Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [30th April], "That the Bill he now read a second time." And which Amendment was —
To leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"—(Sir Cameron Gull.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ * Mr. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
I wish to say a word with regard to the speech my right hon. friend delivered in support of the Bill.† There was one curious omission in his speech, and that was that he made no attempt to explain how the measure would remedy the evils complained of. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how this Bill will effect the purposes desired. The Bill is one of that class which the House in†For the first portion of this Debate see pages 351–386, of this volume.930 recent years has shown great disinclination to sanction unless an overwhelming case can be shown in support of them. The Bill is one in restraint of trade. It is a Bill for the purpose of introducing restrictions on one of the great industries of the country. It is a Bill for the purpose of creating a new penalty- -a penalty which must be frequently incurred by perfectly innocent people as anyone knowing how the trade is carried on in this country will admit. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill was one to increase the food supply of the people. My complaint is that it is going to compulsorily destroy part of the food of the people. It is going to compel fishermen who have undersized fish in their vessels to throw these fish overboard. Without doing any possible good to the supply of fish in the sea, that will have the effect of cutting off a certain amount of the food supply of the people. It is a Bill of the class that the House is reluctant, and rightly reluctant, to pass unless there is an overwhelming case shown for it, and the enforcement of its provisions must be accompanied by great irritation to the trade. The Bill makes it an offence for any person to import, export, buy, sell, or expose for sale, any sole not exceeding eight inches 931 in length, or any turbot or brill not exceeding ten inches in length. How is the owner of a smack going to be held liable for the import, export, buying, selling, or exposing for sale of certain flat fish, unless they exceed a certain size? A man having a sole in his possession of seven-seven-eighths inches in length, being one-eighth inch below the regulation size, is liable to be haled before a magistrate. He may have had nothing to do with the catching of the fish. Everytime fish are handled they are injured, every hour they are delayed affects their marketable value. If he has the fish in his possession he is liable to he haled before a magistrate and fined with all the odium and disgrace attaching to police-court proceedings. Not only so, but if an officer has reason to believe— here we have a suspect clause if an officer has reason to believe that any one fish is below the regulation size he is to have power, without appeal, to detain that consignment of fish. He may have been quite wrong in his surmise, but the Bill, recognising what delay means to a perishable commodity, provides that if the officer has acted wrongfully, and if, by reason of its detention, the fish has become unfit for food, the consignment is to be destroyed without any compensation to the unfortunate victim of this suspecting officer. These being the provisions of the Bills, I am not surprised that my right hon. friend did not dwell too much on the details. He said that other countries had passed laws of a similar character. He mentioned Germany, and in doing so he repeated an error of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen had previously been guilty. The right hon. Gentleman said Germany had passed restrictive legislation. I ventured to tell him then, and I tell him now, that that statement is inaccurate. Germany has not passed a restrictive measure on fish of any particular size, such as is suggested by this Bill. Further, there is no prospect of their doing so, and that is one of the reasons why an international agreement is out of the question at the present moment. If Germany had already passed a measure in the direction of this Bill obviously there would be no difficulty in getting an international agreement. On the one hand, we are told these nations have passed measures in favour of restriction, and in the next breath 932 we are told that it is necessary to have an international agreement. Obviously the one statement disposes of the other. Germany has not passed such a measure, and I think it is a great pity a statement of that kind should have been given currency to by such responsible Members of the House as the President and ex-President of the Board of Trade. The House has already been told that this Bill is founded on a recommendation of a Select Committee of the House, That being so, it is necessary that the House should go back to the authority on which we are asked to legislate, and see what ground there is for the statement that this Bill carries out either the recommendations of that Committee or the evidence given before the Committee. I wish to call attention to the Report of the Committee itself, and especially to the opening paragraph, which says—They desire, however, to place it on record that a Committee of the House of Commons is not an altogether satisfactory tribunal to take evidence with regard to the grievances and wants of fishermen, so far as the evidence of the fisherman themselves is concerned. This is partly on account of the fact that the time at which Parliamentary Committees sit is exactly that at which fishery operations are carried on most conveniently and with the greatest amount of success; and partly because a Parliamentary Committee necessarily requires all witnesses to attend at Westminster —a source both of expense in the conduct of the inquiry, and of inconvenience to the fishermen themselves. Your Committee would therefore suggest that, if further information should appear to be desirable, it might be well that this inquiry should be supplemented by the appointment of small Departmental Committees, which, by visiting various fishing centres around the coast, would give full scope to fishermen to bring forward any suggestions or grievances which they may have.I was a member of the Committee myself. That is in the very forefront of their Report, and that is a distinct intimation to this House that before any serious legislation affecting the interests of fishermen should be attempted, the fishermen should have full and proper opportunity of being heard in the only way they can be heard—at their own ports by a Departmental Committee or by a Royal Commission. The Committee went on to deal with the various matters referred to them, and again I call attention to the fact that the scope of the inquiry was by no means confined to the prohibition of the sale of undersized fish. They were also to report on the questions whether it was desirable to regulate certain 933 methods of fishing, whether it was desirable to protect certain defined areas, whether it was desirable to have arrangements, international or otherwise, and then, amongst other things, whether they could recommend any measures for preserving and improving sea fisheries, including the prohibition of the capture, landing, and sale of undersized fish. Thai being so, 1 venture to think that it would be instructive to the House to follow the methods adopted in getting evidence before that Committee. One of the arguments adduced in favour of the Bill is that it is supported by those who are the greatest sinners in the matter of the destruction of undersized fish—namely, the fishermen of Hull and Grimsby. We are told that the very fact that the Hull and Grimsby interests are chiefly affected by the passing of this measure is very much in favour of the Bill. I venture to think that ought rather to excite suspicion. I venture to say—we are dealing with the question of fish now—that rather suggests the drawing of a red herring across the path. It suggested to me, and it became materialised into a conviction when I began to sit on that Committee, that Hull and Grimsby being admittedly the principal offenders, almost the entire offenders, were anxious that this Parliamentary Committee—one of whose duties was to inquire into certain methods of fishing—should not inquire too closely into those methods, and, above all, should not make a recommendation to Parliament with respect to the methods of catching fish. The result was that at the first two or three meetings a distinct lead was given to the Committee by witnesses who were called and examined on proofs, as they would have been in a court of law. These witnesses came to the Committee for the purpose of making out a case for this Bill, and the hon. Member for Islington took them through their evidence in chief, and they were then subjected to what was practically a cross-examination at the hands of other Members of the Committee. If the House will bear with me, I will call attention very shortly to what these witnesses themselves said. The first witness was Mr. Towse, the very respected clerk of the Fishmongers' Company and hon. secretary of the National Sea Fisheries Protection Association. I am myself a member of that body, and, by way of heaping coals of fire on my 934 head for my opposition to this Bill, the members a fortnight ago elected me to serve on the Executive Committee. I do not wish to undervalue the useful work the association does; but at the same time, when its opinion is quoted —and it is known that it is the body responsible for the introduction of this Bill—that association has no right to speak as representative of the whole fishing industry of the country. It is a body which is largely controlled from Hull and Grimsby, and yet their first witness admits the necessity for international legislation. Mr. Towse allows this to slip out in his evidence—Our fishermen, I think, should have equal rights with foreign fishermen.And he then pronounces an opinion in favour of international legislation—Can you say whether the feeling is that legislation should he on national or international lines?He answers promptly—International lines.Therefore, the very first witness called in support of this Bill emphatically states that what he has gathered as the general opinion in the fishing trade is that legislation should be on international lines.Can you give any reason for that preference?—Because if it were national it would only a fleet our fishermen, and they could only land certain sized fish; whereas, if it were international, it would prevent foreigners landing undersized fish for sale.Even in their own countries?—Yes, even in their own countries.Does it appear to you disadvantageous that foreigners should be at liberty to fish and land fish in their own countries without any obstacle, and that Englishmen should he prevented from doing the like, or the contrary? What is the feeling of fishermen?—Our fishermen, I think, should have equal rights with foreign fisherman.Then, a little later on, he is asked to what he attributes the alleged diminution in the supply of fish, and he says it is due to the introduction of steam trawling, giving some remarkable figures as to the growth of steam trawling in this country, and the corresponding decrease in the sailing trawling, that decrease during the previous six or eight years being no less than 8,000 or 9,000 tons. He proceeds to give figures showing that hundreds of tons of undersized fish were annually landed in this country, which were practically valueless and were sold 935 for manure, thereby proving that it was not the object of the fishermen to catch these fish. Then he is asked for his remedy, and, as I say, he was called for the purpose of supporting the prohibition of the landing and sale of undersized fish. He is asked how it would be possible to prevent the destruction of these fish simply by prohibiting their being landed and sold, and why the fishermen go to these areas where the small fish are caught, if, when they have caught the fish it docs not pay them to bring them to shore. His answer is: "I cannot answer that satisfactorily." That is just the question we want answered satisfactorily. To my mind that is the crux of this Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman could adduce any reliable evidence to show that by the passing of this Bill that which we all deplore—the destruction of immature fish—could be prevented, then, though it might be harassing and lead in certain cases to loss, I for one should say at once to my constituents that in spite of the loss they ought in the general interest to submit to the measure. But if, as I suggest, the only effect will be not the prevention of the destruction of immature fish, but the submission of the fishing trade to a harassing and unjust restriction, I say, in Heaven's name, reject the Bill. The second witness was a Mr. Alward, a member of the executive of the National Sea Fisheries Association. His evidence in chief had been given supporting the proposal to prohibit the, landing and sale of undersized fish, and again, some members of the Committee wanted to know what his views were with regard to a national or an international agreement. He says that we (that is, Great Britain) are not the principal market for the sale of these undersized fish—I could not, say that we are the principal market for them, because I think that in Holland, in my early period, they used an immense quantity of these small fish.And he said they also had a large sale for them in Ostend. Then he is asked by the hon. Member for South Islington—First of all, would you have that done by national legislation or by international legislation?