HC Deb 18 July 1910 vol 19 cc995-1027

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum not exceeding £16,301, 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 1911, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Fishery Board for Scotland and for Grants in Aid of Piers or Quays." [NOTE.—£8,000 has been voted on account.]


I think it is especially unfortunate that three very important questions which are still on the Paper, namely, Scottish Fishery Administration, Scottish Education, and Scottish Local Government Board, should only be reached at this hour of the night. I enter my emphatic protest in the first place against the way in which Scottish business has been treated this evening by the time of the House having been occupied for nearly two hours in the discussion of English business. Even on the one night of the Session when Scottish Estimates are before the House, the predominant partner claims to reduce our opportunities out of it to that extent. I do think that the subjects which are still to be discussed are worthy of very serious and careful attention on the part of Members of this House, and I make no apology whatever at this late hour for entering upon a question which is of very great importance to many constituencies in Scotland. I refer to the great Scottish fishing industry. I sincerely hope I shall have the support of many Members in the House in this discussion being continued, and that an opportunity will be taken of laying this question as fully before the House, as it deserves to be laid. Representing, as I do, a constituency in which a very large section of the population is interested in the line and herring fishing, I should like in the first place to draw attention to the great need for more efficient marine superintendence, and for the prevention of illegal trawling which is taking place all along our shores in Scotland to such an extent.

I do not for a moment seek to attack the trawling industry. I approach the question in no vindictive spirit. I recognise it has an important place amongst the interests of this country, but what I do say is that although it is a very important source of food supply it is an industry which must be carried on under fair conditions, and in such a way as to avoid injury to other great industries and injustice to line fishermen throughout Scotland. As we are dealing with a purely Scottish question I should like to point out that in Scotland the proportion of fishermen who are actually occupied in the trawling industry is a very small one, only 3,115 men employed out of a total of 39,208 fishermen in Scottish waters. Therefore, it is only right that we should take into account the interests of the great numbers of line fishermen whose livelihood depends on the success of line fishing. In the second place, I should like to say that trawling as a rule is worked by large companies, whereas, in the case of line fishermen you have men of small capital who have more difficulty in carrying out their operations in the industry with which they are associated, and who require every support and assistance. I think that the policy of excluding trawlers from fishing within the three-mile limit, and from fishing within the various closed areas along the coasts of Scotland has been abundantly justified on very important considerations, and is supported by the results of scientific investigation.

I do not think there is anyone who would challenge the fact that the result of trawling within the inshore waters of Scotland has necessarily done an immense amount of damage to the spawning beds, and destroyed a great amount of immature fish, and has virtually cleaned out altogether fish which formerly used to be plentiful there. Notwithstanding the series of enactments against the trawlers for illegal trawling, I am very sorry to say that to-day the evil is, I think, worse than it has ever been. I think I can substantiate that proposition. I should like to illustrate it by reference to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. If you take the chief centres of line fishermen along the east coast of Fife, and refer to the Report of the Scottish Fishery Board for last year, you will find that almost everywhere there has been a most striking and serious decrease in the quantity of fish landed. I may refer particularly to Anstruther and Cellardyke, where, according to the Fishery Board Report last year, there has been "a considerable decrease in the quantity and value of the fish landed, and the winter herring fishing was almost a complete failure." In regard to Crail, there is recorded a decrease in all kinds of white fish. At St. Andrew's there has been "a decided falling off in all kinds fish landed, and the fishing is gradually falling off at this station." It is a very serious matter to my constituents that the fishing industry has suffered to such an extent in this district, and there are similar reports from other parts of the East Coast of Scotland. What is the reason of this great decrease? In the first place you will find a reason for it in the great increase of illegal trawling. I think that that point is worthy of special attention, because during 1909 the Fishery Board Report records sixty-three cases tried in Court as compared with thirty cases in 1908, and a yearly average of twenty-eight cases since 1886. In East Fife, during the six months ending 28th February, 1910, there were five prosecutions for illegal trawling in the Firth of Forth and St. Andrew's Bay, and in each case a conviction was obtained.

The situation which has arisen has been largely due to the ineffective policing of the inshore waters. The fleet of cruisers in Scotland is totally inadequate for the work it has to perform. There are at present only five cruisers under the authority of the Scottish Fishery Board. It is necessary that Scotland should have more assistance from naval vessels than she has had in past years. The only gunboat we have at present engaged in fishery work—H. M.S. "Ringdove"—is transferred to the north during the great summer herring fishing, and being kept there on harbour duty, is consequently unable to do anything in the way of patrolling the sea in other parts of Scotland. The Fishery Board is in the unfortunate position of having far too little money to expend upon these objects. I hope it will be possible to obtain a larger grant from the Local Taxation (Scotland) Account for the purpose of marine superintendence in future years. At present it is impossible for the Board to build a new cruiser without accumulating money out of the grant which it receives, and that takes a considerable time. With regard to cruisers, it is well recognised that although their officers seek to perform their duties as faithfully as possible, they are not well fitted to act as police boats. They ought to be rigged out more as plain clothes detectives, if I may use the phrase, To catch trawlers it is absurd to send out boats which are so easily recognised at a great distance, and which have not the necessary speed to overtake the vessels they are pursuing. If the Fishery Board had a few guns on board their cruisers, so that they could fire a shot across the bows of a trawler, that would have a very great effect in bringing the poaching vessel up. I think further that it would be very advisable indeed that we should have not only large cruisers, but small, swift steam launches at the disposal of the fishermen at different points around the coast, who would take them out if necessary when the trawlers were trawling in inshore grounds; because it must be kept in view that it is a very difficult thing indeed to detect the trawlers when they cover up their numbers, as they frequently do, and when they fish at night within prohibited limits.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this Vote whether it is not possible to secure greater attention on the part of the lighthouse keepers on the island of May These men at present receive a certain amount from the Fishery Board for watching and sending in reports in regard to the movements of trawlers, but they do not appear to be of much service in that respect. Would it not be possible to arrange that those who are situated in the best possible position to take and to give evidence against the trawlers trawling illegally should be able, or permitted, to give their evidence on shore where it would be possible to obtain convictions? I am quite aware that now there is no means of enforcing such a regulation against the lighthouse keepers. It is a matter of courtesy to allow them to take part in this work. But where possible it is desirable that they should give evidence in Court. Even when detection is secured, and convictions are obtained, the state of matters is most lamentable. What happens in almost every case is that where a substantial fine is imposed that instead of it being paid the master of the trawler is sent to prison for apparently a short period, and his family are kept during that period. There is no serious or sufficient penalty enforced against the owner. I should like to emphasise this point by the figures of the fines in 1908. In that year fines were imposed on convicted masters of trawlers to the amount of £2,136. Of this only £439 was paid. Twenty masters went to prison. In 1909 the fines imposed amounted to £4,738, of which only £1,026 was paid, and twenty-nine masters went to prison. Those who were fined very small amounts paid them, but the owners in the majority of cases preferred to send their masters to prison, so as thereby to escape the penalty. In five cases in East Fife last year, where fines were imposed only one fine of £15 was paid. The result is that illegal trawling continues unabated, especially in the Firth of Forth.

