of voters and mark those connected with fishing, so as to enable them to vote. So much for the Bodies which are to carry on the fishing administration of Scotland. And now then for their duties. They will perform all the duties which at present are performed by the Fishery Board of Scotland, but we propose to entrust to them an extremely important function which at present is non-existent; we propose to give them the care of the mussel-beds of the country. Now, everyone who knows the Scotch fisheries —and I am speaking, I see, to an increasing number of Scotch Members, and I am glad to think that every Scotch Member, with scarcely an exception, represents a seaside constituency, because the Scotch counties are so distributed that hardly one is a Bohemia, entirely separated from the sea—need not be told of what immense importance the question of bait is. In the question of the fisheries, in the hard battle which the Scotch fishermen have to fight against all the disadvantages that surround them, the greatest difficulty of all is that of obtaining bait. A Commission sat on this question, which was presided over by the very able and genial gentleman who at present performs the functions of Whip of our Party (Mr. Marjoribanks); a gentleman whose ser- 1391 vices to the question of Scotch fishery is recognised by both sides of the House, and by none more than the unworthy person who at present has charge of this Bill; and that Commission reported upon the increasing difficulty which the Scotch fishermen find in obtaining bait. Since then a great deal of additional information has been obtained by the Committee which, at my instance, the Fishery Board appointed lately. They have found that the price of mussels varies from 15s. a ton up to 40s. or 50s. a ton, and that, unfortunately, those mussels are most expensive in the case of some of the poorest fishing communities, such as those of Stornoway and Wick. There is no doubt that the difference in the price of mussels depends on the judgment and skill with which the mussel-beds are cared for and managed. At Montrose and St. Andrews, where the beds are well-managed, mussels can be procured at half the price where the beds are badly-managed and exhausted. The Committee state there were two causes for the exhaustion of these beds. The first of these is the question of ownership, and the next financial considerations, the extreme difficulty of buying the beds. Now, as to ownership, there is no doubt we must deal trenchantly with the matter, and this Bill does deal trenchantly. Under Clause 10 it is enacted that all people who claim to have a right in mussel-beds must make good that right; they must establish that right to the satisfaction of the Crown Office, and when the title is ascertained by Clause 11, the Fishery Board, on the requisition of the Fishery Committee, may acquire the beds, and when these mussel beds have been acquired by the public authority, they may lease them to those people who may be able to manage them in the interests of the general community, either to individuals or to corporations. In some cases these mussel beds are best managed by individuals as at Montrose, and at St. Andrews by corporations, and the Bill proposed to give very trenchant powers in order to enable bye-laws to be passed for the purpose of guarding these beds from intrusion and spoliation, and pains and penalties may be imposed. The second difficulty is one of money, and that we propose to meet by allowing a rate up to 1392 3d. in the £1 to be levied on the districts affected. The example of England comes in here. In England there is an extremely prosperous Fishery Board in Lancashire, which rates that great county, and from that rate they have not only been able to provide proper machinery, but have secured a steam launch which protects the fishery from interference. Besides, if we allow rates to be levied to enable agricultural tenants to obtain allotments, I think the fishing population should have some advantage out of the rates likewise. There are in the Bill certain clauses which relate to the finances of the Board. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has rather a strong opinion upon this matter; but before hon. Members condemn these clauses I should be glad if they would consider them from the point of view of the probable advantage to the Fishery Board. The proposal of the Bill is to give £20,000 a year from the Treasury and the brand fees. That, taking one year with another, will come to £26,000 a year. The average expenditure of the Fishery Board is £23,000 a year, and consequently this will be a gain of £3,000 a year to the Fishery Board. But that is not all, because, at the present time, when the money has not been expended in one year the balance is returned to the Treasury; but under the system embodied in the Bill any saving will go to the benefit of the Fishery Board.
§ *MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, &c.)
asked if the average expenditure included the grant for piers and harbours?
