§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
rose to call attention to the fishing industry in Ireland; and to move—"That the condition of Irish fisheries is unsatisfactory and demands the early attention of the Government." He did not intend, he said, to give a lot of statistics with regard to this matter, but he would give a comparison, first of all, between England, Ireland, and Scotland, as regarded the fishing industry. In England and Wales in the course of ten months up to the end of October, 1905, the fishing represented a value of £5,959,141. In Scotland, for the same period, it was £2,463,531. In Ireland for a period of eleven months, up to 20th November, 1905, the value was only £308,703. That was to say, roughly, the catch of fish off the Irish coast was only one-eighth that of Scotland, and one-nineteenth that of England and Wales. He thought those figures would be in themselves sufficient to prove his contention that the condition of the Irish fishing industry was unsatisfactory and demanded the early attention of the Government. From the last report of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, which Department embraced the fisheries, he found that there were only 25,000 men and boys engaged in the industry, the total number of vessels being 6,235. His first claim was, that in order to put the fisheries of Ireland upon a proper basis there should be done what was done in every other country in the world which properly looked after its fishing, and that was to supply the West coast of Ireland with at least one gunboat or torpedo destroyer to cope with the illegalities carried on by trawlers and foreign vessels. At the present time there were only two vessels, the "Helga" and the "Granuaile," engaged in the work for the whole coast of Ireland, and when he asked the Chief Secretary a few days ago what was the speed of these two vessels, the right hon. Gentleman replied that it was not advisable in the public good to give the actual speed. That was quite sufficient for the contention he was now making. He 1194 knew these boats were not sufficiently rapid to keep up with the trawlers which were engaged in illegal practices. Germany, in addition to a special cruiser, had two torpedo boats told off all the year round to look after its fisheries. The least that the British Government could do in return for what Ireland did in the way of keeping up the British Navy was to detach one or two torpedo boats or fast gunboats in order to supplement the two inefficient boats at present engaged in the business. The Fishery Board of the Department of Agriculture was not at present properly manned. There ought to be on the Board a man who was a thorough expert on sea fisheries, and until that was done he did not think that the Board could properly discharge its functions. As a matter of fact there was a great deal of overlapping of functions in the Department of Agriculture and the Congested Districts Board. For example, over three years ago the late Chief Secretary introduced the Marine Works Act, under which the sum of £100,000 was allocated to be spent on the West coast of Ireland in building piers and harbours. In Kerry so far not a penny of this money had been spent, although when the Bill was going through the House the late Chief Secretary suggested that a sum of £1,000 should be contributed under the Bill, £1,000 from the Department of Agriculture, and £1,000 from the Congested Districts Board in order to complete a pier at Reenard Point. Nothing had been done, and he put it down to the fact that there were two or three departments in Ireland, and they put people off by one department saying that another department was not ready. If there were on the Congested Districts Board a representative from Kerry and a representative from Cork, Reenard Point would have been put into a satisfactory condition many years ago. He hoped all these departments would now put their heads together and come to some arrangement by which Kerry could take advantage of the Marine Works Act. If there had been a regular expert on the Fisheries Board in Ireland, he believed long before this that country would have had what Scotland had—and he presumed every country in which the fishing industry was looked properly after had—and that was a brand by which 1195 cured mackerel and herring was known all the world over. This would repay itself. If a charge, as in Scotland, of 4d. a barrel were imposed for the branding it would probably be sufficient not only to pay the expenses of the inspectors who had to carry out the branding, but also to leave a margin. A particular reason at the present moment for urging this question of branding was the fact that Ireland was going to have a national trade mark for produce and manufactures, although it was a question for consideration whether the brand for cured fish should be the national trade mark, or differently administered. At all events, it was time that a brand should be adopted, to enable Irish cured herrings and mackerel to take their distinct position. There was another matter he should like to bring to the attention of the Chief Secretary, although it was also, he agreed, in the nature of an experiment. A little time ago in Denmark and Norway experiments were carried out in fitting small motors to fishing boats, and the Scottish Office issued in March last year a very interesting report as to the application of motors to fishing boats in Scotland. So far as he knew there had been no experiment of the kind made in Ireland. Denmark and Norway were not only turning out motors for their own fishing boats, but were supplying Germany and other countries, and it was certainly time that in Ireland there should be a Government Department abreast of other countries in regard to these, experiments. He had conversed with a fisherman in Kerry who was quite willing that an experiment should be made with his boats. The report to the Scottish Office on the application of motor power to fishing boats, by Lieutenant Mansfield dimming, R.N., contained the following—In summarising the results of my work in Scotland, I should state that I am of opinion that the adoption of motor power in the present boats would be of great benefit to the owners and the fishing industry in general. I see no difficulty from either the shipbuilders' or engineers' point of view that cannot he got over, and I believe that I have found in Denmark a type of motor suitable in every respect for the work required in Scotland. I trust that it may be found possible to try one or more of these at the earlist opportunity.With regard to this question of motors, he made no claim that they wanted in Ireland all fishing boats at present to 1196 be worked by motors. It was purely as an auxiliary. If a large fishing boat were fitted with a ten horse power motor, enabling it to go three knots an hour in a calm, it would make all the difference if it were hurrying to catch the fish train. To sum up he demanded assistance from the Navy in the protection of Irish Fisheries, the application of the Marine Works Act to Reenard near Cahirciveen, county Kerry, the institution of a brand for cured mackerel and herring, and the making of an experiment in the matter of motors as applicable to fishing boats. The question of inland fisheries would be dealt with by the hon. Member for Limerick City. He moved, the resolution standing in his name.