—I should prefer legislation of an international character. I do not say it would not be effectual or beneficial to our fisheries, even if it was done nationally.But both your fishermen and foreign fishermen could still take the small fish, if it were not international, into foreign ports and 936 get rid of it, could they not?—That would be the difficulty.There you have the second witness admitting in reply to questions by the Committee, that a restriction of this kind would be ineffective, and that it would be unjust to our men unless it was of an international character. He is then asked a very material question—whether the prohibition of the landing and sale of undersized fish would have any effect in compelling the fisherman when he draws up his trawl to throw those fish back again into the sea, and whether by being restored to their native element the fish could grow to maturity.Can you give us any idea of the proportion which would survive of what, was thrown overboard?— It would depend largely upon the particular nature of the bottom just at that particular point, because, if the trawling happened to be over that very oozy ground, as it is off Heligoland, an immense amount of sand would be mixed with the fish, and the fish would be choked. Now, with the same length of haul and the same rate of speed maintained, a little further up, where the ground is harder, it would be clean, and a number of the fish would survive after being thrown overboard, if the haul was not too long.In 1884, Sir Edward Birkbeck, when asked a question on this very subject, said that he would consider that about one-tenth of the immature fish would, on the average, be found alive when the trawl was pulled up; would yon agree with that estimate?—Not with a long haul.It would not be one-tenth part, do you think?—No. That requires qualifying. If there was an instruction that a man must make a one-hour haul I would be disposed to agree with Sir Edward, but if he was allowed to make a six-hour haul I should say that few would be alive.The House will observe the importance of that statement—a statement supported by witness after witness subsequently called—that by merely enacting that a fish below a certain size should not be landed and sold, you cannot—by an Act of Parliament—restore the life of that fish, and that inasmuch as the average duration of the trawl is now about six hours, practically every undersized fish, when the trawl is hauled up, is already destroyed. What good are you going to do by an Act which says that, although a fish is dead, you should not bring it ashore, but should throw it into the sea again? The evidence is that the fish are practically all destroyed when the trawl is brought up. The witness then gives this very curious fact, showing how unnecessary legislation of this kind 937 is, and how little good it will do, if passed, in preventing the destruction of the fish—Is it the fact that there are many thousands of tons in the course of a season thrown overboard because they would he perfectly useless for the market, being too small? —Yes. I think I can speak to a fact which came under my notice not more than fourteen days ago, where a man had, I think it was, between 300 and 400 boxes of those fish just above the size, and when asked how many small ones he bad thrown overboard, he said a great many more than he had brought in in bulk, so that if he had done it in bulk we may multiply it in figures by many hundreds.In other words, at this moment, where under-sized fish are landed on to the deck of the trawler many of them are so small that it would be useless to bring them ashore, and therefore they are thrown overboard. Obviously no Act of Parliament is going to affect that, and obviously also, the men do not go to these places for the purpose of catching these small fish. That is the great blot on this Bill. The only result will be that the fish which he brings to shore now and gets something for, although it may be very little, and which in the end can be sold for cheap food, he is not to be allowed to land and sell, on the theory that by preventing the landing of the fish you are going to increase the supply in the deep sea. The remedy which this witness was called to support, and did support in his evidence in chief, was that proposed in this Bill; but, again, in cross-examination he says that the real remedy is protected areas. The argument for the Bill is that there are certain areas well known to fishermen where these small fish are pleased to classify themselves like children, and from which the big fish religiously keep away, and if you make it illegal to land and sell these fish yon will keep the fishermen away from these areas. The first observation which would be made by anyone who heard that statement would be, Is it not a clumsy way of protecting those areas to say the men are not to land the fish caught in their net instead of keeping the men off those areas? And so this witness, with a good deal of wisdom, suggested that, in his opinion, the remedy was protected areas for a certain season, and by a system of international policing. Obviously it could not be done by mere legislation in this House, as the areas are outside the territorial limits. The next witness was a Hull man, an 938 alderman and an ex-mayor of that place. At the very commencement of his evidence he is asked—Would you propose merely to make that a national law or an international law?And his answer is —It would be no use making it only national. If it were not international it would not be workable, because the people up and down the German coasts have lots of steam trawlers, and they would catch the fish and bring them and land them.Then he is asked a question about the fish being found dead in the trawl, and he says that quite 95 per cent., of the fish brought up in the trawl are dead. He admits rather than volunteers the statement that the diminution in the supply of fish is due to what he calls the action of the steam trawlers in sweeping the North Sea. He explains, as other witnesses explained to the Committee, that the very fact of steam being the motive power makes steam trawlers independent of wind and tide, and therefore they can cross and re-cross the same area, scraping the bottom of the sea until they have caught practically every living thing to be found in that area. They are not subject to the restrictions nature imposes on the sailing trawlers, and so he points out that it is the steam trawlers, by what he calls over-fishing, who have brought about the diminution so far as there is a diminution. Then comes another witness from Grimsby. I venture to repeat that these are the men on whose evidence almost entirely that part of the Committee's report is founded, which recommends something in the nature of this Bill. This witness is director of several trawling companies and of ice companies in Grimsby, and he is asked what remedy he suggests for the state of affairs. [An HON. MEMBER: What is his name?] His name is Mr. Charles Jeffs, and he is asked—What remedies do you suggest for this state of affairs?—I think we should close certain areas which are well defined and. mapped out on this chart.He suggests the areas should be closed for, say, March, April, May, and June. He confirms the view of other witnesses that 90 per cent. of the fish would be dead when brought up in the trawl. He is then asked whether it would be possible to compel them only to have the trawl 939 down for a shorter period, to which he answers—If we could make one hour hauls it would make all the difference, and you would get a very large percentage of them alive, but you would want a policeman for every vessel, to see that they hauled the trawl to time, so that that is not a practicable thing to do.Then came another gentleman from Hull. The House will see that practically all the evidence in favour of this remedy is from Hull and Grimsby. This witness is Mr. Richard Simpson, a member of the Hull Town Council.Would you propose to make any regulations of laws to prohibit the landing and sale | of undersized fish?"—"International, not otherwise, or else foreign fishermen would have a large preference over the Englishmen I think.So here is another man stating emphatically that in his view unless this legislation is international it is going to be of no use whatever. If the House were asked to legislate on international lines many of the objections I am urging would not apply, and I am trying to show the House that the very men who were called to make out a case for this Bill almost unanimously assert that it should be on international lines or not at all. This witness is asked:—You are clear about that, are you?—I think so; that is my opinion. In fact I was talking to some of our captains, and then ideas were that it should be one rule, or else the foreigners would have a preference over them.I for one am not prepared to vote for a measure which is going to give a preference to foreigners over British fishermen in connection with the rights of fishing in the North Sea. I will be no party to a Bill which while imposing restrictions on our own fishermen in the North Sea will not impose the same restrictions on foreign fishermen fishing in the same waters. The only result of such a measure would be that if our men abstained from going to those grounds, as it is suggested they would if this Bill was passed, they would leave the ground freer, and therefore there would be a greater inducement for foreigners to go there. There was another Grimsby witness called, Mr. William Crossley Normington, and he gives the same evidence as the others. He comes fairly up to his proof until he is subjected to cross examination, and the Member for West Aberdeen puts a question to him 940 with regard to the international law. "Yes," says the witness, "it would be better if it was international." He is then asked whether the destruction on these fishing grounds had increased very largely since the development of steam trawling, and he said it had. A little later on he is asked to explain how the prohibition of the landing and sale of undersized fish would prevent their being caught in the trawl, and he says that not a man would go to catch fish that he could not sell. That shows an arcadian simplicity which I should hardly have expected from anyone engaged in the Grimsby fishing trade.But would not they still go to catch larger fish?—There are no larger among the small plaice at the present time.Would it stop fishing altogether then?— Yes, on that coast with English vessels.But not with foreign vessels?—No.The House will see that there again the witness is compelled to admit that if we had something which prevented our fishermen resorting to certain catching grounds in the North Sea, while foreign countries who have interests in the North. Sea, and whose Meets fish there, were not under the same restrictions, the only possible result would be to leave the ground more free for the foreigners, or else to leave our fishermen to take that portion of their catch to foreign markets instead of landing it in Great Britain. Therefore the case for the Bill goes. Then Mr. Little, of Plymouth, another member of the Sea Fisheries Association, is called, something like Balaam of old, except that the process is reversed; he is called to bless the Bill, and he curses it straight off. He says—We say that on our grounds there is no falling off in the supply of flat fish, and as we are not sinners in the same manner as the Hull find Grimsby men are, we disagree with any legislation which will do us an injury without doing any good.Here I ought to say that I very much sympathise with the position of Members representing fishing ports in Devon-shire and Cornwall. The Report of this Committee not only does not suggest there was any falling off in the English Channel, but it distinctly states there was not. The Report says—When, however, we come to the large class of flat fish, the circumstances differ. Off the south coast of England, the evidence seems to show with regard to these fish also that there has been little or no falling off in their size or in their abundance.941 Although the Report of this Committee states that so far as the south coast is concerned there is no case for this Bill, yet this measure is to apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, to put restrictions on those who have not done anything to deplete the areas over which they fish, and to apply to grounds in respect of which no legislation is necessary. The witness goes on to say—It would be simply making us throw away saleable fish, and it would not improve the supply of Mat fish at all.But he goes further, and says that to throw this dead fish into the fishing areas would not only do no good, but would inflict injury upon the fishing grounds. He says—I believe vessels would go into exactly the same places, would capture the same amount of small fish, and the fish would be thrown overboard and do more injury to the fishing ground than if they were brought to the market and sold.He went on to give evidence in support of that statement, and said that by throwing a lot of dead fish into a fishing area and nursing ground the result is that you make a fish cemetery and drive the fish away from that particular area. Those were the statements made to us. This witness—John Little—claims to be a great authority, but he does not stand alone in this view, for other witnesses also gave evidence to the effect that throwing over dead fish into the fishing area causes absolute injury to that area as a reproductive centre. Mr. Little made many other statements in support of the views I have been urging, and he fortunately emphasised the question of international agreement. He was asked—Would you have a close time by international agreement?And he replied—I would outside territorial waters, but 1 think it would be well if it could be managed to extend territorial waters for fishing purpurposes.He recommends as the best remedy which occurs to him that we should have protected