It is a very urgent, important, and very difficult question which has been created from the point of view of the fishermen. I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that further steps should be taken at the earliest possible moment to secure an effective remedy to the evil system under which masters of trawlers receive payment of a share of the profits. It is a very bad one, because it encourages them very often to fish in shore especially in bad weather, and I am bound to say that in some cases it has been noticed that the boats used are very unseaworthy, and the masters in consequence have to get their fish in bad weather close in shore, and very often they take the risk of getting them within the three-mile limit. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see his way to carry into effect provisions that already exist in the Act of 1895, Section 10, Subsection 6, which orders "that the owner should be made liable to the payment of the fine …" I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that provision, which is a dead letter in the Act where it is at present embodied, should be applied to the ordinary cases of trespass within the three-mile limit. I am sure that that in itself would be an effective remedy.

The time really has come when in order to secure a livelihood for our line fishermen who go out a short distance from their homes to fish, it is absolutely necessary that not only the trawlers should be excluded from the three-mile limit, but that we should have some reasonable extension of that limit. I refer to one other case, and that is the excellent fishing ground situated round Bell Rock. Although the question has arisen several times as to whether that is an island or not I think such technical distinctions sought not to prevent us carrying out a policy that would prevent these waters from being cleaned out of fish altogether. In many cases further protection is necessary where there were formerly such excellent fishing ground. I shall not deal with the question of foreign trawlers further than to say that I hope the Government will keep in view the fact that foreign countries are beginning to claim a further limit than the three-mile limit. I put a question to the Foreign Secretary as to what the territorial waters off Norway were, and he informed me that in Norway they claim a four-mile limit, whereas we have only three miles. I think it is but right we should exclude the foreigner to the same extent that he excludes us in the North Sea. The time has come when the North Sea Convention should be reconsidered, and the limit extended within which trawling ought to be prohibited along our coasts. There is already embodied in the Act of 1895 a provision in which a thirteen-mile limit is set forth.

I want to call attention also to the grant for piers and quays. The sum available for that work is altogether too small. It includes a sum of £3,000 voted under an Act of George IV., and under the Act of 1909 there was a deficit. Very heavy sums are deducted from the grant fees before anything is devoted to the aid of piers. There is great need indeed for the improvement of our harbours all round the coast of Scotland, and a great deal of money requires to be expended on that matter. I might refer particularly to the harbour of Anstruther, which ought to be one of the most adequate harbours in Fife. It is not so at the present time; there is no deep water quay, and the result is that a great amount of loss is sustained through boats having to wait outside until the tide rises sufficiently to enable them to come in and get their fish to market. Sometimes a day is lost, and that means a considerable loss in the price of the fish. That applies to many other harbours along the coast, and seeing the increase in the larger boats in steam liners and drifters, in recent years, it is very necessary indeed that better harbour accommodation should be provided along the cost of Scotland.

I should like to ask in view of the Development Fund whether the Fishery Board of Scotland is not in a position to ask for a very substantial grant out of that fund. A fund for the construction and improvement of harbours might very well be administered by the Fishery Board as far as Scotland is concerned, and I throw out that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. There is great necessity for keeping the Fishery Board more in touch with the fishermen. It is very desirable to have a public Board that exists entirely to promote the interests of the fishing classes. The Fishery Board has a capable and energetic Chairman and staff, but where you have four fishermen representatives appointed to that Board it is very desirable that these men should have a practical knowledge of the fishing industry, and that they should represent the interests of those who appointed them. I hope that when new appointments are made next year, those Members who are supposed to represent fishermen will be very carefully selected. I trust that the fishermen will be consulted, and that they will be allowed to indicate which man they desire to represent them. The fishermen have a special claim upon the Government because they have many risks and hardships to undergo. They render the country a great service in providing a food supply, and they also afford splendid material for our Navy in time of war. I appeal to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman on the points I have raised to see that something is done in the direction of conserving our fishing grounds, protecting them against the ravages of trawlers and seeking to foster that spirit of independence and enterprise which has always characterised the fishermen of the East Coast in their arduous calling.


I wish to support what my hon. Friend (Mr. Duncan Millar) has said in regard to the representation of fishermen. I think the new Board should have upon it one representative who understands the cause of the line fishermen. I think also the Government should pay particular attention to the Development Act. It might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to take into account one of the most remarkable movements recorded in the Report, namely, the fitting of motors to ordinary herring boats. Many fishermen have had motor engines fitted into their sailing boats, and this change has been strongly urged by others who are men of considerable experience and responsibility. The fishermen might be assisted by an advance for which they would be able to give good security, and I think the Government would find it quite worth their while to make this experiment. I have been waiting for the best part of three years for an opportunity to bring before the Lord Advocate a special point affecting the line fishermen in my own constituency. Some eighteen months ago I forwarded a Petition from about 200 line fishermen, but no practical steps have been taken to give effect to it.

I therefore take this opportunity very briefly to rehearse the arguments advanced in that Petition. Trawling, they say, has reduced their industry to a parlous condition. Without going into the general arguments used last year, I should like to press upon the attention of the Lord Advocate the special point already mentioned by the hon. Member for St. Andrew's Burghs relating to the Bell Rock, which occupies a very curious international position. The rock is nine miles and three-quarters south-south-east of Arbroath. There is a lighthouse erected and maintained by the Government. It is inhabited by three men who are always on the rock, and one is on shore. There are observatory buildings on the shore in connection with the lighthouse. The men who live in the lighthouse vote in Arbroath and go to church there, and their children attend school there. The Bell Rock is an island. It is British territory, and therefore it would be possible to take the three-mile limit around it and prohibit trawling. The case of Norway is a precedent. It was stated in answer to a question the other day that Norway reckons her coastline as from the furthest outlying island or rock which is not washed over by the sea. There is the point that the Bell Rock is temporarily submerged; for eight hours it is under water. Clearly you cannot sit upon a rock which is eight hours under water because you would drown, but, equally, per contra, you cannot build a lighthouse unless you have something to build it on. I submit the rock and the building are a joint structure, and therefore constitute British territory. If the Lord Advocate can put aside his general economic prepossession, and he will not seek on this occasion to disentangle the original site value of the Bell Rock, but if he will follow for the purposes of my argument, not Henry George, but Stowell, Wheaton, and Westlake, then I think he would be good lawyer enough to agree with my contention. We have often been told we must not say things which are inconsistent with things we have to bring forward in international arbitration, as for example the case of the Behring Sea. But I saw a dictum by the British representative, Sir Charles Russell, in that arbitration, which I think exactly meets the case. He said: If a lighthouse is built upon a rock or upon piles driven into the bed of the sea, it becomes, as far as that lighthouse is concerned, part of the territory of the nation which has erected it, and, as part of the territory of the nation which has erected it, it has incidental to it all the rights that belong to the protection of that territory—no more and no less. That seems to be a clear contention that the rock would be regarded as British territory. Westlake adds: It might be fair to claim an exclusive right of fishing so near the spot that without the light, fishing there would have been too dangerous to be practicable. 12.0 M.

