§ On the Vote of £7,000, to complete the sum for Secretary for Scotland's Office,
§ MR. J. F. WHITE (Forfar)
said, he should not trouble the Committee by going into the details of the Vote, but the question of education was not a Party one. The vast majority of the people in Scotland were anxious that there should only be one Committee to administer the grant; that there should be one Board for elementary education and one Board for higher education. A resolution had been unanimously passed that there should be greater unity 919 of action, and the Association had already drafted a Bill. He thought the Secretary for Scotland might do something as to the distribution of this grant. It was necessary that there should be legislation on the subject; they were informed that the falling-off which had taken place was due to the fact that considerable payments had to be made on the ground of pleuro-pneumonia. It was said that the figure was £10,000, but this was owing to the haphazard way in which things were done, and he hoped the Secretary for Scotland next Session would bring in a Bill which would make permanent provision for technical education. Now, the administration of secondary and technical education had been greatly injured by their having separate committees. In England, education was under the Vice President of the Council, but in Scotland it was not so. He had the honour to head a deputation to the late Secretary for Scotland, and he promised that he would consider the question of uniting the two departments, and also having a Board of Agriculture dealing with agricultural matters. He ventured now to ask whether anything had been done? Some little progress was made in the negotiations, but there was nothing further. What they wanted in Scotland was some relation between these bodies—some educational council for Scotland, whether presided over by the Secretary for Scotland or the Lord Advocate, or someone else. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider this matter favourably in the Recess?
§ * MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said, that during the past year a Departmental Committee was appointed to deal with the question of juvenile offenders. It presented its Report three months ago, and he hoped they would get an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Scotch Office, that they would take up the Report of that Committee, and introduce as early as possible next Session legislation on 920 the lines of the recommendations of the Committee. A Bill was introduced in the House of Lords, he thought by the Lord Chancellor, which did include some of the recommendations in this Report. Many in Scotland had in recent years suffered by the method of legislation adopted. Instead of having separate Bills for Scotland, they had Bills dealing with the whole of Great Britain, Scotland being tacked on at the end. This made it more difficult to understand the law for Scotland. There was another subject on which he desired to put a question. Certain papers were handed to him as he came in that afternoon, on behalf of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen City, who was unable, in consequence of the state of his health, to be present. The Lord Advocate would probably not be able to give a full reply at present, but perhaps he would consider the question. Certain regulations with regard to the police, issued by the Secretary for Scotland (Lord Lothian) in 1890, had not it was said been carried out to the letter in certain counties in Scotland, particularly the rules with regard to the age at which appointments to the higher posts were made. He would put the Lord Advocate in possession of the papers, in order that he might examine whether there was any foundation for the suggestion, and be able to give a satisfactory answer on a future day. In conclusion, he thought it might be said, with regard to the new Secretary for Scotland—and those who knew Lord Balfour of Burleigh as he did would recognise in him one who was thoroughly acquainted with Scotch affairs, who had lived in Scotland a great deal and who had presided over many local bodies—the only possible objection to his appointment was that he was not and never had been a Member of the House of Commons. They knew that he was a strong politician, and though he was opposed to many of them they were perfectly satisfied that, as regards 921 all subjects into which Party considerations did not enter, he would give a dispassionate and an intelligent consideration to any matters submitted to him.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he greatly regretted that the Secretary for Scotland was not in the House of Commons. He ought to be there. There ought to be no buffer between him and the House, and he had seriously thought of moving to reduce the noble Lord's salary on the ground that he was not in a position to meet hon. Members face to face and deal personally with the questions which they raised. He asked the Lord Advocate to impress upon the Secretary for Scotland the desirability of visiting the Highlands. The Scotch Office was very ignorant of Highland affairs. The authorities appeared to him always to stop at Inverness, though that was really where they ought to begin. He hoped that both the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord Advocate would seek to make themselves fully acqainted with the Highlands. He wished to draw attention to the fact that it was extremely difficult to get any satisfactory information from the Scotch Office. He had occasion to inquire, on the 13th of March this year, regarding an eviction on Black Isle. The Secretary for Scotland replied that the man owed four years' rent, though he held the receipts in his hand and invited the Secretary for Scotland to inspect them. To make matters worse he was told this man's behaviour to his own family had been extremely bad, and that he deserved no special consideration. During the General Election he made special inquiries, and found that these statements were absolutely inaccurate, and it was extremely unfair that this poor man should be maligned in this manner. It appeared to be the practice of the Scotch Office to take their information from landlords, who were a bad set, Highland factors, another bad set, and sheriffs. He desired to complain of the practice, of allowing procurators-fiscal to act as landlords' agents or factors. The late Secretary for Scotland expressed his disapprobation of such a practice but it still prevailed, and he hoped steps would be taken to 922 stop it. Referring to the salaries paid in the office of the Secretary for Scotland, he said everyone appeared to be ground down with the exception of the Lord Advocate, and he had to do another man's work in addition to his own for his £5,000.