§ MR. JOYCE (Limerick)
in seconding, endorsed what his hon. friend had said with regard to the watching of the Irish coast line. He was surprised the other day when the Chief Secretary for Ireland said it would not be for the public good that the speed of the boats, detailed by the department to watch illegal trawlers, should be known by the men on those trawlers, seeing that they must know their speed perfectly well. He wished to impress upon the Chief Secretary that the coast line of Ireland was 2,200 miles in length, and how could two boats, even if they were fast boats, watch that coast? It would require at least six boats, but they would be content with four; and they should be at least two or three knots faster than any steam trawler, so that there would be no possibilty of escape for the men who tried to trawl illegally. He had seen French mackerel boats with a trail of nets a mile or more in length shot across the mouth of the River Shannon, and he did not think there was an English gun-boat within hundreds of miles, unless it was snugly ensconced in harbour. It was impossible for the coastguards stationed on the West Coast to do the policing of the coast.
§ MR. JOYCE
said they were. Although the Shannon was eleven miles wide at the mouth, they were well within the headlands which defined the mouth of the river. He had seen them there 1197 dozens of times. Last year the sea fisheries of Ireland produced a sum of nearly £400,000, and the inland fisheries—salmon and trout—about the same amount. With a little trouble, and perhaps some expense, he failed to see why this amount could not be increased to millions a year, in a very short time. He looked upon the sea and inland fisheries as a mine of wealth, if properly worked and looked after. Five years ago he observed that the "Parliamentary Companion," a book which professed to give a description of all Members of the House, said of him that his views on fishing were well known: he would have no close time at all. The gentleman who wrote that, knew very little about his views. He was altogether wrong, and must have got his information second hand. The inland fisheries in Ireland had been dwindling away, the number of men employed in the industry were becoming less and less every year, and one of the reasons was that the law as administered in Ireland was judge-made law, in the interests of the rich man and against the poor man. The Board of Conservators in Ireland were elected from one class only, and that class was the riparian and weir owners; and the elections were carried out in such a manner that the poor fishermen could never get any representation on those boards, because the gentlemen who controlled the elections carried them out by proxy voting, and they could do as was done on the Stock Exchange: bull and bear the market at their will. When the triennial elections came round, these gentlemen by their proxy votes swamped the fishermen's votes. He hoped that, now that they were going to be governed according to Irish ideas, this matter would have the serious attention of the Chief Secretary. There were three phases in this question. One was, what could be done to propagate and renew the fish? He thought that with very little expense that could be done. There were a few hatcheries in Ireland, and he only wished they were at least ten times more in number. There was another thing, and that was the conserving of the fish during the close time and in the proper places. When the fish went up to the spawning they got into the small rivers, where no bailiff could possibly be; and the farmers' servants, boys and girls, went down with pitch-forks, where the 1198 water was not twelve inches deep, and pitched the fish, which were not fit to be eaten at the time, on the bank by the score, and they were used to manure the land more than anything else. He suggested that at the mouth of those small rivers there should be a grating erected at a certain time of the year, that it should remain for a certain time, and that one man should be employed to watch it and to clear it, when necessary, of weeds and trees. Thus they would prevent thousands of fish, and millions upon millions of spawn, from being destroyed. Then the public rights of fishing with the rod and line were being filched away by owners of fisheries, which he believed had been bought out long ago from their forefathers by Government money, and which had been allowed by the Board of Works without a word of protest to revert back to their descendants. Poor men who wanted to enjoy a few hours amusement with the rod and line had been driven from the banks of the river at Limerick by the riparian owners, and threatened with legal proceedings if they persisted in fishing where from time immemorial the public had had a right to fish. The question was causing a great deal of excitement in Limerick, and poor men, who had tried to fight the case, when they won in the magisterial courts had been haled before the county court; and if they won there, then the men with plenty of money in their pockets took them from court to court, till finally they could not go any further, and judgment went against them by default. He had asked for a Return in order to prove that these fishing rights had been filched from the public. He was not surprised when the Conservative Government refused him the information, but he was surprised, and not agreeably, when this Liberal, Radical, and Home Rule Government, as they were called, refused it. While the Tory Party was in power they were always looking forward to being robbed of something or another, and when the Liberal Party came into power they allowed the Irish people to recoup a little that they might be ready again for plunder by the next Tory Government. In no case was that more evident than in the case of the Irish fisheries. Speaking on behalf of the fishermen, both above and below Limerick, he said that fifty years ago there were 157 boats and 1199 471 men employed in the fishing industry, whereas to-day there were only thirty boats and ninety men employed. What an object lesson of British rule in Ireland that was! There were forty-four families depending upon snap-net fishing for their living, and the men would know the reason why before they were deprived of their livelihood and saw their wives and families starving on the roadside. He would not put it any stronger than that. He asked the Chief Secretary to grant them an impartial inquiry into all the merits of the case and to let right prevail and the truth come out. Let every man who wished be empowered to give evidence, and, if such an inquiry were granted, they hoped to be able to establish the right of the poor working-man to have his pleasure on the Sunday and enjoy himself for a few hours in innocent recreation.
