§ Class II
§ 1. £12,641, to complete the sum for Fishery Board, Scotland.
§ *MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
called attention to the inadequate protection afforded to the Scottish fishermen by Fishery Board cruisers and Government gun-boats. Year after year he declared, the question was raised, but nothing was done. They badly needed additional cruisers. He noticed that one of these cruisers had been sold; he supposed that she was "weighed in the balances and found wanting;" she was a vessel which had not been very long in the Service and lie would like to know why she was sold. He would also like to know what sum had been accumulated for the purpose of purchasing new fishery cruisers. it was an extremely serious matter for the fishermen, because these cruisers had been steadily diminishing instead of increasing. What made matters worse was the fact that the cruisers were not so fast as the trawlers, and the latter which had their own system of "look out" took good care to keep out of the way of the cruiser. Such a state of affairs was simply scandalous, and should not be allowed to go on any longer. The Fishery Board was not properly constituted to deal with the question. Some of its members were ironmongers, and possibly some grocers; these were not the right class of men to look after the interests of line fishermen. The Scottish fishing industry was one that should be under the care of a Government Department who would carefully consider its requirements. The line fishermen, in the event of a great naval war, would be a most useful class of men, but at the present time they were being driven into the poor-houses and the slums of our great cities. He appealed to the Secretary for Scotland to use his power to make the Fishery Board pay greater attention to their work. What they wanted on that 102 body were men of experience who could give their undivided attention to their duties. At present they had not such men; the chairman, for instance, also served on several other Boards, and he (Mr. Weir) understood acted as chairman of the Building Committee of the Congested Districts Board. He noticed from the reports that there were fewer penalties imposed last year than in the year 1905. He had himself seen on a Saturday afternoon these robbers stealing into Broad Bay, Island of Lewis, for the purpose of trawling. He had himself telegraphed to the Scottish Office notifying the fact, yet nothing whatever had been done. No attention whatever had been paid to the matter. There had only been four cases detected on the shores of Lewis, when the number ought to have been more like 400, and only one on the coast of Sutherlandshire. The total amount of the penalties inflicted was £2,280, or £365 less than in 1905, and only in six cases was the extreme penalty of 100 imposed. They were going back instead of forward in the matter. And this money instead of going to help to provide new fishery cruisers went into the rapacious maw of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they heard no more of it. He also suggested to the Secretary for Scotland that he should give some consideration to the small fishery harbours round the coast. The harbour at Balintore, on the east coast of Ross-shire, was constructed on the plans and under the supervision of the Fishery Board for Scotland. When it was finished it was handed over to local trustees, fishermen who knew nothing of harbour construction. For several years past the bed of the harbour had been silting up, and in a short time the harbour would be of no use. When attention was called to the matter the Fishery Board said they had handed it over to local trustees, and it was for the local trustees to keep it in order. That was all very well, but he said the harbour should have been properly constructed in the first instance. The Fishery Board were much to blame for trying to slip out of their responsibilities in that way. He contended that the Fishery Board should see that these harbours were in proper order, so that the line fishermen 103 should not be deprived of facilities to earn their living. Notwithstanding the Report of the Commission appointed some years ago to inquire into this matter nothing had been done, and he earnestly pressed the right hon. Gentleman to see that the Fishery Board put these harbours in order. Let them do something for their money. He did not want to see money wasted, but he noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War got every penny he wanted, and Scotland suffered so badly that he implored the Secretary for Scotland to stiffen his back and go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and insist upon his stumping up some money for Scotland. His complaint was of the lethargy of the Fishery Board. One thing they might do to encourage information being given of illegal trawling, was to be a little more liberal to lighthouse keepers and coastguardsmen, who often had to walk twenty or thirty miles to give evidence, and then only received about 3s. He would like to see the right hon. Gentleman or the Chairman of the Fishery Board walk thirty miles and hang about a court for hours for a miserable pittance of 3s. It seemed to him that the Fishery Board were engaged upon arrant rubbish in too many cases. They wanted practical work done; they wanted the nation's work done; they wanted the interests of 100,000 people engaged in the line fishing attended to. Imperial motives should prompt their taking care of these fishermen, who, in time of emergency, might be called upon to man our Fleet. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would attend to the matters to which he had called attention, and see that the inefficient members of the Fishery Board were swept out, and that those who remained or were freshly appointed did their work. He was afraid that there was too much kid-glove business going on in Edinburgh, which was hundreds of miles away from the cottages of these fishermen and from London. He feared there was a good deal of skulking on the part of not a few officials in the Edinburgh government offices and too much time spent in clubs.
§ MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)
said he desired strongly to confirm what had 104 fallen from his hon. friend as to the action, or want of action, of the Fishery Board. He sincerely trusted that his right hon. friend would see the necessity of doing something to show that there was an authority in Scotland who took some interest in this subject, and was prepared to do some work in support of the fishing industry. A considerable portion of the West Coast of Scotland was largely interested in the herring fishery. A conference of hon. Members interested in the subject and of the Fishery Board was held two years ago to consider whether there should be a close time for herring. There was a considerable division of opinion among the fishermen, but there was a decided tendency to meet the views, if possible, of all parties interested by having a close time. As the result of the conference the Fishery Board had taken the question up, but the only answer they had got was that when the fishermen were agreed as to the policy which should be pursued, the Board would put it in force. Of course, if they were all agreed, there would be no need of the intervention of the Fishery Board; but their object was to arrive at a definite settlement of that most important question. That was the only answer, however, which they had received from the Fishery Board; and from that day to this nothing had been done to settle the matter. He strongly urged the necessity of insisting that the Fishery Board should arrive at some conclusion and see that whatever was decided as the right conclusion was properly carried out. The herring fishery was not only an important source of food supply but employed a large number of people, and the industry, moreover, was an admirable nursery of seamen from the Admiralty point of view. He sincerely hoped that they would have an undertaking from his right hon. friend that the Fishery Board would be prepared to take up the question and deal with it in a satisfactory manner.
§ *SIR ARTHUR BIGNOLD (Wick Burghs)
said that many of his constituents lived on the shores of the Moray Firth, and they were very anxious that the debate this year upon the Scottish Estimates should remove the feeling of 105 uncertainty which existed as to the present position of the trawler question. That uncertainty was increased by the misconception which existed to-day, notably the idea that there was a law in existence as to the three-mile limit. There never had been a general international agreement on the subject of a limit, and as far as the law was concerned, the only statutory enactment now in existence was the Act of 1895. under which not a three-mile but a thirteen-mile limit was appointed. And that was the law to-day. It was true that the Act was passed subject to its confirmation or adoption by the signatories to the North Sea Convention and by a Minute of the Fishery Board, and consequently it had ever since that date lain a dead letter, because none of the signatories to the North Sea Convention, with the exception of Holland, which was responsible for the passing of the Act, had ever asked that it should be adopted. That was the position in Scotland at the time that the High Court of Justice delivered their recent judgment; and in that judgment they were most careful to discriminate between the limit of three miles, admitted by custom or by special contract with particular nations, and the general right which all countries possessed for the protection of their own seaboard when such seaboard referred to waters which were inter fauces terrœ. The learned Judges founded themselves solely upon the fact that the Moray Firth was territorial water, a land-locked bay. The Court never referred to the three-mile limit contention, which was outside their finding. All States had maintained and sustained their right to protect their own bays—for instance, Newfoundland to the Bay of Conception, France to the Granville Bay, Canada to the Bay of Chaleur, the United States to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. And now Great Britain had come forward and substantiated her right to the Moray Firth. First Parliament carried an Act to exclude from it the British trawlers; then they conferred upon the Fishery Board the right and power to make regulations; and the Fishery Board, in possession of the sound views of the late Mr. Esslemont, had excluded all Foreign Powers from the right to trawl in the Moray Firth. Then came 106 the decision of the High Court of Justice confirming that resolution excluding Foreign Powers from trawling in the Firth. And so the case was complete. At first they half thought that His Majesty's Government were going to stand by the Fishery Board and by the High Court; at least since that decision they had undertaken the prosecution of British sailors who were found on Norwegian trawlers within the Firth, and they had given notice that they would bring in a Bill to prevent the sale of Moray Firth trawled fish in British ports. But the Government had never tackled the question of whether or not they would support the finding of the High Court of Justice, and remove this feeling of suspense. Since the Elgin prisoners were pardoned and released, there had been a considerable accession of foreign trawlers in the Moray Firth, and he would ask the attention of the Secretary for Scotland particularly to the fact that there were four Conventions between Great Britain and other countries which touched upon this subject—the Conventions of 1839 and 1867 with France; the Belgian Convention of 1852; and the North Sea Convention of 1882, which was contracted between Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark and Holland. If the right hon. Gentleman looked at all these Conventions from end to end he would not find one word to show that we had relinquished our rights to entire jurisdiction over the Moray Firth. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to give expression to what was really the policy and position of the Government in regard to the decision of the High Court, and he appealed to him all the more earnestly because he was speaking for the line fishermen in his own constituency, to whom it was a matter of vital moment, for it meant their daily bread.
