§ Resolution reported,
§ 3. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,030,173, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of pay- 1113 ment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1914, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class II. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
[For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1913, cols. 871–874]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. MUNRO
I desire, as representing one of the largest fishing communities in Scotland, to say a very few words upon the Fishery Vote. I think, probably, the House will agree that the fishing community is one which deserves special consideration, and also merits sympathetic and understanding treatment, and that for more reasons than one. There is, of course, to begin with the obvious consideration of the magnitude and consequent importance of the industry. Next to agriculture, I suppose, it is the largest and most important industry in Scotland. When I remind the House that in the course of the last year there were 9,000 vessels and 90,000 people engaged in the prosecution of the industry and that more than £3,500,000 represented the value of the catch, I think that I do not need to say anything further in order to let the House understand the importance of the industry with which one is dealing. There is another reason why this industry has always been regarded with favour and special consideration, and that is because of the hardship, and, indeed, the peril which necessarily attend its prosecution. Most of us would find it difficult to toil upon the sea, and most of us find it difficult to toil by night, but for any man who has to do both I think that the House will entertain very sympathetic feelings. There is another and last reason I would mention why I think that the House has always regarded this industry with special favour, and that is because of the patriotism of its Members. The fishing community in Scotland, and I doubt not in England and other parts of the United Kingdom as well, has given with unstinted hand to the Army, to the Navy, and to the Naval Reserve; in fact, I think I am right in saying that 90 per cent. of the fishermen in my Constituency belong to the Naval Reserve. Therefore, when one is considering an industry which makes so strong an appeal to one's sympathy on these various grounds, I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland will turn an 1114 unsympathetic ear to the observations which I want to address to him.
I am bound to say that when one considers the question whether this industry does at the present time receive that sympathetic treatment which it deserves—and if not what is wrong—one feels somewhat hampered by the conditions of the Debate. In the first place, of course, you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow me in a Debate on the Estimates to indicate the additional legislative powers which one would desire to apply to this industry, and, accordingly, one is shut out from that line of argument. Then, further, I find that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland is surrounded by what I think I have heard termed by my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Robert Harcourt) "a zareba of Committees," and, in answer to certain criticisms which may be advanced, he will probably murmur the magic words "sub judice" and will for the present escape with regard to those subjects which are under the consideration of Committees. There are, however, certain topics which are not before any Committee at the present time and with which one may deal. I have before alluded to one and shall continue to do so until some sort of redress is forthcoming. I refer to the wholly inadequate protection afforded to line fishermen against the hooligans of the sea. I do not think that Members of this House perhaps quite realise the state of matters which prevail in that industry. There is no industry on the land which is beset by such difficulties and dangers. In the first place, it is subject to the destruction of its property in the shape of its net and gear; and, secondly, it is subject to theft of fish which are reserved as part of its special preserve.
There is the crime of destruction of property and the crime of thefts committed, and no one seems to think very much about it, or, at least, one is apt to reach that conclusion, while one knows perfectly well that if property on land were subjected to this destruction, and if theft were so frequently committed on land as it is at sea, it would be regarded as a wholly irrelevant retort to say, "We do our best to administer the law, but, after all, we have only certain resources placed at our disposal and can only use them." It would at once be said, "Well, you have made these laws, and it is your duty to enforce them. If you have not enough money to enforce them rigidly, get that money." That is what we say with regard to this topic. First of all, 1115 an inadequate number of cruisers are provided by the Fishery Board, and, in the second place, they are of inadequate quality for the duties which they are called upon to perform. It is common knowledge that, so far as some of these vessels are concerned, the trawlers mock at their efforts to catch them, and properly so. Under existing conditions it is hopeless to secure any redress for this grievance. The depreciation of the fishermen's property will go on and the illegality of which we complain will proceed until more effective vessels are provided for the purpose of affording police protection on the seas. Accordingly, I renew the appeal which I have made before on the floor of this House to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Lord Advocate, and which I am sure will be reinforced to-night by other Members who feel as strongly about this matter as I do, that they would use their good offices to secure an addition to the number of vessels at the disposal of the Fishery Board and also to secure that the vessels shall be efficient.
I desire to say just a word or two with regard to the subject of loans for fishermen. I shall, of course, be immediately told that the subject is under remit to a Committee at the present time and that it would be quite improper to express any view on the merits. I quite appreciate the technical value of that retort, but I think I am entitled to say to the Secretary for Scotland that this very leisurely and otiose Committee which was set up some two years ago has taken an unprecedented and, I venture to add, an intolerable time in the course of its deliberations, freely admitting the difficulties of the subject and the extent of the investigations which were rendered necessary. I do not think, after one has made the fullest allowance for these considerations, that it is creditable that a Committee which has been sitting since September, 1911, should not yet have reported. We ought to have had that Report prior to this Debate in order that we might have considered it, and, if necessary, criticised it. While I am far from desiring to say anything personal with regard to any member of the Committee, for each of whom I have the highest respect, yet at the same time I think that we are entitled to know from the Secretary for Scotland when he expects the Report to be issued. He has 1116 a right to ask and has a right to be informed and he ought to know, and we have a right to know. Accordingly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he deals with this matter, to be good enough to tell us on information which I have no doubt he has from the Committee or can obtain, when we are to expect this Report which, looking to the time it has taken to prepare, ought to be of priceless value when once we see it.
There is another subject which is also under remit to a Committee and which I desire to touch upon, namely, the subject of herring trawling It was referred to in a Debate in this House a year ago, and it was urged upon the Secretary for Scotland that it was a subject of great importance. I am glad to think that it has been remitted to a Committee for consideration, but I think that we are entitled to learn from the right hon. Gentleman, although he has no direct control over that Committee, what is the position and the prospects of the inquiry at the present time. Some questions have been put in the House with regard to the Committee and have been answered, but many of us are, more or less, in the dark as to the precise position of matters to-day, and I would respectfully invite my right hon. Friend when he deals with the question to tell us exactly what is the position of matters and what are the prospects of this Committee reporting. There is just one word of warning I should like to address with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the Committee's proceedings. I understand that certain experiments of a practical character with regard to herring trawling are being made and those of us who are interested in fishing matters are glad to hear that is so, but I venture to hope that my right hon. Friend will see to it that those who are in charge of the experiments and who represent the Committee or the Fishery Board are men of energy and practical experience, because I have had more than a hint that in connection with similar experiments which have taken place in England, those who were put in positions of responsibility to judge on the matter were not so fully qualified for the task as one would have liked them to have been. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind when he is appointing persons to take part in this matter. I should also like him, if possible, to secure that avoidable delay shall not take place in regard to this particular Committee.
1117 A further matter to which I desire to allude, is one of local interest, but it also has large general interests. It is local in this respect: that, the incident occurred in the neighbourhood of my Constituency. But one or two general questions are involved which are of great importance to the fishing industry in general. The incident was quite simple, but I am sorry to say it is not unusual. A fishing boat off Wick had, in the course of a dark night, her nets and gear utterly destroyed by a foreign trawler. According to my information the crew of the vessel there-upon proceeded to Wick and tendered to the fishery officers stationed there and also to the Customs' officers full information with regard to what had occurred. But neither of the officials deemed it to be his duty to transmit the information to headquarters, although plainly it ought to have been done. Accordingly, nothing happened until certain questions were put in this House on the subject. My right hon. Friend thereupon proceeded to make inquiries, and, in his last reply, he told me he was conducting an investigation with a view to seeing if it were possible to initiate a prosecution. Will he be good enough to-night to tell us the result of those inquiries, and, should they justify the initiation of a prosecution, will proceedings be forthwith taken? There are two further general questions connected with this to which I should like to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Fishermen are anxious to know in what quarter they are to make complaints in the unhappy event of incidents of this sort recurring, with a reasonable certainty that the complaint will be transmitted to the proper quarter. That is information which the fishermen desire and to which they are entitled.