Motion put, "That the condition of Irish fisheries is unsatisfactory and demands the early attention of the Government."—(Mr. Boland.)
§ MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said that in rising to address this honourable House for the first time he was glad to find himself in a position to agree at least in some measure with some of the grievances which had been put so eloquently before the House by the previous speakers. In the part of Ireland which he had the honour to represent they also had fisheries; and they also regretted that they were not more flourishing. In his Division they had been subjected from time to time to the visitation of foreign trawlers, and the local fishermen had suffered severely in consequence. If they had had gunboats or semi-gunboats, such as had been referred to, much good would have been done. The present watchboats had always been conspicuous by their absence when they were required. The fishermen had a distinct grievance. It was, however, one the redress of which should not give the Chief Secretary any great trouble or bewilderment. There were a good many torpedo boats which might fairly be detailed for this duty during the fishery season. Although he found himself in sympathy with a good deal that had fallen from the previous speakers, he was not able to agree entirely with them. He was not there to defend the boards of conservators; he did not even know the qualifications of the 1200 gentlemen who formed them; but he did know that they had important duties to discharge, and the membership should be closely scrutinised. It was absolutely necessary that the very important revenue with which they had to deal, and the interests they were required to protect, should not be lightly disturbed. They were told that there was now to be a national branding of the products of Irish fisheries and of other products and manufactures of Ireland. He did not gather whether the exact form of that brand had been decided upon, but he hoped it would not be one without the Crown on the top. He thought the branding should be undertaken by the Government in the same way as in Scotland. Anything that could be done by Government branding to raise the market standard of Irish fisheries should be done as soon as possible. He agreed that the shores of Ireland were rich in all kinds of fish, and if the fishing industry there was properly fostered it could be increased to a marvellous extent. He regretted that the fishing industry in Ireland did not give employment to as many men and boys as formerly, but he did not think the fishery laws had conduced to that result. There had been a natural fluctuation in the rivers which had diminished the supply of salmon in recent years, but he was informed that the prospects of the season now opening were excellent. They had been told how enterprising Germany was with regard to her fisheries, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would take an example from Germany in regard to what she was doing to foster the industries of her comparatively small shores. Ireland had more than 2,000 miles of shores, and the amount of the trade was totally disproportionate to the possibilities of that splendid fishing ground. He believed that there was a good deal of overlapping between the new Agricultural Board, the Congested Districts Board, and the Fisheries Board, and the sooner the Chief Secretary brought his influence to bear in regard to the expenditure of these bodies the better it would be for the public purse and the fisheries. The right hon. Gentleman had asked whether this illegal fishing had taken place within the three-mile limit. In the important fishing centre in his constituency this illegal trawling was carried on regularly close in shore by foreign trawlers, and a gunboat 1201 had not visited that part during the whole of the season. He did not think that the demand which had been put forward was at all unreasonable. The suggestion to place a trap at the mouths of the different rivers he thought was rather unreasonable, and, indeed, absurd. At the same time he agreed very fully as to the value of the hatcheries to which the hon. Member for Limerick had drawn attention. In the north of Ireland they had a most important hatchery on the river Bann, where millions of salmon were hatched and sent to populate other rivers which were not so rich in fish. The hon. Member for Limerick seemed already to be losing faith in what had been called this Home Rule Government. It was rather early in the day to find the hon. Member's faith in the Government receding.