I will ask the Lord Advocate to take these facts into his consideration. The fishermen interested in this particular spot have never been able to get an answer to the numerous questions I have put on their behalf as to the reason of the Government for returning a blank denial to their request. I should like to go at greater length into the very unsatisfactory position at the present time of the three-mile limit. It is very uncertain whether that has been universally accepted as operative at the present moment. I could quote at great length from the text books, but I will confine myself to one quotation from Hall: It is growingly felt not only that a width of three miles is insufficient for the safety of the territory, but that it is desirable for a State to have control over a larger space of water for the purpose of regulating and preserving the fishery in it, the production of sea fisheries being seriously threatened by the destructive methods of fishing which are commonly employed. The International Institute which met in Paris in 1894 went into the whole merits of the question, and it said in regard to the necessity for having a greater breadth than three miles there was no difference of opinion, and it was suggested that six miles should be the normal distance, with an extension in time of war. It was settled by an overwhelming majority last Session that fish caught in certain areas should be regarded with the same suspicion as attaches to Chinese pork. I hope the Fishery Board will give attention to this matter. I get constant complaints of the catching of immature fish, of destruction of lines and nets, and of depredations generally, in that part of Scotland which may be described as lying between Aberdeen on the north and Berwick on the south—such as you have had previously in the Moray Firth. I would suggest to the Lord Advocate (and it is about to be proposed by my men at the Fishery Conference) that a new line under the Fisheries Act, 1889, should be drawn from Barron's Ness to Tod Head, which, for the benefit of hon. Members who may not have been studying a large scale map, is something like a line from Dunnottar Castle to St. Abb's Head, or from Bervie in Kincardineshire to Dunbar, in the south, about the same width as the Moray Firth from Duncansby Head to Rattray Point, some eighty miles. I think the whole question has been reopened by the arrest of a Hull trawler in Russian waters, reported in this morning's papers. It raises the whole question of enclosed bays. The matter, of course, is sub judice, but it appears that a British trawler was caught forty-three miles from the nearest land. No trawlers are allowed to fish within three miles of an imaginary line of ninety miles, guarding the entrance to the White Sea and the Gulf of Mezen, between Sryatoi Noss and Cape Kanin, as these art rightly regarded as Russian territorial waters. At any rate, quite apart from the controversial part of the question—the apparent claim of the Russian Government to a twelve-mile limit—it is clear that the line across the White Sea is one which the British trawlers have accepted, apparently, without the slightest argument—for they have not claimed the right to enter the White Sea—and that it is ninety miles from headland to headland.


British trawlers do not accept that. The only reason why they did not enter the White Sea was that they did not wish to bring about any controversial bother.


I do not want to prejudice the case. I took the facts from the Hull correspondent of the "Daily News," but my hon. Friend is naturally better acquainted with the circumstances than I am. I hope the Lord Advocate will look very closely into the three questions I have brought forward: the Bell Rock, the extension of the three-mile limit, and the possibility of drawing a new line in that portion of Scotland south of Aberdeen. May I also express my earnest hope that the Government will go on with the work that they have so well begun, and will look into the fishing difficulty in a part of Scotland which, no less than the Moray Firth, merits close attention, and that they will not allow to be crushed unnecessarily, and in a manner injurious to the whole community, a class who carry on with enterprise and courage the old tradition of an island people.


I agree with an hon. Member who has spoken that if there is to be a vote of censure it should be passed upon the person or persons who on this day, when the Scottish Estimates are being discussed, allowed the time to be eaten into by a private Bill. I do not want to join with those who Propose a vote of censure, or something like one, on the Secretary of Scotland, but I may be allowed to say this, that in the case of several departments which lodge under the roof of the Scottish Office, they should take for their motto festina lente, or to put it into Scotch, their motto should be "ca,' canny." I have received a communication from the people of Lerwick regarding a petition which I presented to the Secretary of Scotland two or three months ago. The people of Lerwick have received no reply to their petition, and I received a communication from some of these men interested in, and who have done most to develop, the herring industry in Scotland, to the effect that they have cause of complaint against the Scottish Office because no reply has been given to their communication. They complain that the Chief Inspector of Fisheries of Scotland went to the Continent and sent in a report regarding the different brands, which showed that he was considerably biassed against those who do not use the Government brand. The best thing that can be said about the present Fishery Board for Scotland is that it is fast coming to an end. When the Fishery Board was appointed five years ago great complaint was made, and all I can say is that I hope when the new Board is appointed the appointments will not be made on the plea that the members appointed will, like the followers of Falstaff, fill a hole as well or better.

I admit that the Fishery Board for Scotland has during the last few years done good service, but that is largely owing to the fact that the Chairman of the Fishery Board has shown distinguished ability and zeal. It seems to me that the fishing industry is of sufficient importance that we should have not a Board in England and a Board in Scotland, but that we should have a separate Government Department. It seems ludicrous that the fisheries of England should be under the Board of Agriculture. If you look at the Board of Agriculture and ask how many of them know anything about fisheries the answer will not be far to seek. It is notorious that, in matters of public policy, the Board of Agriculture in England is openly hostile to the views and policy of the Fishery Board of Scotland. On the Continent one often sees villages on the shoulder of a hill clustered round the little Catholic church at the top. In the North-east of Scotland you find harbours dotted all along the coast, and little villages have sprung up in connection with them, and have become almost dependent upon the success of the harbour. In most cases the harbours have become too small. Town councils have done their best to extend the harbours. I know of one case where the town council has levied a voluntary rate of 1s. 6d. in the £ for harbour extension. The herring fishing industry has been revolutionised, we have a larger scale of boats, and the result is that the harbours are far too small. If accommodation is not provided, the owners of the boats will have to leave, and villages will be depleted, perhaps obliterated. I think this question of harbours is a national one which should be undertaken by the Government. I hope we shall get our full share of the Development Fund. I do not suppose we shall get more; if we do, it will be the first time in our history. The Government of the day must make up its mind as to what its policy is to be in regard to harbours. Are they to provide merely large harbours or are they to extend those harbours which are capable of extension? I quite admit that some small harbours should not be extended or, at least, that only a few hundreds should be expended upon them; but many from Cromarty to Fraserburgh are capable of extension on very moderate terms. The Government ought either to appoint a Royal Commission to see what harbours should be extended, or should have an Advisory Committee to advise them as to what should be done in the matter. It is not a question for the Fishery Board, but for the Government. I spoke to the Secretary for Scotland some time ago on the matter of a Royal Commission and received a sympathetic hearing. I trust the Lord Advocate will give us a satisfactory reply.