areas, and he says that the best remedy for protecting these young fish is by international police under international agreement to prevent fishing during certain closed seasons. As to the effect of throwing overboard large quantities of dead fish, this witness stated that the 942 fish avoid these cemeteries, as they are called, and he mentions the case of herrings and other fish. It is unnecessary for me to tell the House that with regard to fish — and more particularly with regard to deep-sea fish—a great deal rests upon theory and very little upon actual knowledge. One of the facts which was established in the minds of the members of the Committee was how little we really do know about the habits of these deep-sea fish. Every one of the technical witnesses, who gave evidence as to experiments and trials which had been made, admitted that, practically, there were very few authorities on the subject, and very little was really known. The opinion of the Sea Fisheries Committees has been cited by the President of the Board of Trade as being in favour of this Bill. I happen to know how the favourable opinion of some of these Committees is obtained—I was almost going to say manufactured. They are told that this is a measure for the purpose of preventing the destruction of undersized fish. They are then told what a lamentable thing it is to destroy these undersized fish, which, if they were only allowed to grow to maturity, would furnish a large food supply for the people. They are told that this is a Bill to prevent that destruction. I contend that if the question is put to any man in that way he will answer in the affirmative. Then they are asked to urge, by all the pressure they can, their Members of Parliament to support the Bill. I have met Members of Parliament on both sides of the House who have said, "I don't know anything of the Bill, or what it is going to do. I know it is a bad thing to destroy these undersized fish, and I am told this Bill is going to stop it." Naturally, many hon. Members will follow such a lead, and naturally the promoters of the Bill desire to create the impression that there is a large body of public opinion outside this House who have thoroughly studied the question, and who are in favour of this particular measure. But nothing of the kind is the case, and this Bill will not bear examination. I am glad that my right hon. friend has consented to the appointment of a Select Committee, because if that is fairly chosen I am perfectly sure the effect must be to secure the rejection of this measure. We had the advantage of having before us the chair- 943 man of the Lancashire sea Fisheries District Committee, and he came up to bless the Bill. He was asked—Do you yourself share the opinion of most of the witnesses we have had before us that if regulations could be made prohibiting the landing and sale of the small sized fish that the fishermen would not capture them?And he replied—I think, at the same time, if such a regulation were made it would be absolutely necessary that the instruments of capture should be regulated as nearly as possible to the capture of the size of fish which would be offered for sale. Without that mere prohibition of sale would be of little value.There, again, the whole of the evidence in favour of the measure is neutralised. The statement that in his opinion mere prohibition of sale would be of little value unless you regulate the size of the instruments of catch to be employed is of great importance. It is the same with almost every witness called to support those recommendations, for when their evidence came to be tested and sifted, and questions put to them, in almost every case they suggested some other measure or said that this measure by itself would be no good. Having heard that evidence the Committee made its Report in 1893, and again I would will the attention of the House to the way in which the Committee reported upon these particular questions. Here is one paragraph out of several recommendations which they made. They say—Your Committee are unable to recommend either of these limits; they think that, while it might be desirable to forbid the sale of flat fish, the adoption of the sizes suggested would involve great hardship to many of the poorer fishermen who fish near the shore in the smaller class of boats.Observe the qualification "it might be desirable." In the next paragraph they recommend what the sizes should be for soles, plaice, turbot, and brill, and the Report says—They also consider that a. strong effort should be made to secure the adoption of uniform regulations for limits of size and other matter by all the nations interested in the North Sea Fisheries.The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Tweedmouth, who drafted the Report, has himself in the House of Lords stated that the distinct understanding of the Committee was that it should be earned by international agreement, and if the House will look at the Report of that Committee, they will sec that the Report 944 was only carried by seven votes to three, and of those seven two have since declared against it, and tints they neutralise absolutely the recommendations of the other five. Two or three members of the Committee who were not present when the vote was taken were opposed to the Report, so that a majority of the Committee, as constituted in 1893, after having had twenty sittings, and after going exhaustively into the evidence, are opposed to the proposals of this Bill. That being so, I think the House will agree that it is not unreasonable—representing, as I have the honour of doing, one of the most important fishing ports of this Kingdom, which employs between 4,000 and 5,000 men actually upon vessels engaged in fishing, which is their staple industry—that I should have stated, even at some length, why my constituents view with alarm and suspicion a Bill of this nature, which will impose penalties and restrictions upon them without effecting any useful object in the interests of the community. I thank the House for the indulgence with which they have allowed me to put my views before them. I will conclude by summarising the objections of the Lowestoft fishing industry to the proposals of this Bill, as set out in a Petition which they presented to this House in 1895 —
- (a) That the restrictions proposed to he applied cannot prevent the catching and destruction of undersized fish.
- (b) That it will deprive the fishermen of the proceeds of a portion of their catch, by compelling them to throw overboard what are defined as undersized Mat fish, ninety per cent. of which are dead when brought up in the trawl.
- (c) That to throw overboard dead fish in the fishing grounds will be injurious to the same.
- (d) That there is an increasing market abroad for small-sized flat fish, and that the effect of the present Bill would be to deprive the British fishermen of the right of sale, while it would leave the ground free to the foreigner.
- (e) That it would inflict serious injury upon longshoremen and the fishermen around our coast who do no harm to unmarketable fish, but on the contrary it would compel them to throw away many marketable fish.
- (f) That, as stated in the Report of the said Committee, no opportunity has been offered to practical fishermen to be heard before the Committee, and that no restrictive legislation should be introduced until they have had an opportunity of giving evidence at their own ports and at a season of the year when they can be heard.
- (g) That in the event of such a, Bill being passed it would introduce vexatious and harassing regulations as well as great delay in a trade, for the successful carrying on of which quickness of despatch and unhampered action are essentially necessary, and that it would be practically impossible to enforce it.
- (h) That if any such restrictive legislation is to be enforced it should be by an International Convention on the part of all the Powers interested in the North Sea Fisheries, as expressly stated by the majority of the witnesses before the Select Committee and by the Committee in their Report.
Upon those grounds I shall certainly support my hon. friend's motion for the rejection of the Bill. Knowing as I do that the Government can command probably a large majority for the Second Heading, I am thankful that we are to have the opportunity before a Select Committee of stating our case. I am also thankful that the President of the, Board of Trade has given the assurance that the motion for the Second Heading is not to be deemed to prejudge the question as to whether the prohibiting of the sale of undersized fish will prevent their destruction.
- 4. That an inevitable result of the Bill becoming law would be to deprive the longshore fishermen of their living and compel them to seek employment elsewhere, so that in consequencet hereof it would become impossible to obtain efficient crews to man the lifeboats on our coasts, and that such a result would necessitate the nationalisation of the lifeboat service at a great expense to the country and to the detriment of the service.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
I make no apology for addressing the House on a question of this character, because it is a question which intimately concerns Scotland. I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words with regard to this Bill, because the fishing industry, however important to England, is of much greater importance proportionately to Scotland, and more than once during the present Parliament I have culled attention to the want of interest, and I might almost say the neglect, with which the fishing industry has been treated at the hands of the present Government. There is a growing feeling that while it is of great importance to carefully protect and cultivate the interests which we have abroad, there is also a duty which we may, at the same time, very wisely fulfill, and that is to cultivate the resources which we have at 946 home, and although this particular measure is not of any great importance or magnitude, yet I believe it deserves the very careful consideration of the House. In my opinion this Bill will not effect any reform at all, and even according to its supporters it is not likely to effect great things for the fishing industry, and it may therefore be somewhat surprising that a measure of such small scope and effect should raise such divergencies and differences of opinion. We are all agreed as to the evils complained of. We all know that times have changed for fishermen, not only for fishermen as a whole but also for inshore fishermen. The day has gone by when they could go out a small distance from the coast and get a catch. They have to go further a field now and be content with a smaller catch, and very often with a smaller price in the market. Those are things common to all parts of the coast, and I am not at all disposed to differ from the supporters of this Bill as regards the existence of the evils with which it intends to deal. I agree as to the existence of these evils, I lament and deplore them, but what I con-tend is that this particular method is not the wisest method to deal with them. On its merits it is not a wise remedy, and I do not myself believe that the support extended to it in the House is extended to it on its merits as a wise and benevolent piece of legislation. I believe that the real support given to this measure comes from those who rather fear some alternative method of reform which will strike more closely at the interests which they represent, and in that connection it is very significant that the strongest support of it comes from those who most strongly oppose what I may call the alternative method of procedure, namely, the protection of areas, and, if you like to go further, the protection of seasons also. One argument has been brought forward during the discussion of this Bill which I did not hear before when similar Bills were previously discussed, and that is that the passing of this measure will facilitate that international co-operation which a great many of us desire. It is stated that other nations are waiting for us, and that they are ready to move on parallel lines with us in order to secure further measures of reform in which every country having a coast on the North Sea is deeply interested. We have had the experiment in Scotland of the closing of 947 Moray Firth, which was practically on the lines on which it is suggested we should proceed, namely, by unclosing areas rather than by limiting the size of the fish. The trawlers have always brought forward as a reason against the continued closing of the Moray Firth that foreign trawlers could always go into it and take from it fish protected by our domestic legislation to the great loss of British trawlers. Exactly the same objection applies to the provisions of the present Bill. Yon may prevent the fishermen of this country taking small fish, but you cannot prevent foreign fishermen doing so, and this Bill is therefore open to the same objection — I do not say it is a fatal objection —as the closing of the Moray Firth. The main argument against the Bill is that it does not place foreign fishermen on the same footing as British fishermen. It has been stated that foreign fishermen cannot sell undersized fish in their own country, but we had it from the hon. Member for Lowestoft—and he was not contradicted —that my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen was entirely wrong in that statement, and that there was no such legislation in Germany. [An HoN. MEMBER: Prussia.] Prussia proper has no coast on the North Sea, though it has a shore on the Baltic. The gravest objection to this Bill is, as I have stated, that it discriminates, I think, unfairly, between foreign and British fishermen. Every hon. Member who has spoken tonight admits that we all want a cure; but how can the right hon. Gentleman say that