§ MR. BARRIE
said he had no doubt that the representations which had been made would receive due consideration from the Chief Secretary. He should always give his support to any reform which he thought was in the interests of Ireland generally. He trusted that Nationalists would continue to indulge in the larger hope of the Government remedying all reasonable and legitimate grievances, and with those and with those only he desired to associate himself.
§ MR. EDWARD BARRY (Cork County, S.)
said that in the southern constituency which he represented there was a grievance of an acute and far-reaching character which had recently been very much ventilated in the local press. In the Skibbereen Press, letters, interviews, and leading articles had appeared calling attention to a grievance which, to the people in that part of Ireland, was a matter of life and death. Whatever might be said of the previous Chief Secretary, he had the greatest confidence that the present Chief Secretary during the probationary period intervening between the giving to Ireland of the full management of her own affairs would deal in a sympathetic spirit with the accumulation of wrong—doings and grievances which had been transmitted to him by his predecessor at the Irish Office. The grievance of which he 1202 complained was the unfair competition to which they were subjected by Norwegian fishermen. Up to about twelve months ago the southern fishermen enjoyed practically a monopoly of the American trade, but within the last twelve months, owing to the adoption of improved methods and a more expeditious system, the Norwegians had been able to secure a monopoly of the trade with America to the almost total exclusion of the Irish fishermen. Another disadvantage at which they were placed was due to the Scotch fishermen coming over to Irish waters a month earlier than they commenced operations on their own coast, and not alone catch herrings in an immature condition, but also mackerel in large quantities, and otherwise disturb and scare away large shoals of fish from the Irish coast. From Questions recently asked regarding this matter he found that a by-law was adopted some time ago with respect to part of the coast, and that it was afterwards withdrawn. But whether it was withdrawn or not made little difference, for it was never observed. With regard to the fishing industry in his own particular district in the south of Ireland, the fishermen plied their trade in open rowing boats and were at the greatest possible disadvantage owing to the lack of accommodation in the way of piers, slips, and other facilities for launching and securing their boats, and enabling them to go in and out at all states of the tide. Many suggestions as to the remedy had been made in the course of the correspondence and interviews to which he had referred. The experts who had made suggestions were not all agreed among themselves. He would suggest to the Chief Secretary the desirability of sending down to Skibbereen and the adjoining towns a competent inspector to interview the local fishermen and fish buyers and others who were conversant with the trade. When his Report was received some machinery could be devised for subsequent action with a view to a remedy. If the inspector would go down to Bishop Ross alone he would get as much information on the subject, both practical and statistical, as he would be able to digest. He was a prelate who took a deep interest, in the growing of early potatoes and violets, the breeding of 1203 high-class hunters, and all matters appertaining to the improvement of the locality. Or better still if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to take advantage of the approaching holidays to pay a visit to the district he would have an advantage over some of the inspectors inasmuch as he would be able to converse with the fishermen in their native tongue. Another matter which should be included in the scope of the inquiry was the want of railway accommodation, which was a great obstacle to the development of the fishing and other industries in that part of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman would visit the district he would see the necessity for improved piers and harbours, and he would be better able to devise some plan for enabling the people to grapple with the competition with which they were face to face.
§ MR. FFRENCH (Wexford, S.)
said his constituency lying between Wexford and Waterford harbours, and between the rivers Slaney and Barrow, was almost surrounded by water. Hence they were deeply interested in the development of the Irish fisheries. In his memory the rivers Slaney and Barrow were good salmon streams, but in recent years they had become depleted of the fish. He believed this was also the case in regard to other rivers in Ireland. He had over and over again called the attention of the House to this matter, and as a remedy he had suggested that each of the principal rivers of Ireland should be furnished with salmon hatcheries. He believed that the Board of Agriculture had been making or was contemplating some experiments in this direction. Nothing had been done however, in regard to the rivers bounding his constituency, and he hoped the Board would give some attention to them in future. In his opinion the first reason for the depletion of the rivers of salmon was the destruction of fish coming up the river to spawn and the destruction of the fry of the salmon that happened to escape. He considered it was very easy to deal with this matter. The fishery laws required to be amended so as to make salmon poaching a criminal offence. The police should be able to prosecute on their own initiative without the interference of the conservators. Now that the police were being reduced in Ireland, and many of the constabulary barracks 1204 were vacant, there was no excuse for not compelling the police to attend to this business. Nor was there any excuse for not altering the law in the direction of making poaching a criminal offence. If salmon hatcheries were provided on the principal rivers he ventured to say that in a short time there would be a