It appears to me sometimes that the Fishery Board lacks the necessary touch with the interest which it is supposed to represent, and I would, therefore, urge upon the Lord Advocate to represent to the Secretary for Scotland the necessity, when the next appointments are made, that persons should be appointed who really have at heart the interests of the fishing Industry. I will give an illustration from my own constituency. One of the burghs which I represent must be well known to hon. Members who go for sporting purposes in the autumn to Scotland. I mean the burgh of Nairn. It has got a very fine golf course. It has also a very fine fishing population, which numbers something like 300 families. They are as fine a type as can be found in the whole of the northeast of Scotland. These people have spent something like £27,000 of their own funds on the harbour. They had a grant from the Government eight or ten years ago of about £5,000 for the improvement of the harbour, but owing to storms, and perhaps imperfect construction of the harbour originally, defects manifested themselves in it some years ago, and ever since I have been Member for the constituency I have been representing to the Fisheries Board the necessity for the grant of an additional sum of money for the restoration of the harbour. The Fisheries Board has appeared to treat these representations with complete indifference. There was two years ago a great storm which broke down the end of the structure and threw it across the mouth of the harbour. The result is that the harbour is gradually becoming absolutely useless.

I am sorry to say that notwithstanding the representations which I have constantly made to the Secretary for Scotland he does riot seem to be able to bring about in the mind of the Fisheries Board any recognition of the real importance of taking some steps with regard to the repair of the harbour. The Fisheries Board do not appear to know what the facts as to the trade of the place are. They say that the prospects of the industry of Nairn do not warrant the spending of any more money on the harbour. They say that it is barely holding its own, whereas if they had sent someone down to examine into the facts they would have found that the value of the boats there had risen between 1898 and 1908 from £11,000 to £47,000—in other words, it has very nearly quintupled itself—and yet the Fisheries Board say that it is barely holding its own. I agree with the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Sutherland) that if this state of things is not remedied the fishery there must come to an end, and that will be disastrous, not only to the fishing population, but, also to the population of the whole town, because they depend largely on the people who derive their incomes from fishing.

There is another matter where I think the Fisheries Board has not been sufficiently careful of the interests of the fishing population in that part of Scotland. They seem to have allowed the Admiralty authorities td practice long range shooting at night without giving sufficient notice to fishermen. I have had complaints over and over again as to the dangers which fishermen run from this practice. The Admiralty give notice through harbour masters when firing is going to take place. But word is conveyed to the harbour master far too late for him to convey it in his turn to the fisherman. The result is that the fisherman goes out, and very likely finds heavy shooting across the line of his nets. Those are the kind of things in which I would like to see a closer touch between the Fishery Board and those whose interests it is supposed to represent. I do hope that the Lord Advocate will represent to the Secretary for Scotland the necessity for his not only getting a better representation of the fishing industry of the North of Scotland on the Fishery Board, but will also represent to him the absolute necessity of providing funds for the general development and improvement of harbours on the coast.


Earlier in the evening the Lord Advocate, alluding to another question, stated that, as this was a national Parliament, it would be inexpedient to remove the Board of Education from London to Edinburgh. With regard to this question of the Fishery Board of Scotland, I think that every Member who has had dealings with that Board would be very glad to have the Fishery Board centred in London instead of in Edinburgh as at present, so that we should be able to get in closer touch with them. Until we have something of a Home Rule Parliament in Edinburgh to deal with these things it is better to have a great department of State in London. I wish to associate myself cordially with what has been said about illegal trawling along our coast and the great danger we run of losing a very valuable source of food supply. Those hon. Members who represent the great trawling interests in the country must realise, as I think Germany has already realised, that it is quite possible to overfish the seas and deplete the ocean of the fish which are such a valuable source of food supply. Representing as I do one of the largest fishing industry centres in the United Kingdom, I wish to point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. R. Harcourt), when alluding to this question, entirely forgot the existence of that valuable tract of fishing waters, from Shetland down to Caithness, the most valuable fishing waters, perhaps, that we have got, and which suffer more from the devastations of trawlers than any other place. There the evil has been so great that the people themselves have taken the matter into their own hands, and are doing what will, perhaps, not commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, offering a reward to persons who will catch those trawlers, and try to get convictions against them. So far the result has been satisfactory, and they have been able to get a great many convictions by that system.

I have risen chiefly to complain of the action of the Fishery Board with regard to the whaling question in Shetland. That is a question on which the whole of my constituents are absolutely at one as to the effects on the fishery. On a cursory glance at the situation hon. Members and the Fishery Board might come to the consion that, perhaps, we had no case. For this year, up to the present time, the herring fishing in Shetland has been in certain parts a success. For instance, at one station in Shetland 244,000 crans of fish have been landed up to June and July, as against 126,000 crans in 1908. There has been an enormous increase in one or two other places, showing a total increase for Shetland alone of 90,000 crans of fish—a very substantial increase. What I wish to point out to the Lord Advocate and the Fishery Board is that on the west coast of Shetland the position is just as bad as ever it was, and the stations which used to be flourishing centres of the fishing industries are still in a disastrous condition. There is no doubt of the fact that since whaling was started in Shetland, the herring fishing has decreased all along the west coast. As pointed out in a letter I received this morning the enormous increase in the take of herring elsewhere has not been experienced in the waters where whaling takes place. There the scarcity of herring is just as great as ever. What the connection is between whaling and herring fishing is difficult to trace with any degree of accuracy, but there the fact remains that since whaling began places that were formerly prosperous are now a desert. This is universally attributed to the presence of the whalers. A resolution was passed last month to the effect that in the months of June and July whaling should be prohibited, and that the number of ships should be restricted to one. Further, it was resolved that the County Council should get the benefit of the fees paid by the steamers. At the present time the County Council has to incur very considerable expense in looking after the health of the whalers, and as far as possible to carry out the law. They have no funds of their own to do it with, and I think on that point alone the Lord Advocate should make some considerable concession. The matter has reached such a pitch of importance that the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, at the last General Election, wrote to the association connected with the industry in Lerwick, in which he said:— If the facts" (and they are the facts) "you bring to my notice are correct, and if Norwegian whalers carry on in British waters an industry so injurious to fishermen that the Norwegian Government has thought it necessary to prohibit it in their own waters, it seems to me that the Shetland Herring Protection Association have an overwhelming argument in their favour. The case would appear to be one, if I rightly apprehend the facts, which emphatically calls for a policy of safeguarding the legitimate interests of Home industries, which is a part of the programme of the Unionist Party. I should like to hand this to my right hon. Friend so that he can see the sort of difficulties we had to face in the northern country, on the eve of the election, on this subject. The matter is one of great importance, and of course Shetlanders cannot forget that the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity of dealing with this question by introducing a Bill which might very well have readily passed if it had not been for other political considerations which occurred at the same time. I wish to emphasise the point raised by my hon. Friend with regard to motor boats. The Fishery Board this year on this question state:— On one point, those best qualified to judge are emphatic, and that is that fishermen who possess first-class sailing boats should certainly have auxiliary motors installed instead of selling their boats and purchasing steam drifters. As has already been pointed out, one bad season has a disastrous effect on the fortunes of the owners of steam drifters, and a series of bad seasons would probably spell ruin to many. There is little doubt that not a little of the neglect of motor auxiliary power up till recently was due more to the spirit of emulation among fishermen, not to be behind their neighbours in the matter of the speed of their craft, and that the pros, and cons. of the subject were not carefully weighed. It is to be hoped that in future, however, the wisdom of considering capital outlay, working expenses, etc., as well as gross earnings, will appeal to fishermen who contemplate adopting mechanical power for the propulsion of their boats. That seems to be the whole argument in favour of this view. Considering that the fishermen now have got to sell their boats at comparatively an old song, and that they are expending very large sums of money in steam drifters, which run up to £3,000 and upwards, I trust the Fishery Board will see the policy and the wisdom of introducing some scheme so that fishermen who are now in possession of their boats should be provided with sufficient security.