this is a cure? First of all, we have the argument that it is to bring food to the poorer classes. As a matter of fact it does exactly the reverse. The poorer classes buy the small fish which you are not going to allow to be sold. Who is to bring this food? Is it to be the inshore fishermen, who fish either with a line or the small seine net? These bring the class of larger fish in far greater measure, or, at any rate, in far better condition than the trawlers. If this measure were to be passed to-morrow a greater hardship would be imposed on the poorer classes than on the well-to-do classes. The real fact is that although by this Bill you are going to prevent the big trawler from selling and importing the small fish, you are not going to prevent him exporting the small fish, or capturing them. The incontrovertible evidence given before the Committee is that 90 per cent. of the fish 948 so caught do not survive the catching. Therefore you are going to prevent these fish, which are perfectly good and cheap food, and which when caught are killed beyond recall, being landed and sold in the markets of this country to the people who appreciate them when they can get them. You are going to hit the small men without doubt. Now, these small men are a very valuable industrial element in the community. It is from them that yon look to recruit your naval reserve and the mercantile marine. It was only the other day that the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to grant a Return concerning the education of fishermen and their in-eligibility to enter the mercantile marine because of the lack of educational requirements. One of the reasons for this is that the fishing industry is getting into the hands of trawling companies with large boats, and there is less necessity for any large number of the crew having a real knowledge of navigation and seamanship. And there are now symptoms that there is not so much desire on the part of these men to acquire a knowledge of seamanship, so that they may rise a step higher in their craft. We cannot, after all, legislate purely on theory. We must balance the advantages and disadvantages in any particular measure, and we must bear in mind that there are other contributions to the welfare of the country by the fishing population, than merely by bringing fish to the market. If you then hit the small men, do you get any compensatory advantage? My contention is that this measure would not be effective on account of foreign competition. It would not be of use, because 90 per cent. of the catch by the trawlers must be returned to the sea dead or alive. No alteration of the mesh of the net would make any difference to the small sole struggling to get out of the pocket of the trawl net. I do not believe we are going on the right lines. If you follow the proceedings of the Hydrographic Conference last year, and the Report of the Committee of 1893, you will find that the real line of advance is in enclosing areas and experimenting in these areas. I quite agree with the hon. Member for King's Lynn, that a right scientific knowledge does not warrant us in advancing on the lines adopted in this Bill. It is better to do nothing than to do what is mischievous. I know that there are difficulties in the 949 way, but the Government are greatly to blame in not having pushed on the question of international agreement. Scotch Members, ever since this Parliament began, have pressed this matter on the attention of the Government, and there is ample proof that they have been supine in regard to it. I believe the Secretary for Scotland has pressed it on the Government, who are greatly to blame for not giving more money to carry on experiments like those prosecuted in the United States of America, in Canada, and even at the Cape of Good Hope. It is only by scientific research that we can get authentic information on this matter. The right lines to pursue, therefore, are scientific inquiry, which can only be pursued in protected areas and in protected seasons. One word as to the application of the Bill to Scotland. No one can deny that the Scottish Fishery Board has done much to protect the Scottish Fisheries. I have heard English members regret that they have not a Central Fishery Board like what we have in Scotland. Does this Bill apply to Scotland, or does it not? The Lord Advocates name is no longer on it.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY, Buteshire)
By an accident.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
It is quite a new doctrine; but I will tell the Lord Advocate that it introduces quite a new practice also. The officers of the Fishery Board in Scotland are the people who carry out the administration of the fishery laws, but under this Bill any officer of Customs or of the Hoard of Trade is to carry out this measure, so that you will have two or three concurrent and conflicting authorities. ft would be much more useful and natural, and much more likely to be successful, to allow the Fishery Board officers to carry out the measure, and not allow other authorities who are perfectly unacquainted with fishery matters to have to do with it. It seems obvious to me that the Government ought either to say that the Bill does not apply to Scotland, or to leave 950 its administration to the Scottish Fishery Board.
§ * SIR. J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
My principal object in rising as a representative of a very important fishing centre on the East Coast is to endorse the view which has been taken by all the opponents of this Bill. I see no justification for putting restrictions or limitations on our own fishermen under the idea that you are going to preserve the fish, while those foreign nations who are not in accord with us are ready to buy and consume those fish. I think the whole tendency of the Report of the Select Committee of 1893 shows in the most striking manner that no effective good can come from the simple restriction of the sale of fish in this country. And I think when my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade, in order to meet the hostility of Members like myself, who are interested in a very large number of a poor and deserving class of fishermen, to the restrictions and limitations in the Bill, offers a, Select Committee, he quite forgets what has been already noticed, that the Committee of 1893 itself reported that a Select Committee of this House, from the nature of the case, is not a body that can thoroughly investigate the matter from a practical point of view.
§ THE PRESIDENT of THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. C. T. RITCHIE, Croydon)
I withdraw the otter.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was opposing the Select Committee, and therefore I. withdraw it.
§ * SIR J. COLOMB
I was not opposing it; I said that the right hon. Gentleman proposed this Select Committee as a means of modifying the opposition to this Bill. I am not ungrateful to the right hon. Gentleman for offering a Select Committee. I am only pointing out that a Select Committee is not the best machinery for investigating this vexed question, and I think I am justified on that point by the Report of the Committee of 1893. The whole tendency of the Report of that Committee was that the effect most beneficial to all could 951 only be obtained by international agreement. There is another objection to this Bill which has not been touched upon very fully. My right hon. friend himself in defending the Bill told us that nine tenths of the coast of England was efficiently protected. Now, the Report of the Committee of 1893 points out that all the evidence goes to show that there is no diminution in the mature fish, and that no legislation is required for any part of the waters of the United Kingdom except the waters of the North Sea. Therefore you are bringing in a Bill to have a general effect over the whole United Kingdom, whereas on the admission of the Committee itself there is no necessity for legislation except in the North Sea. Because in the North Sea there is alleged to be a diminution of mature fish, you are going to bring in an entirely new system. It is because the North Sea is more or less an enclosed sea that it is thrashed and fished so thoroughly as it is. I am perfectly certain that the Bill will not produce the results expected, while it will put restrictions on and worry and annoy a deserving, a poor and hard-working class, for which there is no justification. No legislation of this sort should be proceeded with, that is, not on an international basis, and by which arrangements can be made for true experiments and scientific inquiry. I do not blame my right hon. friend that this has not been done before. 1 know that an international agreement is a difficult matter, but I believe that if my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade had been able to deal with the representatives of foreign nations direct, it might have been done long ago. The difficulty is that the Board of Trade can only negotiate with these countries through the overworked Foreign Office, which has refused to move in the matter during the last few years. But because the Foreign Office has not had the time or opportunity to deal with this matter, do not let the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety induce us to do something wrong. That is my position. I believe my fight hon. friend is sincerely anxious to do something, and naturally he takes the easiest course. But my point is that in taking the easiest course he is not accomplishing the object we all have in view. This Bill says that people must not expose for sale, or have in their possession for sale, small fish. But you cannot check an 952 arrangement by which Germans, or French, or Dutch, might make a regular business of taking the small fish from our fishing fleets, and carrying them over, and selling them on the seaboard of the North Sea. All you are doing is to prevent our fishermen who incidently catch and kill small fish (of course they would rather catch big fish) from bringing them home and selling them to the poor of our population. Take this case. Our fishing fleet comes, say, into Yarmouth with a large number of small and immature fish. Are they to be allowed to land the fish? There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that. Would these fish be imports? The boats had gone out from Yarmouth they had been on the water all the time; they had never been to another place; and I cannot conceive how the fish could be called imports, because they come from nowhere except the bottom of the sea, and there are no Board of Trade returns from the bottom of the sea. Well, the small trawlers can pick up these fish, and can land them, because they are not imports; but they cannot sell them, but they can give them away as manure for gardens to people who will give them vegetables in return. How does that improve the fishing? Are they to throw them in the harbour to float out and pollute the estuary? When you come to look at this Bill you find the Government are being influenced to legislation by the large man to kill the little man. It is not to preserve the fish, but to worry and harass and kill the smaller man. The Bill is indefinite, and not at all calculated to fulfil the purpose it is intended to accomplish.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)
I confess it is difficult for me to arrive at the opinion of the hon. Member who previously spoke, because he said it was an admitted evil for which remedy had to besought, and the only alternative he gives is limitation of area. The tenor of the speeches made to-night appears to be that because the foreigner does something we must shape our course to suit him.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING
I was leading up to that. I say the best method would be the example of some good legislation 953 on which to proceed. It is all very well to come down and say that this Bill is no good and nobody wants it, but those of us who know something about trawling look with some favour on the Bill. 1 live in a large town which is closely connected with fishing—Hull.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING
Yes, I admit it—big men and little men, too; but I speak of the little man now and the linesman, who are about to be handicapped because they cannot see small fish. Look at the facts. There is "Long Sand," which is one of the best breeding places for plaice in the United Kingdom, and the plaice go there in swarms during the months of August and September. The Ramsgate and Margate men desert their own grounds at Margate Knock, where they fish in twenty fathoms, and they go to the Long Sand, where they catch several large fish and hundreds of thousands of small immature fish. I know cases in which, the trawl having been down six hours, where there ought to have been sixty boxes of fish there were not six. What you want to do is not to prevent them taking, as they must, small and large together, but to stop them going to these spawning grounds and robbing them of these immature fish.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING
Yes yon do, because they would not go there if there was no market for these fish. With regard to the alternative of limiting the area, I have come to the conclusion, after looking into it, that it is somewhat foolish. It is not only trawlers who catch these small soles, but also the shrimpers, who catch them in large numbers and cannot help it. I regret to see that this Bill is limited to these fish. I should like to see oysters included. There is as much harm in selling the immature oyster as these other immature fish. At the present time the dredger fetches up the oyster spet, as it is called, not bigger than one's thumb, and there is no saving what damage is not done. If you limit the areas you stop shrimping. I hope the Government will pass this Bill.