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
I will give the full figures. The average expenditure for the 12 years during which the Fishery Board has been running is £23,000 a year, including everything, harbours and superannuation allowances. The arrangement in the Bill will give £26,000, and during the last six years the average has been exactly the same. In order to enable the Fishery Board to start at once the Bill gives an extra £3,000 at the beginning of next year, so as to make up for the disadvantage they would other- 1393 wise have in waiting for the brand fees which are paid in September. That is the proposal made in the Bill. It is not the essential part of the Bill; but I must say I strongly recommend hon. Members to think twice and thrice before they reject it.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
asked the right hon. Gentleman to explain how he arrived at the average?—he meant the average of what was paid under the brand fees.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
The total expenditure, including the expenditure upon the brand fees, will be, roughly speaking, £23,000; the total receipts, £26,000 a year; therefore you will have £3,000 a year, on an average, more than is expended. Now that is the Bill, and I hope it will be acceptable to the House. The hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Anstruther) proposes to traverse the Bill with an Amendment, which I think likely he will not press to a Division. But it is an Amendment which I read with great interest. In it the hon. Gentleman says—That no Bill will be satisfactory to the fishermen on the coasts of Scotland which does not give effect to the recommendation of the Report of the Departmental Committee presented to Parliament in 1890, and to the Resolution of this House of 8th March, 1892, in relation to the granting of licences to fish for salmon in the unchartered territorial waters around the coasts of Scotland.Now, if hon. Members below the Gangway, who do not agree with us in general politics, and hon. Members opposite, will join in putting a stop to the antiquated and indefensible network of penalties and privileges which have gathered themselves round the question of Scotch salmon fishing in Scotch waters, all I can say is that they will not find us backward. These privileges are worthy rather of the Middle Ages than the 19th century, and in saying that I really think I libel the Middle Ages, because I am quite satisfied that in the Middle Ages the idea of giving the Crown the salmon was that it considered the Crown the Representative of the public, and the salmon were then given over to the Crown in order 1394 to preserve for the public at large a most valuable commodity of food; but the effect of the Crown rights at this moment is too often to play into the hands of individuals, and to support the very doubtful rights, in many cases, of individuals against what is the undoubted interest of the public at large. Now, for 25 years as a private member, I have been contending against this system; and at last, in this Parliament, we have got not only the public opinion of Scotland, but the public opinion of Parliament with us. If the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Anstruther) will embody in a clause in this Bill the recommendations of the Committee, I, for one, shall be very much pleased. What are the recommendations of the Committee? They are essentially two. They suggest that no further sales or long leases of Crown fishings, either in the sea or in the inland waters, should be made by the Commissioners, except under the special sanction of the Secretary for Scotland; and, secondly, that licences should be introduced by the Fishery Board or the District Fishery Board, by whom payment should be collected and the funds administered. Since I have been Secretary for Scotland I have thought it my duty to act in obedience to the recommendations of that Committee. I have got the sanction of the Treasury ever since last November that no more salmon fishing licences should be granted to individuals unless under the sanction of the Secretary for Scotland; and I have got the Treasury to issue orders to the Office of Woods and Forests to draw up a scheme for licences by which the general body of the fishermen and of the public may be enabled to fish for salmon. I must own that the wheels of the Woods and Forests move very slowly; and, though it is as long ago as November, I have never seen this scheme of licence. But one thing I can assure the House of, and that is that until I see that scheme, no sanction shall be given by the Secretary for Scotland to any lease of any salmon fishery to individuals. If any means can be found by which Scotsmen can obtain a privilege which Englishmen and, I believe, Irishmen have—that is, of catching salmon in the open sea round the coasts of Scotland without being bullied and worried, and 1395 very often deprived of the very salmon which they catch outside the territorial waters—I will give every assistance in my power to it. I have no fear whatever of a system of licences which would be managed under the auspices of these Fishery Committees. The great object for which I ask for the Bill a Second Reading is that we are constituting a powerful representative authority — popular in its sympathies, local in its knowledge, which will swiftly gather into its hands everything that pertains to that great industry which is so important for Scotland, and which has bred on her shores so courageous and hardy a population. That population will now have a powerful organisation, by which it can make its wants and grievances known, and can do its own business itself; and I have no fear whatever that the power which this Bill will place in the hands of the Scottish fishermen will ever be used for the injury of any individual, or for anything but the benefit of that great and honourable craft by which the Scottish fishermen themselves gain their livelihood.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir George Trevelyan.)