Several hon. Members have drawn attention to the great hardships in the North of Scotland, and I should like to draw attention to the difficulties of fishing in the South and West of Scotland, and to a case of very great hardship. I support the representation made to the Lord Advocate in regard to appointments to the Fishery Boards, that in considering such appointments sight should not be lost of the interests of the fishermen who should be represented on all those Boards. Their interests are of very great importance. In regard to the area to which I wish particularly to refer, that is the area of the Solway, there are many great difficulties and complications. It is administered partly by England and partly by Scotland, which gives rise to many complications. It is a district in which various tides flow and it is impossible to say what is the sea and what is the river; where the estuary begins and where the Solway. We have had a large amount of litigation, and I am sorry to say that legislation has not led to clearing up the difficulties created by Nature. We have had as many as seven judges sitting on one point, which has led to most unsatisfactory results. It would not be possible to go into the details of these cases which are constantly in the Courts.

The Court of Session is frequently occupied with such cases. I would like to ask of the Lord Advocate that the Government should give assistance in clearing up the difficulties, legal and practical, which surround this question of fishing in the Solway in the directions to which I have referred. Royal Commissions have reported, but no steps have been taken to carry out the recommendations of those Commissions. I would strongly urge on the Government that they should give their assistance to putting and end to this very difficult matter. We have a large body of men engaged in the industry. From time immemorial the industry has been carried on there. The men are earning their livelihood under conditions of the greatest difficulty. They run enormous dangers every day owing to the navigation of the Solway, and they are entitled to carry on their occupation without being constantly harassed by prosecutions, and being compelled to bring actions in various places to get their difficulties decided. I strongly urge on the Government that the time has come when it is their duty, there being so many interests involved, to put an end to this state of constant litigation by having careful inquiry made and coming to a definite conclusion after due consideration of all the interests concerned.


Representing a constituency which includes the whole sea-board of what is undoubtedly the most important county in Scotland, I desire to associate myself with the statements which have been made about the illegal operations of trawlers. My complaint against the Government is not that they are unwilling to do what they can to help the industry or to help a very deserving population, but that they do not seem to know what is going on around the coast. In reply to a question which I put to him the other day about the patrolling of the coast of my county the Lord Advocate stated that no complaint of illegal trawling had been received by the Fishery Board from the stretch of coast mentioned since November last. Since November last I have received numerous complaints from fishermen of illegal trawling. In an answer to the following supplementary Question: "Do any statistics exist in the Scottish Office of the number of days on which the Fishery cruisers were in harbour?" the Lord Advocate said, "I have given all the statistics which we possess." According to my information, the log-books of the cruisers are sent once a month to the head office at Edinburgh, and in those log-books every hour of the cruiser's time is accounted for; therefore, the Lord Advocate or the Scottish Secretary - whose absence from this House we all deplore—could have obtained the information to enable an answer to be given to that question. There is a strong feeling round the coast that the Government is neglecting the interests of the fishing folk. Looking at the matter from the Imperialist point of view, there is no doubt whatever that the preservation of a hardy, seafaring population is one of the most vital questions to the country. We depend for the safety of the country in the last resort on the Navy, and it is from the population of these coasts that the Navy is recruited. If we cannot obtain the necessary number of recruits for the personnel of the Navy, our maritime supremacy will very soon be a thing of the past. It is a deplorable and a significant thing that the population of these small seaports all round our coast, particularly in the north-east of Scotland, is steadily and alarmingly decreasing. We have got to do something to encourage these people, and to make it as easy as possible for them to carry on their trade. This is not only in the interests of that population, but it is in the interests of the whole of the country, whose food supply so largely depends upon them. I find so far from the fishery cruisers watching the trawlers, that it is the trawlers that watch the fishery cruisers. The trawlers have a most admirable intelligence department. They know exactly where the cruisers are, and by telegraphing to certain centres they are always able to know what they are doing. The cruiser is coaling! Very well, that means that the trawlers can sail out, fish in prohibited waters with the certainty that they will not be pursued, that they cannot be captured, and that in all probability they will not be detected.

What is the cure for this state of things? Several cures have been suggested. One that I would impress upon the Government is well worthy of their consideration. That is, that instead of building additional cruisers, or instead of building any large number of additional cruisers—and I think one or two are needed—motor boats should be built which would steam in all weathers at a speed of twelve or fourteen knots an hour, and which, issuing out of the smaller ports, and at any rate, acting as detectives, could report by telegraph to the stations where the cruisers lie the exact location of the mischievous trawlers that engage in these illegal practices. Another criticism is this: my information leads me to believe that the officers of these fishery cruisers have not a sufficient inducement offered to them to make any extraordinary effort to effect captures. In fact, I am told on excellent authority, that in one case where a fishery cruiser, in a tour around Shetland, captured no less than nine trawlers, that so far from being complimented or promoted for that service, the chief officer was almost forthwith transferred to another station.

Very little attention is paid to the complaints of the fishermen. Complaints do not appear to reach Edinburgh. They certainly do not reach the Lord Advocate or the Secretary for Scotland. When a fisherman sends a complaint by telegram to Edinburgh, what happens? A letter comes back by post probably a week later—very rarely sooner than a week—simply acknowledging the receipt of the complaint, and saying that it Will receive attention. Sometimes it has attention, but very often not. When it does have attention, what form does it take? Some representative of the Fishery Board goes to the locality and interviews the fishermen. I am told—I am quoting information the fishermen have given to me themselves, and I do not see why they should say it if it is not true—that some of these officers are not always as conciliatory as they might be. They browbeat the fishermen, and their desire seems to be to break down the case of the fishermen, instead of inquiring into the truth of it with a view to taking that drastic action that the necessities of the case demand. Reference was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Andrew's Burghs to the injury done to the hatcheries around the coast. The Fishery Board, at very great expense, has laid down these hatcheries. Yet very often these illegal trawlers run in, scoop up the immature fish, and also destroy the tackle of the line fishermen, and waste a large amount of money.