great increase in the salmon in the rivers and this would afford remunerative employment to the poor fishermen. At present the fishermen, out of their slender means, had to pay the water bailiffs, whereas the police might perform the duties. The second reason for the decline of the salmon fishing was that at the time when the herring fishing was in full swing, the young salmon appeared at the mouth of the rivers and they were taken and destroyed by the nets. The same might be said of whiting, cod, and mackerel, which if allowed to mature would afford remunerative employment later on. The remedy for this was to prohibit trawlers and large fishing boats fishing in the vicinity of the mouths of the harbours at this season of the year, and to rigidly enforce the three-mile limit. The piers and harbours in his district were in a wretched state and did not afford sufficient accommodation for the fishing boats. They had no harbour sufficiently deep for boats over thirty tons to come in at low water. The sailing trawlers came close to the coast and fished opposite the harbour mouths, with the result that young fish were destroyed in the spawning and feeding grounds. The three-mile limit should be rigorously enforced in order to prevent the destruction of their fisheries and that more employment might be given to their own fishermen, as well as to others, who fished outside the prohibited limits. He hoped that this Government would do something in the direction of improving the piers and harbours. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, if he might be allowed to do so, that in dealing with the Irish he was dealing with a people who had a keen sense of justice. It was not justice that the Irish fisheries should be starved while the fisheries of Great Britain were the recipients of lavish expenditure.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
said it was so unusual for anyone but an Irish Member to take an interest in such matters that he thought 1205 he ought to apologise for intervening in this debate. [IRISH MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It always seemed to him a misfortune that when a subject affecting Ireland in a non-political way came before the House it was invariably confined to hon. Members below the gangway and to one or two Ministers on the Treasury Bench. He did not see much change in that traditional state of things to-night, and he hoped the crowded state of the benches opposite on an occasion when a subject of great importance to Ireland was being discussed would be an indication to the representatives of Ireland of the gratitude which the Liberal Party felt to them for the assistance given at the general election. He did not know much about the Irish inland fisheries, but from what they had heard from the hon. Member for Limerick as to the amount of shooting that went on there, he did not know that it was an enviable occupation to fish in these waters. He had some experience of the sea coast fisheries in that part represented by the hon. Member for South Kerry. The hon. Member had, in his moderate and reasonable speech, brought forward some points which required the immediate attention of the Chief Secretary. In regard to the question of gun boats it appeared to him perfectly absurd that a gun boat should be provided which was unable to catch up foreign trawlers which were violating international law. The suggestion that there should be an expert on the Fishery Board was one which ought to be carried out. He was sorry to hear that county Kerry had not received any benefit from the £100,000 which his own Party had granted for the assistance of fisheries in Ireland. He thought the adoption of a brand would be a very advantageous thing for the fisheries of Ireland. He remembered the experience which they had at Baltimore some years ago when instructors were brought from the United States to teach the fishermen there the best way of curing their fish. The result was that the brand of those fish exported to the United States secured a very high price for them. He would suggest that the brand ought to be a local rather than a national one. He had no arrière pensée in making that suggestion. He believed that a local brand for cured fish would encourage a healthy competition in the various parts 1206 of Ireland. He had had some experience in regard to the application of auxiliary steam to sailing trawlers, and he could only say that it had generally been found to be a failure in the North Sea, where it had been found that no mean between the steam trawler and the sailing trawler was really useful. Of course, it might be possible to use motors in the way suggested by the hon. Member. The motor was a new invention, and he had no experience of its application to this purpose. The hon. Member for South Cork had complained of the competition of foreign trawlers, particularly the Norwegians. He should like to point out to the hon. Member that the measure of protection suggested to the Chief Secretary was definitely barred by the Resolution passed a few hours earlier to-day, for which he understood the hon. Member had voted. He felt real sympathy with the fishermen on the coasts of Ireland. It had been the custom to contrast the industrial classes in the north of Ireland with the population in other parts which were mostly represented by the Nationalist Members, and to say that the people of the north had greater vigour, self-reliance, independence, and energy. All he could say was that that might be true of people living inland in other parts of Ireland, but in his experience it was certainly not true of those who lived on the long coast line of the South and West of Ireland. The fishermen of those parts were brave, hardy, and industrious men, and in his own experience they had shown in addition certain moral qualities which deserved recognition. They had shown the intention and ability to meet the obligations which they undertook. This had in the result facilitated the development of the fishing industry in those parts. That combination of qualities deserved the sympathy and encouragement of any Government.
