Page 8, line 11, at end add—
All powers now vested in boards of fishery conservators shall be transferred to the county councils, acting through committees appointed by them, and each county situated within the same fishery district shall be entitled to a proportionate representation upon such committees."—(Captain Donelan. )
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
hoped that the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill would accept the Amendment he had to propose, because it would be admitted that there were few industries in Ireland which were more important than the fishing industry, or 935 more in need of development. He was not equally sure that the right honourable Gentleman would agree with him in thinking that no board in Ireland was more in need of reform than the Fishery Board, but he would endeavour to convince the Chief Secretary on that point by mentioning a concrete case. He would refer to the composition of the Board of Fishery conservators in his own constituency—the Board of Conservators for the River Blackwater. At first sight the composition of this board might appear to be fair enough, because six of the elected Conservators were allocated to the fresh water division, and six to the tidal division respectively. The tidal division, however, contributed two-thirds of the revenue. There were in addition other Conservators. Every owner of a private or separate fishery in the fresh water division, valued at £100 a year, was entitled to a seat on the board, of whom there were nine in the fresh water division, and there was also entitled to a seat upon that board every magistrate who owned as much as a cottage garden abutting either on the river or on its tributaries, provided he paid an annual rod licence of £1. As there were some 40 gentlemen in that fortunate position, the fresh water division was represented on the board by some 50 available members, as compared with the half dozen elected Conservators who represented the whole tidal portion of the river. He need not say that from a public point of view that was its most important portion, for it included the harbour of Youghal, and a very long stretch of seacoast. Although that district was represented by only six members, as compared with 50 for the upper portion, it provided the means of support for the crews of 142 fishing boats, who were entirely dependent upon the fishery in the tidal portion of the Blackwater for the support of themselves and their families. He ventured to think that this analysis of the composition of the board revealed a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, and he also thought that under such a system the interests could not be properly protected. As a matter of fact, in regard to salmon, the fishery in the Blackwater had been deteriorating from year to year under this system, and he sincerely trusted, there- 936 fore, that the Chief Secretary would realise the importance of this matter, and would see his way to accept this. Amendment.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the Government could not accept this Amendment. The constitution of the fishery boards in some places might be as unsatisfactory as the honourable Member had indicated, but he undertook to say that under the proposal of the honourable Member the position of the fishery boards would be far more unsatisfactory than it is at present. The honourable Member proposed that the fishery boards in future should consist of committees appointed by the county councils, but he had not even provided that the county councils should subscribe towards the expenses. The Government had themselves placed upon the Paper an Amendment dealing with this matter. It was in the form of a new clause, in which they proposed that the county council of any county district, comprising the whole or part of a fishing district under the Fisheries (Ireland) Act, 1848, might make towards the expenses of the Board of Conservators of such fishery district a contribution not exceeding in any one local financial year a sum equal to the rate of a halfpenny in the £ on the rateable value of the county district at the beginning of the year; and that on making such a contribution they would be entitled to such a number of representatives on the board as the Lord Lieutenant might appoint. That, he thought, was quite as far as it would be possible for them to go.
§ MR. M. HEALY
desired to ask the right honourable Gentleman whether, under the clause as it stood, it would be possible for a Board of Conservators, if they so desired, to transfer their powers to a county council.
§ MR. M. HEALY
said he did not, in view of the Chief Secretary's statement, understand a passage in the General Order in Council.
§ MR. ATKINSON
reminded the honourable Member that some fishery districts extended over portions of two or three counties, and in such cases, he pointed out, it would be impossible to transfer the powers of a fishery board to one particular county council.
SIR R. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
trusted that they were not about to enter upon the vexed question of the salmon fishery in Ireland in connection with this clause of the Bill, and he thought that, perhaps, under the circumstances, the honourable Member would be wise to withdraw his Amendment, in view of that to which the Chief Secretary had referred, and which the Government intended subsequently to propose, instead of attempting to go into very difficult and intricate questions connected with the salmon fishery.
§ MR. KNOX (Londonderry)
urged that it was undesirable to add to the number of the conservancy boards, many of which were already of an unwieldy size. In the north of Ireland they had not only to deal with questions as between sea fisheries and fresh water fisheries, but they also had to face the questions of mills and flax put into the rivers, which rendered the problem much more complicated.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
as one who had been for a number of years a Conservator of fisheries, endorsed what had fallen from the honourable Member for East Cork, whose remarks as to the Blackwater would apply also to the fisheries on the River Lea. He was very glad that his honourable Friend had brought it forward. He had brought it forward in a moderate and timely way, and he hoped in a way which would commend itself to the Committee.
§ MR. DAVITT
My honourable Friend raises a very important issue by this Amendment, and I do not think that it has been met in a satisfactory manner by the proposal of the Chief Secretary. There are two interests represented in connection with the fisheries; one the idle interest, who live 938 by sport, and the other the industrial interest. The idle interest, I find, have 50 members on this board, while the industrial interest, employing a large number of men who have to work for their living, unlike Irish landlords, who do not work at all, are represented by six members on this board. I think the artisans who work for their living in tidal waters, and the interests that they represent, should have a larger representation on this board. In the matter of fishing in Ireland, my sympathy always goes with the poacher. He represents the natural right of the individual, and I am sorry I have not time to put down an Amendment in favour of protecting the rights of the poacher. I deny altogether the claim of the Irish landlords that they have a superior right to the fish in the river and the birds in the air, and all the rest of it. I hope my honourable Friend will stand out for more concession on this subject from the Chief Secretary for Ireland.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN
said that although he deeply regretted the decision arrived at by the Gentleman in charge of the Bill, it rather surprised him, because he certainly did give him to understand, in answer to a question of his, that it would have his consideration.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
Page 8, line 11, after 'committee,' add—
With a representation of each council to be determined in case of dispute by the Lord Lieutenant."—(Mr. Serjeant Hemphill. )
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ In reply to Mr. M. HEALY and Mr. FLAVIN—
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said it was the intention that there should be transferred to county councils the powers exercised by town commissioners under 939 the Towns Improvement Act, and he would be willing to report to insert an Amendment exempting these. The words followed the language of the English Act, and he had in his mind drainage boards, particularly those whose powers might, with consent, be transferred to the county councils.
§ MR. M. HEALY
I admit that this is, after all, a small question. I put down the Amendment with the object of remedying certain anomalies in the franchise, and I am sorry that the right honourable Gentleman does not see his way to accept it. I do not share the view of the right honourable Gentleman that my proposal would involve additional expense. It is not really the additional list that involves so much expense; it is the inclusion of that list afterwards into the register, involving a complete re-casting of the register, that causes expense. The register must be either alphabetical, or according to streets. If it is alphabetical, you cannot very well have a Supplementary List; you must put these names into the body of the register. If the register is according to streets, the same thing will happen. However, as I say, I do not think this matter is of any great importance, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
That clause 16, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ Agreed to.