§ MR. ROTHSCHILD (Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury)
This matter is of great 954 interest not only to the country at large, but to my constituents and to myself as a student of nature. A good many hon. Members who have spoken do not seem to be quite aware of the phases through which fish pass before they attain a marketable size, or of the injury done by trawling to immature fish, and especially flat fish. It is, I think, not generally known that the ova of flat fish are not deposited like those of salmon on the bottom of the sea, but float on the water. Where the damage comes in is at a considerably later stage in the life of the flat fish, when after living for three or four weeks in the water as a round fish it gradually became flattened out and sinks to the bottom. It is then in too weak a state to go into deep water, and so occupies the sand bank close in shore in quite a different place from that in which the parent fish lives and deposits the ova, for the parent fish does not come into shallow water. The mischief does not consist so much in killing the small fish as in disturbing the grounds where they find their livelihood, and it is well known to the big trawler that if he goes on those grounds he will only catch small fish. I am not so fanatical as to think that a trawler would only go on forbidden ground, nor do I think that he knows exactly every foot of ground over which he goes; but I do say that the trawler who has been out in the deeper sea and has only got a small load of fish, knowing that he has a ready sale for small fish, will deliberately go over grounds where he knows he can make up his load with small immature fish. It is in order to prevent these deliberate outrages that this Bill has been introduced, and that is why I heartily support it. Although there may be many faults in the Bill, as there are in all protective legislation, and although it will undoubtedly injure the present generation of smaller fishermen, I think that by the increased supply of fish in the future, which will be the result of the Bill, they will eventually benefit. The argument that legislation of this kind would not be effective unless it was international, because otherwise there was nothing to prevent foreign fishermen from buying the small fish and selling it elsewhere, was used in the United States for many years. The result was that the coasts of the United States were depleted of fish, and it is only after twenty years of 955 drastic legislation that they are now be ginning in some slight degree to recover their former position. I most heartily support the Bill.
* CAPTAIN PHILLPOTTS (Devonshire, Torquay)
As representing one of the largest fishing centres in the South of England, I do not like to give a silent vote on this Bill. If I thought it would promote the object it purports to effect, I should have some hesitation in going into the lobby against it, but I not only doubt the effect of the Bill, but I also doubt if it, will be fairly administered. I recently had an opportunity of attending a meeting of the National Deep Sea, Fishing Association, at which resolutions were passed unanimously in favour of this bill, but if my right hon. friend had been present and heard the speeches in support of those resolutions, I think he would have hesitated in bringing the measure before us. We are told the large numbers of immature fish are brought up by trawlers on the coast of Holland, but that when they come to England they fetch very little. That is not the fact which sends the fishermen to Holland, it is because they get a proportion of large fish. It does not pay them to go there to catch only small fish. Let me refer to part of the constituency I represent—Brixham. There we have no steam trawlers, but all sailing vessels, from fifteen tons to sixty, manned by crews of various sizes, who are not paid by wages, but by a share in the catch. It is to their interest to get a profitable catch as much as of the owner. The small fish which they catch are separated from the large before the marketable part is taken ashore, and the small fish are sold locally to the people. In olden days those fish were considered the perquisites of the apprentices, but that is no longer the case. This Bill, if passed, would have the evil effect of stopping a source of food for the poor, without advantage to the fishing industry. No doubt a great quantity of small fish are taken by means of long-haul seines, but the local Fisheries Committee have the power to stop this destruction of immature fish if they choose to exercise it, and as they do not I do not think it can be a very serious matter. Reading between the lines, I very much doubt if there can be a fair 956 administration of this Bill. I notice it is supported by wealthy capitalists of Grimsby and Hull. I attribute no sinister motives to the President of the Board of Trade, but I do not think this Bill was originally promoted in the interests of the fish themselves so much as the salesmen of the big markets, who make such efforts to keep up the prices. Vast quantities of fish are destroyed in London week by week for that purpose. It is assumed by some that the interests of those who catch the fish and those who sell it are identical, but they are as much opposed as they can possibly be. I am sorry to see when the question of trawling is before this House there is a very strong desire manifested to be down on the trawler. The hon. Member for Caithness complained that the penalties under this Bill were too low. It is a case of "hit him; he has no friends!'' or, what is just the same, he has no vote, because these men must either abstain from voting or lose a weeks work. The right hon. Gentleman quoted figures as to the catch of fish and the falling off of the takes. As regards the English Channel, the evidence before the Committee which reported in 1893 shows that in that case there was no falling off, but as plentiful supply as in any previous year, but the fishermen in the main had been able to obtain better prices. As to the Bill itself I must say 1 think the provisions of the penalties clause are unusually heavy. To impose a penalty of £2 on a man for selling a fish that he has caught accidentally, is very hard. Who is to carry out the law? Not the Customs officers, they have not sufficient leisure if they properly perform their other work. The right hon. Gentleman said something about an inquiry. I suggest an inquiry into this Bill before it goes further, but I presume the Government, with the vast resources at their command, will carry the Second Reading; and I can only hope when the inquiry is held it will be a searching one. Something should be done in the way of inquiry into the possibility of dividing the authority controlling the river fisheries and the sea fisheries, so that the sea fishery industry of this country should no longer be placed under the control of a Committee that knows nothing what ever about the matter and cares a great deal less. It is time that we should reconsider our position in that matter, 957 which to my mind is a most undesirable thing in connection with fishery legislation. I wish to say a word on the report of the Committee, where Professor Huxley says—The allegation that trawling in the open sea has exhausted any trawling ground, and that trawlers have been obliged permanently to leave any trawling ground on account of such exhaustion, is. therefore, in my mind, devoid of foundation.I think that one paragraph disposes of the contention urged by some speakers that trawling in itself is destructive of fish. I believe if this matter is inquired into by an impartial Committee, with power to see expert and scientific witnesses, we shall find that the evils complained of by the Fisheries Protection Association, and by those who have urged the passing of this measure, have been greatly exaggerated. On these grounds I have to record my vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby)
I think that whatever may be our differences of opinion on the question before the House nearly every hon. Member has expressed himself dissatisfied with the present condition of affairs in the fisheries. I think I can speak with some experience and with some knowledge of the general views of the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom on this question, and they unquestionably do feel that Parliament has neglected their industry very much indeed. It is more than ten years since this small measure was first advocated by them, and it is now seven years since the Select Committee of this House sat on the question, when it was reported that some legislation of the nature embodied in this Bill should become law. I think this Bill good as far as it goes, but it is a very small measure indeed, and will do very little to meet the needs of this great industry. For my part I should earnestly request the Government and the President of the Board of Trade when he has given effect to this measure to follow up its legislation by inquiring into the whole condition of the fisheries, either by a Royal Commission or by a Departmental Committee if you like, or whatever course is wisest and best to adopt in this matter, and to take some steps so that the House as well as the country may know the actual facts as they exist to-day in respect of the fishing industry. Although I feel 958 there ought to be a more exhaustive inquiry, I do think it would be a pity if the House did not adopt this measure as a small instalment in the direction that the fisheries require. We heard in the early part of the evening a very able speech from the Member for Lowestoft on this question. He spoke for a considerable period of time, and placed before the House his view of it, I think, in a very fair way, but it seemed to me that in the first place a great deal of his speech was made up of quotations from the Report of the Select Committee, and that these quotations were such portions as bore on his particular argument. I do not think it necessary to pursue very far his argument on that question, because the Select Committee after hearing all this evidence came to the conclusion that it was necessary to recommend to the House the principle embodied in this Bill, and therefore it seems to me that having the results of the Select Committee embodied in the recommendation it does no good to bring forward various quotations from a Committee of that kind. But my hon. friend says that what we require is international legislation, and that this Bill should not pass into law because there are other countries that have not yet adopted its principle. I am in favour of an international measure. I do not think the fishery legislation will be perfect in any way until some move is taken internationally to deal with the question; but 1 would like to point out that since 1893, when the Report was issued, several of these countries bordering on the North Sea have already adopted the very Bill which you are asked to adopt to-night by the President of the Board of Trade, and, therefore, we are already moving very largely in the direction of a consensus of opinion and of equality of legislation on the whole question.