§ *MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said that, for his part, representing one of the largest and most important fishing constituencies in Scotland or in this country, he should like to say this much on the general character of the Bill—that he was sure that his constituency, as well as the other fishing constituencies of Scotland, would welcome the promptitude with which the right hon. Gentleman, and the Government of which he was a Member, brought in and pressed forward this important Bill. The Bill did what had long been desired by the fishing industry of Scotland. It placed the Fishery Board of Scotland on a popular basis, and gave proper public control over the bait beds of the country, and made other regulations for the better development of the fishing industry in Scotland. There were a great many points in the Bill to which he should have liked to refer; but they were more applicable to the discus- 1396 sion of the Bill in Committee. He would, therefore, deal only with one or two of the more important aspects of the Bill. The control of the mussel and bait beds was important, because it had been a great grievance to the fishing population round the coast that they had had no means of protecting these beds, and had had to get large supplies of foreign bait, for which they had to pay a high price. Therefore, they would welcome the proposal to bring under popular local control those bait beds. But what he particularly wished to direct attention to was the financial clause, and he wished to ask this question —was the future state of the finances of the Fishery Board, after the first financial year in which there were to be special arrangements, to be this: that the Board would receive £20,000 per annum, and the rest of its net revenue would be the surplus of the herring brand fees?
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
Its revenue will be the same in the future as it would have been in the past if this Bill had been in operation. It will receive £20,000 a year and the gross brand fees. That is about £26,000 a year. Its expenditure will be £23,000 a year, which will include all the expenditure on the brand fees, so that there will be a surplus of £3,000 a year.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that he was accurate, then, in his estimate. He would point out what the condition of the brand fees had been during recent years, and what the expense of collecting them was. The surplus in the Estimates for the present year was £1,126; in 1892–3 there was no surplus; in 1891–2 the surplus was £1,686; in 1889–90 there was no surplus; in 1888–9 the surplus was £1,620; in 1887–8 it was £2,100—so that for these six years the total amount which the Fishery Board derived in surplus from the brand fees was only £6,500, or an average of £1,093 a year.
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
My hon. Friend counts the expenditure twice over. The expenditure appears in the Estimates of the Fishery Board.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
said, he had shown that, in so far as its income depended on receipts from the brand fees, it was not a very substantial support to its revenue. He would like to say a word upon the policy of limiting the sums paid from the Imperial Treasury to the Scottish Fishery Board to a fixed sum. Every year there was a Vote to the Fishery Board, which varied according to the exigencies and necessities of the Board. He believed it was essential to the working and due development of a Board like this that it should be, like other administrative bodies in Great Britain, put upon this foundation; that when it had new urgent necessities it could come to the Treasury and get from Parliament a Vote of the sum of money it required. He considered that if they were going to have a system of Home Rule in Scotland, it would be all very well to have a fixed sum; but if there was no such scheme in contemplation, the Administrative Boards in Scotland had just as much right as the Administrative Boards elsewhere to come upon the Imperial Treasury for an adequate sum of money to satisfy their wants. The Fishery Board in Scotland had developed greatly its duties in the past, and was developing its duties now, and they looked forward to new duties being imposed upon it which would necessitate further expenditure. There had been a great development of the scientific side of the Fishery Board, and it was principally through the energy of Sir Lyon Playfair and others in that House that an addition was made to the sums granted to the Board for scientific purposes. Would anyone say they had reached the limit of the useful way in which they might expend money for scientific investigation in connection with fisheries? The progress recently had been very great, and the progress in the immediate future was likely to be greater still. The Fishery Board should not be tied down for all eternity to a fixed sum, so that it might not be able to look forward in the future to get more money from the Imperial Exchequer for the development of the fisheries. There had been constant complaint that the Board had never been able adequately to discharge its 1398 administrative and executive functions; and how was it likely to be able to discharge these functions better in the future if it was to be limited to a fixed sum of money? He maintained that the Board would have no margin, within the strict limitation laid down in the Bill, adequately to discharge all the cutter and boat services which were already in their hands. The small vessel which the Board now had for scientific purposes, and which had done admirable work, was, owing to the restricted funds at their disposal, too small for the discharge of the work they had to do, and the vessel was in such a state of unseaworthiness that it dared not proceed far out to sea. The Admiralty were naturally very unwilling to give them funds for the Police Service, which was not a very popular Service among the officers of Her Majesty's Navy. Therefore, what they got were not the most seaworthy ships in the Navy, but old vessels that were not of very much use. He was perfectly certain of this—that if they were to have the functions of the Board of Trade properly discharged they ought to give that Board a cutter service of their own. Steam trawling was forbidden in the territorial waters of Scotland; and how was that duty to be adequately carried out unless the Board was provided with a better service of ships? He would earnestly urge on his right hon. Friend that when the Government were imposing larger duties upon the Fishery Board, they should, at the same time, provide adequate means for carrying out the executive and administrative duties with which the Board were entrusted. This was essential if this new constitution of the Board was to lead to executive action, and if it was to such action it should have a due and fair trial.