§ MR. WEIR
said his complaint was of the excessive amount of work which the Lord Advocate had to do in consequence of the Secretary for Scotland being in another place. He did not want to see the Lord Advocate break down in health in consequence of his arduous duties. Referring to the post of Inspector of Constabulary, he said he could not understand why military men should be pitchforked into such offices over the heads of members of the police force. He asked for an explanation with regard to the £250 for travelling expenses included in the Vote for the Inspector of Constabulary. He would like to know whether the office of this gentleman was in Edinburgh, where it ought to be, or 300 or 400 miles away from Edinburgh, up in Ross-shire, where it ought not to be. A very great deal of this gentleman's time appeared to be spent in Ross-shire. He was paid a large salary in order that he might go up and down the country to keep matters straight, and not to spend his time in his charming home in Ross-shire. He hoped the Lord Advocate would be able to give him such information on the points he had raised as would obviate the necessity for his moving a reduction of the Vote.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Sir C. PEARSON,) Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities
said, he was much gratified to know how concerned the hon. Gentleman was for his personal health as affected by the duties he had to discharge. Many of the points the hon. Gentleman had raised, however, were matters which had already been determined and could not be considered on this Vote. With regard to the complaint of the inaccuracy of the information of the Scotch Office, he must remind the hon. Gentleman that every public office was open to receive information from anyone who was ready to supply 923 it, and information would be as welcome at Dover House as in any other public Department. He could not conceive it possible that the late Secretary for Scotland wilfully closed his eyes to the light the hon. Gentleman might have desired to shed upon Scotch affairs. At any rate, he did not think that the hon. Gentleman would have cause to be dissatisfied in future with the accuracy of the information of the Scotch Office. With reference to the topic last touched upon by the hon. Gentleman, there was no such office as Chief Constable in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman must have been thinking of the office of Inspector of Constabulary. That was an office which entailed utterly different qualifications to those possessed by a man who had passed through the force, however high the position to which he had attained, and there was no hardship, in his view, in conferring the office on a person who had not passed through the force. He did not contend that it ought always to be confined to military men, but it did seem to him that, under the present short service system, it was desirable to employ military officers in posts of that kind. With regard to the length of the residence of the present holder of the office in Ross-shire, he did not know whether it was due to the necessity of paying special attention to the police force in that part of Scotland, or to a desire to enjoy the beauties of the country. As to the amount paid for travelling expenses, he would point out that his expenses were not handed over to this officer in bulk, but were regulated by an account sent in by him. Then the hon. Member had referred to an eviction which took place in the spring. He did not think the hon. Gentleman had brought that matter under the cognizance of the Scotch Office. Certainly it had not been brought to his own notice. Had it been, he would have given the hon. Gentleman all the information upon it he could. The only other point the hon. Member referred to was the position of the procurators fiscal. It was true that in some cases——
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
Yes, Sir; that is so, under the next head. He 924 would now pass for a moment to what had been said by the hon. Member for Aberdeen with reference to the Report of the Departmental Committee on habitual offenders which had been submitted to Parliament. That was, no doubt, a question in which a great deal of interest was taken, not merely with regard to inebriates but to all classes of habitual offenders. He was not in a position to say anything as to any possible projects for legislation on the subject, but he could promise that the report of that Committee would receive very careful consideration. It was quite possible that the Scotch people might be willing to submit themselves to legislative restrictions in their personal freedom for which other parts of the kingdon were not yet ripe; and he would leave the question by saying that he entirely concurred in what had been said as to the desirability of treating Scotland separately in such matters; and, no doubt, great inconvenience had been caused by the fact that some Acts of Parliament had been made applicable to Scotland, as it were, by an afterthought. One other topic raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen was the infringement or failure to observe the police regulations issued from the office of the Secretary for Scotland. He had not heard that any complaints had recently reached the Office, but he invited the hon. Gentleman to fulfil the undertaking he had given to supply the Office with information on the subject, and he would promise him that it should receive careful and sympathetic attention. He for one did not see the use of regulations of that sort if they were not observed. He now came to the speech of the hon. Member for Forfar, who introduced the question of technical education. That question rested, to a large extent, on statutes. It was apparent, from the question the hon. Member put to him the other day, that his main purpose was to look after, as was natural, the interests of agriculture. It must be remembered, and he thought the hon. Member had lost sight of that, that the money in question was not devoted by statute to purposes of technical education. There was an option left to the local bodies as to how they should apply it, and one of the complaints of the hon. Member was that the local bodies did not do 925 what he wanted them to do. He for one should look with favour upon any practicable proposal for the simplification of the administration of educational grants. With regard to the desirability of having the amounts of the grant fixed, and so protected against fluctuation, he was in sympathy with what had been said, because the action of local bodies from year to year could not be the same when the grants fluctuated seriously. He promised that the subject should receive the careful consideration of the Secretary for Scotland. The question of central amalgamation which had been adverted to was also one respecting which he could express a very favourable opinion. It was in some respects to be regretted that the body which administered Scotch education was not also the body interested in the administration of the grants from the Department and the grants from the Board of Agriculture. The matter might or might not require legislation. It was being considered with a view to ascertaining what would be the simplest mode of effecting the transference that would become necessary should the conclusion be arrived at that it was advisable and proper that a change should be made.
§ MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)
said, that no doubt there was no one in the other House more conversant with Scotch affairs than Lord Balfour of Burleigh. He protested, however, against the choice of a Peer as Minister for Scotland. The result was very inconvenient. Lord Advocates, in consequence, perhaps, of their legal training, and other circumstances, were seldom in such touch with the views of the public at large as to be capable of dealing with political matters from a broad point of view. It was, therefore, very desirable that they should have in that House a Secretary for Scotland who was in touch with the people. In consequence of the selection of a Member of the other House for this office there arose a very awkward circumstance.
In my opinion, this discussion is really out of order. All that Members are entitled to do upon the Votes for the Secretary for Scotland and his office is to criticise any official act of his. His position in the other House cannot be discussed 926 on this Vote. I do not say it cannot be discussed in this House, but this is not the proper time for discussing it.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said, that when Lord Lothian was Secretary for Scotland, a discussion of this kind was raised on the Vote before the Committee. One objection taken then was that Lord Lothian was not in the Cabinet. He should not pursue the subject further. He thought he had already sufficiently indicated what inconvenience was caused by the fact that the Secretary for Scotland sat in the other House. He wished to impress upon that official that he ought to take steps to keep sheriffs-substitute within bounds in their criticism of Acts of Parliament. Last Session an Act entitled "Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act" was passed with the approval of both Parties. A sheriff-substitute, who had been called upon to administer that law, had said that, in his opinion, the Act was unnecessary and would not accomplish any good purpose; that it would add materially to the expenses of the country; would cast upon the officials a large amount of extra work, and would cause much inconvenience to jurors. The Secretary for Scotland could exercise a certain amount of supervision over these sheriffs-substitute.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said, that the Secretary for Scotland could not exercise such supervision as the hon. Member supposed. That being the case, was the hon. Member in order?
If the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Graham Murray) is correct, and I must presume it is, the position of sheriffs-substitute and their acts cannot be discussed on this Vote.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said, that there were other matters to which he wished to call attention. Why was not the amount set down for estimated travelling expenses smaller? Last year the amount spent was less by £250 than the sum originally asked for. Why had no attention been paid to that increase this year? The same amount was asked for, and, in his opinion, it seemed strange to ask for £250 more than experience had shown to be required. Some explanation ought to be given. Of course, 927 if there was good reason to believe that there would be greater expenditure this year than in preceding years, that would be a complete justification for the demand that was now made. The same criticism applied to the item for special inquiries. Much more was being asked for than was found to be necessary last year. Unless there was some special reason for anticipating an increase of expenditure under this head, the Treasury ought to be contented with the sum which experience showed to have been sufficient hitherto. If more money was granted under these heads than was really required, the surplus was appropriated to other items in the accounts, and this ought to be avoided, if possible.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
pointed out that the hon. Member was not accurate when he said that the Scotch Office could appropriate any excess to other items of the account. Any excess would go to the Treasury balances, and it could only be applied to other items by the consent of the Treasury. It did not appear that there had been any such application in the past year, and therefore the hon. Member's remarks lacked substance. It was necessary in these Votes to provide for fluctuating expenses; to provide enough to cover both the average expenditure and contingent increments. It was not desirable to present supplementary Estimates when, by a little forethought, it could be prevented. The figures to which the hon. Member had drawn attention were revised each year, and were fixed, as far as possible, in accordance with the average expenditure. But, as he had said, provision must be made for contingencies. It was impossible to foresee with certainty what inquiries might have to be made in the course of a year by the Scotch Department—inquiries, for example, into the progress of harbour works, in which subject some hon. Gentlemen opposite had shown so much interest.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
called attention to the threatened destruction of the Falls of Foyers, and asked the Lord Advocate what steps, if any, the Government had taken in order to preserve in their natural magnificence one of the finest waterfalls in the United Kingdom. He was aware that the reply of the late Secretary for 928 Scotland was that he had no power to interfere, the County Council of Inverness being the body which, after all, was responsible; but, in view of the close communication between the Scotch Office and the County Councils, he submitted that it would not be outside the administrative powers of the Scotch Office if they made some representation to the County Council on the subject. The present Government were showing their interest in the Highlands by a measure they were bringing forward at the present time, but it was no use offering Government guarantees if they were not going to prevent the destruction of the beautiful scenery of the country. Could not the right hon. Gentleman, in consultation with the Secretary for Scotland, do something to satisfy the strong public opinion which had been expressed in regard to this matter? He was informed that a considerable change of opinion had taken place in the last few months, many men who formerly supported the operations of the Company being now desirous of putting an end to them. He was informed that an influential Member of the present Government was a director of the Company. If that was not the case, it would be well if an official denial were given to the statement.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, the hon. Member proposed to cast a considerable additional burden upon the Secretary for Scotland and himself. Parliament had not seen fit to place the natural scenery of Scotland under the protection of the Scotch Office, and, apart from that, the Falls of Foyers were a case of private property, tempered only by the fact that certain rights were vested in the representative local body. That was the situation; and there was absolutely no power on the part of the Scotch Office to interfere short of legislation. There was, however, another aspect of the question than that to which the hon. Member had adverted, and that was the industrial aspect. He knew the Falls of Foyers very well, and he had further made himself acquainted with the papers in the Scotch Office relating to the proposed utilisation of the waterfalls. He would further look into the matter in conjunction with the Secretary for Scotland, but it must be understood that he should have regard, 929 not only to the general interest of preserving intact such a notable feature of the scenery of Scotland, but also the industrial aspect of it, and its bearing upon the employment of the people in the neighbourhood.