§ MR. CREAN (Cork, S. E.)
said that in 1892 the Government of the day instituted an inquiry into the very matter they were now considering. Their own Commissioners presented a Report recommending certain remedies. The Government were in office for a few years and did nothing. Another Commission afterwards inquired into the subject, and its Report contained sufficient evidence and recommendations to guide the present 1207 Government in the action they ought to take. He believed he was not wrong in saying that the largest fishing port on the coasts of Ireland was in his constituency. There were over 500 boats fishing from that port. They came from all parts of Scotland, England, and Ireland They did not complain of that. They welcomed the visitors. What they did complain of was the destruction of fish on the coasts. This was proved conclusively by the evidence given before the Commissioners. The remedy proposed by the Commissioners had not been applied, and the same neglect had gone on for twelve or sixteen years. In answer to a question the other day the Chief Secretary promised another Commission. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to trouble them by sending it down. He had been long enough in this House to know the value of such inquiries. Commissions were sent down simply to do nothing. He hoped the Government had come into office to do practical work. He believed they had, and they had the remedy in their hands. In 1893 the Commission recommended a close season for mackerel, so that herring fishers might be prevented from destroying immature mackerel as had been done in the past. The Commission made that recommendation as necessary for the protection of the other sea fisheries in the south of Ireland. If the Government were honestly inclined to do good to the Irish fishing industry they would extend the area of protection and also the period of the close season. If the fish were disturbed on the feeding grounds they were driven away from that particular portion of the coast and naturally the boats followed the fish. The town of Kinsale, which was at one time the most prosperous town in the south of Ireland, was now impoverished; but it was very satisfactory to those in the south of Ireland to find that, when the Governments of England were neglecting them, a noble lady with instincts of doing good had come to their assistance.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said that the right hon. the Chief Secretary for Ireland, although he acknowledged that it did not properly belong to him, had arrogated to himself the Department ment of Agriculture and Fisheries. Irish Members had some hope seven or eight 1208 years ago when they drew attention to the depressed condition of the fisheries in their country that a Minister for Irish Agriculture and Fisheries should be appointed who would be responsible to this House. A Minister was appointed, but the late Government were unable to secure a seat for him in the House. The present Government, however, could get a safe seat for any Gentleman they might appoint as Minister responsible to the House for Irish Agriculture and Fisheries. He himself had never believed in a Department of Irish Agriculture; he did not think it had added a single blade of grass to the soil of Ireland; but at all events it was something in advance to take from Dublin Castle and the resident magistrates the supervision of the Irish fisheries. He wished to acknowledge that the Department of Irish Agriculture had made some slight efforts to improve agriculture, efforts, however, which the Government had taken no steps to second. The Department of Agriculture had agreed to give a site for a pier at Blackrock in his constituency, if the local authority would give half the money to build it. The county council agreed, but such was the spirit of landlordism even in these days that the owner of the land on which the fishermen lived would not grant a portion of the foreshore for the erection of the pier, and thus the action of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had been entirely frustrated. He would suggest that when the Crown was willing to render up its piece of foreshore for the purposes of a pier, compulsory powers should be given to acquire the abutment of the lord of the soil, not only for the erection of a pier or harbour, but for cottages for labourers and fishermen, and residences for the schoolmaster and postmaster. A coast without piers was like a land without roads. Three successive Secretaries had promised him—one in writing—that he would have a grant for a harbour in a particular portion of his constituency where boats could come in and discharge their cargoes in safety, but nothing had yet been done. He thought they were entitled to ask, with regard to certain funds which the Treasury had absorbed from the country, that some greater facilities should be given than they had yet got for the erection of piers on the east coast of Ireland. He was glad 1209 to associate himself with what had been said as to the intervention in the debate of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster, who was one with a special right to speak on the subject; and he entirely agreed that so far as the south of Ireland was concerned, never would the name of the distinguished lady with whom the hon. Member was associated be forgotten, or gratitude for her action fade or perish from the minds of Irishmen.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
said he had to acknowledge the moderation of tone and practicality which had been observed by every speaker. Many valuable suggestions had been made, some of which, at any rate, he hoped to be able to give effect to. He believed that hon. Gentlemen would find that the Irish Governmental authorities were anxious to carry out the suggestions made to them as far as they could. Of course, he himself could not claim to have any direct personal knowledge of a good many of the points raised by hon. Members on the Irish benches. As to the question of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries raised by the hon. and learned Member for Louth, the present position was a purely provisional one. No decision had been come to as to whether that Department should have a separate representative in the House or not. He hoped to give some thought to that question in the next few months, but it must be understood at the present to be entirely in a state of suspense. He frankly admitted that the whole subject of Irish fisheries was one of very great importance, and that the system was not all that it might be, at any rate in some places. Considering how much had been done for the fisheries on the Scottish coast, more might be done for the fisheries on the Irish coast, and also for the inland fisheries of Ireland. He agreed that the subject was one which ought to engage the attention of the Irish Government, and, on behalf of the Government, he was perfectly willing to accept the Motion of the hon. Member for South Kerry. The first point raised was the question of patrolling in order to protect Irish fisheries within the three 1210 mile limit, not only from foreign but from British trawlers. But he must say that the evidence before him did not go to show that these raids by foreign and British trawlers within territorial waters were so frequent or so serious as might have been gathered from what had been said during the debate. He was told that two cruisers were continually patrolling the southern and western coasts of Ireland. The patrol boats reported that they had captured eighteen trawlers between June, 1904, and September, 1905, and in no case had a trawler, once seen, succeeded in escaping. But it was impossible for the patrol boats to be everywhere, and he was inclined to think that there had been a good deal of exaggeration in the complaints made against them. He was, however, not sure that the fines inflicted had always been sufficiently severe. The Agricultural Department informed him that out of twenty-nine convictions in the last five years, the fines, were not sufficient.