These cruisers can hardly expect to be very successful. They have to set out on a hunt against trawlers, fishing with their lights out, while the cruiser has all her lights burning like a great floating hotel. What we want is surprise patrols and not ornamental promenades. We want cruisers to go out, I will not say with their lights out, but we want them to go out as if they did not want to be detected, but wanted to detect somebody else. I am told that a great deal of trouble results from the fact that the head fishery office staff is overworked. If that is the case, it is the duty of the Government to ask for some larger grant and to have a sufficient staff that may adequately discharge its functions. The facts are that the line fishermen in Aberdeenshire are losing their living because these trawlers—to the legitimate operations of which we do not object—are encouraged by the supineness and carelessness and indifference of the authorities to pursue their illegal trading. They are destroying the living of hundreds and thousands of the most deserving race, and of the finest men in the country. I ask the Scottish Office to devote a little more attention to the North-east of Scotland, and I hope the next time I have an opportunity of putting a question to the Lord Advocate as to what is going on he may be in a position to obtain information to satisfy my legitimate curiosity.


I must enter a humble caveat against some of the statements made on this subject. I wish to put forward an aspect of the question which will command the sympathy and approval of friends of the line fishermen. I refer to a state of affairs in Moray Firth which are as inimical to the interests of the line fishermen as they are to the fishing industry of the country generally. This information did not come to me from the Scottish Office, but was dragged out of the Treasury in answer to a question of mine as to the working of the Act with regard to the prevention of trawling in limited areas. That information was to the effect that last year that thirty-eight foreign trawlers had been reported as fishing in the Moray Firth. A measure was passed with the distinct object of preventing trawling in the Moray Firth, and the result is that thirty-eight trawlers are reported as fishing there. I do not go into the arguments for or against each of the two great branches of the fishing industry which ought to work together. There is only one solution of this problem. Either that Moray Firth ought to be opened or it ought to be closed. Anything is better than the present system.

[Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present]——

I desire to call attention to the very late hour at which we are conducting this Debate. I think the point I was dealing with was one quite worthy of being brought forward. Surely we are not asking too much by insisting upon one day for the discussion of Scotch business. Under the circumstances, I beg to move, "That the Chairman do now report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."


I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Motion. I think we have almost concluded our discussion on the Fishery Board Vote and there remains only two other Votes. There will be another opportunity for discussion on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill.


I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.


I wish to join in the protest which the hon. Member for North Aberdeen has made against the consideration of Scottish business at this late hour. My hon. Friend has moved to report Progress, and the reasons he has given are such as the common-sense of the House will readily accept. There is only one day during the whole Session upon which Scottish Members have any opportunity of discussing Scottish administration and Scottish affairs, and on that day how have the Government behaved? They have put down an important Private Bill with the result that an hour-and-a-half of the most valuable part of the sitting was occupied discussing that measure. Surely, under the circumstances, it is not too much to demand that, as we only get one day a year—and some years not even one day—for the consideration of all the most important branches of administration in Scotland, we should have a complete day. It ought to be a day which would give full opportunity of raising the various matters of vital interest to the people of Scotland. You have to get a most important statement from the Government with regard to the Fishery Board, a statement which is awaited with great interest among the fishing communities of Scotland, and obviously it cannot be reported at this late hour. When that is concluded we have to discuss the whole question of education in Scotland, and it is treating Scotland shabbily to ask us to do so after one o'clock in the morning. It is a scandal and a disgrace that Scotch interests should be treated in this fashion, and our case is complete for reporting Progress.

1.0 A.M.

2.0 I ask the Government to accept this Motion, and to give us another day for the discussion of Scotch administration. We can well occupy a full day on local government alone without any consideration for the vast question of education. That is a reasonable demand, even if it prolongs the Session a day. If I am denied, then I say, let them give us a guarantee that the Report will be given at a time when other questions affecting Scotland can be fully discussed. If they could arrange to put down the Report for seven or eight in the evening that would give us two or three hours. I hope the Government will not take up an attitude which is absolutely unsympathetic and uncompromising. It is reasonable to ask that these important questions should not be rushed through at this hour in the morning. Some of us have questions from our constituencies which we have been waiting months to raise. No doubt we shall have a late sitting if anything like justice is done to the important matters to be brought forward, and I appeal to the Lord Advocate, and especially to the Patronage Secretary, whether an opportunity could not be given, if even only for a few hours, when these important questions affecting Scotland can be brought forward. He knows that action of this kind cannot be popular in Scotland, and I therefore appeal to the Government generally to pay a little more heed to the simple request we are making that we should have a further opportunity for considering the interests of Scotland.


I wish to join in the protests made by the two previous speakers, and to urge upon the Government the necessity of reporting Progress. The very important question of education has still to come on, I suppose at about two o'clock in the morning. There is a motion on the Paper in the name of one of their own supporters, impugning the action of the Department. I therefore hope the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie) will have the courage of his opinion and take a division upon this motion.


May I say that I should only agree to report Progress provided we are allowed another day to discuss the Education Vote.


I would ask my hon Friend not to press this motion to report Progress. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir Henry Dalziel) understands that we cannot reopen Supply. It is necessary for us to get the Report stage to-morrow under what is known as the guillotine. No one is more anxious to see Scottish affairs fully discussed than myself. I should like to point out that we have really discussed Scottish affairs for the same length of time as if this Private Bill had not been introduced. I would, therefore, appeal to him not to press this motion as there is a general feeling in all quarters of the House that we should complete this Scottish business to-night.


I do not desire to act against the wishes of the Committee, and by permission of the Committee I will withdraw my motion to report Progress.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


I wish to finish my remarks in regard to the Prevention of Trawling in Prohibited Areas Act of last year. I say it is of no use. What has happened? Thirty-eight trawlers have been caught fishing in the Moray Firth, while British trawlers have been excluded. That makes it an actual preserve for the foreigners to the detriment of the British industry. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Cathcart Wason) has referred to the question of fines. It is really an unworthy proceeding, and I said so last year.


With reference to the remarks of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie) as to the working of the Illegal Trawling Prevention Act, I think his reference to the thirty-eight trawlers which had been observed in the Moray Firth since the passing of that Act must refer to trawlers that have been seen on thirty-eight occasions, and not thirty-eight separate trawlers, which is a very different thing. There are three or four trawlers which habitually disregard the wishes of this country, which come over from Ostend or Dutch ports to fish in the area of the Moray Firth. The hon. member for North Aberdeen may be interested to know the opinion of the fishermen who suffered from these depredations whose opinions I took occasion to ascertain some four days ago. I have a telegram from the fishing port of Burghead saying: "Fishermen satisfied that the Act has done good. Fish more Plentiful." Here is a telegram from Hopeman: "Fishermen highly satisfied with the Illegal Trawling Prevention Act." I have also a telegram from Lossiemouth: "Fishermen fairly pleased with Trawling Act. Not now troubled by English, but only by Dutch trawlers."


Was that from the Town Clerk?