§ *MR. J. D. WHITE (Dumbartonshire)
said he was desirous of calling attention to an important matter of administration which at present was very adversely affecting the fisheries in the Firth of Clyde generally, and particularly within the limits of the county which he represented. He referred to the case of beam trawling. By the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Act, 1889, beam trawling had been prohibited all round the coast 107 within the three-mile limit, and also in specified areas, one of which was the Firth of Clyde within a line drawn from the Mull of Cantyre to Corsewall Point. If that had been allowed to work the whole of this area would have been closed to the beam trawlers. There was, however, one section of the Act which enabled the Fishery Board to make exemptions, and a few months after the Act was passed the Board issued a by-law permitting beam trawling for small sailing vessels within a line drawn across the Firth at the south end of Bute. That by law had since been replaced by the present By-law No. 16, which was to the same general effect. The general result had been a considerable amount of beam trawling which had done a vast amount of harm to the line fisheries. The complaint against beam trawling was that it raked up the spawning beds, disturbed the fishing grounds, and destroyed a large number of immature fish. The complaint was not as to what the trawlers took, but as to what they spoiled. This destructive mode of fishing had spoiled the prospects of the line fishermen, and now it was spoiling the prospects of the beam trawlers themselves. He would like to quote what was said on this subject in the recently issued Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland as regards the only two fishery districts within this trawling area. Referring to the Greenock District, the Report said—About a dozen beam trawlers were at work from Greenock, Largs, and Saltcoats, but their efforts were not attended with much success. Most, of the catches consisted of medium-sized plaice."For the Rothesay district the Report stated that—Beam trawling is yearly becoming less remunerative to the Rothesay crews who engage in it. It is quite evident that unless flat fish become more numerous in the restricted area, in which the crews are allowed to fish for nine months of the year, this mode of fishing will soon be altogether extinct in the Clyde.The only way to prevent the fisheries from becoming extinct was to extinguish this injurious mode of fishing. The injury had been felt with peculiar severity in his own constituency. The Gareloch might almost have been designed by Nature as a spawning ground and fish hatchery for the Clyde. The outer basin was about two miles across; 108 the inner basin, above the narrows at, Row Point was approximately oblong, being about five miles long and one mile wide. The bottom was of a suitable character for a spawning ground, the landlocked character of the loch prevented the waves of the Firth from entering it, and the narrows checked the flow of the tide, thus obviating heavy scour on the fishery grounds, and preventing the colder waters of the estuary from flooding the warmer waters of the loch. The lowness of the hills immediately round it allowed the loch to be open to the sunshine and it was an ideal ground for the young fish. There had been no beam trawling in the loch till some five or six years ago, when some trawling vessels from other parts of the Clyde had commenced operations there, and the result of their presence in raking up the beds and taking immature fish had been extremely deleterious. This had very much affected the line fishermen and those who made a living by letting to summer visitors. The Whole community around had been adversely affected. The County Council of Dumbartonshire had unanimously passed a resolution condemning trawling in Gareloch. So had the council of the parish of Row on the one side of the loch, and he could assure the Secretary for Scotland from personal experience that foiling on the subject was no less strong in the parish of Rosneath on the other side. He appealed to the Fishery Board to get rid of By-law 16 altogether and prevent trawling in any part of the Firth of Clyde. If it was felt that that was too far to go, he would ask that at least Gareloch should be removed from the scope of the by-law, so as to prohibit this destructive mode of fishing there. This kind of fishing wont on for nine months in the year, and there was only three months close time. The close time ended on the 15th June, and he would urge upon his right hon. friend that, even if he decided to deal with Gareloch alone by exempting it from By-law 16, he should arrange for the new rule to come into force before the 15th of June, when the present close season ended. The reform which he advocated would do much to improve the fisheries of the Clyde and 109 to enable the fisher folk to reap a better harvest from the seas.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY (St. Andrews Burghs)
said he wished to add his protest against the delay in issuing the Report, which he did not receive until 11.30 the previous night, and as he had to attend a Committee of the House of Commons at eleven o'clock that morning, he had not had time to master its details. He agreed that there ought to be an addition to the four fishery cruisers which patrolled the shores of Scotland. It was manifestly impossible for those cruisers to do their work properly, because they were handicapped in every way, and it was high time some addition was made to that force. He shared the view that if the penalties paid by trawlers could be put into another fund instead of going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer it would be. a great advantage. That was a point which he thought was well worthy of the attention of the Secretary for Scotland. He did not intend to join in the diatribes of the hon. Member for Ross against the Fishery Board. He did not know all the members of that Board, but those he did know were excellent men, and he was sure it. was not any want of ability or goodwill on their part that prevented them carrying out their work more satisfactorily. The main trouble was want of money. The Board was being starved for want of money, and unless more was supplied it would be most difficult for them to do more than they were doing at present. With regard to the whale fisheries, there was a concensus of opinion amongst the fishermen with whom he was acquainted that the establishment of the whale fishery stations had been disastrous to the herring fishing. Up to the present everything appeared to go to prove that the fishermen were right in that contention. Hon. Members were probably aware that whales acted as a kind of sheep dog to the herrings, driving them into shoals, and they were useful as guides to the fishermen, enabling them to know where the herrings were. Consequently fishermen liked the live whale and hated the dead whale, because the latter drove the fish away by fouling the water. He was aware that the whale stations were now conducted under more sanitary rules, but 110 frequently a wounded whale might escape and die, and that had just as bad an effect as the old system which permitted the cutting up of the whale in the sea, which resulted in fouling the water. The Secretary for Scotland had promised them a Whale Fisheries Bill, and he hoped that something would be done to prevent the trouble complained of. He thought a good deal might be done to improve the harbours on the coast of Scotland. He knew the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter, because every hon. Member who represented a fishing village, however small, spoke up for his own harbour. He had six or seven harbours in respect of which to put forward claims, and it was perhaps somewhat invidious to press the claims of one harbour as against another. There was one harbour, that of Anstruther, the largest in his constituency, to the complaints about the inadequacy of which he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give a kindly ear. He thought it was high time that something was done for the fishermen on the coast of the Firth of Forth. It should not be forgotten what a fine race of men the fishermen were, what an excellent reserve they formed for the Fleet, and how useful they would be in times of stress in case of a great war. Under those circumstances they would depend very largely upon the fishermen, who consequently deserved all the encouragement the Government could give them.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said the Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland presented some very satisfactory features, and some regrettable ones of omission. The fishing had been good on the whole, and although not equal in amount to the two previous years, had been of considerably greater value. According to the Report the herring fishing was the mainstay of the fishing population, affording a living to 35,900, or 92 per cent. of the fishermen of Scotland, and it was therefore necessary that the Fishery Board should pay the closest attention to all matters that directly or indirectly affected that industry. He regretted very much that the Report made no reference to the failure of the herring fishing in many districts in Shetland. At Hoswick, 111 Sandsain, Aithsvce, and Bressay there had been a great decrease both in quantity and value. At Whalsay, Skerries, and Vidlin there had been a great decrease in quantity; whilst at Burravoe and Gossabrough there had been a great decrease in herrings. At Mid Yell, Gutcher and Cullival the Returns showed a general decrease in herrings. and there had also been a great decrease in herring fishing in Muness and Colvidale, Uyasound, Westing, Snarravae, and Ramnagoe. Baltasound, Haroldswick, and Norwich showed a decrease in herring fishery of over 50 per cent. A great decrease in herrings, quantity and value amounting to only a third of last year's figures, had taken place at Ronasvoe, Stennis, Hillswick and Brae, Papa and Voe; and the same applied to Foula, Sandness and Vaila. Those were serious figures, and he understood the fishermen were unanimous in believing that the falling off was due to the indiscriminate destruction of whales that had been carried on since 1902. There were a number of small settlements of crofters and cotters along the coast, and the poor people were able to make something by collecting whelks and mussels. Some years ago the Norwegian fishermen found themselves face to face with a similar state of things. The destruction of whales had been going on for some time there, and the herring fishing had been distinctly falling off. The Norwegian fishermen brought the matter in a very forcible manner before their Government, and the result was that a measure was enacted prohibiting the destruction of whales for several years. Shetland was then seized upon by the Norwegian whaling companies, and operations were started there by them at Ronasvoe, and one of the loveliest Noes in Shetland had been turned into a filthy cesspool. The herring stations had been abandoned, the mussels had been destroyed. A state of affairs existed that would not have been tolerated in other parts of His Majesty's dominions. Later on, other whaling stations had been started, and if hon. Members could only see for themselves the abominations that existed, that there was no sanitary inspection and control, they would wonder, as he did, why the Fishery Board had refrained from making any comment 112 on this scandalous and outrageous state of affairs. He regretted that the Fishery Board had not made some inquiry into the matter of the whale fishing. He knew the views of the Secretary for Scotland in the matter. Having brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the figures quoted from the Report of the Fishery Board, he hoped that something would be done to protect the interests of the fishermen whose industry had suffered so seriously. It was a matter of common knowledge that the herring fishing, important as it was, lasted but a short time. The chief inspector said that it seldom lasted in one district for more than from two to three months. The herring industry had certain features that demanded close attention, and a very important feature was that it could not be carried on with comfort and decency without an ample supply of water. Only last year he visited a station at Lerwick, and it was pitiable to see poor women, after a hard day's toil, having to travel along a rough path a considerable distance for a pail of water—an instance of petty tyranny, for if he was correctly informed an ample supply could have been readily obtained. The question of water supply had been brought before the Fishery Board with reference to Lerwick and also at Stronsay. The local authority at the latter island had made a very strong appeal to the Fishery Board, which had received scant consideration. The position seemed to be this. A special water district, had been formed, the inhabitants expended a sufficient sum to give them what water they required, but during the herring season the supply was utterly inadequate. In 1901 the fishing amounted to 23,420 cwts., of the value of £4,376; while in 1905 it amounted to 83,710 cwts., of the value of £17,449. The Reports by General-Inspector of Sea Fisheries admitted the water supply was defective and required attention. For the normal population there was enough, but the great want was for the fishermen. The public pump was denied them, and a lock was placed upon it. In former years they had the water free, and had it carried to the pier in barrels, and now they had to pay. In addition to this difficulty the water was distinctly bad, and it was said that during an epidemic 113 of diarrhoea the only fishermen who escaped were the crew of a steamer that brought water from elsewhere. He believed that the Fishery Board could settle this and other matters with very little expense, possibly not by their own direct action, but in connection with the Local Government Board and the Congested Districts Board. According to the Reports the trawling industry also showed signs of improvement, and doubtless it was a matter for congratulation that a source of good supply should be fully developed, but there was a lamentable amount of ignorance, or affected ignorance, on this question. Trawling in the vast expanse of the ocean doubtless was an exceedingly desirable industry, but it was altogether otherwise when trawling companies deliberately and purposely carried their operations within that area which the Legislature had very wisely debarred from their operations; and while he cheerfully admitted that the Fishery Board did its best, with the resources at its command, to protect the rights of the fishermen, he regretted that this should be necessary, and he felt sure that the convictions of the last few years but feebly represented the number of trawlers who had no respect for the laws of the State, no consideration for the rights of their fellows, and thought nothing of sweeping inshore waters clear and leaving the fishermen and. their families to starve. The Report showed that during the last three years there had been thirty, thirty-four, and thirty-five convictions, and that penalties amounting to considerable sums had been imposed and paid, but again he had to express regret that in the same period forty-seven masters had gone to prison rather than pay the fine. If the master was the owner and preferred to pay in that manner there would be nothing to be said, but what happened, he feared, was that the trawling company said to the master: "Your ship is not fit to trawl on the ocean; the only way you can get your wages and earn our dividends is by poaching in the inshore waters. Catch fish, no matter how, but if you are caught you must go. to prison, as we will not pay any fines that may be imposed." He thought the Fishery Board must be fully cognisant of these circumstances, but if they could do nothing else they should press for con- 114 fiscation and destruction of gear, and thereby impose an adequate penalty on the real offenders, namely, the companies or individuals who sent men out to break the law. The Fishery Board had an enormous responsibility not only by sea but by land. If the interests of the fishermen were to be sacrificed to those of great trawling companies it meant the breaking up of many a small home and holding. He sincerely trusted the Secretary for Scotland would use the powers which he possessed for the benefit and protection of these poor people.
§ *MR. SUTHERLAND (Elgin Burghs)
said he wished to join the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty in protesting against the present composition and constitution of the Scottish Fishery Board. The feeling adverse to the Board was almost universally shared by those engaged in. the fishing industry. So much was that the case that when the last Board came to an end in January last year a petition from the Scotsmen, numbering several thousands, connected with the herring fishing industry at Yarmouth was sent to the Secretary for Scotland. He had the honour of transmitting that petition to the right hon. Gentleman. In it the petitioners asked for the appointment on the Board of one of the best known men in the North-East of Scotland, who was thoroughly competent and practical, and who know the needs of the fishing industry. The Fishery Board was com. posed of seven members—the chairman, a scientific member, a legal member, and four practical members. Upon what principle these four practical members were nominated he never could understand. He had sometimes thought that the sole qualification of some of them was their entire ignorance of everything connected with the industry. The petition to which he referred was presented in December, 1905, but the Secretary for Scotland came to the decision that, acting on what he described as the best possible advice, he could do nothing better than reappoint the whole Board. The right hon. Gentleman in his communication went on to say that the work of the Board was wholly administrative. All that he (the Speaker) could say was that 115 members of the Fishery Board boasted that they were the official advisers of the Government on fishery questions, and if that were so, the Fishery Board initiated policy. What had been the result? It was that the petitioners were not only disappointed with what the Secretary for Scotland had done, but were disgusted. From John o' Groats to Maidenkirk, from the Associations of the Moray Firth Wick, and elsewhere, complaints had been made in regard to the constitution of the Fishery Board. As hon. Members perhaps knew, the one source of revenue on which the Fishery Board relied rested on the herring-brand fees. The largest contributors to those fees were Shetland, Peterhead, Aberdeen, and Fraserburgh. Yet strange to say, not one of those centres of the herring fishing industry had a representative on the Fishery Board. Perhaps no other industry in Scotland had developed in recent years like that of fishing. Its progress read almost like a fairy tale. Fishermen on the north-east coast had procured steam fishing boats without State aid; yet they were told that the best-known men connected with that industry, who by their energy, enterprise, and capacity had built it up, were not the best judges of its requirements and of the sort of men who should compose the Fishery Board of Scotland. They had even been refused such a moderate reform as the substitution of one man regarding whose qualifications there was unaminity for another. Not only did the Secretary for Scotland refuse to make the appointment, but when asked to reconsider the question of the constitution of the Board, he declined to do so in a way which both in manner and in matter was a model of curtness. He himself believed that a Bill to increase the members of the Fishery Board would receive no opposition from either side of the House. What he suggested was that there should be. an elective element on the Fishery Board. The present Board was appointed for five years: that was, for the life of the present Government. Supposing the Government went out of office and another Government came in, the new Secretary for Scotland might say when the five years for which the Board was elected had expired, that he had neither time nor sufficient knowledge of the subject 116 to go into the merits of the case, and that he would reap point the old Board. That was not a fair or worthy way of dealing with such an important industry on which so many thousands of people were dependent. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would introduce a short Bill this session to increase the membership of the Board. He associated himself with what had been said by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty as to grants for small harbours. That was a very important matter and would become increasingly urgent. He was also glad that the question of the Whale Fishery Bill had been referred to. It was promised last year, if it was not passed this session it could not come into operation until 1909. He appealed to the Secretary for Scotland to bring in a Bill at the earliest possible moment dealing with the subject. As to trawling in the Moray Firth, he had never been able to understand why it was that the Government which, after considering the matter for three weeks, had ordered prosecutions should on the first note of protest have liberated the prisoners. He trusted the Government would continue in the course which they were now adopting.