§ *MR. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews, & c.)
said, the Secretary for Scotland could hardly suggest that the Amendment which he had put on the Paper was intended to delay the progress of this measure. On the contrary, his right hon. Friend must admit that he was justified in bringing this subject before the House by the fact that in his speech the right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that he would accept the principle of that Amendment. 1399 But he thought he had, nevertheless, been rather hardly treated by the right hon. Gentleman; because, although he said the Bill was founded on the Resolution of the 8th of March of last year, it was founded only on the original Motion of the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Marjoribanks), and the right hon. Gentleman had not adopted for the purposes of this Bill the words which, at his (Mr. Anstruther's) instance, were added by the House to the Resolution. He, however, hoped to have the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Berwickshire and the Department between this and the Committee stage in preparing the clauses necessary to give effect to the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. ANSTRUTHER
said, that, that being so, it would be needless to say that he would not now move the Amendment by which he had intended to ask the House to declare—That no Bill dealing with the regulation of the sea fisheries of Scotland will be satisfactory to the fishermen on the coasts of Scotland which does not give effect to the recommendation of the Report of the Departmental Committee presented to Parliament in 1890, and to the Resolution of this House of 8th March, 1892, in relation to the granting of licences to fish for salmon in the unchartered territorial waters around the coasts of Scotland.Certainly, for that part of the coast which he represented, no Bill would be wholly satisfactory which did not include such provisions. As to the Bill itself, the financial provision appeared to him to be far from adequate to the requirements of the case. The Fishery Board in their last Report dealt with the matter of harbours on the coast of Scotland; and, so far as he could gather from the measure, only £3,000, or at the most, £6,000, would be at the disposal of the Board for the purposes of harbour extension and repair. He wished emphatically to draw attention to the clause in the Report in which it was said, speaking of the amount available for harbours—We again take leave to say that the only proper way of dealing with this subject is to abandon the present hand-to-mouth system, and fix definitely a harbour extension all along the coast, to be carried on systematically for a series of years.1400 In these circumstances he would welcome the assistance of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire when, in Committee, he came to deal in greater detail with the finance of this measure. As to Clause 7, he saw it was proposed that every Fishery District Committee should have charge and supervision of the sea fishing interests and requirements of the district; and he would like to know whether that was held to include the subject of Marine Police, because if the District Committees were to take over from the Central Board the duty of making bye-laws and regulations for the fishing along the coasts, their office would be a thankless one indeed if they had no executive power by which to carry out their decrees. The last Report of the Board was of such importance that he would trouble the House with one more extract. In the last Report that Board had used these words—We continue to receive frequent complaints of the inefficiency of the service in preventing trawling within the prohibited waters, which, however, is due to no want of zeal on the part of the officers and men, but to the system under which it is conducted, the character of the vessels employed, and the small ness of their number.Again—We respectfully represent that at the present day the Vigilant, which is an old sailing vessel, is not worth the money which she costs to keep up, and she should be superseded.He hoped that on that occasion the subject would not be brought to the notice of the Government in vain. He had not a word to say against the carrying into effect of the principle of the Bill. But he did not believe there would be any very large change in the body which administered Scottish affairs. At any rate, as far as the county with which he was connected was concerned, he believed that the gentleman who was recently appointed as a member of that Board was eminently fitted to represent the interests of the fishermen of that coast; and, probably, if he were to place himself in nomination, he would be elected as a member of the Scottish Fishery Board. On the other hand, if the fishing population believed that their interests would be better safeguarded by the introduction of the representative principle into the appointment of the Board, he would not 1401 for a moment stand in its way. He would like to add that this principle could only be carried properly into effect if the Secretary for Scotland would consent, during the progress of the Bill through Committee, to a provision being made for the payment of the expenses of these representative members in attending the meetings of the Board, which must be held in Edinburgh. On the question of salmon fishing in the territorial waters, the right hon. Gentleman had forestalled him in his suggestions; but he wished to point out that such a change in the policy of the Commissioners of Woods and Forests would not, he believed, be detrimental to the revenue which they derived from the salmon fishing. Even if it should be detrimental, they would have the satisfaction of knowing that, even if they were losing a certain percentage of their annual revenue, they were, or would be from henceforth, administering the Crown's salmon fishing not in the interests of particular lessees, but in the interest of the whole population on the coast. He did not doubt that the statement of the Secretary for Scotland would be welcomed in Scotland.