Furthermore, I wish to ask on their behalf whether it is or is not the case that the Department or the Fishery Board have any power or protection to offer to Scotch fishing vessels subjected to treatment of this sort outside the three mile limit. If such powers exist, I would certainly urge that they should be exercised with greater uniformity and energy. If they are not possessed, then on a proper occasion we shall know where to obtain them by means of appropriate legislation. To these two questions I invite my right hon. Friend to give a direct reply. The information I have on the subject comes to me from the president of the Caithness Fishermen's Association, whose words I implicitly trust. I believe the facts have already 1118 been put before the right hon. Gentleman, and I invite him now to make a statement on the various general considerations involved. There are other Members representing the fishing interests who no doubt desire to address the House, and I will not, therefore, detain it any longer, but I would, in conclusion, remind the right hon. Gentleman that fishermen in the past have been very loyal to the Liberal Government, and they have a right to expect, in return for that loyalty, that the Government shall show loyalty to their interests.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Wick Burghs for the admirable speech which he has made on the various points which he has raised. But I should at the same time like to inform him that not all the fishermen of Scotland have voted for the Liberal Government. I am happy to think that the fishermen of Campbell town are devoted to-the Unionist party, and, therefore, on their behalf I propose to say a few words. The complaint is in connection with the inefficiency of the cruisers employed for the protection of the fisheries and the utterly inadequate number of vessels. That complaint we have repeated over and over again in this House; in fact, I am sure the various officials in the Scottish Office are sick of it. They realise that it is a matter which requires treatment, and that the expense involved in giving the protection which these men are entitled to ought not to be grudged. The fishing community is a very important one, and we derive immense advantages from it, not only in relation to our food supply, but also as far as the manning of the Navy is concerned. We ought, therefore, to see that they are protected as far as possible in the exercise of their calling, and that they are not subjected to the inroads into their grounds, which are too frequent. I am not sure whether we do not want the law considerably stiffened against this form of poaching. I believe the owners of these trawlers very easily manage to evade their responsibilities. The fines are inadequate. A man is paid a higher wage when he goes to prison than when he is working on a trawler, and that is done in order to avoid the necessity for the owner to put his hand into his pocket and pay the fine. All these things require consideration—more consideration than they have received from those in authority during the last few years. I hope the present Secretary for Scotland will find time to attend to, these complaints.
1119 In connection with the herring trawling, I trust that those inquiring into the matter will soon come to a conclusion, for the destruction of immature fish is very serious, and fishermen are complaining bitterly about it. Undoubtedly it is a question which calls for earnest attention on the part of the Government. I agree with my hon. Friend opposite in hoping we may soon have the Report of the Committee on the question of loans to fishermen. I have taken part in various inquiries by Royal Commissions and otherwise, and I do not think the Secretary for Scotland can be blamed for any delay in the presentation of a Report, because we know that Royal Commissions are entirely under their own control, and, while they may give courteous answers to civil questions, there is no power to force them to come to a conclusion or to present a Report. No doubt the document will be all the better for keeping, but I am looking forward with great interest to any proposals that the Committee may make. It is not an easy subject, because generosity on the part of the Committee may not meet with a ready response from the Treasury. There may, too, be disappointment in connection with it. But still it would be better to have the whole position cleared up, so that we may know exactly where we stand, and so that the House may take what pail it can in helping these people as far as possible in a direction from which applications for assistance have so often come. I assume that the difficulties in connection with trawling in the Moray Firth continue. We have heard little about them lately, but it is questionable whether they will ever be arranged unless some question is raised of denouncing the North Sea Convention. My belief is that the only chance of getting rid of the difficulty is to get some new arrangement altogether. So far as my own Constituents are concerned, I have had fewer complaints this year than for many years past. It has been a rather better fishing season, and the men perhaps have been more satisfied, but the questions to which my hon. Friends called attention are still creating very great anxiety; they are the cause of grave complaints from fishermen, and I trust that something will soon be done to remedy them.
§ Mr. R. HARCOURT
I wish to say a few words on the question of trawling. On the last occasion on which I had an opportunity of addressing the House on 1120 this subject—in June, 1911—I ventured to express my opinion that the doctrine of the three-mile limit was the kernel of the whole difficulty as affecting fishing, and if I felt justified in troubling the House on the matter to-day I could only expand to an almost indefinite length that dogmatic assertion. My hon. Friend the Member for Wick has pointed out that the Government are at the present time protected by an impregnable zareba of the Departmental Committees—a phrase used by a Secretary of State no longer in this House—who prided himself on his knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, and I quite agree with the hon. Baronet opposite that these Committees are masters of their own proceedings. But still some of us are rather impatient, and are inclined to think that though they sit and sit, they never seem to report; so naturally the reply of the Minister when questioned is that the matter is sub judice. Still you cannot be sub judice for ever, and I often wonder whether the Scottish Office realises how long this particular question of territorial waters has been pending. I think I am right in stating that half a century ago there was a Royal Commission sitting on it, and since then Committee after Committee has been considering the question. In my humble opinion the only question is whether the rough and ready method of catching fish by means of a trawl, a great bag which nets the small fry as well as the good marketable fish, is a really legitimate method to use near to our shores, and whether it is not folly to destroy the immature fish fit only for manure, and whether this wasteful and destructive method of fishing, so far from providing us, as is sometimes alleged, with a cheap supply of fish for the population, is not gradually but surely eating up that capital of fish upon which our large population has to depend. That is the question to be decided, and if it is decided in the affirmative then it is in the interest of the consuming population to demand a wider field within which trawling may be regulated both for British and foreign vessels. To come down to comparatively recent times, there was a Committee ably presided over by Lord Tweed-mouth, in 1893—I cannot find its report in the Library—it may perhaps have been appropriated by the Departmental Committee now sitting. But I would ask attention to a short quotation from their Report which is emphasised, from the historical point of view, in that admirable work, 1121 "The Sovereignty of the Sea," by Professor Wemyss Fulton. The quotation reads:—Your Committee are sensible of the difficulties of making international regulations, but are nevertheless of opinion that the best method for effectively governing the operations of the various classes of fishermen, and at the same time for securing, so far as it may be found possible, the proper protection of spawning and immature fish would be to throw the responsibility of these duties, so far as the waters immediately adjacent to the various countries are concerned, on those various countries; that for the effective realisation of this object the present territorial limit of three miles is insufficient, and that for fishery purposes alone this limit should be extended, provided such extension can be effected upon an international basis and with due regard to the rights and interests of all nations. Your Committee would earnestly recommend that a proposition on these lines should be submitted to an international conference of the Powers who border on the North Sea.That was the recommendation made twenty years ago by a Parliamentary Committee. A Bill was founded upon it, and the Government committed themselves to the policy of extending the limit, but it proved inoperative, because hon. Members who are interested in the subject will remember that in another place a Clause or Amendment was inserted providing that it should only come into operation when the consent of foreign Powers had been obtained, and apparently no overtures have been made. The Government of the day—I put this point to emphasise my view that the merits of the case have been decided—inserted in their Bill an extension of the three-mile limit to an area practically covering a line drawn across the East Coast of Scotland. I could quote Parliamentary Committee after Parliamentary Committee on the subject. There was one Report in 1900 to the same effect. I quote all these things to show what is being done quite irrespective of the Committee sitting at the present time. Professor Fulton says in his book that in Ireland at the present time wider limits than 3 miles for fishery purposes are actually in force, and that not merely from headland to headland, but between lightships 4 or 5 miles distant from the shore, and, as I understand it, a line is taken from an imaginary point adjoining these lightships which goes another 3 miles further. That would make it 7 or 8 miles, and sometimes up to 10 or 11 miles from low watermark, which is practically the limit for territorial waters, namely, 14 miles, for which we have been pressing. That is all proved by the admirable book of Professor Fulton. I understand that in 1868 the Irish Commissioners were empowered to regulate the dredging for oysters at a 1122 distance of 20 miles. The point of international comity is not affected, whether the subject matter is the patrician oyster or the plebeian plaice.