No, it is not from the Town Clerk, but from the fishing people. I have always held the opinion that sooner or later the question of the bonâ fide trawler would have to be reconsidered. My view is that the only effective means of preventing trawling in areas where trawlers do so much damage to immature fish is by other countries as well as ourselves joining in an international agreement for the scheduling of areas in the North Sea, such as the Dogger Bank, for the protection of immature fish. It is well known to trawlers and all who take an interest in fishing matters that if you trawl to any excess in a fishing area such as the Dogger Bank, you do damage to the trawling industry and destroy immature fish. We have the instance of what Russia has done in regard to the White Sea in the way of preventing trawling fifty miles off the coast. There is a desire to extend the territorial waters, but it is only the Foreign Office of this country which hangs back in the supposed interests of certain Grimsby and Aberdeen trawlers. For the sake of that one industry alone our Foreign Office hangs back from assisting in an international movement. Several other countries have approached our Foreign Office but without success. When it comes to the question of pearl fishing off the island of Ceylon we claim territorial waters for considerably more than three miles. If German pearl fishers ventured inside those limits our Foreign Office would doubtless have something to say. For all these reasons, I think that what we have done, although it has been beneficial, does not go far enough. The time will come when the question will again have to come to the fore, and the Foreign Office will have to move with the spirit of the times and take further steps in the matter.


I rise for the purpose of supporting the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, in which he impressed on the Government very forcibly the view that attention should be paid to the depredations of foreign trawlers in the Moray Firth. I have heard the whole of the arguments used during this Debate, but it was not until the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeen that this point with regard to foreign trawlers was brought to the attention of the representative of the Scottish Office. There are many English fishermen—and I represent some of them—who feel strongly that so long as Acts are passed to restrict the number of English fishermen in the Moray Firth it is necessary that Acts of at least equal stringency should be passed to suppress the depredations of foreign trawlers. It is felt to be a very serious grievance that foreigners should be admitted to waters from which English fishermen are excluded. I do earnestly hope that the representative of the Scottish Office will pay some attention to the speeches made on his own side of the House on this question.


I wish, in a very few words, to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. I have done this on former occasions, and I think the Lord Advocate should give a definite undertaking to the people of Shetland that something will be done so far as the herring fishing is concerned. In certain parts of Shetland where the villagers used to get a precarious living by their fishing their living is now absolutely destroyed. The interest of these residents is much more important than that of financiers, whether English or foreign, and one of the chief complaints of the Shetland people is this, that these whaling companies are permitted to come into these waters. Norwegians who have been evicted from their own waters are permitted to come to Shetland simply because certain people have money in these companies, and are getting high dividends, and consequently the permanent officials are saying nothing against it. It may be said that science has not determined whether whaling interferes with herring fishing or not, but the fact is that the herring are gone, and if it were only to give these people the satisfaction of knowing that the Scottish Office is not influenced by people who have money invested in these whaling companies, the Scottish Office would be doing a good thing if they paid attention to this subject. Having been in these regions I appreciate the fact that the people are law-abiding. I believe they are a long-suffering people, but, as the leader of the Opposition once said, there are limits to human endurance, and if these limits are reached, you will have much more work cut out for you, and be put to much greater expense to put down lawlessness than you would in having an inquiry and in giving these people the assurance that the Scottish Office is not pandering to the wealthy to the detriment of the poor people living there.


I desire to add my testimony to what has been said by the hon. Member for Elgin as to the necessity of closer union between the Fishery Board and the interests of the fishermen. A wish has been expressed that we should have one man on the Board personally interested in the fishing trade. But why only one? Why should they not all be intimately acquainted with the fishing trade? I think that carries with it the admission that the Fishery Board, as constituted at present, is hardly in touch with the fishing industry. We have on the west coast a most important question that we have again and again tried to get the Fishery Board to deal with, namely, the question of a close time for herrings. Everybody who knows anything about this question knows that the Loch Fyne trade has for some time been in a most depressed condition. What we want is that the Fishery Board should deal with the question. There is also the question of harbours of refuge. Everybody who knows the Clyde knows the great importance of harbours of refuge coming up from the lower waters of the river. Especially just now, when we have an opportunity of getting money from the Development Fund, why cannot the Fishery Board satisfy themselves as to what harbours—and especially harbours of refuge—are required, and then approach the Development Board and get the necessary funds. I hope the Government will remember that the present Fishery Board comes to an end at the beginning of next year. Then the whole question can be dealt with, and I hope they will think it out in the meantime and decide what to do. In England you have a Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, and as far as agriculture is concerned its power extend over Scotland as well. If the Fishery Board were thrown in with the Board of Agriculture we would have a Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland, with a Parliamentary Secretary representing both interests in this House. We should have somebody here who would be responsible, and we should be able to do something more than has been done in the past to deal with this matter which affects so much the future welfare of the population.


I am sorry to interpose for a moment, but the speech of the hon. Member for Argyll compels me to say that he has raised a question on which there are acute differences of opinion, namely, a close time for herrings on the west coast. A large body of fishermen is opposed to a close time, and one of the reasons why the Fishery Board refuses to support such a proposal is, I believe, because they do not see the possibility of enforcing it. That I believe to be one of the serious difficulties of the question. I do not know how it may be with the last suggestion of the hon. Member as to the composition of the Fishery Board, but I do not agree with him that the Fishery Board should be composed of people engaged in or well acquainted with the fishing industry. I never found two fishing people who had the same opinion about anything. I have never forgotten that the very first time I went to my Constituency as a candidate I was introduced on board a steamer to a man who said he would put me up to all the intricacies and difficulties I would have to face on the subject. He discoursed to me volubly on the subject for two hours. I thanked him for the information he had given me. He said, "Yes, I have told you all I know." I said good-bye to him, and his last word was, "There's nae mon kens naething aboot herrings." I think he was about right. I have found out nothing about the habits of herrings, where there should be close times, trammel nets or seine nets. On the whole I think the Fishery Board as at present constituted does its work very well, and that the members of the Board are anxious to do what they can to increase and improve the fishing industry, and I certainly deprecate the addition of a large number of practical fishermen to that Board, because I am perfectly certain it would mean confusion worse confounded.


No one who has listened to the discussion, which I hope will now draw to a close, will be inclined to disagree with the anonymous friend of the hon. Member for Ayr. There are no questions discussed by this House about which there is so much honest difference of opinion as with regard to these fishery questions. The hon. Member for St. Andrews complains that illegal trawling has increased and that patrolling is less efficient. The information in the hands of the Fishery Board is exactly to the contrary. Complaints of illegal trawling have almost absolutely closed, as far as the Fishery Board are concerned, and they are at present under the honest belief that the coasts of Scotland were never better patrolled than now. Especially does that apply to the coast of Fife. A cruiser is detached, which constantly patrols that coast, and it is also the object of surprise visits from time to time by a couple of cruisers. The result is that, so far as the information in possession of the Fishery Board goes, the coast of Fife is excellently patrolled, and the coasts of Scotland are most efficiently protected from illegal trawling. My Friend the hon. Member for East Aberdeen complained that the statistics which are available in the hands of the Fishery Board have not been made available to him. He reminds me that three or four days ago I said to him that I had supplied all the statistics in my possession. That is perfectly accurate. Let me remind him that there was a supplementary Question, and that in the answer to that I said that I had given all the statistics in my possession, but I was not asked whether those were the whole of the statistics in the possession of the Fishery Board. As to the Bell Rock Lighthouse, for three miles out and around the shores we are inside the territorial waters, where we can enforce our legal rights, but for diplomatic reasons it has been thought desirable that we should not stand on the summit of our rights in the waters surrounding the Bell Rock any more than we do in the waters around the Eddystone. I am not sure that we really suffer seriously by our failure to exclude that particular area. I am sorry to hear that those who are convicted of illegal trawling show the bad taste of going to prison instead of paying the fine. If that act of folly continues, then I think we shall require to take into consideration the very admirable and cogent suggestion made by the Member for St. Andrew's Burghs with regard to the operation of penalties. But we shall wait and see whether that is not a passing phase.