§ MR. BRYCE
Not to my knowledge. He regretted that nothing had been done to build a deep water pier at Reenard Point. He knew the place very well, and it was an important centre to that part of the coast of Kerry. Considerable pressure might be put on the Irish railways in this matter, and he was considering the position of those railways both as to rates on fish, and as to the facilities for providing swift trains for the conveyance of fish to market. He knew what an enormous quantity of fish was sent from the port of Aberdeen by quick trains to the middle and south of England, and he would like to see something done in the same direction by the Irish railways. The provision of better piers and harbours would be an important step in the same direction, and the whole subject would receive his closest attention. He confessed he had been rather surprised to hear that such objection had been made by the landowner at Blackrock in regard to the pier. His contention was that no proprietor, whatever his motive, ought to be permitted to stand in the way of a work of such public utility, and should be 1211 compelled to give the land on the foreshore for such public works. If compulsory powers did not exist in such cases they ought to. He thought that the rights which the public and the Crown ought to have in the foreshores of the country had been allowed to be very largely absorbed by the proprietors of the adjacent land; and one of the first subjects on which drastic legislation was needed was this of the public rights in the foreshore.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
May I tell the right hon. Gentleman that a landlord in Kerry ordered me to leave the foreshore where I was walking.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he would now come to the subject of a herring brand. The herring-branding system had been in operation in Scotland for many years, and although, no doubt, it was theoretically a violation of the doctrine of laisser faire, it had worked well in practice and contributed very largely to commanding high prices for Scottish herrings. The Scottish trade was larger, but still there were now considerable herring centres in Ireland and he did not see why the experiment should not be tried there. Reference had also been made to motor boats, which had been such a success on the coasts of Norway and Denmark. They had had an interesting report from Lieutenant Cumming. Prima facie there appeared to be a strong case. Experiments were being made in Scotland, and, so far, they had been successful. He did not see why a similar experiment should not be made in Ireland, and he hoped and believed it would be made. Complaint had been made by the hon. Member for South Cork of the delays which had occurred in arriving at conclusions 1212 in regard to the establishment of a close season, and proper measures for the protection of immature fish. The reason no action had been taken was that the last inquiry disclosed that there was such a divergence of opinion among the fishermen who represented the different parts of the south coast. They could not agree upon any one by-law. Inquiry, however, had only been deferred till May, and if it were found necessary to have a close season no doubt one would be established. The hon. Member would understand that it was an extremely difficult matter. They were only just beginning to apply scientific methods to the development of fisheries. The latest bacteriological investigations in regard to the loss of fish had shown that very many of the conclusions which obtained a few years ago had very small foundation in fact, and that we had yet to obtain much more information as to the movements of fish and their habits of spawning than we yet possessed before we were fully informed on the subject. It would therefore be dangerous to make any by-laws with the certainty that they would not remain very long in force. That, however, was no reason for not making experiments, but it was a reason for calling upon science to assist us. He passed to the subject of the inland fisheries. The hon. Member for Limerick complained that the boards of conservators were not really representative, and that those interested were not abreast of the necessities of the time. He thought the change in the ownership of land in Ireland was itself a reason for considering whether some change in the boards of conservators was not needed. There was every reason why they should take steps to secure a better representation. He could assure the hon. Member that the whole subject of altering the constitution of the boards of conservators was now before the minds of the Irish Board of Agriculture and the Irish Government generally, and they would consider what steps could be taken to bring about boards which would be more 1213 genuinely representative and which would enlist a greater amount of popular interest in the work than was given under the present system. The Board of Agriculture said they were not aware that the rights of the public were being largely infringed upon, but he should be glad to have an inquiry in order to see what could be done to prevent public rights being absorbed by private persons. If it was not possible to interfere with the rights vested in particular persons, it might be possible after inquiry to take steps either to give local bodies powers to enforce public rights, or by legislation in the future to prevent public rights being absorbed. But an inquiry he was afraid would not prevent any right which had been obtained by a private person from being maintained. He knew that in many cases public rights against fishing had suffered, and he was sorry to hear that during the last two years that had been the case along the Shannon. He was endeavouring to have a local inquiry on that subject. An hon. Member had asked for information as to salmon hatcheries, and in regard to them he thought he could give some satisfactory information. The Agricultural Department had in the last few years opened seven hatcheries, and subsidised thirteen, having spent £3,000 upon them since 1889."