§ MR. DALZIEL,
with regard to the labour aspect of the question, said, that he was informed there would not be more than 100 people employed, of whom not one-sixth would belong to the locality. If legislation was necessary he believed that, even at this period of the Session, a Bill would be passed without the slightest opposition.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
regretted very much they had not the Secretary for Scotland here. Some of them fought this question 10 years ago, but were defeated, and since then both the late and the present Government had appointed Peers to the office.
Order, order! I have already called the right hon. Gentleman to order in referring to that point; it is distinctly out of order on this Vote.
That is one thing; his position in another place is another thing. The former can be discussed, the second cannot.
§ DR. CLARK
I am not discussing his position in another place. I am discussing his position in this place. However, I have merely incidentally alluded to the point, and do not wish to pursue it. There was one item he wished information about, and that was the private secretary to the Secretary for Scotland. The late Secretary went to the War Office and took one of the senior clerks there, and employed him as his private secretary. This gentleman would have £600 or £700 a year from the War Office, and to take him away from his proper work and to give him an additional £300 a year as private secretary to the Scottish Secretary, he protested, was a very wrong and objectionable thing to do. Who was the present secretary?
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
He is quite a different gentleman. The present Secretary has taken over the private secretary to the Permanent Under Secretary for Scotland.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR
Then I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire. I object to these gentlemen holding dual offices.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
wished to say a word with respect to the keen feeling which existed in Scotland as to the projected destruction of one of the most beautiful scenic ornaments of the country, he meant the Falls of Foyers.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not in the House a short time ago when that question was discussed, and the Lord Advocate replied.
After the right hon. Gentleman's explanation I must rule all further discussion on that subject out of order.
§ MR. WALLACE
said, he should like to press on the Lord Advocate to do all he could, officially or otherwise.
In consequence of the absence of the hon. Gentleman, he probably did not hear the answer of the Lord Advocate.
§ MR. WALLACE
said, that of course if the Lord Advocate had stated that he would do all in his power it would be impertinent for him to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the existence of a national feeling of which he must be aware as well as he, and he was perfectly sure, with regard to the circumstances with which it originated, the right hon. Gentleman appreciated the disaster which would ensue to the highest and noblest national interests of their governed country if this calamity were allowed to overtake it, merely for the sake of a commercial profit which could be secured otherwise as fully as in the way now projected.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vole of £14,341, to complete the sum for salaries and expenses of the Fishery Board in Scotland, and grants in aid of piers and quays,
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he did not object to this Vote in the 931 slightest degree, but on the contrary, he acknowledged with thankfulness that the Scotch Fishery Board were doing admirable work for the fisheries of the country generally. He felt it was quite justifiable for an English Member to intervene for a moment, because it was impossible to localise the question of fishing. Scotch fishermen came and fished in English waters, and English fishermen fished in Scotch waters. He acknowledged at once that the scientific work—for which a grant of only £1,800 was provided—had been most excellently done by the Scotch Fishery Board. In fact that which was most useful for their guidance, and which told them the best means of preserving their fisheries from depletion, was really due to the admirable works and reports published by the Scotch Fishery Board, and by the Lancashire Sea Fisheries District Committee, and perhaps one other similar body. Both from the point of view of occupying a large number of people, and of providing most wholesome diet and food, as well as for recruiting the Navy, he thought their fisheries were entitled to be encouraged in every possible way. That was especially so, when they remembered that the statistics—which he believed were dealt with more carefully in Scotland than in England—showed conclusively to his mind that while the catching power had been vastly increased, the catch remained very nearly stationary. That all pointed to what was a matter of great national concern, namely, that unless they in England, did take some steps, as had been done for Scotland, and as other nations had done, they would run a grave risk of over-fishing their seas to an extent which would prevent their being as productive as they might be. The work of the National Sea Fisheries' Association, and the Reports of the Scotch Fishery Board, had shown that wherever they had shoal waters those were the breeding places and nurseries for fish, and one of the difficulties they had to deal with in protecting these nurseries, was that they could only be protected within the territorial limit of three miles. There were many such isolated places in the open ocean, and many such nurseries and hatcheries of fish which extended far beyond the three-mile limit. One of the things 932 they had to do to preserve their fisheries was to protect them from depletion by these breeding grounds and nurseries being fished for immature fish by trawlers and others, who undoubtedly made great inroads on the fish in this way. The sea fishers of the United Kingdom had at any rate shown that they did not want to take everything to-day, and leave nothing for to-morrow, and they realised as strongly as anybody the necessity of some wider regulations and restrictions in preventing the catching of under-sized fish. He was afraid, the other day, when the question of the Foreign Office Estimate was before them, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs was scarcely alive to the vast importance of making conventions with foreign nations in order to achieve this object, namely, to enable us to protect the extra-territorial portion of the ocean, and prevent foreigners coming within the proposed extended territorial limits to catch fish while our own fishermen might be excluded. It was by conventions with foreign nations that they could best and most effectually protect the harvest of the sea. Other nations had shown themselves more advanced on this subject, by legislation prohibiting the capture of under-sized fish in territorial waters, e.g., Holland, Denmark, Germany, and France. What they ought to do was to protect their seas against being over-fished, and, as Canada and some of their Colonies had done with the best advantage, take some artificial means of replenishing the seas at the same time, so as to continue the product of the sea. With regard to the administration of the Scotch Fishery Department, he thought there was one disparity which might be remarked upon. He would add here that there were too many disparities between the higher and lower offices in their service. The higher offices were generally well paid—much too highly in some cases—and in the lower, as compared with the higher offices, there was too great a difference between the remuneration. The Chairman of the Scotch Fishery Board had a salary of £800 a year. He knew that in the case of the former occupant of that Board it was alleged that he had not those special and expert qualifications which were almost essential in one 933 filling such a position. He did not know whether the present occupant—a former Member of that House—had more experience, but he would press that this was a question which should be dealt with from a higher scientific standpoint. He found, on the other hand, that the practical men, like the General Inspector of Fisheries, received only £300 a year, and the Secretary £400. That seemed to him a disparity which ought, if possible, to be remedied. The salary of the Inspector, who required special qualifications, might at any rate be increased, and for the mere nominal duties of presiding over meetings, and generally administering the affairs of the department, he thought the chairmanship might be well paid with a less sum. In the Scotch Fishery Bill of last Session, he believed there was a clause inserted to enable the subject to be dealt with by some reconstruction, and if that was intended, he hoped some attempt would be made to consider whether the scientific portion of the department might not be more amply paid and some reduction made, if not with reference to the present occupant, at some future time, in the salary attaching to the chairmanship of the Board. He again bore testimony to the value of the work done by the Scotch Fishery Board, and hoped the results achieved would lead to the establishment of a similar Board for England to do that general scientific and practical work, which at present was done by only one or two Fishery Committees, notably by Lancashire, and which ought to be done on a larger and more general scale. They were indebted to the Scotch Fishery Board for much scientific and practical knowledge which could not fail to be of great advantage to their Fishery Committees. The Government ought also to act without delay upon the Report of the Sea Fisheries Committee, by legislation, and conventions to prevent the destruction, of immature and under-sized flat fish.
§ * MR. BUCHANAN
remarked that the Fishery Bill of last Session to which the hon. Member had referred, while proposing to bring about a reconstitution of the Fishery Board left the chairmanship as it was before. The hon. Gentleman was in error in describing the duties of the chairman as merely nominal. The whole of the executive duties of the 934 Board fell upon him, and he had to devote the whole of his time to their discharge. The present chairman was a gentleman who was eminently qualified to deal with the many administrative duties he was called upon to perform. He joined his hon. Friend in what he took to be a general complaint with regard to fishery matters. He thought they had grounds for complaining that the late Government were not able to, and that the present Government had not taken any steps to, carry out any of the substantial recommendations of Lord Tweedmouth's Committee. One of the recommendations of that Committee was that a separate Fishery Board should be established for England. He need not say much as to the £3,000 grant for harbours. So far from that being an excessive grant, it was hardly an adequate grant for the purpose for which it was wanted, viz., the building of fishery harbours on the coast of Scotland. He would like to urge on the Government the necessity of taking early steps to endeavour to bring about among the maritime Powers round the North Sea some international agreement for the protection of fisheries in that sea. The 1882 Convention was satisfactory at the time it was brought about, but it was brought about only after a good deal of negotiation and after the lapse of a considerable number of years. Fisheries had since developed in various ways and none more so than those of the North Sea. He thought it was urgently necessary that the Government should endeavour to carry out the recommendations made by Lord Tweedmouth's Committee, that steps should be taken to summon the various Powers on the North Sea so that they might agree on certain international arrangements. They wanted better international protection against the catching of undersized fish. There was another point, namely, with regard to the regulations and further prohibition of trawling. That was a grievance not only in England and Scotland but in all the fishing communities in western Europe, and there was not a single nation in western Europe that had not made regulations and passed legislation with regard to this subject. Norway and Sweden had already extended their territorial limits for fishing purposes; 935 Spain and Portugal had, and France in some parts had done the same, and the Select Committee of 1893 recommended that this country should have the power also to extend the territorial limit. They had a special claim upon the Governments because it was the present Prime Minister who got an Amendment introduced into the Fishery Bill of last year in the House of Lords to the effect that the proposed extension of the territorial limit should not come into operation until an international agreement had been arrived at. When the Prime Minister introduced a limiting amendment of that sort they had fair ground for calling on him at the earliest date to enter into negotiations with the North Sea Powers to bring about that which he recognised as a desirable object. There was another point he wished to refer to, namely, that they might pass what good legislation they pleased, but it was not of much use if it was not properly administered and there was not an efficient body to administer it. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to the better provision of sea police on the coast of Scotland, and particularly on the east coast, the Lord Advocate gave him rather an unsatisfactory answer to a question he put to him. Instead of the right hon. Gentleman telling him what he was going to do, he only told him what the late Government had not done. They never professed to be content with the neglect of duty of the late Government in this respect. The Jackal was told off for duty on the Moray Firth, and there were certain other vessels told off for duty on the north and west coasts, but there were not nearly enough vessels on those coasts, and there were none on the east coast. The Admiralty had during the past year or two certainly shown a greater willingness to accede to their demands and they had on certain occasions sent better vessels for the protection of the fishing interests. But they wanted a regular supply of good fast vessels that would make the system of sea police an active and permanent reality. ["Hear, hear!"] It was almost impossible for them to continually bring before this House the constant infringement of the regulations of the Fishery Board, and he did not think that that 936 was a duty which ought to be imposed on them. They looked to the Government to do something in this respect and to give them a more efficient marine police than they had had in the past. A further point he desired to bring before the Government was that though the Fishery Board had by no means too much money for the discharge of its duties, it had to spend a sum of £1,000 a year and might be obliged to spend upwards of £ 1,500 a year in the payment of guarantees for telegraphic and postal stations in the Highlands of Scotland. He thought that was irrational and unfair. It was irrational to make one Department of the State expend money for another Department, and it was unfair that while the Post Office took the profits of the large fishing stations, the maintenance of these smaller and less profitable stations should be imposed on the limited resources of the Fishery Board. He observed that during the General Election a Cabinet Minister stated that one of the administrative reforms of the Government was that they would do something to do away with the restrictions upon the extension of the postal and telegraphic facilities in the remote districts of the country. If the Government did that they would do very good work indeed. It was a perfectly indefensible anomaly that £1,000 a year should be paid for the purpose he referred to, and he looked forward to the present Government removing it at the earliest possible date.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
desired to express his general agreement with what had fallen from the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, to whom they were much indebted for having brought in a Bill which enabled the Fishery Board to make better use of the Parliamentery Grant than they made before. The only point on which he wished to express a little disagreement with the hon. Gentleman was with regard to the class of vessels which he thought should be used for the purpose of sea police. His hon. Friend referred with approval to the ships of the Royal Navy but he (Sir W. Wedderburn) thought the duty would not be properly performed until they got a better class of boat, one really suited to police work. The fact was 937 that as soon as poaching trawlers saw a gunboat in the distance they disappeared. What was wanted was some fast vessel which would not be so very noticeable, or, as was said in Scotland ken-speckled. Trawlers would make the best possible police boats. The present vessels were not so swift as the poachers they were sent to catch. Therefore, he would impress on the present Government, as he had impressed on the last, the necessity of placing a special class of police boats around the Scottish coasts, and of putting on board them practical fishermen, who would be able to render valuable assistance to the police to catch the violators of the fishery bye-laws. He did not make any complaints against the Fishery Board. They could not make bricks without straw; and £3,000 a year was altogether insufficient to do their work. Again and again there had been terrible disasters amongst the fishing fleets. Again and again inquiries had been held to look into this matter, and recommendations had been made to increase the grant to the Fishery Board for providing harbours of refuge. One very important Commission had recommended £9,000 for the purpose of providing harbours, and that was at a time when fishing boats were not so large, and the need for harbours was not so great as at the present time.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR
agreed with the hon. Baronet, the Member for Banffshire, that £3,000 a year was terribly inadequate for piers and harbours in the north-east of Scotland. With regard to the question of trawling, he thought the sooner the territorial limit of three miles was extended the better. It was the custom around the Island of Lewis for the trawlers to come within the three miles limit, and to fish close to the shore, with the result that the nets of the fishermen were destroyed. The great thing in the interest of the fishing industry was to keep the trawlers well away from the fishing nets. He had been told by fishermen off the coast of Ross-shire that the fish last year were much larger in size than in former years, which was ascribed to the fact that the gunboat off that shore had displayed greater energy than usual in watching the trawlers, thanks to the frequent complaints that had been dinned into 938 the ears of the Secretary for Scotland and the Admiralty. It was painful to be continually appealing to the Scotch Office for additional sea police. It was only after persistent application that two gunboats had been sent to the north-east coast to protect the fishermen from the cruel harm done to them by the trawlers. But those gunboats were neither sufficient in