§ MR. DOUGHTY
I allude to Holland and Denmark, and I think also Sweden. Anyhow, I think I am right in the statement I have made, but whether it be so or not the fact remains that some—nearly all the countries have adopted some legislation of this kind. It seems to be a crime, according to the argument of one or two hon. Gentlemen below me, for large industries to make any demand on this 959 House for legislation. The only people who are considered are those connected with the smaller industries, even though the larger ones may suffer seriously. I should like to bring before the House what is the bulk of opinion in regard to this particular Bill. I can assure the House that 90 per cent. of the fishing industry have supported this particular measure, and are desirous that it should become law. [AN HON. MEMBER: "No."] I hoar someone say "No." The National Sea Fisheries Association represents the whole of the fishing industry of this country of every kind—at least if it does not represent certain sections of the trade it is because those sections are unwilling to come into the association. The association is presided over by Sir Edward Birkbeck, who, as everybody knows, has taken an interest in the welfare of the fishermen for many years, and who, I am sure, would not recommend to the House or the country anything he did not believe to be for the host interests of those whom he represents. A great deal has been said against the Sea Fisheries Committees of the County Councils. I really cannot understand why this House should complain that the Sea Fisheries Board should express an opinion on this question. This House has given the County Councils power to appoint these Committees, and having been appointed, they should be listened to on a question of this kind. They practically unanimously have expressed their assent, and are in favour of this particular Bill. It is not a mere expression of opinion. Many of these Boards, and particularly the Lancashire and North Eastern Boards, which have many practical men on them, have discussed the question at their meetings again and again, and have come to the conclusion that this is the only measure that will be satisfactory to them. I know that the Fishery Boards have already by their acts accomplished a very great deal in the direction of protecting immature fish, and in many parts where a great deal of injury was done the Fishery Boards by strict supervision have produced a different state of things from what used to obtain. I hope the House will take a great deal of notice of the opinion of the Fishery Boards in of this country, particularly as that opinion is practically unanimous. I happen to represent a constituency which last year supplied this country with fish food to the extent of 960 2,000,000 cwts., having a value of £1,720,000. That constituency is made up very largely of fishermen and those interested in the industry. When it is said that they are all large men I assure you that is not the case. There are a very large number of small men as well, and that constituency is practically unanimous in support of this important measure and is very desirous that it should become law. The next important town is Hull. It last year supplied 1,2500,000 cwts., having a value of £941,000. The fishermen of that place, through their associations, have expressed themselves strongly in favour of this measure, and I should like to point my hon. friend opposite to the fact that Aberdeen, which is very fast becoming one of the great fishing centres of the United Kingdom, supplied 640,000 cwts., having a value of £322,000. Aberdeen is very largely in favour of this measure. I think that with the exception of the two or three instances referred to by the hon. Member for Yarmouth there are very few, if any, important fishing constituencies in this country which are not desirous that this measure should become law. I listened with very great interest to the excellent speech of the hon. Member for the Aylesbury Division. I think that speech had in it a very considerable amount of information, not merely to the House, but to all persons who take an interest in this very important question of the fishing industry. I can say this from experience, whatever may be said to the contrary by some of my hon. friends here, that without question there is a very distinct diminution of the fish in the sea surrounding this country. There is no doubt whatever that, so far as fiat fish is concerned, there is a very great diminution. I notice that an inspector in a Report this year says that Lowestoft last year was below the average of previous years. During the past ten years I believe the decrease in the amount of flat fish from the North Sea is 60 or 70 percent, indeed, I believe very much more than that. Ten years ago it was not unusual for a trawler to got his ten boxes of plaice in a night. I venture to say there are no trawlers now get four boxes of plaice during the night. That is a matter that can be proved from the returns. If you kill all the little fish it is only a question of time till you have no 961 big ones. I think that is a common-sense argument. However many fish there may be in the sea, if you continue this state of things, sooner or later it will affect you, and you will have very little fish left. There have been a variety of arguments advanced that this Bill will not prevent the destruction of fish. I have no hesitation in saying that this Bill will prevent the destruction of fish. There are hundreds of square miles of flats on which the small fish go to live until they become sufficiently big to go to the deeper waters and take care of themselves. In these areas there are practically no big fish at all. I differ entirely from my hon. friend who spoke a minute ago, and other hon. Gentlemen, who said that fishermen do not go there for these fish. I say unquestionably that the fishermen, many of whom I know very well, are going there now, and for no other purpose than to catch these fish. [An HON.MEMBER: "Why don't they stop away?"] Why don't they stop away? my hon. friend says. Self is a powerful factor in human nature, and as long as you allow an Englishman to make £150 for a voyage he is not going where he can only make £80. That is the principle of the whole thing. I can give yon information of what has transpired during the past two months. They are catching a very considerable quantity of small fish which are sold in the provincial markets at 6s. and 7s. If you pass this Bill these people will not go there to catch these fish because they will not be able to sell them. I point this out to hon. Gentleman; if you go to Billingsgate early in the morning I undertake that you will see some of these boxes which contain as many as 800 small fish and they will be sold at the enormous sum of 6s. to 7s. I ask the House whether that is not a shocking waste of young life and a shocking waste of probable wealth in the future. It has been stated that the quantity of fish which is being brought forward proves that there is no diminution. I think the hon. Member for King's Lynn produced some figures to the House and tried to prove that there was no diminution in the quantity of fish supplied in this country. He did not give the other side of the question. He did not say how much extra catching power there was. I will try to give my construction of the case. He said that in 1899 there were 962 12,857,000 cwts. with a value of £5,633,769, while in 1899 there were 14,786,000 with a value of £8,864,900, showing an increase in ten years of 18 per cent. in the amount of fish brought into the country, and an increase of 60 per cent. in the value. Hon. Members will therefore see at once that the catcher has not seriously suffered by this diminution. He is getting a better price than ever before, and the price is increasing year by year. The consumer is paying a very much higher price than he should have to pay if the fisheries were properly protected, and if there was a proper amount of fish in the sea for the catcher to get. The hon. Member for King's Lynn did not point out what a great change had taken place in the catching power during the past ten years. Ten years ago there were 100 steam trawlers. There are now 1,300 steam trawlers, and each steam trawler, I suppose, is calculated to catch as much fish as ten of the ordinary boats off the coast of Scotland, and five of the larger sailing boats fishing off the coast of England. Therefore the House will see at once the enormous increase in the amount of catching power put into the sea during the past ten years. Does it follow, because there is a slight increase in the quantity of fish landed, that therefore they come from the same places? If the quantity of fish had to come from the North Sea which used to come ten years ago it would be practically impossible to get the normal supply needed in this country. Owing to the scarcity of fish in the North Sea British fishermen are now in the habit of going over the sea 1,500 miles away from our coasts, where there is known to be fish. It is only five years since our trawlers began to go to the Icelandic sea, to find there, if possible, places from which they might supply this country with fish food. This year and last year thousands of tons of flat fish have been brought from Iceland and the waters near the coast of Iceland. One of the places visited involves on the part of our fishermen a voyage, port to port, of 3,000 miles. That proves conclusively that the fish is not coming from the sources it used to come from, but from other sources in other parts of the world, which I hope will be very fertile so far as this country is concerned. I wish to say a word in commendation of the Government for the assistance they have 963 rendered to the British fishermen in Icelandic waters. The Foreign Office have been of great service to them in getting protection for British fishermen in Icelandic waters, and by sending out boats to protect their industry. On behalf of the trade I have to thank them. I have tried to prove to the House that there is a considerable diminution of fish in the North Sea and other parts around the coast of the United Kingdom. I have also tried to prove to the House that the price of fish at the present time and the sources of supply around the coast are such that some legislation must be passed in the direction of protecting the fish food, and helping in the future to find the supplies which are so necessary.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
I do not rise for the purpose of taking part in the discussion on the merits of the Bill. I rise for the purpose of asking the Lord Advocate if this Bill is to apply to Scotland. If it is to apply to Scotland, why is the Lord Advocate's name not on the back of it? As a rule, when any Bills are to apply to Scotland the Lord Advocate's name is on the back. If the Bill does not apply to Scotland, I think we are entitled to ask that that should appear on the face of it. If it applies to Scotland officers of customs or officers appointed by the Board of Trade are to be the parties to execute the Act. As the Lord Advocate knows, we have a Fishery Board of which the Secretary for Scotland is chairman, or at any rate it is under his jurisdiction. Obviously that would be inconvenient, the Fishery Board having officials of their own. I do not wish to intervene further, but I think the point is one the Lord Advocate ought to give us a little information upon.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby, in the course of his speech, referred to what he alleged to be a fact, that this Bill was supported by almost the entire fishing representatives in the House. I venture to take exception to that statement. Hull and Grimsby are in favour of the Bill, and the association of these towns with the word trawler very naturally occurs. With the exception of Hull and Grimsby, all the fishing centres represented in this House deprecate the Bill. They may be right or they may be wrong, but the great mass of those con- 964 nected with the fishing industry represented in this House are not in favour of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who has charge of the Bill, jumped up and seized on the observation made by the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth. The hon. Gentleman quoted a self-denying ordinance passed by the Select Committee. That Select Committee stated that a Select Committee of this House was not by any means the best tribunal to judge a question of this kind. The Select Committee of 1893 did not say that no inquiry was requisite. On the contrary, they stated the reason why they were not the best tribunal that might be selected was that because of the nature of the circumstances an inquiry conducted by a Committee of this House must necessarily be during the summer months, when they wore deprived of the principal witnesses they would like to have had called before them, because they were engaged in their business on the sea. The obvious inference to be drawn from that was that a Royal Commission was the better tribunal, and we have had not only Select Committees but Royal Commissions. I do not wish to weary the House with extracts at this time of night, but the Royal Commission of 1863, of which Sir James Caird and Professor Huxley were members, declared that legislation of this kind was mischievous and inexpedient. If my right hon. friend has doubts as to that, I will read the Report.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Very well. I will simply re-assert that a representative Royal Commission in 1863, which, unlike a Select Committee of this House, was able to call before it the greatest authorities in the country, declared emphatically against legislation of this kind.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