§ *MR. YOUNGER (Ayr Burghs)
said that, so far as his personal experience was concerned, he would like to dissent from the unfavourable remarks which had been made in regard to the Fishery Board. He had always found that the Board took a most earnest interest in the questions brought before them, and that they did their best to hold the scales evenly. The Board had, he confessed, performed their duties rigidly and equitably to those whom he represented. As to the membership of the Board, he thought that independent men, not connected directly with the fishery industry, would be best able to see that there was something to be said on both sides of any question brought forward. As to a close time for the herring fishery, his constituents believed that it was best to leave well alone. The Campbeltown fishermen, at any rate, objected to any close time for the herring fishery, and after going into the subject very closely he agreed that they were right in refusing to have a close time. Even it it were imposed it would be impossible to enforce it. He wished to impress on the 117 right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland that they had serious grievances against illegal trawling. He thought that the power of punishing those illegal trawlers should be greater than at present existed. At present the punishment of the persons who were really guilty of this illegal trawling was extremely cleverly avoided. As he understood the matter, the responsible person on board of the trawler was called the sailing master, but he was only engaged at a very small wage and usually occupied a very subordinate position. If that person was tried and convicted for illegal trawling, and perhaps the extreme penalty of £100 fine or two months imprisonment was inflicted, it turned out on close investigation that it was part of the condition of his engagement that if convicted, he was expected to go to prison. The man who was proceeded against did not therefore pay the fine at all, and in consideration of his willingness to go to prison got double wages for the whole time that he was ashore. The arrangements of the Legislature were therefore evaded in an exceedingly clever way, and until they had some amendment of the existing Act of Parliament increasing existing penalties they could not deter these gentlemen from risking a little poaching the moment they got into protected waters. He thought it would be an advantage to the Fishery Board if in some matters they had more extended powers. While he agreed with the hon. Member for Argyll in the main, he did not wish it to be understood that his constituents would agree that there should be a (dose time for herrings; in fact they were opposed to it.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
quite agreed with regard to the dissatisfaction which existed among the fishing community as to the work of the Fishery Board. It seemed to him that his hon. friend had suggested the right way out of the difficulty, namely, to have a large representative element upon the Board, and he hoped that that point would have the attention of the Secretary for Scotland. It was difficult enough to work the lighthouses in Scotland through the Lights Commissioners, who were men of exceptional capacity, but it was still 118 more difficult to work the Fishery Board unless they had men upon it who were acknowledged by the fishermen as their natural leaders. They could only make sure of getting these men by having some representative system by which they could themselves choose their representatives upon the Board. He thought that the country expected some further information in regard to the Moray Firth and the regulations in regard to it. In view of the decision of the court of Session upon the subject he was not one of those who would press the Secretary for Scotland for any immediate decision on that point, because, no doubt, the decision of the Scottish Court representing its view of the Scottish law was entitled to great weight, especially as it raised questions of international importance, and as to the maintenance of our international rights. he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the firm attitude which he and the Prime Minister had taken up with regard to trespassers upon the Firth. There was nothing to be said in favour of the Grimsby trawlers who came to those waters to fish, and the more of them who were sent to prison the better. At the same time, he thought that some further information should be given as to the progress of the movement for the extension of the law prohibiting the landing of fish in England. The question was a very simple one, and he hoped the Government would take such steps as would prevent the fish trawled in Scottish waters being landed at English ports as well as at Scottish ports. If that could not be done they would do no good.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE (Inverness Burghs)
called attention to the present system of punishing people guilty of illegal fishing. The present penalties did not matter "one dump" to the owners of the vessels. He suggested that a proviso should be introduced into legislation under which it would be possible to seize the corpus delicti. If they seized the vessel a risk to the owner would come in and as a consequence illegal trawling would stop, because the ship might be held for three or six months if necessary. If that were done there would be no risk of innocent persons suffering, but the person who 119 would do so would be the shipowner of Grimsby or Hull. When one captured a burglar one did not give Mm back his tools, but confiscated them, and the same course should be pursued in the case of the English trawler who violated the rights of others. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman, knowing the extraordinary importance which was attached to this question in the north of Scotland, would do his best to enforce more rigidly the regulations of which he and the Prime Minister had expressed themselves to be in favour. He wished also to raise a question as to the estuary of the River Ness. The fishermen and those who lived on the banks of the estuary had many grievances under the regulations made by the Fishery Commissioners in 1852, and he thought that if those Commissioners had the power to make the regulations they should have power to alter them. If the right hon. Gentleman looked into the matter he would find that it was easy to satisfy the grievances of those who lived on the shores of the estuary. If the Board exercised the powers they had the fishermen might be benefited without any fresh legislation.
§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, College)
wished to join in what had been described as a diatribe against the Fishery Board, because he thought the Member for Elgin Burghs had correctly described the situation in Scotland. When the right non. Gentleman reappointed the Fishery Board it was, he thought, a disastrous step. The right hon. Gentleman came into office with a great reputation; ha was young and vigorous and had been a soldier, and great things were expected of him. The right hon. Gentleman had faced the enemy abroad on the field of battle, but unfortunately, since he had come into office he had failed to face his enemies at home. His first enemy was the permanent official and his second enemy was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and since he came into office he had failed to get very much out of his enemies. The last Government was described as the worst Government of modern times, and when the right hon. Gentleman came in it was anticipated that a new practical régime would begin, but as had been stated by 120 the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs, that had not resulted. If the right hon. Gentleman had been left to his own resources, no doubt he would have nominated a member on the Fishery Board who would carry out his views. He had therefore to say that it was the permanent officials who overruled the Secretary for Scotland, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman in his future transactions would adopt the system of taking the opposite course to that which the permanent officials suggested.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
expressed the opinion that the persons to blame for the trouble in the Moray Firth were not the Fishery Board but the Government, who were quite willing to prosecute British trawlers but would not prosecute foreign trawlers. The result was that the British trawlers employed Norwegians whom the Government were afraid to touch. In the case of the Moray Firth, which was a territorial water, the Government should protect the interests of the British fishermen. It was well known that if they sent up a gunboat the Government could at once stop the trawling complained of. They caught a Norwegian once and were so frightened that they let him go. If Scottish Members wanted the matter put right they must tell the Government plainly that they must protect British fishermen and British interests, and that unless they did that they were no good to anybody.
§ *MR. LAMONT (Buteshire)
said he agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member who spoke last, and hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland would protect Scottish fisheries by the addition of at least one more fishery-cruiser; and, if so, he suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should christen her the "Boadicea," in honour of the hon. Member for Ludlow. He totally disagreed, however, with what the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs had said on the subject of the close-time in the Clyde district. He was convinced that the neglect of the close-time had been one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, for the diminishing yield of herrings in the last few years. What did the 1907 121 Report of the Fishery Board say? On page 272 the fishery officer for Campbeltown reported that:—The fisheries of the district compare unfavourably with those of the preceding year, and of a considerable number of years past. The collapse of the herring-fishing in Kilbrennan Sound accounts largely for the decrease.The usual fishing-grounds on the west and south-west of Arran were fished at intervals; but the shoals, which were in former years so prolific, were not to be found on either side of kilbrennan Sound.Although the district returns show a decrease, financially the fishermen were in a much better position than in 1905. The successful fishings on the Ayrshire coast contributed largely to this satisfactory result.And what did that show? It showed that the Campbeltown fishermen, having ruined the fisheries in their own immediate vicinity by their disregard of the close-time, were now proceeding to exploit the fisheries of their neighbours. If this debate proved nothing else, it proved that each of the fishery districts throughout Scotland had its own particular problem. It was impossible for the Fishery Board to deal effectively with this great variety of local questions. It was certainly desirable that some at least of the members of that Board should be practical men; and it might perhaps be strengthened, as had already been suggested, by the addition of an elective element. But he did not agree with the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs in thinking that the Board would be strengthened in its work by an increase of its number. The hon. Member' for the College Division and the hon. Member for Ross had referred (the latter not for the first time) in slighting terms to a member of the Board who was also an ironmonger. Well, he held no brief for the gentleman in question, who was, indeed, the President of the Conservative Association in his constituency. But he must say this, that in all matters relating to his duties on the Fishery Board he had always found this gentleman courteous, capable, and well informed; and he hoped that for many years to come he would continue to fulfil those duties in the same efficient and energetic manner. The debate having brought out the fact that each district had its own particular problem, he hoped it had also brought to the knowledge of the Secretary for Scotland the urgency of creating sea fishery district committees, such as 122 had been created in England since 1888. The Act of 1883 empowered county councils and borough councils to create district committees for the control and management of the fisheries off the coasts of the district, and those committees had worked extremely well. Scotland had had the same power ever since 1895, but in no single instance had it been exercised. He thought the creation of such committees would be of enormous value in focussing local opinion, and in thrashing out local problems. Any recommendations which came from them would carry great weight with the Fishery Board, and in addition to that he was certain that the right hon. Gentle-man would find them a convenient buffer between the fisherman and his grievances on the one hand, and the right hon. Gentleman and the Fishery Board on the other. He hoped, therefore, that the Secretary for Scotland would take an early opportunity of urging the county councils of Scotland to put the Act of 1895 into force, by applying to them some incentive of the nature recently described by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies as "ginger."