I really cannot see why another Committee was appointed, and that is why I presume to discuss the matter. I do not think that I myself or any of my hon. Friends, so far as I am entitled to speak for them, have ever pressed for the appointment of another Committee. All that we wanted was action to be taken upon the voluminous Reports of the Committees which had already sat. I hope I shall not be disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy or his colleagues in saying that I shall not attach particular weight to their recommendations, because I believe the point has already been decided by their predecessors. The Committee of 1893 said that a wider limit was necessary, and urged the Government to approach foreign Powers to get it. That Committee took our view as to the necessity of a wider limit. It showed conclusively that Great Britain had very much stood in the way of a wider limit in the past. Our own representative, Sir T. Barclay, some time a Member of this House, was charged by the International Committee of the nations to prepare a draft Report in which the recommendation of a wider limit was made. The answer is sometimes made to us, "If you extend our limits, foreign nations will do the same, and fishery grounds will be lost to British fishermen." I would emphasise again my opinion that it is a question how far in the general interests of the world destructive methods of fishing should be permitted inshore. I see in the same book of Professor Fulton a letter from one traveller to another relating to Iceland, in which the writer says:—Thousands upon thousands of tons of good mature fish are continually thrown away.If we desire to avoid raising this complicated and possibly delicate international discussion, I should imagine it was a point which was worth consideration whether we could not apply some form of municipal jurisdiction, by which I mean that we should extend the policy which was once applied to the Moray Firth, of prohibiting the sale of fish which had been caught within the area which we should specify. I desire to say one word upon another question less important, in my view, but still the secondary line of defence of the line fishermen—the question 1123 of State loans. Here, again, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, the Government are even more perfectly protected. They have in this instance a Committee which seems to be endowed almost with the secret of perpetual existence. It was appointed two years ago, in September, 1911, before the present Secretary for Scotland took office. It was appointed, if my memory serves me aright, in the Recess, after very considerable criticism had been directed against the Department, and, so far as I know, without any particular consultation with the Members of Parliament who were affected. Again, I think, I must point out that upon the important matter the Committee had to consider judgment seems to have been pronounced almost in advance. I want, if I may, to pick a bone with my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, who spoke in 1911, and who gave a most complete and courteous answer to our contentions. I remember that he said that after a very careful study he had been forced to the conclusion that it was out of the question to use the Development Act for the purpose of granting loans, whether to individuals or to associations, for the purpose of installing motor power in their boats, and that to do so would require a new Statute. I accepted that answer at once entirely. I thought it was an opinion in the legal sense. It ought to have been good for the United Kingdom. But a few months afterwards I was surprised to hear from a friend of mine, a member of the Devon and Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee, that they were applying for a loan, clearly with the Development Act in their minds. That case came to me in November. I did not know whether the Lord Advocate had spoken ex cathedra or as the representative of the Scottish Office, but I remembered the opinion he had given, and determined to find out the facts. I asked the Treasury what they were going to do with regard to the application for utilising the funds of the Development Commission, and I was told by the representative of the. Treasury that they were taking legal opinion—presumably that of the Law Officers of the Crown, which is not usually communicated to this House ipsissimis verbis. At any rate, they had not made up their minds in advance on the question. Although the Lord Advocate liad definitely laid it down that the Development Act. was impossible for that purpose, the President of the English 1124 Board of Agriculture appointed a Committee to consider the subject, but if I may presume to say so, in contrast, it was an extremely merciful Committee. The Scottish Committee was appointed in November, 1911, and the English Committee was appointed on the 5th November, 1912—I have the minute of appointment here—and it reported in April of this year. Although it began to sit nearly a year after the Scottish Committee was appointed, it reported several months ago in a very admirable document. I call it a merciful Committee—
§ Mr. R. HARCOURT
I do not want to be unfair, and it is perfectly true that the Scottish Committee had far more extended terms of reference. The English Committee was only appointed for the purpose of dealing with the particular question of Grants—for the purpose of assisting the fishermen of those counties to instal motor power in their boats, and to, advise the Board whether such installation is desirable and whether for this or other purposes connected with the development of the fisheries of those counties, it is necessary to make advances out of public funds, or whether the same can be adequately secured by alternative measures.Apart from the size of the reference to the Scottish Committee, that is the question which the hon. Members for Aberdeenshire and other hon. Members desire should be specially investigated. We are very dissatisfied with the whole matter. The English Committee got to work and they reported upon the subject. I have that document. It is an English document, but is of particular interest to Scottish Members because, if I am rightly informed—one does not have his information first hand—certain districts in Devon and Cornwall have already got the money, which is an important point. I remember in the course of the Debate admitting the possible justice of the view—I did not presume to dispute the Lord Advocate's opinion—that the Development Act was possibly not a suitable instrument for the purpose of assisting financially profit-making undertakings. I ventured to interrupt his statement and asked whether my right hon. Friend could tell us anything upon the subject of credit banks, and whether the Development Commissioners believed, as indeed the Report of the Harmsworth Committee- shows they did, that the obvious method of dealing with the subject was to make sure that there should not be Parliamentary pressure 1125 or pressure from a particular port or from a particular man. The only reply my right hon. Friend found it possible to make at that time was:—I have no view I can at present state in regard to credit banks.I would respectfully suggest that immediately the Committee reports we should have from the Government a considered view upon the question of credit banks and how State assistance may best be given to fishermen. In conclusion, I wish to impress upon the Government the vital necessity of making up their minds upon this subject, and of making up their minds quickly. It may be that the Scottish Office are being outdistanced in the matter of policy with regard to loans and credit banks by what I would call their English competitors. I regret that, but it is not the capital point. In my view it is the dominating question of the territorial waters that has been played with for half a century. We want a decision in the matter. I should almost prefer an adverse decision to no decision at all, but we should like to know where we are. One thing, at any rate, which admits of no doubt, is that large numbers of fishermen, one of the best classes of our population, are in a state of mind which, as those who know them from personal contact can testify, is verging almost on desperation.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
I should like to direct attention to a new condition of difficulty which has arisen in the Moray Firth in connection with fishing for cod by lines of nets anchored at the bottom of the sea and hung perpendicularly to a height of 10 ft., 12 ft., or 14 ft. from the bottom of the sea upon certain banks within and without our territorial waters. This fishing has become of very considerable magnitude within the last three years since it was first undertaken, and I was informed, in answer to a question, that between 15th January and 15th April this year the value of fish landed by this method of fishing in the ports in the Moray Firth was £32,000, which is, of course, a very large sum of money to be earned by the people in these small fishing commuties. This fishing is peculiarly subject to destruction by trawlers and we have had this year very serious complaints of the damage which has occurred. In the small town of Lossiemouth the fishermen in these three months have suffered loss amounting to £1,200 to their nets. One particular boat on the second occasion on 1126 which nets were set had the whole of them destroyed to the value of something like £80,and not only suffered a very serious and irrecoverable loss, but was prevented from prosecuting the fishing during the whole of the remainder of the season. There is no doubt that the damage is very serious and it is a very serious matter for the fishermen, and I wish to know whether it is possible for the Government, through the Fishery Board or otherwise, to find some solution for this very serious evil, and so enable these fishermen to pursue their calling and to earn their livelihood. The British trawlers are excluded from fishing within the estuary of the Moray Firth, but, unfortunately, the protection thus afforded to foreign trawlers has been taken great advantage of to an increasing extent, and during last year there were no fewer than sixty foreign trawlers fishing within that water, and they were observed on no fewer than 223 occasions during the twelve months. It must be obvious to anyone that with so large a number of trawlers trawling upon these banks the destruction, especially at night, to nets set at the bottom of the sea must be very great.
