HC Deb 17 March 1908 vol 186 cc397-8

To ask the Secretary for Scotland, in view of the fact that last year instructions were given by the Secretary for Scotland to block the Trawlers' Certificates Suspension Bill, will he state whether it is his intention to adopt a similar course this session.

(Answered by Mr. Sinclair). The attitude of the Government towards the Trawlers' Certificates Suspension Bill must be the same as it was last year. The sympathies of the Government are strongly with any effort to enforce the law against illegal trawling, but the machinery for carrying out this purpose must be judged with due consideration of its effect upon the general interests of the mercantile marine, and with regard to the general principles upon which modern commercial undertakings are managed. The Bill provides for the suspension of the certificate of registration of the trawl vessel upon a breach of statute or bye-law; that is to say, a costly and powerful agent of production is put out of use, and the owners, shareholders, mortgagees, and crews of the vessels are all punished for what might be entirely the fault of the skipper, seeing that the control exercised by owners over their skippers must be limited when the trawler has gone to sea. For these reasons it is difficult to assent to this proposal. A further proposal is to cancel or suspend the certificate of the skipper or second officer for illegal trawling. The Board of Trade have always declined to recognise an offence of this kind as one of the class for which they would feel justified in thus dealing with a certificate granted under the Merchant Shipping Act.