§ *MR. SMEATON (Stirlingshire)
said he rose to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to a promise given last year in reference to the use or the drift net in the forth along the shores of Stirlingshire and Kinross-shire. The matter was laid before the House and the right hon. Gentleman by his hon. friend the Member for Kinross-shire; and the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that there was hardship in the present prohibition of the drift net. He wished to know if any progress had been made towards validating the use of the drift net where, owing to the character and extraordinary formations of river banks, the fishermen were unable to use a sweep net. The prohibition was a very great hardship, and many persons had been thrown out of work owing to the interdict which had been placed upon the drift net.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherlandshire)
said he had been waiting for twelve months or more to say a word or two on the question of Scottish fisheries and one or two other local matters in connection 123 therewith which ought to be considered. They could find plenty of time and money for warlike affairs, but it was extremely difficult to get a few minutes to discuss local affairs, and still more difficult to get money for local purposes. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty with regard to the presentation of these annual Reports. It was not fair to Members that they should be presented only a few minutes or a few hours before the Vote was to be discussed, and there was no reason why it should be so. He noticed in the Reports that in regard to some matters some of the permanent officials had not got beyond 1905. He would like the right hon. Gentleman to remind those gentlemen that eighteen months had elapsed since then. He did not complain of the right hon. Gentleman, but he thought he should wake up the permanent officials to their duties, because there was a general impression that they were a lot of old Tory fogies, who in the main were against all progress and improvements that were in favour of the interests and welfare of the masses. In respect to these local affairs, they were worse off now than when they were under a Tory Government; he did not know why; perhaps it was because they had voted Liberal at the last election. In regard to the Fishery Board, he did not know any of its members save the chairman, who alone was paid; he had always been on good terms with him, and had nothing against him personally. The other members of the board were unpaid. The real worth of their services was exactly about what they paid for them, and that was nothing. Who were the members of the board? There were six unpaid members, and he wanted to know what were the positions of these gentlemen, and their ordinary avocations, because the House had a right to pass judgment on the members of the board, even though they were unpaid. If these gentlemen chose to accept office, the House had a right to see that they did their duty, and also to ask whether they were likely to be capable of doing their duty. That was why he wished to get information about them. When did this Board meet? Did it ever meet, and would his right hon. friend produce the minutes of 124 the Board to show what they did? He expected the right hon. Gentleman would have a good deal of trouble about it, a good deal of searching to produce anything of advantage. He expected it was like some other Boards which they had in Scotland and elsewhere, who never met at all, and who generally loft the work to the office boy, to whom he was thankful for doing his work so well as he did. He was afraid that the Fishery Board had been appointed on very much the same system as they appointed Committees in the House. If they had a Committee to appoint, they carefully excluded members who knew all about what was wanted, and put on those who knew nothing about it—perhaps so that the matter could not be properly considered, and the Committee could be led to do what was desired. From what he had heard, it would appear that the members of this Board had been selected not because they knew anything about the work connected with the fishing industry, but because they did not know anything. Let it be known who these gentlemen were, and whether they had met to consider anything whatever. He found in the Estimate that there was a net decrease of £1,050 for the present year. If they were saving money in that way, he did not think it was fair to say that they were doing their best so far as expenditure was concerned. If there was not enough money voted they ought to be told, and the Board ought to insist on having a proper sum voted for the particular work in which they were concerned. There was a sum of about £3,000 not mentioned in the Estimate, but which belonged to this work, received in fines from trawlers caught illegally trawling; then there was the sum of £6,682 for brand fees. Those two sums gave a total of about £10,000 which ought to have been spent on this particular service, but they did not know where it went to. He agreed with what had been said in regard to some of these funds, that something ought to be done around the coast of Sutherlandshire to put the piers and harbours in a proper state of repair, so that the fishermen might be able to follow their dangerous calling with greater safety than at present. As to the trawlers, that was a matter which they had always before them; and the trawling which had been introduced 125 of late years was tending to destroy the business of the line fishermen altogether and drive the men out of the country. He should have thought that it was the natural duty of the British Government to protect the fishermen, and to see that they were not done to death by those great trawling companies and trusts. The Government should have been careful to go out of their way to protect so useful a body of men as these line fishermen. The Britisher had been stopped from trawling in the Moray Firth, but the difficulty was with the foreign trawlers. He agreed with a previous speaker that the Government ought to have sufficient courage to insist on closing the Moray Firth against foreign trawlers as well as against British trawlers. It seemed to him to be their simple duty towards the line fishermen to hold the balance fairly between the different sets of trawlers, and he hoped that something would be done shortly to settle the matter. Illegal trawling, mainly by English trawlers, was going on all round the west and north coast of Sutherland, and they had utterly failed to got the Fishery Board to do their duty in that particular neighbourhood; therefore they did not discover, and were not likely to discover, this illegal trawling in territorial waters. Those in charge of the trawlers knew when the cruisers were coming and they took care to be out of the way. It was well known that the cruisers did not properly try to discover the illegal trawling, and there was no watch kept on Sundays. No doubt in Scotland it was a serious offence to break the Sabbath, but English trawlers did not mind doing that. They must, however, have the police out on Sundays just as on otter days of the week. When they complained they got no sort of satisfaction from the Fishery Board. Last autumn complaint was made with regard to the cruisers in the neighbourhood of Cape Wrath and Durness, and a memorial was sent by the residents of the parish of Durness. A reply was received as follows—I am directed by the Secretary of State for Scotland to state that the coast in question is regularly patrolled by the fishery cruisers.Of course the Secretary of State for Scotland did not pretend to know the facts himself, but he had no hesitation in saying that the statement was utterly incorrect, no matter from whom it came. The coast was not regularly patrolled, 126 and that was very well known to the people in the neighbourhood. The letter added—So far as other requirements and the resources the Fishery Board have at disposal permit.What were the other requirements? Last year he applied to go on one of the cruisers in order to see how they did their work. He was prepared to pay his own expenses, but he received in reply to his application the following—We cannot allow you to go on our ships.But what happened afterwards? He noticed in the papers that, he believed it was the Vice-President or some permanent officer, had used one of these cruisers for a pleasure trip with ladies to the Lewes. He, who was prepared to go alone and without ladies, in order to see how the work was done, was refused permission to go on one of those cruisers, yet a permanent official with ladies was allowed to go on one for a pleasure trip. He wanted to know from his right hon. friend before the Vote was passed why he was refused permission to go round the coast to see how the cruisers worked. Having heard of the letter which had been sent from Durness, he himself wrote to the Scottish Office, and he received the following reply—DEAR SIR—I am desired by Mr. Sinclair to refer yon to the letter of the 4th inst., referring inter alia to the petition of the Durness fishermen, and enclose herewith for your information a copy of the Scottish Office letter addressed to them. Mr. Sinclair expresses regret that you did not receive a copy of the letter at the same time that it was sent out.In reply to that letter he wrote to the Secretary for Scotland pointing out that he brought the complaints before the House of Commons last autumn, and urging that the Fishery Board should discover the illegal trawling, and not expect private individuals to do their work. He was told that one of the difficulties of discovering the trawlers was that their number was very often concealed. All he contended for was that the law should be obeyed by the rich trawlers as well as by the poor fishermen. That was the real point. British trawlers had no right to be trawling within the territorial waters or within the three mile limit, and what he desired to see was the rich trawlers and trusts compelled to obey the law. Probably he would again be told that there were not 127 cruisers enough. He did not think that could be so, when they allowed a permanent official to take a trip upon one of those cruisers with ladies. The chairman of the Fishery Board was the only paid official, and he noticed according to the papers that he had been appointed a member of the Royal Commission upon Congestion in Ireland. Considering the troubles all around the Scottish coast he wished to know why this official had been sent away to look after the interests of Ireland. He thought that Royal Commission could have been manned without taking away the chairman of the Fishery Board of Scotland. It had been said that they had not cruisers enough, and that they were deficient in speed, and yet the Fishery Board in their report did not make a solitary Request for any more assistance. He did not expect the Board to do much in regard to piers, harbours and lights, but he did complain of the extraordinary treatment of the lighthouse keepers. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, as he understood, induced the Secretary for Scotland to allow the lighthouse keepers to take note of any trawlers they might see at work within the three-mile limits, but unless the lighthouse keepers were allowed to give evidence that privilege was no use whatever. Until very recently the lighthouse keepers were not allowed to give evidence at all, and the excuse put forward was that they could not be spared from their duties. Those men had been asked to give evidence against the trawlers, and yet the Secretary for Scotland refused to pay them adequate expenses when they were permitted to give evidence. The fishing industry was one of great importance to his constituency, and they would drive the people away if they allowed the trawlers to take away the trade of the fishing communities, and in that way the county would be depopulated. Last year he brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the case of some trawlers who were working not only within the three-mile limit, but within the line drawn from bay to bay. It was nonsense to expect other people were going to do the work of the cruisers, whose business it was and who were paid to find out when the trawlers were at work. He trusted the Secretary for Scotland would have no hesitation in asking the Govern- 128 ment and the Committee for sufficient funds to carry out this work efficiently, and provide cruisers in a sufficient number and of the necessary speed to put an end to this illegal trawling. The present state of things was a disgrace to the Scottish Office. He did not think the time of the Committee could be better spent than in considering the social and trade wants of the people, and he regretted that the debate had not attracted a better attendance. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would consider that they were not raising these questions against him personally; on the contrary, they were anxious to assist him to carry out anything that was for the good of the people of Scotland. As far the officials were concerned, he hoped the Committee would not be afraid of criticising and dealing with permanent officials. Mr. Gladstone once said it was no use having good laws unless they had good administration, and they could not have good administration, unless the laws were carried out by competent permanent officials. He was quite aware how strong these gentlemen were against Ministers, and Ministers frequently tried to make the House believe that hon. Members ought not to say anything about a permanent official or to criticise his conduct. Personally he did not believe in that doctrine, and hoped that Members of this House would not be afraid to criticise both the Government and the officials. Generally speaking, they had an excellent body of officials, but there were exceptions, and Ministers knew it as well as he (Mr. Morton) did. He hoped the Government would carry out all the promises they had made to the people of Scotland upon this subject.
§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
said he entirely associated himself with what the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire had said with regard to the desirability of approaching this question free altogether from Party spirit and recrimination. He wished, however, to dissociate himself from what the hon. Member had said about the permanent officials. His experience of them had always been that they discharged their duties very intelligently, with great care, and in the most admirable manner. He could not endorse what had been said by the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs in regard to the action of the 129 Government in relation to trawling in the Moray Firth. The hon. Member congratulated the Government on their firm attitude. He was not sure that "firm" was the most appropriate word. The decision of the Court of Session which raised the whole matter was given in July, and so far as he had been able to discover no preparations were made by the Government for taking action until six months afterwards, when a trawler was arrested. The accused persons after being incarcerated three days were released. he did not think that could be called a firm attitude. He sincerely hoped that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was not to be taken as having said the last word on the question in the speech which he made in the House of Lords. He would be sorry if the Government looked upon the Acts of 1885 and 1889 as inoperative on the ground of their being ultra vires in relation to international law. He could not agree with that proposition. There were precedents in support of the view that stretches of water between two headlands were territorial waters. There was the Conception Bay case, where, in a dispute which arose between two cable companies, both the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council held that the waters were territorial. The decision in a dispute which took place in relation to the Bristol Channel some time ago also supported the view of those who believed that the law was being infringed by foreign trawlers in the Moray Firth. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would press the matter on the attention of the Department interested, and that the Foreign Office would maintain a resolute front in dealing with it. One point referred to in the Report of the Fishery Board was a statement to the effect that a vegetable fibre which was grown in the West Indies was an admirable material for the manufacture of herring nets. It had been tried in the Wick district, and the report was that, although it was a little dearer than ordinary fibre, a net made of it caught twice as many herrings. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers would not lose sight of the experiments which were being made and that if it was as useful as it had been represented to be the value of the material would be brought to the knowledge of the fisher- 130 men. As to motors, be wished to know whether any encouragement had been given to the utilisation of motors as auxiliary engines in fishing boats. If the experiments already made had been successful, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to secure some arrangement whereby British motor builders might have an opportunity of supplying them for use in sailing vessels. The provision of cheap auxiliary motor power would solve many of the difficulties which fishermen had at present in connection with small sailing fishing boats. He did not think the hon. Member opposite was correct in saying that the Secretary for Scotland met them in a sympathetic spirit last year on the subject of the use of drift nets. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion said that he could not endorse or accept on behalf of the Government the Motion which was moved by the hon. Member for Clackmannan and Kinross. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make the position of the Government more clear on that matter. No doubt the hon. Member voiced a hardship which was felt by the fishermen. Drift not fishing involved the question whether prescription justified what was being done.
§ *MR. SMEATON
said the question which the Secretary for Scotland was asked, was whether he would propose legislation to validate the use of drift nets where the current formation of the banks rendered the sweep net useless.
§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said he hoped if the right hon. Gentleman took action in the matter it would not be in the direction of continuing a practice which he understood was regarded as an abuse.
§ MR. GWYNN (Galway)
wished to state how this question affected the fishermen of Ireland. They were under the deepest obligation to the Scottish experts who had been sent over by the Scottish Board to give the instruction and the value of their experience. The results of such instruction had been most valuable in the north and west of Ireland and particularly in Donegal. He knew of a case in which one of the herring fishers had applied to the Board in Ireland to be supplied with a motor, which he was quite 131 prepared to pay for, and it was obvious that an enormous improvement could be effected by the use of motors. As to the general situation he hoped the time would come when Irish fishermen would go and take their turn in the Scottish waters. It had been suggested by an hon. Member that the minimum fine in the matter of illegal trawling should be raised, and for his part he was aware that in cases that arose in Ireland the infliction of a small penalty was usually found to be insufficient. In proof of this he mentioned a case in which a fine of £5 was imposed, and the same evening the man was again taken in the commission of a similar offence. That would certainly not have happened if the fine had been made,£50. It was, no doubt, perfectly true that the action taken in these matters in one country reacted upon the situation in the neighbouring country. He hoped, therefore, that the Secretary for Scotland would act in unison with the Irish authorities.
§ MR. CHARLES WILSON (Hull, W.)
said it was relevant to mention that if we persisted in closing all territorial waters we should probably have foreigners closing ten times bigger water areas against our trawlers. If they did that he was sure that the loss to the national sea fisheries would be a great deal worse to us than anything we now lost by a few foreign trawlers catching some of our fish. He hoped that the Secretary for Scotland would not close any larger areas or any other pieces of water except the Moray Firth. The trawlers from the Humber went fishing in large seas alongside the coasts of other countries and between headlands which were outside the three-mile limit, and if those countries were to close those headlands to our trawlers it would be a great loss to our fishing industry. The National Free Fishery Association which represented the trawling industry said that they wanted free trade for fishing, and not protection.