What is to be done it is not very easy for a private Member to suggest, but one of the things I suggest should be done is that the Fishery Board should supply an adequate number of cruisers to protect the fishermen. I have been in the House for seventeen years, and I have during the whole of that period heard constant complaints about the inadequacy of the number of cruisers and their inefficiency. I have sat under two Secretaries for Scotland, and they have both been quite sympathetic to the complaints and criticisms which have been made, but neither of them, as far as I know, has ever addressed any remonstrance to the Treasury or asked for more money for more cruisers. I should be very glad if the Secretary for Scotland would tell us whether he considers the number inadequate, and that he has asked, or will ask, the Treasury for more money for more cruisers. So far as I am aware he has never done so. If he considers that they are insufficient or inadequate, will he take action to remedy this state of matters? If he is of that opinion, our duty at any rate will be clear to us. I suggested to the Secretary for Scotland a year ago that he might render the cruisers that he has more efficient if he would provide them with wireless telegraphy. Up till now nothing whatever 1127 has been done. There is no doubt that the value of these cruisers for catching trawlers who are breaking the law would be very greatly increased if they were supplied with wireless telegraphy. There is no need, of course, for wireless telegraph stations at every fishing village, because one or two stations on the coast of Scotland could transmit and receive messages from the cruisers even if they were at the other end of Scotland. But it would be very little use to supply the cruisers with wireless telegraphy if, at the same time, it were not made a duty upon the fishery officers of the various ports to report promptly and by wire to some wireless station which could communicate with the cruisers when any trawler was observed breaking the law. At present there are numerous complaints that the fishermen come ashore, having seen a trawler breaking the law, and report it to the fishery officer, who seems to consider that he has at any rate only a very minor duty in the matter, and who is rather reluctant to hear the complaint at all—so much so, that the fishermen have almost ceased to give their complaints in.
I was told once, in answer to a question, that it was the duty of the fishery officer to report the case, but I understand that duty is confined to reporting it by letter, although it was conceded that the report might be sent by wire if the urgency of the case rendered it desirable. I should like to see some order given to the fishery officers that they must listen to these complaints of law breaking and forward them by wire to some central wireless station, which could communicate the information at once to the cruiser. This matter of the protection of the fisheries by cruisers is undoubtedly a very important one. It will not altogether, I am afraid, meet the difficulty in connection with the cod fishing, because there, of course, the fishermen set their nets and then go ashore with the catch for about eight or ten hours. During the time they are ashore there is nothing to indicate where the nets are except a dam which is floating upon the surface and which while it might be sufficient in the day time to indicate the presence of the net, is undoubtedly not sufficient at night. Of course, there is also the possibility that the trawler might see the dam and pretend he had not seen it, and trawl through the nets even in the day time. There is a very practical difficulty there that can only be met, so far as I can see, 1128 supposing it to be in extra territorial waters, either by a fishery cruiser being stationed in the locality, and warning trawlers that a number of nets are set upon the bank—because these nets are very numerous; there are no fewer than 200 boats engaged in the fisheries in a limited area—or to have one or two boats lying to the nets, which would be sufficient legally to protect them from damage by trawlers. As the law stands at present, a boat is supposed to lie to her nets with certain lights up at night, and a trawler is breaking the law if he trawls through the area where the nets are set. It is obvious that all the boats cannot lie to their nets all the night. They have to go ashore with their catch, and the point is whether it is within the law and whether the Government would support fishermen in action such as this, leaving one or more boats lying to the nets with lights up, thereby warning trawlers that there are nets set. Short of that, or the warning which I have suggested on the part of the fishery cruiser, I do not know that I can offer a suggestion to the Government or to the Fishery Board; but I am quite sure the country will not willingly see fishermen setting their nets on banks close to their homes, having their nets wantonly destroyed, and a legitimate method of fishing rendered impossible of prosecution, and some remedy for it ought to be found.
It is a great injustice to a hard-working body of men that in one little township alone they should lose nets to the value of £1,200 in three months, and when they ask for redress there is no redress of any kind. It is quite impossible for these fishermen, even if the trawlers were legally in the wrong, to recover the damage, because necessarily, in the case of the Moray Firth, the trawler is a foreigner, and to follow him to the ports of Denmark, or Norway, or Germany, is perfectly impossible, both on account of the fisherman's want of means and also of his want of knowledge. He has to suffer this grievous wrong, and has absolutely no redress as things stand at present. I wish to bring this before the Secretary for Scotland, because it is a new condition. We have a Committee sitting inquiring into the extension of territorial limits amongst other things, and in connection with fishing in waters which are extra territorial it seems to me that if they are considering, by agreement with other Powers, or by some other means, the extension of regulations concerning fishing in waters which are beyond the three-mile 1129 limit, we ought to take into account this particular method of fishing, because it is one of those matters which ought undoubtedly to be regulated between the nations. At present one kind of fishermen are destroying the property of another kind, who are unable to protect themselves and have not the means or the assistance from the Government to recover the losses that they have suffered, and the condition is causing great dissatisfaction amongst the people who live up, in the North. I was surprised when I visited my Constituency in March this year to find the strong feeling that existed upon this matter. I have never, in the seventeen years in which I have been connected with my Constituency, seen such a turbulent meeting of fishermen as I met with then. The feeling was so intense and so strong that the language was almost without limit in its strength. If the Secretary for Scotland could have faced that audience, I am certain he would have taken a very active interest in the subject. I hope he and the Fishery Board together will find some remedy for this evil.