MR. GRAHAM MURRAY (Buteshire)
said, there was every reason why they on his side should welcome the Bill, because it was very much on the lines of the measure introduced by the late Government last Session—a measure for the failure of which the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark) was responsible. So far as his (Mr. Graham Murray's) own opinion was concerned, he rather preferred, in one particular, the arrangement of this Bill—namely, that as to the number of the districts into which Scotland was divided for the purpose of having a representative element on the Board. But he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman had attempted to deal with this difficulty—that although for local initiation it was a good thing to have a considerable number of districts, at the same time, when they came to the composition of the Fishery Board itself, they had the danger that they would have the permanent element entirely at the mercy of the representative element from the various districts. He would 1402 like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could, at least, consider this difficulty? Some information was also wanted as to the way in which the District Committees would work. A question had recently been agitating and interesting the fishermen connected with the constituency he had the honour to represent and the constituency of the hon. Member for North Ayrshire. As the law at present stood, although trawling was prohibited as a rule in the three-mile limit, there was a power in the Fishery Board to pass a bye-law by which they might open a district. A bye-law was passed by the Fishery Board by which a very small and limited district of the waters of the Clyde was opened. That district had given the greatest dissatisfaction. What he wanted to know was, whether under the Bill a district Fishery Committee could or could not deal with the question of local bye-law? The Bill did not give much assistance upon the point. As to the question of finance, he entirely agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire. He also asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider the point raised by his hon. Friend as to the provision for sea police, without which the provisions in regard to trawling were a dead letter. At present there was a peculiar state of relations between the Fishery Board and the Admiralty; but it was quite certain, if the Fishery Board was cut adrift from a great Government Department, that the chance of getting efficient cruisers for sea police purposes was very small in the future. He would like to say a word upon the Amendment of his hon. Friend who had just sat down, and save the Secretary for Scotland from the indiscretion of his own language. The right hon. Gentleman said he considered the question of the pains and penalties of the Salmon Law Statutes a disgrace to the 19th century. To what did that language apply? There was no difference in the pains and penalties for taking salmon in the sea or in fresh water; but there was a very great difference between the question of property in salmon in rivers and in the sea. There was no use blinding one's eyes to the fact that of late years there had arisen in some quarters a demand for free fishing. ["Hear, hear!"] Some hon. Gen- 1403 tlemen cheered that sentiment. Did the denunciation of the right hon. Gentle-man apply to the law in salmon rivers as well as in the sea? Salmon fishing had always been regarded as private property in private waters, and was not differentiated in practice or principle from any other private property. But in the case of the sea the matter was in a totally different condition. It was in 1857 or 1858 when it was decided, what was before but a pious opinion, that salmon fishing on the coast round the United Kingdom belonged to the Crown. He had always thought it would be right for the Crown to give those rights of fishing in the sea to the public, and not to let them out at all. But here, again, some remarks of the right hon. Gentleman might be misinterpreted. He seemed to think it would be only fair to give that right to the public unrestrictedly. Immediately after the decision of the Commissioners in 1857 or 1858, there was initiated a policy by the Woods and Forests Department of giving out as many leases as they could. If, therefore, they were going to give the rights in regard to salmon in the sea, which he would be glad to see given, it would only be fair to give back the money which had been exacted from proprietors for a right which it was now desired to take away from them. Seeing the disposition and attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, it was his business to draft an Amendment to the Bill rather than to put it on the shoulders of his hon. Friend. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would follow the promptings of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, and be liberal in the matter of finance in favour of a class whom they all wished to see supported, and that he would, at the same time, take means to put on a proper footing this question of the sea police, as the ordinary protection of the law was inadequate, and that means would be taken to make the Bill a useful measure.