§ MR. J. DEWAR (Inverness)
said that in the north-west coast of Scotland many of the crofters were born fishermen, but on account of their poverty they did not get that benefit of the fishery legislation which they ought to. His complaint was that the Fishery Board had done nothing to provide nets and boats for those fisher- 132 men on the west coast. If that had been done, the fishing industry there would have been developed quite as successfully as it had been in the north of Ireland. He hoped that the Fishery Board would turn their attention to this matter.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE
said that last year he had been on a visit to the west of Ireland and could testify to the excellent work which had been done there in assisting the fishermen. He had read the Reports of the Scientific Department of the Fishery Board. They were exceedingly interesting, but he should like to know whether the Board was getting any practical results from the investigations of that Department. If the Board was satisfied that the practical results obtained were worth the expenditure, well and good; but if they were not, he would suggest that the steamer employed in making those scientific investigations should be used in trying to catch illegal trawlers on the west coast.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
said that the hon. Member for Hull had concluded his remarks by saying that the trawling industry wanted free trade in fishing, and not protection. He himself was in favour of free trade, but he was inclined to think that the line and net fishermen were entitled to protection. He believed that if the trawlers were allowed to work their sweet will on the fishing grounds, scarcely anything would be left for the other fishermen. What was really wanted more than anything else was that the existing law should be put in force. The Lord-Advocate was a strong man of the law, and he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman's Department put the machinery of the existing law in force against the breakers of it, much good would be accomplished. Many fishermen in the constituency he represented had said to him that they knew they could get a good catch on the fishing grounds, but when the trawlers were there they could not get at the banks. He urged the Secretary for Scotland, when he had a little leisure and could turn his mind from small holdings, to consult with Lord Tweed-mouth, and see whether they could not do something to increase the policing of the sea. If that were done there would soon be a revival of the fishing industry.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. SINCLAIR, Forfarshire)
said that those interested in the fishing industry and the Fishery Board had no reason to complain of the discussion that afternoon; find he would endeavour to reply to the various criticisms which had been made. In the first place, he admitted the force of what Hon. Members had said as to the publication of the reports of the Fishery Board itself, and about the condition of the fishing industry. He expressed regret that those reports had not been forthcoming earlier; but it had not been possible to issue them earlier for the purposes of the present discussion. However, he would do his host to avoid such a difficulty in the future. It was only on short notice that the Scottish Estimates had been set down for that day. This had been a remarkably prosperous year for the fishing industry in Scotland. Indeed, no previous year had been so prosperous, if they took the value of the catch as a test. Last year and the year before, the quantity of the fish caught was larger, but higher prices were obtained this year; so that it was a record year from the point of view of the value of the catch. The Report of the Board indicated that a change had taken place in the character of the vessels employed in the fisheries. There had been a reduction in the number of sailing vessels, and an increase in the number of steam vessels, not only trawlers, but steam drifters and steam liners. There was remarkable evidence that a large increase of capital had been expended in the provision of now boats, mostly steam drifters, as a consequence of the prosperous seasons of the past year or two. There was no reason for departing in any very large measure from the position hitherto occupied under statute by the Fishery Board. It was an administrative body and, except in the north-west of Scotland, which had been dealt with by the Congested Districts Board, the fishing industry of Scotland did not look for any active nursing from the Department. Of course it was true that in the exercise of its administrative duties the Fishery Board should show energy and be as up to date in its methods as possible. He recognised that no individual member of the Board was complained of, and the criticisms had not gone beyond what was legitimate and fair. It had been said 134 that the Fishery Board might be greatly improved by the introduction of an elective element. He did not think anyone would deny that the Board might be improved by the infusion of such an element, if it were possible to carry out the principle consistently with the other arrangements for the administration of public business in Scotland. But if hon. Members thought out the problem he believed that they must admit that there were great difficulties in achieving that end. If the qualifications of the members of the Board were examined it would, he believed, be found that they combined, so far as it was possible to combine within the limit of four members, representation both of the fishery interest on the one hand and of locality on the other. He thought it combined those two characteristics in a very satisfactory degree. It was said that they ought to extend the elective element, but he would submit to the Committee that the real virtue of the element of election was that they had direct responsibility on the part of the elective body. It was a very difficult problem to know how they could secure for the purpose of one industry in Scotland such a state of things, and if they endeavoured to do so he was afraid they would have a most unwieldy Department. His own view was that the control of the fishery industry and the representative character which should be infused into that control was secured best by such discussions as they were having that day, and by the control of the House of Commons where the representatives of Scotland were to be found. It was by such control as that, although he was sorry that those discussions did not come more frequently, that the end they had in view would be best secured. In regard to the Fishery Board, which was the representative and the guardian of all fishery interests in Scotland, it must not be left out of sight, when they were talking about the trawling interest, that it was a very important one, and had a right to call for the consideration of the Government Department in Scotland equally with the fishermen of other classes. He thought that it would be a bad day for Scotland if the Fishery Board did not keep the strictly impartial attitude which it had hitherto sustained towards the different fishery industries of the country. That led him to the point to which allusion had been made in regard to 135 the sea police. His hon. friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty lamented the fact that they had one cruiser less in recent years, and hoped that they would soon have an increase of the fleet. Questions had been asked him on this subject on more than one occasion recently, and he had assured the House that the Fishery Board had had that point under their consideration, and although their funds were not yet sufficient to provide another cruiser, they hoped, before long, they would be able to do so. Other suggestions had been made, and it was advocated that the vessel now devoted to scientific investigation should be used for police purposes. But those investigations were of great value to the fisheries of Scotland, and, indeed, of the United Kingdom, and he thought that not only Scottish Members but the Committee as a whole would agree that they should endeavour to improve and develop, rather than curtail, scientific investigation. He would be sorry to see a diminution of the funds allotted to this purpose. The vessel in question was being used in the investigations conducted under the North Sea Conference; and those investigations, if persisted in, would be of great benefit. The falling off in the herring-catch, particularly in Orkney and Shetland, had been referred to. But that had been accompanied by an increase in value, which in those islands amounted to £24,000. As to the fines for illegal trawling, at present they went into the Exchequer; but a Bill had been introduced to make them available for the purposes of the Fishery Board, and if there were any general agreement among Scottish Members, the Government would be very glad to pass the Bill into law. With regard to the question of whale fishing, a subject of interest to many hon. Gentlemen, he would not enter into the question of how far whales were or were not responsible for driving away the herring shoals.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
said he did not suggest that. The fishermen liked the live whale; what they disliked was the dead whale.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
thought that, even if that was so, if his hon. friend inquired he would find that was a very controversial question. As a result of a Commission appointed to inquire into 136 the question a Bill was produced by the late Government some three or four years ago. There was great feeling about it then, and there was a strong desire on the part of the late Government to pass the Bill into law. Two or three years elapsed and the herring shoals reappeared, and that had the effect of allaying the agitation against the industry of whale curing. Since the present Government came into office circumstances had again fixed the question on their attention, and, as the result of the consideration given to the matter, he had introduced a Bill founded on similar principles to the Bill introduced by the late Government. A point or two might have to be considered in Committee, but he thought the principle of the Bill would be non-contentious. It was founded on the principle that it was wise, whatever might be the effect of the presence of the whale curing stations, to regulate by means of licence the conditions under which the industry was carried on. He would point out that whale curing was a valuable industry and well worthy of the attention and consideration of the House. He was afraid he was unable to give any hope of a close time for the herring fishery in the waters of the Clyde being successfully established, though it was not for a Government authority to establish it. He was inclined to think the suggestion for the formation of Sea Fishery Committees was more hopeful, though that was attended with difficulties, for the committees contemplated by the Scottish Act of 1895 were of a different character from those existing in England, and the only attempt—made in the Elgin district—to constitute a committee in Scotland fell through because one of the authorities within the area objected. The matter was one which required further legislation before they could make any advance. He was unable to state anything more than he said last year with regard to drift net fishing in the Firth of Forth, and, whilst assuring the Committee that he would give attention to the criticisms as to the sale of gear taken from poaching trawlers, he did not think the existing practice had much appreciable influence in encouraging trawlers to pursue their depredations. He admitted that the Fisheries Board, if they had more money, might do more for the small harbours of Scotland, 137 but reminded the Committee that they were bound in the expenditure of public money to proceed upon some principle, and see that there was a guarantee that it would be useful locally. It was essential that there should be some guarantee that the locality was going to contribute, and at any rate make permanent the benefit conferred by the expenditure of public money. That was the difficulty which stood in the way of doing more in respect of harbours. He believed they would do more by endeavouring to develope and extend the less prosperous districts. The allowances to witnesses for attendance at Court were fixed by Statute, and it was not within the power of himself or the Fishery Board to alter them. The Fishery Board had no right to require the Northern Light Commissioners to help in the work of policing the coast; but where, such help was given an allowance of £3 per lighthouse keeper was made.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he was not sure. It must be borne in mind that the lighthouses were under the control not of the Fishery Board, but of the Northern Lights Commissioners, who were responsible for the efficient conduct of the administration—an administration which, of course, was of the highest importance to the country. Therefore, while the Northern Lights Commissioners were ready to do all that they could to help in the matter, they were bound to look after the administration of their own work. It was a matter of grace and courtesy that they helped, and that help was very gratefully received by the Fishery Board, who had no right to require such help from the Commissioners.
§ *MR. MORTON
They ought to have; the Northern Lights Commission is a public Board and should be under the control of Parliament.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said that would require legislation. There was another matter which his hon. friend the Member for Dumbartonshire had referred to and that was the question of the trawling in Gareloch. That was distinct from the ordinary trawling by a steam trawler; 138 it was trawling of a very modest character carried on within the waters of the Clyde, where trawlers were prohibited from trawling. The Herring Fisheries Act of 1889 prohibited trawling in the Firth of Clyde, but at the time that Act was passed the Fishery Board were urged to make an exemption in favour of small vessels or trawlers which were then in existence in the Clyde, and a by-law was accordingly passed in September, 1889, authorising vessels under a tonnage of eight tons to continue trawling during certain months of the year within the prohibited waters of the Clyde. That concession was granted in the interests of men who were very much of the character of inshore fishermen, who had for a long period earned their livelihood by such trawling, and whose interests, therefore, were thought to be greatly damaged by the passing of the Act of 1889. It would be obvious that that was not a matter of policy, but a temporary expedient or indulgence granted to those men in the year 1889. They were now in the year 1907, and his hon. friend the Member for Dumbartonshire, who took great interest in the matter, had reopened it with energy, backed as he was by the county council and by a very strong local representation, and he must say that he had come to the conclusion that the hon. Member had made out a case of considerable strength for now abrogating or bringing to an end what was admittedly, at the time it was granted, an indulgence or exemption to case the transition to the change brought about by the Act of 1889. He was able to assure his hon. friend that he thought that he could find a way of bringing the trawling to an end before very long. He could not. undertake to suspend it without notice-Even though it was a temporary indulgence he thought it was but fair and reasonable to give some notice to those engaged in the trawling, but he had strong ground for hoping that they would be able in a short time to fix a date at which this trawling should come to an end. An hon. Member had called attention to the experiments with "ramie," but they must see that those experiments were thoroughly carried out and properly tested before they could undertake the responsibility of placing undue reliance on them. He had also mentioned the 139 number of motor boats. He dared say that many of the Members of the Committee were aware that, with the help of experts, three years ago the "Pioneer" was purchased by the Fishery Board. She was fitted as a motor boat on the Danish lines, and a crew having been obtained, she was sent to the fishery where she had been engaged for two seasons, and there was good ground for believing that it had fulfilled its object of giving information to the fishermen. The same boat was to continue its travels and its work for another season, and if any hon. Members were in any of the fishing centres this summer they might come across her. He agreed that there was force in the suggestion that the Departments of the various parts of the United Kingdom should remember that they had certain common interests and should proceed upon parallel if not indentical lines. He heartily concurred in the endeavour to make the Fishery Board as energetic as possible. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire had suggested that the system of Irish loans should be adopted, but he was not sanguine that the method would be acceptable to those they desired to help. He agreed, however, that the question should be kept before them. Two years ago he was member of a Committee under Lord Mansfield, and they examined witnesses in Sutherland and Caithness. If his memory served him rightly, they put forward the Irish system of loans, but he did not think the reception accorded to the suggestion was very encouraging. He agreed, however, that the matter should not be considered once only and dropped. If they could assist men to do better for themselves they should not, because one system was not considered acceptable, abandon hope with regard to the matter. The Member for Wick Burghs, in a most interesting speech on the trawling question, had laid before them the situation, giving an historic retrospect of various Conventions entered into by this country, and had pressed him to go further than he had already done in detailing the position of the Government. He was inclined to think that the field which the hon. Gentleman opened up was one rather more appropriate to the Foreign Secretary than to the Secretary for Scotland.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he was very grateful to Members on both sides for the support given to the attitude taken up by the Scottish Office and Fishery Board in administering the law, and they would endeavour to administer it as it should be administered. He sincerely trusted that the hope expressed by one hon. Member, though it might be a sanguine hope, would be fulfilled: that if they had not already arrived at it, they were in sight of an end of this controversy.
§ *SIR ARTHUR BIGNOLD
said if the right hon. Gentleman could state what the position of a foreign trawling vessel which fished in the Firth more than three miles from the shore would be, and could do so without detriment to the public service, it would be of great interest to the Committee.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said the view of the Scottish Office on this point was best shown by the action they had taken. They had taken action which in some quarters was criticised as too stringent and energetic, while in others it had been spoken of as perfectly proper and wise under the circumstance. That was the best expression he could give of the view entertained by the Scottish Office as to its duty and policy in the matter, and he thanked the hon. Gentleman for not pressing him further on the point. He thought he had dealt with every point that had been raised. There was much to be said for the views which had been expressed by the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs, but they would require legislation, and, whilst expressing his sympathy with those views he would not like to commit himself to any expression of an intention to introduce such legislation at present. The trawling industry was contributing year by year a large proportion of its earnings in fines for breaking the law. On page 221 of the Fishery Board Report, for instance, they would find that whereas twenty years ago the amount of lines paid was £26, ten years ago it was £445, and last year it was,£1,376. He could do nothing without legislation. There were already two Fishery Bills, and, when they had disposed of them, it would 141 be possible to consider what measure they should next bring forward.