§ MR. BRYCE
regretted that he had not them with him. As the result of the efforts of the Department there had been an output of from 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 of young fish. The Department wished him to assure the House that they would go further if they could secure the local co-operation which they desired. He attached very high importance to these hatcheries. They had been very successful in some parts of the Continent and in Scotland He believed that in many rivers and streams of the West and South 1214 of Ireland, where the right of fishing with fly or bait was open to the public, it would be of great benefit to the whole country to increase largely the supply of trout. Anglers would be attracted, and hotel business would be promoted. Earlier in the day, in answering a Question, he referred to the subject of the competition of Norwegians in regard to the curing of mackerel. Norwegian instructors were being employed in teaching Irish people, in parts where mackerel were caught, the Norwegian method of curing, and when there had been some experience of the effects of this step he would be glad to give the House further information on the subject. As to the desirability of putting gratings in the mouths of small rivers to prevent fish in spawn getting into shallow water he was afraid there were two difficulties in the way—the considerable expense which would be incurred, and the possibility that such gratings might cause floods by allowing water to accumulate. All the matters to which reference had been made required the expenditure of money, and it was not always possible for the Irish Government to obtain half the money it would like to have for such purposes. He was not at all insensible to the general importance which the subject of fisheries bore in relation to the prosperity of Ireland. There were large parts of the West of Ireland where the people lived on exceedingly bad soil which, where it was fertile, had only been made so by their own labour. These people had been obliged to supplement their earnings by going to England and Scotland to earn wages during part of the year. That being so, it would be a great advantage to them if the fisheries were further developed. He did not wish the Government to be a kind of terrestrial providence to Ireland but every additional opening that could be found for any class of industry besides agriculture ought to receive the attention of the Government; and he believed that Ireland, having suffered from bad legislation in former times and from neglect 1215 when much was being done for other parts of the United Kingdom, had a special claim to the help and assistance of the Government in the development of her national resources to the fullest possible extent.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Wexford, N.)
said that it was impossible to discuss the question in the few minutes remaining before the adjournment of the House, but he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman was alive to the importance of stimulating local industry in connection with fisheries. There were a number of small industries connected with seafisheries that could be developed with very great advantage to Ireland. A number of those industries were very ancient ones, and included that of boat-building. The right hon. Gentleman could do a very good service and improve an Irish industry if he would use his influence with the Congested Districts Board, and the Department of Irish Agriculture, to induce them to develop these industries. The Congested Districts Board and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had for a number of years been supplying fishing boats to Irish fishermen, but a large number of boats had been built outside of Ireland which were not better than the Irish boats. This industry had formerly existed in many places, but was now dying out, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would examine into this matter in regard to the whole of Ireland. Of course they all admitted the paramount claims of the congested districts, but he thought that the question of the encouragement of the Irish fisheries should not be merely considered with reference to them. There was a movement warmly taken up four years ago to obtain an extension of the Marine Works Act to districts outside the congested districts. The then Chief Secretary promised that he would inquire into the subject, and he understood that inquiries had been pursued for two or 1216 three years, and possibly the right hon. Gentleman could derive some information from them, and see how far it was possible to extend the provisions of the Marine Works Act to districts which were outside the congested districts. The session before last the Secretary to the Treasury said that when a scheme was put forward he would be prepared to consider it. He thought the only real hope of the development of the fresh water fisheries was by increased popular control, and that powers in connection with them should be largely handed over to the Irish councils. He was quite sure a substantial advantage would be obtained by that course.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
said he represented a fishing district and was proud to say that he was born and had lived and been educated in the neighbourhood. He knew that some legislation was necessary to improve the unhappy condition of the poor inhabitants. He hoped the Chief Secretary would not forget Donegal, and that he would visit the northern part of the county.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
inquired whether any progress had been made in regard to the suggestion that boats should be provided for the purposes of facilitating the carriage of fish from the Irish fishing coasts to the English markets.
§ Resolved, "That the condition of Irish Fisheries is unsatisfactory and demands the early attention of the Government."—(Mr. Boland.)
§ Adjourned at two minutes after Twelve o'clock.