Would the right hon. Gentleman state what was the number of steam trawlers in 1863?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I am by no means aware that that information would much assist in guiding the House, but we have it on the authority of the hon. Member for Grimsby that where 100 steam trawlers existed at the time of which he spoke, which would be subsequent to 1863, there were 1,300 now. That Royal Commission stated in clear 965 and distinct terms that the available supply of fish had not appreciably diminished, and that any curtailment of the facilities for bringing fish to the market would be an injury and would do no good. A good deal has been said about the Sea Fishery Committees. I have heard them spoken of as representative bodies. They are nothing of the kind so far as the fishing industry is concerned. They are elected by the county councils or they are nominated by the Board of Trade. I am not saying anything against the Board of Trade or the county councils, but I do say that the fishing industry, where it is represented at all, is in a hopeless minority, and that these fishery committees carry no weight whatever as representatives of the fishing industry of the country. Some hon. Gentlemen have spoken as if persons went out on purpose to catch these small fish. A small fish is not what any smacksman goes out to catch; it is what comes incidentally into his net. Nobody has denied that the great mass of the small fish that are brought up from the sea come up dead, although there has been some difference of opinion as to the relative proportions of alive and dead. The hon. Member for Central Hull contradicted one of the preceding speakers who thought that almost the whole—80 or 90 per cent.—were dead, stating that not more than 50 per cent. of the small fish would be in that condition. Even then 50 per cent. would be thrown as carrion into the sea, and I would like to know whether that is for the general welfare of anyone concerned. We know very well that the throwing of these dead fish into the sea would be productive of no practical good. The hon. Member for Yarmouth has pointed out a much more practical use to which such fish could be put. Other countries go in for something more in the direction of free trade than some hon. Gentlemen appear to be recommending tonight, and into those countries these fish will be taken, no doubt by arrangement, from the North Sea fleet. It is well known that the sailing smacks club together to send their fish by steam power to the markets they desire to serve. No doubt the destruction would still take place, and the fish would be sent to the markets still open to them, and practically no difference would be made in the method of conducting the trade, but at the same 966 time it would be a serious handicap to one of our chief national industries. Why is it that the representatives of practically the whole of the fishing industry are against this Bill?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us of the representative of any single fishing district, save the Members for Hull and Grimsby, who have spoken in favour of this Bill? Whether it be Scotland or Devonshire, Norfolk or Kent, we find the representatives of the fishing industry solidly and unanimously against this Bill.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
We know all about the Sea Fisheries Committees. My hon. friend cannot point out a single representative of the fishing industry who has supported this Bill. I am quite aware that the inland representatives who are elected to serve on these Sea Fisheries Committees have been largely captured by the representatives of the steam trawlers, against whom, of course, I say nothing. But the Sea Fishery Committees do not represent the fishing industry. I said that this Bill would hamper the fishing industry. We are told that boxes of fish have been found with small fish at the bottom and large ones at the top, and we have a hope thrown out to us of the seizure and detention of consignments of fish where it is suspected there are very small ones, pending inspection by the Board of Trade. That would be rather an improvement! That is an interference with an important industry, against which the representatives of that industry are bound to protest. I hope, at any rate, it will not go forth that those who bona fide represent the great bulk of the fishing industry are parties to this Bill. No doubt the division will give a very poor indication of what is the real feeling of the country on tin's subject. Both front Benches are united in support of the Bill. An hon. Gentleman opposite spoke the other day of this Bill as a particular exemplification of the policy of those sitting on this side of the House. That is by no means the case. Almost the last act of the late Government was to move the Second 967 Reading of a Bill similar to this, but not the same Bill. An almost protean characteristic attaches to this measure—it has appeared under so many different titles. Even a War Office contractor could scarcely assume the same number of aliases. Whether it is "Underwood" or "under size" we find the greatest difficulty in detecting what we have before us. This Bill has been successively introduced on both front Benches, and I suppose they both will support it now. A vast number of hon. Gentlemen representing various industries in this country, but who are not specially connected with the fishing industry, will no doubt follow their party leaders, and therefore, as I say, the division will give but a poor indication of what is really felt in regard to this Bill.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The general case for the Bill was fully stated by my right hon. friend on the last occasion when the measure was under discussion, and it has again been most admirably stated, if I may be allowed to say so, by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby; but I have listened to the whole of the speeches since the debate began, and they have all boon so tinctured with an entire misconception of the provisions of the Bill, and especially with regard to the question of an international agreement, that I shall have to say a few words on the subject. The debate to-day was opened by a speech of very great length by the hon. Member for Lowestoft, who read to the House a great deal of the evidence given before the Select Committee, dwelling lingeringly and even lovingly on the passages of his own cross-examination. He seemed to put to the witness a question in this form: "Would you be satisfied with a remedy which was purely national, or must such a remedy be international?" No doubt many of the witnesses immediately said, "Oh, we think, to be efficacious, it must be international." But there are two senses of the word "international." This Bill, though in one sense not international, in another sense is international. Hon. Members, I suppose, are aware that in the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act of 1889 there is a clause which very much resembles the operative clause of this Bill, and that clause has been asserted not only against British subjects, but against the foreigner, and 968 with perfect success. [An HON. MEMBER: Not in British waters.] Not in British waters, if by "British waters" the hon. Member means waters within the territorial limit. In Moray Firth, which the hon. Member knows is not within the territorial limit, the clause has been assorted against the foreigner. Hon. Member after hon. Member has followed the argument of the hon. Member for Lowestoft, and have said this sort of thing: "I am not going to vote for a Bill which simply hampers the British fishermen, while at the same time leaving foreigners free." How is the foreigner free? Free to come to the British market? Certainly not, if this Bill passes. This measure will be just as effective against the foreigner in the British market as against the British fisherman. If you do not mean in the British market, how is he free in the foreign market? You cannot ignore the state of the law as it exists at the present moment in foreign countries. The hon. Member for Lowestoft made a point that he had contradicted the Member for South Aberdeen rightly for telling the House there were prohibitory laws of this kind in Germany. That is true, but at the same time that only refers to Germany proper. The whole state of the case is this: It does not matter whether the prohibition is exactly the same to the eighth of an inch; the point is whether they have got legislation of this character. There is a prohibition against undersized fish in Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, and Prussia. Hon Members will remember that if you subtract Prussia from Germany you do not have left a very extensive sea board; while if you take the countries I have mentioned, you get at least what may be called a very general consensus of prohibition on the part of the States fringing the fishing grounds of the North Sea. Therefore, where would be the market? The hon. Member for Yarmouth said we should be having the Dutch going and taking the catch from the ships on the sea, that if you could prevent the fishermen coming into your own market you could not prevent them selling on the high seas, and that you would have the Dutch taking the fish. But it is a fact that during this very last summer the Dutch alone were sending into Billingsgate fifty tons a week of these undersized fish.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The hon. Member is a great authority on sea-faring matters, and I should not have thought he would have suggested that whitebait was a flat fish.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The right hon. Gentleman did not restrict his observation to flat fish; he said undersized fish.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
I am directing my observations to the Bill, and the Bill deals with flat fish. All I say is that if the Dutch were putting fifty tons of these fish a week on the English market it does not look as if they had a very productive market at home.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
The size of the plaice is 6⅝in. The hon. Member for Lowestoft, whose speech I am taking as a typical one, said, "Oh, but you are going in the wrong direction; you ought to legislate by way of prohibited areas." But even in the passages he quoted from the evidence given before the Select Committee it was abundantly shown that a great many of these fishing areas are entirely outside the territorial limit; they are on the high sea.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
Oh, I did not mean that the hon. Member had in any way misrepresented the fact. It is obvious, therefore, that you could deal with the high sea only by an international agreement. But the first step towards an international agreement surely is to put our own house in order, and do what other countries have done in the matter of legislation on this question of undersized fish. It is perfectly certain, and everybody admits, that international agreement is hard enough, but it is much harder if foreign countries are in a position to say, "Well, you, at any rate, have not done all you can in the case. Put yourself on a level with us, and then come and talk about international agreement." My right hon. friend has dealt very liberally with the opposition in this matter in saying he 970 would refer this Bill to a Select Committee, because before a Select Committee, of course, if a case can be made against the Bill there is still the opportunity. But I must say I fancy my right hon. friend will think twice before he makes such a concession again. I should like to clear away a little unintentional misrepresentation which has been made more than once in the course of the debate. Member after Member said that the Select Committee began its operations by saying that a Select Committee of this House was an unfit tribunal to inquire into the subject. They said nothing of the sort. What they did say was that they desired to place on record that a Committee of the House of Commons is not an altogether satisfactory tribunal to take evidence with regard to the grievances and wants of fishermen so far as the evidence of the fishermen themselves is concerned. Yes, certainly; and they say it is because the fishermen cannot come up.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
It is expanding that altogether to say that that is a confession by the Select Committee that they were an unfit tribunal to inquire into the subject. They merely said that one particular class of evidence was not as easily available to themselves as to others, and that accordingly they suggest that there should be supplemental inquiries by fishery committees. I shall have a, word to say about fishery committees in a moment. My right hon. friend makes the offer of this Select Committee, and then comes the hon. Member for Yarmouth, who says he is not ungrateful for the concession, but immediately proceeds to talk of the concession as a foolish proposal in itself and one that does not in any way modify the hostility to the Bill. If that is the grateful mood of the hon. Member for Yarmouth, heaven help us when he gets into an ungrateful mood. We believe that this measure will be generally welcomed by the fishermen of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Member for Thanet said there are no representatives of the great fishing centres who have spoken in favour of the Bill.