§ MR. YOUNGER
pointed out that the right men should be made to suffer; at present the wrong men were made to suffer.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he sympathised with the view of the hon. Member, but as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland had suggested, there were other loopholes in the system. The Government had already two Fishery Bills under consideration, and when those had been disposed of they would be able to consider what other measures should be brought forward. He thanked hon. Members for the criticisms they had made, and he assurred them that, so far as he was personally concerned, he fully recognised the value and importance of the control of the House over all public Departments, and he would undertake to see that the effect and influence of their criticisms travelled through him to the Department which had been under discussion.
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
said he desired to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the manner in which he had answered the many difficult Questions put to him. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House approved of the recent attitude of the Scottish Office in regard to the Moray Firth, and they hoped that that attitude of firmness would be maintained. If the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to put an end to the trawl fishing which had been permitted in the narrow waters of the Clyde, he hoped that some compensation would be given to the fishermen who would be deprived of their means of livelihood.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said he referred to these who fished in the narrow waters such as the small beam trawlers who did so much to spoil line fishing. The hon. Member for Galway City had threatened an invasion of Scottish waters by Irish fishermen, but he could assure his hon. 142 friend that they would be hospitably treated. He noticed that the Secretary for Scotland had stated that legislation for the Irish and the Scottish Fishery Boards should proceed upon similar lines. He wished incidentally to draw attention to two different Bills, one for Scotland introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, and the other for England introduced by his colleague, and he suggested that he should carry out his theory that the two Departments should move on parallel and identical lines. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would consent to withdraw his Bill from the Scottish Committee.
§ *MR. MORTON
said the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to answer his Questions about meetings of the Fishery Board, and as to why the Chairman of the Fishery Board was allowed to wander about Ireland, and thus neglect important duties in Scotland.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he could assure the hon. Member that there was no foundation whatever for his statement. The Chairman of the Fishery Board was a man of great experience, and his work had not been confined to that Board, for he had been for some years a member of the Congested Districts Board in Scotland, and voluntarily contributed his spare time and leisure to work of that Board, the members of which received no remuneration. Constantly occasions arose in administration when inquiries had to be carried out by other Departments, and such an inquiry was the Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Congested Districts Board in Ireland. The late Chief Secretary had placed before him the great desirability of allowing the Chairman of the Scottish Fishery Board to serve upon that inquiry in Ireland. That Gentleman had been of great assistance to the Royal Commission, and administrative fishery work had in no way suffered by his occasional absence from Scotland. The Scottish Fishery Board met regularly to transact routine and administrative business, and to receive reports from a considerable staff. He had no doubt that full records of the proceedings were kept.
§ VISCOUNT DALRYMPLE (Wigton)
asked whether the coastguards in Scotland were going to be reduced, and, if so, 143 whether other persons would take their place for the purpose of giving information of illegal trawling.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he recognised the value of the services of the coastguards. If any change was made, he would take care that the fishery interests did not suffer.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £11,086, to complete the sum for the Secretary for Scotland's office.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he wished to direct the attention of the Secretary for Scotland to the insanitary conditions in the Island of Lewis. Why had the right hon. Gentleman been absolutely indifferent to the reports presented by Dr. Dittmar and others on this subject to the Local Government Board? He had on several previous occasions brought this subject before the House, but according to one of the latest reports the state of matters in the island had become so serious as to call for immediate and drastic remedies.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
These remarks will be in order on the Vote for the Local Government Board which deals with sanitary matters. It is not competent to discuss this subject on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland when there is a specific Vote for the Local Government Board.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
the Secretary for Scotland is responsible for a good many Departments. He is responsible for the Fishery Board and the Local Government Board, and he is responsible for education, but when a specific Vote is down for any one of these special subjects all questions must be raised on the particular Vote, and not on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary for Scotland.
§ *MR. WEIR
said he was quite willing to take the matter up at a later stage. As to the work of the Congested Districts 144 Board, the most important duty which that Board was appointed to perform was to settle people on the land. It was because of their failure to carry out that duty that he had thought it necessary to bring the matter forward at present. Up to 31st March last year there had been spent on the purchase of land, and on outlays in connection with development, £175,000. That was spent since 1898 when the Act which created the Board came into operation. The Board had been receiving £35,000 a year. The land settlements which the Board had assisted in effecting were—6 in Argyleshire, 877 in Inverness-shire, 86 in Ross-shire, 23 in Sutherlandshire, 52 in Caithness-shire, and 106 in Orkney and Shetland. That was not satisfactory. The Report showed that there had been an increase of 176 settlers during the past year. The Board was still silent as to the actual number of new holdings created in each county. It was extremely unfair that the Congested Districts Board should arrange for only 6 settlements in Argyleshire while 877 had been arranged in Inverness-shire, and only 86 in Ross-shire, which included the most congested areas in the Highlands. He was not at all surprised the hon. Member for Inverness-shire was satsified with the working of the Board. It seemed as if the Board had been specially provided to benefit Inverness-shire. They might be told that the Board would be absorbed by the new authority to be created under the Small Landholders Bill. He doubted that very much indeed. In view of the rate at which the Committee upstairs were proceeding with the Bill his fear was that the Congested Districts Board would go on for a good, many years yet. It appeared to him that there was a lack of energy on the part of the Board. Why should so much have been done in Inverness-shire and so little in other counties? The position of Secretary was unsatisfactory and was filled by a clerk in the Exchequer Office who was unable to-devote the necessary amount of time to the work. There should have been a special man appointed, and he did not think the work would be properly done until they had a Secretary devoting his whole time to it. The thirty-two houses which the Board had provided at Aignish were in a deplorable condition in wet weather, the roofs not being rainproof. 145 A water supply had not been provided by the Board in connection with some of the townships. The right hon. Gentleman visited the district in company with the gentleman who was responsible for this unsatisfactory work. He himself would have been delighted to have gone round with the right hon. Gentleman at his own expense. In Ross-shire many of the crofters had to bring up their families under the most insanitary conditions; and it was impossible to say how many deaths occurred in consequence of the imperfect construction of the houses. Out of £192,000 which had been spent by the Congested Districts Board on land schemes Ross-shire had received only £9,000. He insisted that that was unfair, because it was supposed that the grant had been made for carrying out the work of improving the condition of the Highland crofting counties generally, and to assist the people to settle on the land. The Committee was entitled to know how many people had been settled on the land in Ross and Cromarty. The condition of the houses in Lewis was awful, and he was sorry that hon. Members representing other Scottish constituencies did not go round and sec these houses for themselves. Skye, under the Crofters Act, was a very different island from what it was thirty or forty years ago. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland would see that there was some improvement made in regard to the housing in Lewis. In the Aiguish Settlement there were, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman, no conveniences, no drainage, no water supply. He was surprised that the Secretary of Scotland should not have insisted on a proper supply of water to this township. Not only were improved houses required, but he would again call attention to the necessity for suitable fences being placed around deer forests to prevent the deer coming down from the forests early in the morning and eating up the crops of the crofters. As to the position of the fishing population, something should be done to improve it. He believed that two steamers had been put on the West coast of Ross-shire and Sutherlandshire as an experiment to convey the fish-catch to the nearest railway, but that was only for a few short months of the year. One steamer had been taken off, but he hoped the experiment would be continued.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
attacked the action of the Congested Districts Board and said he did not think the Secretary for Scotland would get any good out of it. He knew that there was a Bill before the Scottish Grand Committee which proposed to do away with the Board, but it had not yet passed, and it was their duty to try and make the best of what they had. It appeared to him, however, that under the present system of the Congested Districts Board people were to be punished for voting Liberal at the last general election. That was the policy which had been carried out in Sutherlandshire during the last twelve months in spite of the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman to load the Board in the right direction, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him t hat the proper course was to get rid of the Board altogether. He complained that the steamer "Nightingale" which ran to Lochinver, Loch Clash, had been taken oft' in spite of the fact that on 26th February, 1906, he was assured by the Secretary for Scotland that there was no truth whatever in the rumour that the vessel was to be transferred to another route, although the service was experimental, and it was hoped that it would be useful. The Congested Districts Board, however, had removed the vessel from the service; it was believed that it was an electioneering dodge to put it on, but it was hoped that the experiment would be continued for a longer period. He wished to back up the Secretary for Scotland in regard to the ill-treatment which he had received, because after he had announced that there was no intention of taking the boat off it was taken off. The incident, however, showed the sort of treatment that they got from the Congested Districts Board. He did not know the amount of money which the Congested Districts Board had spent in Sutherlandshire, but he was certain that it had been wasted, and that they had purchased land at a preposterous price and had thereby made it almost impossible for the settlers to keep up the repayments. He understood that one of the duties which the Congested Districts Board undertook was the supply of seed potatoes, but in the case of the people of Durness when they wrote for a supply of seed potatoes in order that they might improve their growth, the Board wrote in a 147 most contemptuous manner and refused to supply them. The same sort of treatment had been meted out to other districts in which the people were willing to pay, as in the case of Durness, for the seed potatoes or oats to improve their crops. A Liberal Government, however, had in regard to this matter made a most extraordinary statement to the effect that they could not go further because if they did it would be setting up a system of municipal trading. He did not know that it was the duty of the Liberal Government to protest against municipal trading, but at all events that was the only reply that they could make. Then in regard to the supply of water in certain districts the Board would do nothing whatever, and he would like the right hon. Gentleman to give the House some information as to why it was that the Congested Districts Board refused to make inquiry as to whether there was a proper supply of drinking water. The Mansfield Commission recommended certain reforms, but nothing had resulted from their recommendations. Another matter which the Board might deal with, but which it had not done hitherto, was the maintenance of main roads. One of the first things that it was necessary to do in these outlying districts waste give the people better means of communication, and to make such improvements as would enable the people to live. But that was just what the Congested Districts Board did not do. The Prime Minister's policy was to colonies our own country, and one of the first necessities of new colonies was decent roads. He wished to know why money could not be spent on improving the main roads of Sutherlandshire. They could not expect to get even light railways there because it was very doubtful whether they would pay. But with the start of the motor ear business it had been found possible to give great assistance in the shape of taking the produce to market and to the railway stations by motor cars. These motor cars were likely to be of great use to Sutherlandshire. Nearly all the mails in the country were now carried by motor car, and they would be able to get along in much less time but for the fact that the roads were not good enough. If they took the road from Bonar Bridge to John o' Groats—
said he did not think that that was a subject for the Congested Districts Board. The powers of the Board were restricted to dealing with the congested districts, and the hon. Member must confine his observations to these districts.
§ *MR. MORTON
said he did not know that he could say off-hand what parts of these roads were in the congested districts. But there were certainly some of the main roads in the congested districts and he would refer to them. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would carry out the promise of the Prime Minister, and assist them in that matter. Assistance had been given to other parts of Scotland, and it ought to be given to this. It was no use asking the county council to do it. They had not the money. There were some matters to which he could refer on the question of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman. For instance, here were the deer forests and many other matters concerning the welfare and comfort of the people. This Liberal Government was pledged to the eyes to do something for the masses. It was not charity that was wanted, but an opportunity of making use of our own country for our own people. He personally was sorry that greater interest was not taken in Scottish local matters by Scottish Members. The right hon. Gentleman, however, would see the importance, not only to Sutherlandshire but also to adjoining counties, of getting those matters attended to, not only from a political point of view but from the point of view of keeping the already dwindling population on the land and getting, by means of colonisation, more people upon it. If the right hon. Gentleman would turn his attention to this matter he would not only do a good turn to the people now living on the land but to thousands of other people who were now living in the towns, but who could live under much better conditions in places like Sutherlandshire where, though the people were poor, there was no such squalid poverty as was found in the towns.