§ Mr. MORTON
I should like to know from the Secretary for Scotland, if he can possibly tell us, why we have not yet had a Report from the Departmental Committee with regard to State loans to fishermen I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Wick Burghs (Mr. Munro) that it is a most extraordinary thing the Committee should have been sitting for nearly two years and that they have not yet reported. It is a most important question in my Constituency, and also in other constituencies in the North of Scotland. Three sides of the county of Sutherland are bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. I wish I could get the Secretary for Scotland to take a more serious interest in the question of fishing. We are not satisfied that the Committee have done justice to those who appointed them in not reporting. I am perfectly aware that the Secretary for Scotland may not be to blame at all, because he cannot control their action, bat it is advisable that some means should be taken in future whereby Committees should be required to report in a shorter time. We have had the question of illegal trawling before us for thirty or forty years to my knowledge, but up to the present moment we have got practically no redress, or no sufficient redress, to put an end to the grievance which is so often complained of. It is not a question that depends upon the opinion merely of the 1130 fishermen or the trawlers, for we have independent critics like the sheriffs in Scotland who have tried the cases, and who state that the Fishery Board of Scotland, which means the Government, have not done what is necessary to put an end to illegal trawling. I do not wish to say a word against trawling so far as it is legal, and that is when it is outside the three-mile limit, but these wealthy trusts, corporations, and companies ought, in the same way as poor men, to be compelled to obey the law. The law is distinct enough, namely, that they shall not trawl within the three-mile limit. Why do not the Government take means to carry out the law? In one of the cases the sheriff stated that the penalties attached to the breaking of the law were not sufficient, and he added that the police boats which the Government employed were not fast enough. The trawlers can go at a much greater speed, and they can always get away. Then they do their trawling on Sundays, and whether the police boats are looking after them I cannot say.
Surely the Government ought to strengthen the law in the first place by getting Parliament to authorise the infliction of heavier penalties, and surely also they should employ swift police boats to catch the trawlers when they have been Creaking the law! There is not enough protection provided. Surely the Secretary for Scotland could get some of the swift boats of the Navy for a time—some of the torpedo catchers, I think they are called! If he would borrow them, he could soon put an end to illegal trawling. The question of herring trawling is before another Committee, which, I hope, will not take so long to consider that subject as has been taken by the Committee to which I have already referred. This matter is urgent, because the fishing interest of Scotland is very large indeed. A large number of the population depend upon it for their living. There is a great deal of capital invested in the fishing industry. There are also a very fine lot of men engaged in it, and at least 90 per cent. of them belong to the Naval Reserve. Up to the present moment, so far as we can judge, owing to the fact that proper protection has not been given to the fishing industry, and owing also to the fact that nothing is being done in the direction of giving State loans or motors for boats, the industry is not so prosperous as it ought to be. If the Government can do this in Ireland, why should not we have it in 1131 Scotland? The fishermen do not want State loans as a charity. They are willing to pay a fair rate of interest for the loans. We have in Scotland the most law-abiding people in the whole United Kingdom, and the result is apparently that they suffer for that. If they were to shoot landlords and otherwise kick up a row in Scotland, the Government would begin to find out that these are a fine lot of fellows, and that they must do something for them. That is not the spirit that actuates Scotsmen, and I do not wish it to take that direction. I do wish that the Government would take more interest in the fishing industry. We know from the Census papers how emigration is depopulating the country. This is largely brought about by the want of a proper settlement of the land question, and also by the failure to give proper treatment to the fishing interest. There are many thousands of men connected with the fishing industry, and if you do not give them proper opportunities of exercising their calling, the result must be depopulation by emigration. Surely it is time that Parliament and the Government did more for Scotland to prevent that. There is plenty of room in Scotland for the people, and what is wanted is opportunity for carrying out their industries. The Secretary for Scotland has not been in office very long, and therefore he cannot be held responsible for illegal trawling. It is his duty, however, to see that the law is obeyed, and all we ask is that the wealthy trusts should be compelled to obey the law. Surely it is the duty of the Secretary for Scotland to see that they obey the law, and if the law is not strong enough, then he should come to Parliament and ask to have it made stronger. I have had a little Bill for dealing with this matter before the House for some years. The Government have blocked that Bill of mine, much to their shame. They will neither do anything themselves, nor let Parliament do anything. After what we have heard to-night from practically every hon. Gentleman who spoke, including our Friends on the other side, I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will come to the conclusion that it is his duty to do something—and if he has not got the power that he should come to Parliament and get it—to make everybody as far as possible successful and contented in Scotland.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
I only desire to refer to this question of the fishing industry. It is one of far-reaching importance, on which the House should hear as far as it can—it has not many opportunities of so doing—the voice of those who represent constituencies in which the fishing industry of Scotland is carried on. I hope that the House is going to realise, as I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord Advocate realise, how very important is this question, and how it goes down to the roots of national life in Scotland. It is not generally known, but it is a fact, that Scotland is a poor country, and always has been a poor country. With the exception of the industrial centre in Glasgow and the surrounding parts, the rest of Scotland is entirely dependent on two things, the land and the sea. Legislation dealing with the land has already been passed. I would like to impress on my right hon. Friend now that he should introduce legislation, in which he would have the constant support not only from us, but from the whole population of Scotland, affecting the fisheries of Scotland. I would like to identify myself—and am quite certain that every other Scottish Member who represents a fishery constituency will do so, too—with every word that has fallen from the lips of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wick Burghs (Mr. Munro) and every other speaker who succeeded him. What we want is that these questions should be dealt with, and dealt with next Session. We do not want any further delay. The question is one of great importance, affecting not only the food supply of the United Kingdom, but the education at sea and the preservation of the class which not only provides our mercantile service with seamen, but provides also, as you have heard to-day, so many of these fishermen who happen to be Reservists in the Royal Navy. We know perfectly well that the Governments of France and Germany, if they had a sea-faring population of the class and ability of ours in Scotland, would almost keep them in cotton wool, they would be so careful of them. We do not ask our Government to do anything of that sort, because in this country, fortunately, we have a more independent, self-supporting race than they have on the Continent, but we do ask them to realise the great importance of this question, not only from the point of view of the population and the 1133 interests of Scotland, but also from that of the interests of the United Kingdom and the Empire as a whole.
There are one or two points to which I would refer. The first is the question of Grants for harbours. How can we better help the fishing population and secure their safety than by reasonable Grants for the maintenance and improvements of harbours in Scotland? I will not say any more about that, because a Report upon this matter is circulated. The next question to which I would refer is that of loans for fishermen. It stands on an easier and more economic ground than the question of loans for agricultural purposes, because the fisherman has got something which he can give as security for his loans. He has got his boats. Where is the difficulty in a properly organised co-operative system of having loans made to fishermen for boats, when we have the existing boats as security for these loans? I sincerely trust that the Scottish Office will not allow themselves to be outdone in this matter by the Board of Agriculture, and that these questions, economic and otherwise, in relation to co-operation, will be dealt with without delay. We are passing to-night a Vote for the expenses of the Fishery Board of Scotland. I would ask my right hon. Friend if he could not do something towards enlarging the constitution of the Fishery Board? I do not wish to say a single word—I do not think I could even if I desired—against the members of the Board, but we want a somewhat larger representation of fishing interests on that Board. I would like to see a practical fisherman a member of that Board, but, if the Scottish Office do not see their way to do that, cannot they appoint on that Board a large fish salesman from one of the large centres of the United Kingdom If we had, for instance, a fish salesman from Glasgow upon the Board, who was practically acquainted with the whole conditions of the industry, his advice and assistance would be of the utmost importance. It is not for us to enter into a controversy as to the kind of fishing that should be allowed or should not be allowed, but one thing perfectly clear is that as fishing represents one of the greatest food supplies of the country it is surely possible that that harvest should be carried on without interfering unduly either with immature fish or with the spawning beds of the country! I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend will give us an encouraging answer. He 1134 has made, if he will allow me to say so, an excellent speech on the education question. I hope he is going to make an equally good one on the fishing question.