number nor energetic in action to protect the fishing industry from the injury done to it by the trawlers. If the Fishery Board had not the power to deal with the gunboats, that power ought to be given to them. At one time it was said the gunboats were under the control of the Admiralty, and at another that the Admiralty had issued instructions to the gunboats to attend to the orders of the Fishery Board. But more gunboats ought to be available, and they ought to discharge the duty of watching those sea thieves, the trawlers. There were plenty of gunboats lying idle and rotting at Portsmouth and Chatham, whereas if they were sent north they would do good work, got fine air, beautiful scenery, and the men would lead sober lives. He found the sum of £1,685 for the travelling expenses and subsistence of the Board Inspectors and officers. He wanted to know how many members of the Board travelled, and particularly whether the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries travelled. In future he hoped that more detailed accounts would be given. Where were the fishery correspondents, mentioned in the Estimate, stationed? It was most difficult for the poor fishermen in the remote districts to lodge complaints with the Fishery Inspector. There were no light railways, tramways, or omnibuses. The men had to walk—often 30 miles and 30 miles back—and then they might find the Fishery Inspector was away. It was absurd that there should be no one to whom they could make their complaints; and some effort ought to be made to make their lot a little lighter in this respect. The fishermen had been told to act as their own police; but if they were to board a trawler, he supposed the next thing that would happen to them would be their arrest. Then, as to post and telegraph office extension, it was absurd for the State to ask for guarantees from poor fishermen before making these extensions. The men do not possibly give 939 guarantees, and there ought to be some arrangement made to meet these special cases. It was not worthy of a Government Department of the State to ask for guarantees from such poor people.
§ MR. WEIR,
continuing, asked where the block was in relation to grants in aid of piers and quays? Was it at the Scotch Office? Then, a second-hand yacht had been bought as a cruiser for £5,000. The vessel was quite unfit for sea in winter. She cost £350 in repairs the first year, and £400 in repairs the second year, £450 was spent in coals, though her coal carrying capacity was only 23 tons, and in fine weather she would, no doubt, be run under sail. Then, as to the Jackal, had the officers no regular holidays that they should be always going away to play golf? Let them take their holidays at a time when their presence was not required by the fishermen.
The hon. Member is repeating the argument he used about half-an-hour ago. I must ask him to be more relevant to the Vote, or, I warn him, I shall have to put the Standing Order in force against him.
§ MR. WEIR
said, that the Commander of the Jackal was paid £100 by the Fishery Board, in addition to his salary as an officer of the Navy. Why should the Fishery Board he saddled with that charge? Similar gratuities were paid to commanders of gunboats, who were supposed to be doing the work which they were ordered by the Admiralty to do. Why then, these incessant gratuities?
* Mr. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the Committee must feel themselves strongly privileged to have listened to so stirring an oration, full of wisdom and sense, its only defect being that it was too brief. The speech of the hon. Member, as well as that of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, were one long moan over the absence of police in Scotland, and of gunboats to interfere with Scottish fishermen. He had always understood that the Scotch were, up to this moment, a proud, independent people, perfectly capable of taking care of their own fish, and on occasion of other people's cattle. He was, therefore, shocked to hear them come to the House 940 of Commons and whine for more police, more gunboats, and more inspectors. What were the gunboats wanted for? In order to oppress the trawlers. ["Hear, hear!"] There were two kinds of sea fishermen. There were the real seafaring fishermen—the trawlers—who went to sea and remained away from home for long periods, and upon whom the country was dependent for its supply of fish at all seasons. Then there were the long-shore fishermen, the beach-combers; and they complained under the impression that the trawlers did them an injury. It was the quarrel between the long-shore fishermen and the trawlers that the House of Commons was being incessantly occupied with. The way to deal with the fishermen was to let them alone. It was the greatest rubbish to speak about the destruction of the fish, because reproduction went on much faster than the capture or the destruction. Then, as to immature fish, he maintained that they were some of the best. He did not want to have a whale put on his plate. [Laughter.] He much preferred a seven-inch sole. When those so-called immature fish were brought up in the trawl, in nine cases out often they were dead; and it would be therefore useless to throw them into the sea again. It would be much better to sell them, and to let someone eat them. He could not understand the attempt to tyrannise over the trawler. If anyone was to be dealt with it was the longshore fisherman. Hon. Gentlemen were so hard against the trawler because the longshore fisherman was always at home to vote for him while the trawler was generally at sea. The hon. Gentleman also wanted the Government to come to an international agreement to extend the territorial limit, or to do something very much like prohibiting trawling over the North Sea. Those agreements were extremely objectionable, because they could only result in placing English and Scottish fishermen under foreign jurisdiction. As to grants for piers and harbours, he recommended Scotchmen to rely more upon themselves; let them take an example from the Englishman, who never received grants and never asked for them. ["Oh! oh!"] It was true that some years ago a loan was made to Lowestoft; but the harbour became practically bankrupt, and the harbour was seized and sold. From that 941 day the prosperity of Lowestoft began to increase, for the men of Lowestoft took the matter in hand themselves. At this moment Lowestoft was one of the foremost fishing-places for trawlers on the East Coast; it was