§ *SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
said, he wished to say a few words on this question as representing a large fishing constituency. He had been recently among them, and the fishing population had expressed themselves very favourably with regard to the general 1404 objects of the Bill, and especially as regards the representative character which had been introduced into the District Fishery Committees and the Fishery Board. There were certain points they wished brought to the notice of the House, and of those several had already been dealt with by hon. Members who had preceded him. He must state his concurrence in the views which had thus been expressed. There was one point which was to the fishermen a matter of life and death, and that was the improvement of the harbours on that exposed coast. The boats now used were a good deal larger than those formerly employed, and, consequently, harbour accommodation was altogether insufficient. The money ought not to be spent casually from year to year, but some good scheme should be adopted for the whole of the Moray Firth, to be pursued systematically from year to year. The feeling was very strong that the sum of £3,000 provided for harbours was altogether insufficient, and he earnestly trusted that the Secretary for Scotland would do his utmost to grant a really adequate sum for that purpose. The important question of the use pf the foreshore, had not been included in the Bill. He thought that District Committees ought to be empowered to call for the titles of those proprietors who claimed the exclusive use of the foreshore. Under an old Statute the fishermen had a right to the use of the foreshore including 100 yards of waste above highwater mark, for drying their nets and other purposes; and the Fishery District Committees should have power, as in the case of musselbanks, to acquire and manage the foreshore for the benefit of the fishing industry. A minor point had been brought to his notice with regard to the collection of the Fishery Rate. The Bill provided that the District Committees should collect it; but it was thought that that would cause unnecessary expense. It might be collected through the machinery of the County Council. He trusted that the Secretary for Scotland would undertake to prepare clauses dealing with the question of the taking of salmon in territorial waters, as had been suggested 1405 by the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Anstruther).
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, the hon. and learned Member for Buteshire (Mr. Graham Murray) had stated that there was no material difference between the present Bill and the measure introduced by the late Government. There was, however, all the difference that there was between black and white. Last year's Bill specially subordinated the representative to the nominated element, whilst this was a measure which subordinated the nominated to the representative element. The way in which woods and forests had been dealt with in Scotland was most scandalous. They had been controlled by Englishmen, who had sold them, generally to Scotchmen, for a most inadequate consideration, and put the proceeds into the Imperial Exchequer. A very important question with regard to nuance was raised by the Bill, and he would humbly represent to the Scottish Secretary (Sir G. Trevelyan) that he should drop the rating provisions contained in Sub-section 3 of Clause 6; otherwise districts would be included for rating purposes which had no visible or apparent connection with the fishermen, and naturally the inhabitants would object to be rated for a particular object which did not benefit them. He thought that the expense should come out of the Imperial Grant. In Committee he intended to move an Amendment to Clause 20, providing that Scotland should have "not less than" £20,000. The sum was too small in itself, and it was ridiculously small in view of the general treatment of Scotland by the Imperial Exchequer. Scotland paid £ 1,500,000 a year more than her proper share to the Imperial Exchequer, and he regretted very much that the Prime Minister had not re-appointed the Financial Committee, so that the House might have had a definite statement from it on the subject. If Scotland were to get, not £20,000, but £200,000 or £1,000,000, she would still not be receiving her fair share; and, while Scotchmen did not desire liberality or generosity, they certainly asked for justice.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
said, he was very much interested in the fishermen in the Firth of Clyde. In years past he was concerned in procuring the passing of the Act of 1889 for the restriction of trawl fishing in that and other enclosed waters of Scotland, whereby the herring fishery was being destroyed. That Act was of enormous importance to the class of fishermen to whom he referred; but there had been invented a new kind of seine trawl fishing which had been attended with evils not much smaller than those which had been caused by beam and otter trawling, and great complaints had been made in consequence of a considerable destruction of the spawning beds in the Firth of Clyde. It was perfectly well known that miniature herrings were being destroyed to a tremendous extent and used for manure, while the shoals which resorted to certain banks for spawning were being driven into deep water, the result being great loss to the local fishermen. Of late years the catch had fallen off to nearly half its former amount. He would, in Committee, move the insertion of a clause dealing with the subject.
§ MR. WASON (Ayrshire, S.)
said, there was great complaint in reference to the matter to which the right hon. Gentleman had just referred, and if the right hon. Gentleman had not given Notice of an Amendment he (Mr. Wason) would have done so himself. There was another matter of almost equal importance, and that was to see that, the orders and bye-laws of the Fishery Board were properly carried out. Within the last few days he had received a telegram, informing him that great damage had been done by steam-trawlers fishing in forbidden waters of the Clyde. He hoped the Admiralty would station a proper vessel somewhere in the Firth to see that proper effect was given to the bye-laws. In reference to bait fishing, it was not generally known that it took a ton of bait to catch a ton of fish, and the fishermen were being driven further afield every day to got their bait. As 1407 to the proposed grant of £3,000 towards harbours, he had in his hand a letter requesting him to ask the Scotch Secretary for a grant of £2,000 for providing a proper harbour for one place alone. Under these circumstances, he hoped that more generous terms would be given on this point.
§ MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N. E.)
said, that, as he was one of the two surviving Members of the Departmental Committee that reported on the question of salmon fishing at sea, he thought he might be permitted to take part in the discussion. It was hardly just to the Secretary for Scotland to complain that, although a Resolution of the House had been passed in favour of giving licences for salmon fishing at sea, those clauses had not been incorporated in the Bill. There had been a series of legislative enactments about sea fisheries in Scotland. Hitherto salmon had been excluded from them, and he thought it would have been a mistake if the Government in the original draft of the Bill had incorporated salmon, which had never been incorporated before, and which might become a contentious subject. He was glad to gather that there was a general feeling in the House in favour of greater liberty being given for salmon fishing at sea. He was sure that the House, as a whole, must regard it as a very strange anomaly that, whereas in England the right to catch salmon at sea under proper restrictions, which were prompted by the desire to preserve the fish, was a public right, in Scotland it was regarded as a private right, and was made a matter of bargain and sale on the part of the Crown. He did not think the late Solicitor General (Mr. Graham Murray) did perfect justice to the views of the Government when he suggested that it was contemplated that the rights of existing trustees should be confiscated. He thought this was a matter of the greatest importance. This legislation was not more than a generation old. They had examined a number of witnesses, who had said that when they were young they used to catch salmon 1408 without let or hindrance, and that this legislation suddenly burst upon them. The fishermen felt—and the feeling would increase—that they had every right to go into the open sea and catch salmon. As to the subject of sea police, like many other Members from Scotland, from time to time he had had occasion to take considerable interest in the business of the Fishery Board; and he did represent to the House—and on this point he fully agreed with the hon. Member below him—that it was an idle thing to lay a duty on the Board in the matter of police for the preservation of fish without providing them with funds for the purpose. It was not right that the Scotch Office and the Fishery Board should have to go cap in hand to the Treasury and ask for a few pounds to perform a statutory duty that was laid on them by the Legislature. He hoped that the law would be amended so as to give adequate means to the Fishery Board for performing this duty.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL (Wigton)
said, he had not been privileged to hear the speech of the Secretary for Scotland; but he understood that effect was to be given to the substance of the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Anstruther). He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether that was a wise course to take, because they must remember that it was not only through that House that the Bill had to pass, and that directly they proposed salmon legislation they would raise a mass of opposition and criticism in Scotland which the Bill in its present form was not likely to evoke. There was another point in connection with this matter. He was anxious that the House should not misunderstand the Report of the Committee over which he had presided. That Report did not refer to the salmon fisheries generally in territorial waters round the coast of Scotland. It only referred to the portion of them which were still Crown property. In that portion of the waters the Committee did recommend that popular privileges, and what had almost amounted to ancient rights, should be restored, and that rather than the Crown should take the last 1409 bawbee, as they said in Scotland, in the shape of rent, the men should be considered. If the right hon. Gentleman was wise in extending the scope of the Bill so as to include the administration of the salmon fisheries, he trusted that that suggestion of his Committee would be kept clearly in view.
§ *SIR G. TREVELYAN
I hope that, the general sense of the House having now been made clear, we may be allowed to take the Second Reading.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider very carefully before the Committee stage that part of the Bill which affected the Civil servants of the Crown now under the Treasury doing the work of the Fishery Board. The men, clerks of all grades and officers of all ranks, were part of the permanent Civil Service of the Crown, and subject to the control of the Treasury, enjoying all the rights, privileges, and prospects of such servants. But this Bill took them from the control of the Treasury and put them under the Fishery Board, and they considered that this was a distinct breach of the contract which was made with them when they entered the service of the Government. All he now asked was that their case should be carefully considered.
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he hoped to see the Bill considerably amended in Committee. It was said by a right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House that if the salmon rights were to be taken from the landlords they should be recouped. He (Mr. Weir) thought they had been amply repaid already. Take, for instance, the case of the Matheson's in the Island of Lewis. For every £100 they expended in obtaining the exclusive right to salmon, not only in the Lochs, but for miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, they received thousands of pounds in return; re-letting the salmon fishings, which ought never to have been jobbed away by the Crown. He protested against the niggardly spirit 1410 displayed by the Treasury in the matter of harbour accommodation in Scotland.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.