§ Mr. COWAN
Sympathising very keenly as I do with the thousands of Scottish fishermen who are now carrying on their industry under conditions of quite unexampled difficulty, I am impressed, I might almost say that I am oppressed, by the air of unreality which has enveloped this Debate. I do not refer to the state of the benches opposite, indicative as they may be of the lack of interest shown by the great Unionist party—whose benches are often crowded on more trivial occasions—in the welfare of the fishing population of Scotland; nor do I refer to the fact that the Government have seen fit—I prefer to believe that they could not do otherwise—to allot the second day given to the Vote on the consideration of Scottish Estimates on a Monday, always inconvenient for Scotsmen, who frequently have to go North to their constituencies for the week-end; nor to the fact that they have chosen to give us a Monday which happens also to be a Bank Holiday—
§ Mr. COWAN
Which is highly inconvenient for Scotsmen who happen to be here only on official business. I do not refer to these things—I refer to the fact that the lack of interest shown in a Debate such as this to-night is not due to the causes which I have suggested and dismissed, but to the fact that almost every conceivable question of any interest to Scottish fishermen has been referred by the Government, of which my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland is a distinguished member, to two Committees which have not yet reported. One of these Committees is a Departmental Committee, which was appointed two years ago. That Committee has certainly had ample time to consider and to inquire into the matter of loans to fishermen, in regard to which it was particularly appointed. That Committee has taken a very great deal of evidence, it has called witnesses from all countries and from all parts of the Scottish coast, and it has accumulated a great body of valuable information, which I believe is pigeon-holed in Edinburgh. We do feel that, considering the keen anxiety of the Scottish fishing population to be informed as to the intentions of the Government in regard 1135 to a matter which vitally concerns their interests, it would be reasonable to expect that Committee at any rate to report within some moderate limit of time. Personally, I do not reflect in the smallest degree upon the Government or upon the Scottish Secretary in this matter. This Committee is entitled to use its own discretion as regards the time at which it will report. The Scottish Secretary has no authority over it. Though he has no authority over it, yet I do respectfully submit to him that he might use his influence to get from that Committee a Report which is awaited with the utmost anxiety, and upon which the future of this great industry so largely depends.
Loans to fishermen may seem an idle phrase, an unmeaning phrase to many Members of this House and to men outside this House, but to the fishing population of Scotland it is a matter of life and death. The fishermen on the Aberdeenshire coast, whom I have the honour to represent, are carrying on their industry under conditions which have never existed before. They are endeavouring to bring themselves into line with the conditions created by the advance of modern science, but they are unable to do so because they have not got the money. They require to substitute for their old sail boats motor boats and drifters. They have not got the money. They go to private capitalists and borrow at onerous rates of interest and on ruinous conditions—conditions which make the men who work under them, risking their lives in the interests of the country, not free men, but serfs. The condition of these men is so grave as to be almost critical, and it is almost cruel for this Committee to delay their Report. We want to know whether the Government will, and whether the Government can, do anything for us. If it cannot, it is better to know the worst. If it can, it is necessary to know what it will do. Again, I say that I make no suggestion of blame in regard to any Member of the Government in this matter. I believe that the Government has done all that it possibly can do in appointing this Committee, and all it possibly can do by any exercise of its authority. I only ask, and, indeed, I beseech my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, to use his influence—for influence can often do what authority cannot do—with this Committee to expedite its Report. In regard to the Inter-departmental Committee there has been referred to it almost 1136 every other question of vital interest to Scottish fishermen.
That Committee should be invited to, accelerate its proceedings. I do not think I have any right whatever to complain of delay in regard to it. The questions it is asked to report on are extremely difficult, complicated, and delicate, and I do not think we have any right to say that they have taken an undue time. I was judging by the precedent of the Departmental Committee to which I have just referred, which has taken more than two years to report on a very simple question, and we may have some ground to be apprehensive that this Inter-departmental Committee, with its large remit, and having to inquire into so many questions, may take a longer time than is perhaps necessary also. The subjects which we desire to discuss are in the hands of these two Committees, and, having said that, it would be highly improper for me to pretend or to attempt to discuss them, and therefore I propose to conclude with an appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland. I know he is sympathetic; I do not think we have ever had a more sympathetic Scottish Secretary. I know he is as anxious as I am, or any Member representing any Scottish constituency can be, to do justice, and more than justice, to the people we represent; but I appeal to him, seeing his authority in these matters is not so great as it ought to be, to use his valuable influence in favour of my Constituents.
§ Captain WARING
It has already been pointed out by previous speakers and by the hon. Member who has just sat down that these two Committees are inquiring into home fishery matters, and the terms of reference practically cover the whole ground of controversy. The area of discussion, of course, is considerably narrowed, the subjects being sub judice, or, as my right hon. Friend said, barred. It is this very fact that makes it all the more necessary that the Reports of these two Committees should be issued with the least possible delay. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire very truly said that with the questions that the Inter-departmental Committee has to inquire into, the question of territorial limits and other subjects, there is really no ground of complaint. I think it is a matter of considerable satisfaction that the inquiry is being carried out under the auspices of this Committee. As to the experiments which are being made, I am very thankful that they are to be continued throughout the autumn fish- 1137 ing, and presumably the best and most practical results will be obtained. I believe this Committee is taking evidence for and against the extension of the territorial limits, and I hope the chairman of the Committee will leave no stone unturned to secure the greatest amount of evidence. So far as the fishermen of the north-east of Scotland are concerned, I may point out that the secretary of the Scottish Fishery Association in that district has not yet come before the Committee. It is by far the most important body in Scotland, and the evidence of its secretary would be of the greatest possible value to the Committee. As to the other committee on loans to fishermen, the question has been so ably dealt with by my hon. Friend who spoke last that all I will say is that it is not by any means in the same need of praise. It was appointed in the year 1911. Six months have passed and no effort, apparently has been made to hurry forward the production of this Report. The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt) referred to the fact that the English Committee which was appointed to consider an exactly similar subject, and appointed a year after the Scottish Committee, have issued their Report, and a very excellent Report it is.
I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will definitely announce that we may expect this Report by a certain date, because I may tell him any further delay can only be regarded as a deliberate insult to those who take a deep interest in the financial aspect of the fishing industry in Scotland. The other matter, which has interested fishermen, is the damage which is continually done to draught nets by trawling. The amount of the damage is enormous. In one case of a constituent of mine, the damage amounted to £40. That case was brought to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and, fortunately, the name and number of the offending trawler was obtained. As a rule, those trawlers succeed very well indeed in concealing their identity. I was very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman really does intend to prosecute this trawler if he happens to possess the necessary legal powers. A prosecution would tend to make the trawlers more careful of what they were doing and where they are going. I should like to add my voice to the many who have preceded me in asking that these insular waters should be more vigilantly and systematically controlled. We have urged that there should be more efficient protection by 1138 cruisers. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may be able to arrange to have one—constantly in the Moray Firth, in order that this very important Grant of the fishing industry may receive more adequate protection. I have no doubt whatever that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the importance of the situation, and will readily enter into the feelings of the people in Scotland who look to him to provide protection. The hon. Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Ainsworth) dealt with a question in which the right hon. Gentleman could also assist.