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
He was not here during the whole of the debate; therefore probably he did not know that the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen spoke in favour of the Bill, and Aberdeen, I think, is clearly entitled to be called a great fishing centre. [An HON. MEMBER: Steam trawling.] Besides that there are the fishery committees. I have been struck by the way in which the fishery committees have been belittled. We have been told again and again that they are not representative of the fishermen. They may not be representative in the sense of being directly elected by the fishermen, but, after all, they are committees elected partly by the county councils, in which I suppose the fishermen have a certain voice. And I should like to know what axe to grind members of fishery committees have. The right hon. Member for Thanet spoke as if the object of the fishery committees was to keep down and oppress the fishermen. I do not see what object these committees can have except to do what they think best for the fishing industry, and I do not see that it entirely detracts from the authority of a fishery committee simply to say they are not directly elected by the fishermen. At any rate, they are a body of responsible and, I suppose, honest men, who, so far as I can see, are bound to give their best intelligence to the subject. I can scarcely imagine that they are of such a description that they should be treated as the hon. Member for Lowestoft suggested. He said that these people had just "spooned" into them certain facts; they were told that there was a diminution in the supply of fish, that this was a good Bill, and would prevent the supply of fish being diminished; and that when they were asked to do a thing they simply said "Yes." Surely there are some members on these fishery committees who have a little common sense, and even as much practical knowledge of fishing as may be found in many Members of Parliament. After all, I do not suppose that all knowledge rests with King's Lynn. A great deal has been said about the big man and the little man. We are not concerned with either the big man or the little man. What we are concerned with is the general good of the people. There undoubtedly has been a diminution of flat fish in the North Sea——
§ * MR. A. GRAHAM MURRAY
Really it is perfectly useless for the hon. Member for King's Lynn to interpose that negative. It has been directly so found, and I leave the matter as it stands. We take the Committee on the one side, and the hon. Member for King's Lynn on the other. I do not think it is any use to quote against the finding of that Committee the Report of a Royal Commission, however eminent, which sat in 1863. Without going into the exact numbers everyone knows that the condition of steam trawling in 1863 was absolutely and entirely different from the condition now. I rather doubt whether there was a single steam trawl in 1863. In the same way the scarcity that has since developed had not developed in 1863, and therefore it seems to me that the passage the right hon. Gentleman quoted is really against himself. He read one passage in which it was stated there was no diminution in the supply of fish, while nowadays, in order to maintain the supply of fish the fishermen have to go the immense distances we have heard of to-night. That is a clear proof that the near-to-hand supplies of fish are not nearly so plentiful as they were in days gone by. This Bill is an attempt to remedy an admitted evil. It is no doubt only one step, but it is a step in the right direction, and it is a step which does not prevent, but rather facilitates further steps, and therefore I hope the House will agree to the Second Reading. Of course the Bill applies to Scotland. I have got the authority of my right hon. friend beside me to say that the reason for my name not being on the back of the Bill is really a slip on his part.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
With regard to the points dealt with by the Lord Advocate I should just like to say a few words. What has been the upshot of this debate to-night and the previous night? Surely if you are endeavouring to settle admitted grievances of a great fishing industry you cannot do so unless you attempt to deal with the large grievances involved therein. This Bill merely deals with a small section and only with a fraction of this question, and it will not prevent further steps being taken in the future. This measure cannot satisfy those who desire to see the serious grievances which affect the fishing 973 industry satisfactorily dealt with by this House. I represent the largest fishing industry in Scotland—the largest both as regards the number of men employed and the value of the fishing—and what is the grievance which this Bill is intended to remedy? I heard the statement made that the supply of fish was being ruthlessly destroyed year after year by the trawlers in the North Sea. I think a similar statement was made by the late President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for South Aberdeen, and similar views have been expressed by the hon. Member for Grimsby and by the Lord Advocate. We have now got it officially stated in this House in so many words—what we have frequently contended for — that the constant trawling has permanently diminished the supply of fish in the North Sea. This fact is evident to anyone who considers the condition of things which exists in an area like the North Sea. We have been contending on this side of the House that that was the case year after year, and now we find this fact allowed by the late President of the Board of Trade and by the hon. Member for Grimsby, who is well qualified to speak with authority upon this subject. The existence of this evil is granted, but what is going to be your remedy? Is it to be this Bill with regard to regulating the sale of under-sized fish? So far as my constituents are concerned I do not think they will be benefited to any great extent, because the trawlers have destroyed already the turbot and the brill on the East Coast and also the soles, and these fish are excluded from the operation of this Bill. The destruction has already been done, and this Bill cannot offer any remedy to that part of Scotland at all. It has been alleged by several speakers that this Bill has been promoted and urged upon the consideration of this House by those who are interested in one branch of fishing alone, and that is the steam trawling industry. The Member for Grimsby has allowed that statement. This measure has been strongly supported for several years past by the hon. Members for Grimsby, Hull, and Aberdeen, and these are the three great centres in the United Kingdom of the steam trawling industry. There are no other ports in the United Kingdom which have anything like the same number of trawlers. The hon. Members I have 974 alluded to represent this large trawling industry, and therefore they are strongly supporting this Bill. But do they themselves assert that the remedy proposed by this Bill will be effective? My recollection of the report of the Committee is that the witnesses from Grimsby and Hull told us that the number of undersized fish caught which would perish in the trawl would be 90 per cent., and this shows that, so far as the saving of the lives of these young fish by prohibiting their sale goes, the evidence shows that it falls very far short of proving an effective remedy. I want to point out to the House that this was not the only remedy that was recommended by that Committee, nor was this the only grievance which at that time existed, and was acknowledged, with regard to the fisheries of Great Britain and Ireland. It is very remarkable how history repeats itself with regard to these fishery grievances. What is really the Parliamentary origin of this Bill? Some hon. Members will remember that in 1893 a motion was put down by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Islington on behalf of the trawlers of Hull that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider the expediency of preventing the landing and the sale of undersized flat fish The Liberal Government, through the late Mr. Mundella, said they would agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, not to consider that subject only but also the various grievances with regard to sea fisheries which have led to this acknowledged diminution in flat fish. If the Government are prepared to accept the same reference as that I, for one, would be willing to agree to it. That would show that they were alive to the evil, but the remedy proposed only deals with the fringe of these questions, and with only one branch of it. Upon that subject these facts will be manifest to those who have listened to these discussions, and who were members of the Majoribanks Commission in 1893. This limitation of the sale of undersized flat fish has been in existence for nearly ten years in foreign countries bordering on the North Sea, but have we had any evidence to show that, in any degree, this limitation has increased the supply of flat fish in the North Sea? We are large fishers in the North Sea, but we know that five or six of the Powers bordering on the North Sea for the past ten years have been 975 putting in force this limitation, and up to the present date it has produced no effect whatever. Therefore, the remedy which this Bill proposes is not likely to be speedily efficacious. If the House wishes to deal satisfactorily with the admitted grievances of the fishing community all around the coast, and particularly in the North Sea, which has had the supply of fish seriously diminished in recent years owing to the constant working of steam trawlers, then we must have the inquiry into this subject much wider than is proposed under this Bill. It is perfectly manifest from the statement made by my hon. friend the Member for Grimsby that in the course of the last ten or twenty years the increase in the catching capacity around the coast of trawlers has enormously varied, that the conditions of fishing have very greatly altered in that time, and that quite an ample space of time has elapsed to have a further inquiry upon the subject. I am perfectly certain that unless the inquiry is much wider it will not give satisfaction to the fishermen of the country. Instead of limiting the size of flat fish which are to be sold in this country you should enclose, by international agreement, certain areas in the North Sea. The chairman of the Scotch Fisheries Board was asked a
§ question as to prohibiting the sale of flat fish, and he said that he did not think it could be effective, and the only way of effectively dealing with it would be to provide an international agreement with the other Powers fishing in the North Sea to close certain areas. We have constantly, year after year, and session after session, urged the Government to take some action in that direction of obtaining an international agreement, and until they are prepared to enter into negotiations with regard to that and other subjects which affect our fishing industry in the North Sea we shall not get any satisfactory settlement of this burning question.
§ MAJOR RASCH
As the representative of a large fishing industry I may say that the Kent and Essex Sea Fisheries Committee, of which I am a member, met this afternoon, and they desired me respectfully to submit to the House their absolute and entire acquiescence in the Bill which the Government have brought forward, and they hope that it will be placed upon the Statute-book this session.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 180; Noes, 33. (Division List No. 112.)977
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Charming, Francis Allston||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Chaplin, lit. Hon. Henry||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Asher, Alexander||Charrington, Spencer||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. George's)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Corbett, A Cameron (Glasg'w)||Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Man.)||Cotton-Jodrell, Col. E. T. D.||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W.(Leeds)||Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H.||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cox, L. Edward Bainbridge||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.|
|Barnes, Frederick Gorell||Crilly, Daniel||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W.|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Curzon, Viscount||Hanson, Sir Reginald|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Hardy, Laurence|
|Bethell, Commander||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Hazell, Walter|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Heath, James|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Doughty, George||Helder, Augustus|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Douglas. Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Hornby, Sir William Henry|
|Brassey, Alfred||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Howard, Joseph|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Faber, George Denison||Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm. Lawies|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Finch, George H.||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Butcher, John George||Finlay, Sir Hubert Bannatyne||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Fisher, William Hayes||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Caldwell, James||Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Keswick, William.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||King, Sir Henry Seymour|
|Cavendish, V. C.W. (Derbysh.)||Fletcher, Sir Henry||Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Flower, Ernest||Knowles, Lees|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Lafone, Alfred|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Galloway, William Johnson||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Garfit, William||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)||Gedge, Sydney||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Pierpoint, Robert||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Pilkington, R. (Lanes Newton)||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Purvis, Robert||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller||Rankin, Sir James||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Lowe, Francis William||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Reckitt, Harold James||Weir, James Galloway|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Remnant, James Farquharson||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Rentoul, James Alexander||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
|Maclure, Sir John William||Richards, Henry Charles||Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|M'Killop, James||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Maddison, Fred.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Malcolm, Ian||Rothschild, Hon. L. Walter||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand||Round, James||Woods, Samuel|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Russell, T. AV. (Tyrone)||Wrightson, Thomas|
|Milner, Sir Frederick George||Rutherford, John||Wylie, Alexander|
|Monckton, Edward Philip||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Wyndham, George|
|Morrell, George Herbert||Smith, A. H. (Christchurch)||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arey|
|Muntz, Philip A.||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham(Bute)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)||Younger, William|
|Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Stanley, E. James (Somerset)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart|
|Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Doogan, P. C.||Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Billson, Alfred||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Sinclair Capt. John (Forfarsh.)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Jones, David Brynmor (Swan.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Lough, Thomas||Steadman, William Charles|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Lowther, Rt. Hn. James (Kent)||Strachey, Edward|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Maclean, James Mackenzie||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Daly, James||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)|
|Dewar, Arthur||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Cameron Gull and Mr. Price.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Pilkington, Sir G. A. (Lancs S. W.)|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.