beating Yarmouth, which was the traditional place for fishermen. This result had been achieved without any grant from the State, and by the Lowestoft men themselves. The same thing was to be seen at Grimsby and Brixham. Scotsmen seemed to be under the impression that if they could get money it would be an advantage to them. He was their friend, and he thought it would be a great disadvantage to them. It would be much better that they should provide their own harbours and boats, and go fishing on their own account. The modern Scotsman seemed never to think himself safe unless he had a policeman on one side, an inspector on the other, and a couple of gunboats in the offing. He trusted that the House had heard nearly the last of this concerted attack on a useful and able body of seamen like the trawlers. They did no harm to the fish, and it was monstrous that the longshore fishermen should send Members to the House because they had votes, while the trawlers had not, to make a kind of crusade against the best body of seamen the country possessed.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, it was hardly necessary for him to hold the balance between the opposite views that had been expressed with reference to one of the most important interests in the country. He reminded the last speaker that, although he might be of opinion that the trawling industry was of enormous importance, strong views were held in Scotland on the matter, which turned not so much on the view that they ought to chase the trawlers from the sea, but on the view that the behests of Parliament ought to be obeyed, and that the limits fixed by legislation should be carried out. That was the whole of the trawling question at the present time. The question mentioned by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, as to the possibility of a convention being necessary for that end, sprang mainly from the fact that the Fishery Act passed for Scotland a month or two ago contained a thirteen-mile limit. It was desired to have power to exclude trawlers beyond the 942 three miles from the coast; not to blow them up with torpedoes, but to make them keep to their own places so as to give the longshore fishermen a fair chance of a good catch. The 13 mile limit against trawlers would be inoperative without a convention against the foreign trawler. The question of marine police was a large one; but he thought it would be a difficult question to go into at great length on this Vote, because the question was not so much whether the money voted by the Committee was well spent, but whether the departments concerned could do more than they were doing to keep the trawlers within their proper limits. He was happy to say that some steps had been already taken in that direction. The last report of the Fishery Board contained a history of the proceedings of the new steam cruiser, the Vigilant, whose action to a large extent obviated the criticisms which had been made. The cruiser had been so strengthened as to be able to do what had not been done previously. It was obviously a difficult question how far the Navy was to render police services; but the Admiralty had of late gone as far as they could be expected to go in giving police aid to fishermen. The Vigilant had succeeded in catching two offending trawlers within the last twelve months, and that showed that she had sufficient strength to perform that duty. There were a large number of complaints which did not lead to prosecutions, such as that out-of-bounds trawlers did not carry their marks as they ought to do; but, undoubtedly the fact that the cruiser was going about on the look-out for them had a very salutary effect in diminishing grounds of complaint and prosecutions. The minor criticisms of the hon. Member for Ross he might pass over, because they were devoted to little items. The charge of £100 for one of Her Majesty's ships placed at the disposal of the Fishery Board was in accordance with established practice. The details that had been asked for could not well be introduced into Estimates; they were rather details of expenditure, and would be found in the accounts of the expenditure. He appealed to hon. Members to allow the Vote to be taken now.
§ DR. CLARK
must remind the hon. Members for East Islington and King's 943 Lynn that, although Parliament passed a Bill last year, a clause in the Act would remain inoperative until there was an international conference, and until its operation outside the three-mile limit was agreed to by the foreign Powers. This was not, as had been assumed, a question, between longshoremen and trawlers; and the evidence given before the Select Committee showed that the demand for protection did not come from longshore men so much as from trawlers. They alleged that the great fishery beds of the North Sea were being destroyed by steam trawlers, which trawled forwards and backwards over those beds. It was the steam trawlers that wanted protection against themselves. If the hon. Member for King's Lynn would only inform himself of the facts, he could not make the speeches he did. Under the powers conferred by the Act, the Fishery Board for Scotland had determined that, within the three-mile limit, certain places should not be fished by steam trawlers; and what had been asked for was a sea police to prevent the law being broken. Very much policeing would not be required, because the penalty had been raised from £5 to £100, and you could not only seize a trawler and confiscate her nets, but you could send the men to prison. The exercise of these powers would soon prove a sufficient deterrent; but something should be done by the Government to bring about international agreement for the preservation of valuable nurseries of fish which would otherwise be destroyed.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said, there was an understanding that these Scotch Votes were to be disposed of in two hours, and, as that time had been exceeded, he hoped some progress might now be made.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £6,123, to complete the sum for the Local Government Board, Scotland,
§ DR. CLARK
asked what was being done with regard to a Caithness parish under the provisions of the Parish Councils Act, for the formation of ecclesiastical into civil parishes.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said, the matter was under the consideration of the Secretary for Scotland, and it raised questions of policy into which it would not be advisable to enter at present.