I was very much struck with the point the hon. Member made. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has begun to realise how much is really expected of him by the fishermen in Scotland. He has a great opportunity for assisting these men. He has already done a great deal, I am bound to admit, in assisting us to get Grants for the improvement of harbours. That really in itself is not enough. I do not say so in any grudging spirit, but I hope he is willing to do more. As the hon. Member for Argyllshire pointed out his predecessor took the first step to solve the problem of the land in Scotland, and so I hope he will take the first step to solve the problem of the sea. The two cases are by no means dissimilar. The right hon. Gentleman not long ago in this House expressed his approval of what was being done to promote co-operation amongst agricultural small holders, and I hope to-night he will see his way to extend his blessing to those who are endeavouring to promote similar movements amongst the coast fishermen. The English Minister for Fisheries has expressed himself favourable to the establishment of co-operative societies amongst fishermen in England, on the lines of the recommendation of the Committee to which I have referred. If the right hon. Gentleman does me the honour of taking notice of what I am saying on this subject and gives us a word of sympathy, I may tell him it would be a very great encouragement to us to continue in the work which has just been begun for the first time outside the crofting areas. I hope also, if there is any hon. Member who disapproves of that endeavour, that he also will speak now or for ever hold his peace. There are other interests in the fishing industry, but those of us who have endeavoured and formed ourselves into a little Committee outside of this House to identify ourselves with the cause of those who are actually engaged in the labour of 1139 the industry, have great faith in the right hon. Gentleman's ability. We hope he will extend his hospitality to those engaged in the actual labour of the industry in order that he may hear every side of the question. In the meantime, I do trust that the right hon. Gentleman will speed up the two Committees, because it is exceedingly important that those of us who intend to stand again for fishing constituencies in Scotland should realise, as soon as possible, where we stand on these various questions which are of such vital importance to the men we desire to represent.
§ Captain MURRAY
The speakers who have taken part in this Debate to-night have, I think, without exception represented one particular class or other of the fishing industry in Scotland. They have all drawn attention to the great importance of the fishing industry to Scotland and the Scottish people, so that that aspect of the question needs no words of mine to lay emphasis upon it. I occupy a somewhat unique position in representing every kind and condition of fishermen. I represent trawlers, steam drifters, and liners, and small line boats, and salmon fishers, and I have no doubt a good many other fishers in my Constituency. Therefore, I look upon these questions from a point of view that takes into account the various grievances of one class of fishermen and another, and endeavour, so far as I am able, to further the best interest of each class as a whole. Reference has been made in this Debate to the question of loans for fishermen. That is a question of interest in my Constituency, and I think the sittings of the Committee should be expedited. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Cowan) said it was a matter of life and death to the fishermen. I suppose he referred to the coast of Aberdeen. I will not go so far as that, so far as it affects my own fishermen, but it certainly is a very urgent matter that we should have a decision. I do happen to know that very great progress is being made in the Constituency I have the honour to represent in the provision of motors for boats throughout the little fishing villages along the coast. They have co-operated in several instances, and motors are being rapidly put into the various boats, but further provision, I think is necessary. I do not wish to anticipate the findings of the Committee, but I think that in many instances where you find men unable to 1140 provide the necessary money, loans such as have been suggested would be very helpful.
Reference has been made to the subject of trawling for herrings. I do not think that trawlers need take any exception if it be decided that they are not to be allowed to trawl for herrings in certain areas. An agreement was imposed upon trawlers by themselves some years ago, whereby a very large area of some 2,000 square miles in the North Sea was closed to trawling for a definite period in view of the fact acknowledged by the trawlers that on that particular ground immature fish were being destroyed in large numbers. Therefore, I think that, when this Committee has reported, it is a subject upon which we can with impartial minds come to a decision which will do no harm to the trawling industry. The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. R. Harcourt) was not prepared to wait for the decision of the Committee on the question of the extension of the territorial limits. He takes the view that those limits ought to be extended; therefore, it does not matter, so far as he is concerned, what the Committee decides. I am perfectly convinced that without an international agreement it is hopeless to expect that we shall be able to extend our limits, if it be so decided, without at the same time a claim being made in respect of the territorial limits of foreign countries. I would urge upon the Secretary for Scotland, of whose sympathy in fishing matters generally in Scotland we Scottish Members are well aware, the desirability of expediting the proceedings of the Committee which is now considering these questions.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. G. N. BARNES
I desire to raise quite another matter, which I endeavoured to bring up by means of a special question last week. The Secretary for Scotland was good enough to obtain some information, but I was unable to press the matter further because at that time it was out of order. I refer to the alleged brutal conduct of the police at Leith and the failure of the local authority to take due cognisance of it and to raise proceedings upon it. As hon. Members are aware, there is a strike at Leith just now, and, according to custom, there have been imported into the town a large number of forces of the Crown, armed, some with batons and some with more deadly weapons. I will not comment upon that further than to say that it seems to me that the authorities are quite justified in 1141 bringing in forces when necessary to protect lives and property, particularly lives. But in this connection, according to my information, they have brought most untrustworthy and altogether unsuitable men into the town for that purpose. It was stated in a communication sent to me last week that 200 men had been imported from the surrounding cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, and, I think, Dundee, that many of these men were raw recruits, and that they had been guilty of certain very reprehensible conduct in the way of batoning peaceable citizens and actually provoking rather than preventing disturbance. I have here from a solicitor who, I am told, is a man of repute in Edinburgh, a long communication of a general character as to the conduct of these men. I will not read it all, but it contains some extraordinary statements, one of which is to the following effect:—The police practice is, 'If you dare to give evidence against us, then we shall make a charge against you, and you will not get any witnesses, for we will charge them too.' We have evidence"—When he says "we," he means the dockers for whom he is acting—We have evidence to show that the police deliberately provoked disturbance because they had the day before come to an agreement with the Dock Commission and the shipowners to stamp out a strike.
§ Mr. BARNES
Certainly; it is Mr. Sterling Craig. I was forwarded a full statement last week, but some of the allegations against the police were of such an extraordinary character that I felt loth to take them up at all until I had made inquiries as to this gentleman, and I was informed that he was a solicitor of good standing in the city of Edinburgh. His address was given, and I have here his note-paper with a printed heading: "Sterling Craig, M.A., LL.B., Solicitor, Supreme Court, 130, Princes Street, Edinburgh." That is the gentleman who first communicated with me with regard to the matter. Not satisfied with that, I said that I would not take the matter up unless he furnished evidence as to particular cases of brutality on the part of the police. It is in connection with one of those cases I desire to say a word or two. I put a question about this case last week, when the Speaker told me it was out of order, because he thought the local authorities had not then had an opportunity of doing their duty in the matter. Since then it has transpired that the local authorities 1142 had had an opportunity of doing their duty. Therefore it seemed to me to be a case in which the Secretary for Scotland should, if the facts are as stated, institute an impartial inquiry. To come from the general to the particular, according to the statement made to me, a young woman named Lizzie Campbell, twenty-one years of age, and a young man, John Buchan, twenty-five years of age, like many other couples probably, attended a dance at Portobello last Saturday week. They left the dance about 10.45, and, owing to the tram strike in Edinburgh at the present time, they had to walk home. Their way home was along what is called the Portobello Road, a lonely road, I understand, between Portobello and Leith. Along that road they were accosted by two policemen—I may say that I have the number and distinguishing letter of one of these two policemen—while two other policemen appeared on the scene about the same time. They dragged the young man away from the young woman and one of the remaining policemen pushed the young woman over a wall and attempted to outrage her. The young man went as far along the road as he could to get some help, and came back just in time to protect the young woman. All four of them were driven into the town of Leith, or towards the town of Leith, by the policemen with their batons. We have the evidence of the young man and the young woman and of the two men who went back with the young man so far as the two policemen who assaulted the young man are concerned. We have other evidence. I have submitted this evidence to the Secretary for Scotland. Ten witnesses, I believe, all made statements to Mr. Sterling Craig, and he has drawn them up in more or less legal form and sent them on to me, and I handed them over to the right hon. Gentleman. We are not dependent upon the young man and the young woman and the two men, who happened to be pickets in connection with the dockers' strike.