§ *MR. GULLAND (Dumfries Burghs)
said he wished to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a very serious grievance that was felt by the people in 149 the South of Scotland, namely, the action of the proprietors of the land on the banks of the Tweed and other rivers in shutting up those waters and preventing the people having access to the riverside. That was a grievance which had not arisen during the time of the late proprietors, who were familiar with the sentiments of the people, but was due to the new proprietors, who came with new ideas of the rights and privileges of landlords. It was a very serious matter. The upper waters of the Tweed were entirely closed for trout fishing, but that was not the most serious part. People were not now allowed to walk on the banks of these rivers. He was recently in one of the most beautiful parts of the Tweed when he was startled to find in front of him a notice board upon which was "Fishing in the river Tweed is strictly preserved and trespassers will be prosecuted, by the order of the proprietors." That was at a spot at which he had fished from his boyhood. Now he found he was not only debarred from fishing, but from setting foot on one of the most beautiful walks in Scotland. The people were now turned from the river banks, where nobody had ever done any harm. There were several yards of land on each side of the river along which people could walk, and in time past these walks had been a source of great pleasure and recreation to them. Now they were all forced into the road, where they were exposed to the discomfort and danger from the numbers of motors which rushed past. The prohibition imposed by the proprietors was felt very keenly, especially all over the South of Scotland; and much as the people of Scotland were interested in the Small Holdings Bill, they were far more keenly interested in this matter, which was the great topic of conversation. The taking away of access to the riversides was a very serious thing, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see into the matter, in order that they might restore the old state of things.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said the hon. Gentlemen who had just sat down had alluded to a question which was creating very strong feeling in Scotland, especially in the South. Obviously it was not a question of legal right, but one of use and wont; it was a question of the sudden taking away of a privilege which 150 had been freely given for many years, and had been greatly valued and enjoyed by the people who had benefited by it. There was no doubt that the situation which had been created was a complicated and anxious one, and he sincerely hoped that some way out might be found. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the subject was causing the Government some anxiety, and they were giving the closest possible consideration to it. There was to be a deputation to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, June 5th, and he thought that the hon. Member would agree that it would be best that he should not anticipate any statement that might be made on that occasion; but he could assure the Committee, as he had already said, that the question was under close consideration by the Scottish Office and by the Prime Minister himself. The hon. Members for Sutherland and for Ross and Cromarty had criticised the administration of the Congested Districts Board. As the Committee were aware, the position of the Board was affected by legislative proposals which were under consideration in Committee upstairs, he was never sorry when the question of the congested districts was brought forward, because there were no districts in Scotland which were more deserving of sympathetic consideration by Parliament. The case was a difficult one administratively. These districts were outlying districts of the country, and the burden of carrying on local administration fell very heavily on the sparse population. His own belief was that the real remedies were indirect remedies, for it was found that many of the evils were traceable to the paucity of population. The administrative authorities must be assisted by legislative opportunity of increasing the population of those districts, and that could only be done gradually as the years went on. His hon. friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty had alluded to the sanitary condition of Lewis, which was open in some respects to great improvement. The question was one which had had to be faced by successive Governments for many years; it presented complications and perplexities, and they could only hope to make gradual progress. There was no complaint to be made, speaking generally, of the local authorities. It was only through the local authorities 151 that the Central Department could hope to act. The Congested Districts Board had done its best. He did not say that the Board, any more than any other board, were not open to criticism, but it must always be remembered that they did their work under great difficulties. The Board had been the pioneers in this work, which they had carried on at very little cost to the public, and they had undoubtedly done very useful work in advancing the material and economic interests of the people with whom they had to deal. He might instance the erection of houses, a work to which they had contributed. The experiments had been on the whole good. He would not say that they were satisfactory in every respect, but they had been bona fide efforts to help the people to help themselves. The efforts had been responded to locally, and it was by preserving the balance of effort that they did not allow reasonable help to degenerate into what might be demoralising rather than helpful to the people. He agreed that the sanitary condition of Lewis certainly left something to be desired. He would greatly like to find some way of seconding the efforts of the local authority and to cause matters to make some advance. A considerable advance had been made in the water supply. A number of new wells had been sunk, but, as he had said, there was room for improvement and he hoped that that improvement would be made. He could assure his hon. friend that no question which came before the Scottish Office exercised them more than the difficulty of finding a useful and possible way of helping forward this work. He was not without hope that by the time the Estimates came round for discussion another year the Government might be able to take a more definite step in the direction indicated. The retirement of the superintendent of engineering had been possible without any sacrifice of efficiency, and there was now another gentleman superintending the engineering work who had worked for a long 152 time in that department, and was now responsible for the works department. With regard to the operation of the Congested Districts Board, they had settled on the land 600 crofters by the method of tenancies and 230 by purchase. The settlement of the people upon the land was about the most valuable work they could do, because it was the foundation for all the work which followed it. The Report which had been issued described, for the information of the Committee, the various ways in which the money of the Congested Districts Board was spent and the direction of their energies. With regard to what had been said about the deer forest area, he desired to inform the Committee that another Return was in course of preparation which would be forthcoming almost immediately, and it would show the land devoted to deer forests and sport, not only in the deer forest area, but throughout Scotland. The fencing-off of crofts to protect them from the depredations of deer was a matter with which he entirely sympathised. As for the Mansfield Commission, it was not necessary for him to defend its work, and it would be more to the point to find out whether any useful experience had been gained by the carrying out of its recommendations. He thought the paragraphs in the Report dealing with the question of steamers and motor car traffic showed that while the experience gained might have been bought rather dearly, it had been of some value. The steamer referred to by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire was an experiment, and it had failed to draw that amount of local support which was considered necessary in order to repeat it. The distributions of seed potatoes by the Board had been criticised. The Congested Districts Board had occasionally sent consignments of seed potatoes, but the Board had learnt by experience that it was unwise to enter into competition with the ordinary traders in distributing goods of this kind. With regard to main roads, although the whole question was one which 153 might require serious consideration, he pointed out that their up-keep lay with the county authorities. This was no doubt a question which would have to be very seriously considered, but it would have to be considered as affecting the whole country, and he was sorry to say, in reply to the hon. Member for Sutherland, that it was not possible for the Congested Districts Board to take any steps in the direction he had suggested. He did not think the Congested Districts Board had any power to give assistance to light railways. As for the water supply, that was a matter for the local authority, and the essence of the principle of local government was to make sure that the money spent was in accordance with local needs and requirements. They could not run the risk of the extravagance which would be sure to ensue if they departed from that principle. He knew what the burden of administration was in some districts, and he hoped as time went on they might be able to ameliorate the conditions.
§ *MR. MORTON
asked whether it was not somebody's duty to advise the local authority that the water supply should be attended to? He understood that Mr. Carnegie and the Duke of Sutherland had offered to contribute.
§ MR. ANNAN BRYCE
said the right hon. Gentleman knew the views which were held in regard to the fisheries in the Tweed and Loch Ness. He hoped something would be done to effect the changes which were desired.
§ SIR J. JARDINE
expressed his great pleasure at the attitude of the Government with regard to the salmon fisheries in the South of Scotland. The inhabitants of the Scottish border counties had experienced that hope deferred which made the heart sick, and 154 two Commissions had sat on the question. That the subject was now receiving the sympathetic attention of the Prime Minister would be a great satisfaction to the people of the southern counties.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said that he and some other hon. Members desired to refer to the question of prison administration in Scotland, but owing to the way in which the business had been arranged it was doubtful whether they would have an opportunity of discussing that subject unless the right hon. Gentleman could promise two or three hours on another day later in the session. Reference had been made to the question of trout fishing in the Tweed, and, inasmuch as that was a matter which required legislation, he understood that it could not be discussed on the Estimates. He might be allowed to say that he was glad that the Government were taking the matter into consideration, and he hoped they would do their utmost to see that the fishing was preserved for the largest possible number of people. He knew that the methods of fishing which were adopted by some people were the very reverse of sportsmanlike—particularly fishing by the use of dynamite and salmon roe—and he hoped some means would be devised whereby people who wanted a fair day's fishing would be able to enjoy it with the hope of a good day's sport, which was impossible if such practices were to continue. The Government would command general support if they could devise effective means for preventing the enjoyment of the many being spoiled by the abuses of a few. The right hon. Gentleman had informed the House that careful inquiries had been made, and the opinions of certain eminent gentlemen taken, in regard to the provisions contained in the Small Landholders Bill. Was the cost of those inquiries included in this Vote, and, if not, under what head would they be charged? The Government had announced that they had decided to give £ 100,000 to provide 155 elementary schools in England, and that the amount would be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. He hoped the Secretary for Scotland would take care that Scotland got an equivalent grant for any moneys granted for the purposes of elementary education in England. He would point out that Ireland enjoyed a very much larger share of the equivalent grants than Scotland, and while he did not say that Ireland was not deserving of grants, he maintained that that country did not deserve much larger shares than were given to Scotland.
We cannot discuss these matters now. They come up under the Irish Votes, but they are not relevant to this Vote.
§ *MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said he did not wish to press the point. In putting claims before the Treasury, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would insist that Scotland should have a fair share of the equivalent grants.
§ *MR. WEIR
said that they should take into consideration the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and especially the Island of Lewis. This was not a new question, as the House very well knew. It was admitted on all hands that something should be done for that island. It had been said that things were not so bad there as had been represented, but if the Secretary for Scotland depended on those assurances he was leaning on a broken reed. Even the few hours which the Secretary for Scotland had spent last autumn in the Island of Lewis must have convinced him how bad was the condition of everything there. He was very glad to have had the assurance as to a Return of the deer forest area in the Highlands; but he asked the right hon. Gentleman to see that that Report was not prepared by Mr. Dundas, a Crown lawyer, who had prepared the last Return. That Return was so inaccurate and so faulty that the Government had 156 to throw it aside and get another prepared. Even the second one was inaccurate. A carefully prepared and accurate Return should be made.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said that the hon. Member for North West Lanarkshire had asked if there was to be a special inquiry in regard to the fishing question, but that could not take place at present. As to the Votes which should be discussed, he was entirely in the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite and of other Scottish Members. Certain Votes were put down for discussion one year and others in another year, and he believed that that was for the convenience of the Committee.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
said that he wished to ask the Secretary for Scotland a question as to Item 8:—Expenses under the Inebriates Act. He noticed that those expenses had increased by 35 per cent. [Cries of "Oh, oh."] He was not surprised that hon. Gentlemen were astonished at that, because he understood that they had in Scotland not only Sunday closing but early closing. If the only result of Sunday closing and early closing in Scotland was to increase the cost of inebriates, he, as an English Member, ventured to say that they did not want those advantages extended to-England.
§ *MR. MORTON
said he wished to join the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty in urging on the Secretary for Scotland the necessity of doing something to induce the landlords in the Highlands to fence their properties so as to prevent the deer coming down from the forests and raiding the crofters' crops. He asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had further inquired into the Kimbrace case, when the farm-houses were blown up by dynamite and the farms including arable land were attached to an adjoining deer forest. He (Mr. Morton) was assured that the right hon. Gentleman who, in reply to a Question last autumn, rather questioned the fact, must have 157 been misled by the landlord's agent. The statement in his (Mr. Morton's) question was absolutely correct. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would, in looking properly after Scottish interests, take care that the proper equivalent grant was secured for Scotland. It used to be a settled principle that England was to get 80 per cent. of the equivalent grant, Scotland 11 per cent., and Ireland 9 per cent., and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see that that 11 per cent. for Scotland was forthcoming. They were not obliged to spend it on the same objects as in England or Ireland, but they were entitled to have the 11 per cent., and must have it sooner or later.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he could assure his hon. friend that he would do all in his power to safeguard the interests of Scotland in the matter of the equivalent grant as in all other respects. Replying to the hon. Baronet opposite, he said the increased expenditure on inebriate homes was not due, as he suggested, to Sunday closing. It was due to a very laudable desire in Scotland to develope and extend the curative treatment of those suffering from the affliction of inebriety.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 3. £10,887, to complete the sum for the Local Government Board for Scotland.