It has been going on for three or four years.


It will probably come to an end very soon. I understand there were fewer and fewer during the past year. Another hon. Member, the representative of Orkney and Shetland, has called attention to the whaling industry. I do not quite understand what the complaint is. As we all know we passed an Act of Parliament two years ago for regulating the whaling industry. Is the complaint that the Act is not properly enforced, or that the Act is ineffective? We have licensed a certain number of companies and have placed them under strict regulations, and I cannot understand what it is really in the whaling industry which injures the herring. Is it the killing of whales or the leaving of whales alive? Is the presence of whales deleterious to the herring fisheries or is the absence of whales? There again we find difference of opinion, and it is as difficult to decide as on any other question. There is nothing to enquire about, because you find one man gives one view and another man another view. We all know that the fluctuations in the appearances of herrings are great, without being able to trace any cause of it. It is impossible, therefore, to say that the whaling near these far off islands has affected the herrings either one way or the other. A far more important question was raised by the hon. Member for Elgin Burghs and the hon. Member for the Inverness Burghs when they drew attention to the question of harbours. The Fishery Board do their best with the limited sum at their disposal. I understand they have given a very considerable sum for the harbour of Nairn. Even although it has not been sufficient, still, with the money at their disposal, they have done their best.


That was ten years ago. The request now is for assistance in the present difficulty. The Harbour Authorities of Nairn interviewed the Secretary for Scotland when he was in Inverness a year ago, and he told them that Nairn ought to consult the Fishery Board. Nairn has consulted the Fishery Board, but the Board has taken no steps to give its opinion or advice. I should like it to be impressed on the Board that it is its business to give advice on the question. If it has no money it can at least give advice.


The Fishery Board, I am sure, will be extremely glad. I will see that they give the best advice as to how to deal with the harbour. But I would advise my hon. Friend the Member for the Inverness Burghs to press their claims and see that the funds which will be placed at their disposal are wisely used. With regard to the harbours throughout the coasts of Scotland I quite recognise the lack of them. It is a question which well deserves the consideration of the Board. I think those are all the points raised. There is one other question. I think the time has not yet arrived in which you can really come to a final decision in regard to the effect of the trawling in the prohibited areas. It has only been in operation for a comparatively limited period, but it is significant that those who are most closely interested in the question, namely, the fishermen in the Moray Firth, are perfectly satisfied with the operation of the Act. No complaints have been made to the Fishery Board in regard to them. It is perfectly true that thirty-eight cases of foreign trawlers have been observed in the Moray Firth. Nobody has pretended that the Act would effectually exclude trawlers from the Firth. What it was hoped would be done, and what to a large extent has been done, has been to prevent them landing their catches, thereby discouraging that particular form of trawling, for the best of all reasons that they have to take their catch to a foreign port, and therefore the profits would be exceedingly small. It has been found by experience to be far more profitable for them to trawl elsewhere than in the Moray Firth, with the result that the trawling has practically ceased. I do not say for a moment that we can pronounce a final opinion that the Act has been a complete success. But so far as we have gone it has been successful.


You said that a few months ago. But it is an absolute failure.


Nobody can tell in so limited a time. It is an experiment. We all knew that it was purely experimental. The experiment up to now has proved a success, and if we wait a little longer we shall be able to pronounce a final opinion upon it. So far as experience goes it would seem as if it were a very unprofitable thing to trawl fish in the Moray Firth and land them in a foreign port.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question with regard to the whaling stations? These whaling stations were abandoned in Norway because the Norwegians found the herring fishery was ruined owing to the whaling operations. Since they moved to Shetland we find that exactly the same state of affairs has arisen, namely, that where these companies carry on whaling operations the herring fishery has gone down steadily year by year, and is almost worse than ever it was before. The Government ought to consider whether they cannot meet the moderate demand the people of that country are making, namely, that for a short time—say, for one or two months in the year—whaling operations should be prohibited in these waters. The right hon. Gentleman said he would see what he could do. The fault rests really with the previous Governments, but we are dealing with facts as they are. I think there is a case made out for a close time of one month in order that we may see whether that would not have the effect of restoring to the West coast of Scotland the prosperity which it enjoyed in former years. In regard to the increase in the herring catch this year it has taken place entirely in parts which are not frequented by whalers.


All I can say with regard to the answer of the Lord Advocate is, that it is the lamest answer I have ever heard made by a legal luminary. Everyone of the difficulties predicted by the opponents of the Bill have so far been proved up to the hilt. The foreigners are going on with the trade because it is profitable. This measure is typical of so many other Scottish measures. The Government seem to think that obstinacy is a sign of strength, but obstinacy is a sign of weakness, and it is because weakness is at the head of the Scottish Office that they have listened to no representations. It is true that the Bill was more a political kite intended to catch votes. The Government are sheltering themselves behind the constitutional question in order to avoid criticism. I protest against it not only in the interests of my Constituents, but in the interests of the fishermen themselves. I am really surprised that the Lord Advocate should have led himself to so inimical an act.


I am afraid the hon. Member could not have heard me. Those in whose interests and for whose benefit the Act was passed are satisfied with the results.


Faked telegrams.


They say, and they ought to know best, that they are satisfied with its operation.


Not at all.


I am not at all surprised that the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Pirie) is not prepared to divide the House on this question, because in the Division last year he only got one Member to vote with him. I should like the Lord Advocate, if he can, to tell me for what diplomatic reason the Government are not prepared to draw the ordinary territorial line of three miles around the Bell Rock? He admits the Bell Rock to be British territory. I should also like to know whether they have any intentions of reopening the question of the three-mile limit, and whether there is any objection to what my Constituents ask for, that a fresh line should be drawn somewhere south of Aberdeen so as to give them the benefit of the legislation passed last year for the benefit of the fishermen of the Moray Firth.


I am afraid I cannot hold out to my hon. Friend any hope. With regard to the diplomatic reasons I will communicate with the hon. Member.


Would the right hon. Gentleman also communicate those reasons to me? For my Constituents are also equally interested.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

[CLASS 4, VOTE 8.]