§ *MR. WEIR
called attention to the inadequacy of the number of medical inspectors in Scotland. There was but one medical inspector for the whole of Scotland, and it was a physical impossibility for any one man to do the work. The Highland counties alone would occupy one man. They had had one very valuable Report on the subject from Dr. Dittmar, who was sent down to the Lewes by the late Lord-Advocate, Mr. Scott Dickson. He was not going to allow that Report to be shunted until something was done to improve the sanitary and medical condition of the 158 islands. No doubt the right hon. Gentle man would say that he had not got the money, but he should apply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury and insist on having it for this very necessary purpose. Why did not the Secretary for Scotland adopt the policy of the Admiralty, and insist upon having money which was necessary? It was the duty of the Government to see that the needs of the country were properly attended to. He hoped to receive an assurance that additional medical inspectors would be appointed, because with only one man engaged upon that task, nearly half of Scotland was left without inspection. Dr. Dittmar reported that in the Lewes the problem seemed quite insoluble unless there was more expenditure by the State. There were, the doctor said, no outhouses, no water, and no drainage; but instead of going forward in regard to those matters the Government were going back. In his Report Dr. Dittmar described a case in which a man was dying of phthisis in one living room surrounded by his wife and children and a number of animals. Dr. Dittmar dealt with many other cases and said the state of the islands could only be described as "appalling." Yet the right hon. Gentleman accepted the statement of the local authority who said that all was well. Dr. Dittmar alluded to people being housed in foul dens not fit for pigs and complained of the risk of typhoid through impure water. The Local Government Board knew all about these matters and yet they neglected to take the question up and deal with it. The sanitary condition of the Island of Lewis was so bad that he had never seen anything like it in his life. For years he had brought this matter before the attention of the Scottish Office, and he had been constantly told that they had no official information in regard to it. For that reason he thanked God that they now had this Report from Mr. Scott Dickson. The Government now had official data and, therefore, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to insist that this district 159 should be put into a sanitary condition. The Report suggested that the Local Government Board should be called upon to enforce and carry out the provisions of the Public Health Act. Yet the Local Government Board had done very little to improve the condition of the Island of Lewis. The Report further suggested the appointment of an energetic medical officer of health with a sufficient staff of trained inspectors That was two years ago. How much longer were they to wait before any notice was taken of those recommendations? It was not in the least satisfactory for him to draw attention to these matters and then to be told they must move slowly. They were not moving at all, and it was because of that fact that he was justified in complaining that, with such a Report as that before them for two years, the Scottish Office had done nothing whatever. Two years ago notice was given that where cattle were housed in dwellings a substantial wall should be built between that part of the house and the part used for the dwelling and that there should be no communication between the two from the inside, and it was not until 31st July 1006, that they were informed that 100 houses had been altered in accordance with the notice issued in 1905. There were 3,000 houses left untouched. Why were those houses left untouched? They were left untouched, according to the Local Government Board Report, because the 3,000 holders who occupied them were disinclined to make the necessary alterations until they saw what the result of the legislation with regard to small holdings was going to be. The Small Holdings Bill of last year hardly saw the light. It was throttled at its birth, and it looked as if the Bill now before the House was going to be throttled also. He wanted the Government to have the honour and glory of doing something for the Island of Lewis. They had now a magnificent opportunity. All they had wanted was these Reports and they had now 160 got them, and he hoped that, that being so, the Government would seize this opportunity and do something in their day and generation to put these things straight and confer a lasting benefit on those poor people The medical department of the Local Government Board of Scotland appeared to be most anxious to improve the state of things in Lewis. Urgent action was required if effective progress was to be made, and there must be more energetic action on the part of the local authority and a reorganisation of the executive system. If the right hon. Gentleman looked to the Report of the Local Government Board he would see the condition of things there described. Amongst other things the Local Government Board, referring to Dr. Dittmar's Report, said—The state of matters revealed was so serious as to seem to call for immediate and drastic remedies,and added—A copy of this Report was sent to the Lewis District Committee for their immediate attention on the 23rd September, 1905. We pointed out that the Report revealed a state of matters requiring urgent action on their part, and that we must insist on effective measures being taken to deal with the various nuisances specified in detail in the Report. We further pointed out that in our view no effective progress could be made without more energetic action on the part of the Local Authority and reorganisation of the Executive System, and that after very full consideration of the whole circumstances we have conic to the conclusion that the present condition of affairs in the Lewes cannot be allowed to continue.They were told that this was a most pressing and urgent question; he would say that it was a burning question, which ought to be at once dealt with, and that they should not adopt a rest-and-be-thankful attitude. It was very annoying to have to bring these things forward time after time and that nothing should be done. If hon. Members visited Lewis they would see for themselves the state of matters; and before going they should read this invaluable Report, for the Island of Lewis was the worst part of the Empire from a sanitary point of view. They were in the unfortunate position of having no 161 medical officer there now. The island had 31,000 people upon it, yet they were left without a medical officer. The last holder of the position retired some months ago on account of age, and since then apparently no steps had been taken to fill the position. Had they to wait until some young man had been to college and trained for the position? Was the local authority going to wait for some young man to be qualified for the post? Was the right hon. Gentleman going to stand that sort of conduct? Was he going to allow things to go on another year? But the 31,000 people of Lewis were not going to wait until a young man had been brought up to the work; they wanted a medical officer now. The right hon. Gentleman trusted the local authority, but he was trusting a broken reed, and he sincerely hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give attention to this matter, and not allow it to go on from year to year. He would take every opportunity that was presented by the Rules of the House to bring this matter forward; he expected something to be done, and that the 31,000 people, so far removed from the mainland, should not be left to be treated in this way. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would abandon his faith in the local authority, and see that there was more energy and more life thrown into the work of the office at Edinburgh. He was not blaming the medical department; he believed that the medical department was splendidly conducted; but he found that the chief of the Local Government Board in Edinburgh had come to London to attend the Poor Law Commission. Was there not enough work in Edinburgh for that gentleman? Why was the chief of the Local Government Board in Edinburgh running about London in connection with the Poor Law 162 Commission? Two days to come up and two days to go down—it was not fair to Scotland. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to take some steps to see that there was more energy put into the work, and that there was more money obtained from the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which to do it. As a patriot, a Britisher, and a true Imperialist he would be ashamed for any foreigner to go to the Island of Lewis in its present disgraceful condition.
§ MR. WATT
said he desired to call attention to the irregularity of the inspection of meat in Scotland. Instructions i n consonance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission which sat in 1898 were carried out to the letter in some localities in Scotland, whilst other districts were in the habit of ignoring altogether the instructions of the Local Government Board upon the subject. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him that that was a wrong state of things. It was absolutely necessary that the Local Government Board should be more strict in regard to the chilled meat imported from America. He believed that Germany and France would not permit the importation of chilled meat at all. In his opinion there ought to be a head inspector appointed to overlook the inspection of meat for the whole of Scotland.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
agreed that a great deal might be done to improve the arrangements for the inspection of meat in Scotland. He also urged that there should be a reserve of medical officers qualified to take up the duties of medical inspectors. If it were true that the Island of Lewis had been without a medical officer for some time and was 163 still without one it was a state of things which ought to remedied at once in view of the fact that the Island of Lewis contained 31,000 inhabitants. He could quite understand that it was not possible to improve the water supply where a convenient source of supply was not available, and it was difficult to arrange a drainage scheme in a valley where there was nothing but mountains around. Never the less, he did not think a far-off island with a population of 31,000 inhabitants ought to be left in the lurch in regard to the appointment of a medical officer as the Island of Lewis appeared to have been.
§ MR. GULLAND
said he was glad to notice that the deaths from consumption in the year 1905 were only 5,316 as compared with 6,151 in the previous year. He hoped that diminution would continue. A circular had been issued asking for the compulsory notification of the disease, and Edinburgh had been the first to adopt such a regulation. Considerable improvement had been effected by the steps taken by local authorities to prevent the spread of consumption. He hoped that everything possible would be done to induce all local authorities to take preventive measures against the disease. Many local authorities by establishing different kinds of hospitals were meeting with great success in the treatment of this terrible scourge in its earlier stages. Infantile mortality was still too great. The Report contained many interesting recommendations. Some of them could only be carried out by legislation, but there were others which could be carried out by administration. He hoped the Local Government Board would do what they could to increase the number of women sanitary inspectors and visitors. By 164 that means, great help could be given in reducing the infantile mortality Which was such a serious matter. As to the law with respect to rights of way, he hoped something would be done by legislation to remove the difficulty which sometimes arose in deciding the difference between a public way and a right of way.
§ MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said the Unemployed Workmen Act provided for the setting up of distress committees. A distress committee had two functions—first, to provide relief work; and, secondly, to set up labour exchanges for the purpose of assisting any man who wished to obtain work from an ordinary employer at his ordinary trade. The only relief committee which had set up a labour exchange in Scotland was that in Edinburgh. That committee strongly recommended that the standard rate of wages applicable to each occupation should be paid to workmen engaged through the municipal exchange. The Local Government Board disapproved of that recommendation. He wished to ask whether the Government approved of the action of the Local Government Board.
§ SIR J. JARDINE
asked whether by any administrative means the right hon. Gentleman could make the practice in Scotland in connection with traction engines conform to that which had existed in England for seven years at least in regard to the "third man." This was a matter of extreme importance to farmers and tradesmen living in counties near the border, because inconvenience arose from the law in the two countries being different.
§ MR. BARNES, (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
in reference to the question asked by the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire, said the Labour representatives 165 believed that the authority set up under the Unemployed Workmen Act should, not enter into unfair competition with trade unions, and that they should do nothing to take advantage of the economic dependence of the unemployed to reduce wages either in Edinburgh or elsewhere. He reminded the hon. Member that when the Unemployed Workmen Bill was passing through this House the shortcomings to which the hon. Member had alluded were pointed out to the Government of the Party of which he was a member. They were urged to adopt measures with the object of preventing the distress committees from taking advantage of unemployed workmen, but they refused to give heed to the representations which were made by those who had special knowledge of the dangers. He did not believe that any good would come from the operations of the distress committees in connection with the registration of unemployed workmen unless a far more comprehensive scheme was introduced. To register names and excite hopes which could not be realised seemed to him to be absolute cruelty. He was in favour of anything being done that could be done to prevent men walking long distances in search of work. He expressed the hope that the Government through the agency of the Local Government Board, or whatever might be the proper authority, would see to it that, if the Act was not of much advantage, it would not be used to the disadvantage of workmen. The trade unions in the industrial centres of Scotland were the natural custodians of the interests of labour, and efforts were always being made by them to set up something like standard conditions as to hours and wages. That work was sometimes attended with great difficulty owing to the margin of unemployed. He 166 thought they had a right to object to the reduction of the standard rate of wages secured through the action of trade unions.
§ *Mr. C. E. PRICE (Edinburgh, Central)
said he understood that the amount of money allocated to Scotland from the Unemployed Fund was £4,000, and that the grant to Glasgow was fixed at £1,000, and the grant to Aberdeen at £200. He asked why it was that the labour exchange in Edinburgh had not received any benefit from that grant, although there were 1,500 men unemployed on their books, or more proportionately than in any other place in Scotland.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh might take it from him that that city had been treated perfectly fairly. Perhaps the reason why the labour exchange of Edinburgh did not get a share of the grant was that it was believed that the unemployed committee of that city were able to get on by themselves, and did not require to be pampered from the outside. He could assure the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division that there had been no efforts made to do anything which would tend to the reduction of the standard rate of wages. He was sorry that there was no opportunity at present to discuss the Unemployed Act, which, he thought, was a most incomplete piece of legislation; but the Scottish Local Government Board had every desire to make full use of the limited powers contained in the Act. The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty was perfectly right in taking that opportunity of trying to criticise the action of the Government in regard to the Island of Lewis. He could assure his hon. friend that the Government admitted the sad condition of the island, and he hoped his 167 hon. friend would not think it necessary to put in antagonism the views of the Government and the views of the local authorities and his own views. He could assure him that they were all of one mind, and he hoped that as time went on they would be able to bring about some improvement in the condition of the island, and to relieve the burden on the rates. As to education, if there was need of an additional inspector for the Island of Lewis, and if the case was put before the Board of Education, the matter would be considered. He promised to look into the matter of improving the arrangements for the inspection of meat in Scotland. He could assure the hon. Member for Dumfries Burghs that the Government were alive to the importance of inducing local authorities to take further preventive measures against consumption. They had also in view the preservation of rights of way. The question raised by the hon. Member for Roxburgh as to traction engines would be inquired into. He had, he thought, dealt with all the points raised in the discussion, but there were other points which hon. Members wanted to raise on other Votes, and he appealed to the Committee to allow this Vote now to be taken.
§ *MR. MORTON
complained that Scotland did not get a fair share of the Unemployed Fund, and said they ought to receive £22,000 instead of the £10,000 which they were told by the Government was all they were entitled to receive. He had never been able to obtain any satisfactory explanation of that statement. It appeared to him that the Local Government Board in Scotland was a sort of school of mutual admiration. They had only received the Report on this matter yesterday morning, and it was impossible for anybody outside a lunatic asylum to 168 pretend that they could read or consider it in the time.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
said he could assure the hon. Gentleman that Scotland had obtained all the money necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act, and the needs of the country had been completely met. When they came to other Estimates he thought he would be able to convince the hon. Member that the administration of the Act had been very well carried out.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,799, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1908, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Lunacy in Scotland.
§ *MR. MORTON
objected to any attempt being made to rush this Vote through. It was a very important one, and it was a Department which hon. Members opposite should be much interested in.
And, it being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Resolutions to be reported to-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.
Adjourned at two minutes after Eleven o'clock.