We are told that the whole four of them were driven in by the policemen towards Leith. At a certain part of the road there is a cul de sac where the young man and young woman were mistakenly making their way up to get home. Here they were assaulted once more by the policemen with their batons as they emerged from the cul de sac. We have witnesses that saw that assault on the part of the police—not only the docker 1143 and his friend, but people living in the houses overlooking that street end who had no connection with the dockers' strike. Although we have some eight, nine, or ten witnesses, whose names have been appended to their various statements drawn up by the solicitor whose name I have given, I was told last week that it was not in order to raise a question of this sort, because it was the duty—which is obvious—of the local authorities to look after the police. If the local authorities do not do so, then, of course, we have the right to invoke the aid of the Secretary for Scotland to use what machinery he has at his disposal to make them do it—if he finds it necessary so to do—or otherwise to have a thoroughly impartial inquiry into the allegations. I have another letter to-day from Mr. Sterling Craig as a direct answer to the question as to whether or not the attention of the local authorities, and of the chief constable, had been directed to the matter, because according to the reply given to me by the right hon. Gentleman last week he had a telegram from the chief constable in which the chief constable said:I have had no complaint of a young man and woman being attacked by policemen or others on the Portobello Road.I put that before Mr. Sterling Craig, and in a letter received from him to-day he says:The chief constable's telegram is not correct. I took two witnesses before him yesterday who had been at Leith Police Court at 12.15 on Saturday night. They told the sitting sergeant distinctly that they had lifted the policemen off the top of the girl, and that then both of the policemen had smashed them with their batons. No actual complaint was lodged by the girl because she was only fit for her bed, and was not in a condition to make any statement. Three separate charges of assault by the same drunken policeman were lodged with the police on the Saturday night, but the police did nothing.I do not say that all these allegations against the police are true. I hope not. But I do say that statements made on the authority of a solicitor—and I understand the statement is attested by ten witnesses—together with the statement of Mr. Sterling Craig himself as to the general character of police action in the town of Leith during the last few weeks are sufficiently important to warrant the Secretary for Scotland in taking action, if for no other reason than to protect the police themselves against statements of this sort going about unchallenged. Therefore, I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will have some information to give us as to the condition of things in Leith, and as to the character of the policemen that have been brought into Leith from outside places. If there is no satisfactory answer to these 1144 statements made by Mr. Sterling Craig and his witnesses, then I hope he will institute a thorough and searching inquiry into the whole proceedings.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Ure)
In reply to the very serious statements put forward by the hon. Member for the Black-friars Division of Glasgow, in his perfectly fair and moderate statement of the case, I may inform the House at once that in view of the criminal charge here involved, I have to-day given directions that a full and searching inquiry should be made into the circumstances of the case. I hope my hon. Friend will rest satisfied with that.
§ Mr. HUNT
I wish to bring up the question of Miss Jessie Brown. I feel obliged to say that I think the Government have behaved very badly in this case. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate in answer to a question in March said: "I am not aware of any allegations against Miss Jessie Brown, except those that were in the case that came before the Court." Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he made allegations against Miss Brown to an hon. Member who sits on the opposite side of the House.
§ Mr. HUNT
There was no mistake about it at all. I really do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should be so 1145 upset about the matter. The Lord Advocate said that there were no allegations now against this lady. I say it is known to Members upon both sides of the House that allegations have been made by Ministers to Members of Parliament against Miss Brown with the object of inducing them to withdraw from their endeavour to obtain compensation in her case. I say that is a fact, and it surely is a most serious matter that they should be made and used against Miss Brown by members of the Government. In reality that doubles her right for redress, and I am quite at a loss to understand how the Secretary for Scotland can say anything in defence of the Government in not doing justice in so flagrant a case. That is at all events how I understand it. These are the circumstances of the case: On a Saturday evening, 28th December, 1907, Miss Jessie Brown, the daughter of a Scottish minister since dead, was going home after visiting friends and when within a few minutes' walk of her house she stopped for a minute at a window of a shop and was at once charged by two plain clothes policemen and forced to go with them to the Southern Police Station. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that I have made very careful inquiries into this matter, and to the best of my belief everything I now venture to say is true. I have no object in bringing this matter forward so far as I am personally concerned, but I consider that there has been a grave injustice done to this woman, and that the matter ought to be, put right. I would point out in regard to both those policemen that they were subsequently fined for illegal arrest, and one of them was convicted of bigamy, so they were evidently a nice pair.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
Do I understand the hon. Member to say that he proposes to go back to 1907?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The hon. Gentleman will pardon me. This was a question for the Glasgow magistrates, but the Government have nothing to do with it, or with the prosecution.
§ Mr. HUNT
I must altogether differ from the right hon. Gentleman about that. Surely, if the Glasgow magistrates have done wrong, it is the business of the Secretary for Scotland to put things right. If that is not his business what the mischief is he paid for? I could not put it any plainer. I hope as this case is going on now that you will allow me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to go into it. At the Police Courts this unfortunate woman was charged with importuning men in the street.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I must inform the hon. Member that the Secretary for Scotland says he has no power to interfere with the magistrates in a question of this kind. Has the hon. Member looked into that point?
§ Mr. J. WARD
On a point of Order. I understand it was only quite recently that a petition was presented to the Scottish Office, over which the right hon. Gentleman presides, to do justice to this woman, and, if that is so, and it is within his jurisdiction, I should imagine that the hon. Gentleman is in order in discussing on this Vote a question as to why it is that the Scottish Secretary has not done justice in this case?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The petition does not make the thing in order. I am inviting the hon. Member to give me some primâ facie ground for showing that the Scottish Secretary has power to interfere. I am informed he has not.
§ Mr. BARNES
May I ask the Lord Advocate if he will tell the House the difference between this case and the one just disposed of. The Lord Advocate has agreed to have an inquiry into the action of the police in that case?
§ Mr. HUNT
This woman is to be accused of prostitution and convicted, and the prosecution is subsequently quashed, and is this woman for all these five years to lie under the odium of that conviction, and neither the Secretary for Scotland nor the Lord Advocate will move hand or foot to get this unfortunate woman redress.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I cannot, of course, discuss a question of Scottish law; but can the Lord Advocate inform me whether the Secretary for Scotland has any power in the matter?
§ Mr. URE
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend has no right to interfere in this matter. The prosecution to which the hon. Gentleman refers took place between five and six years ago. It was instituted in the Burgh Courts in Glasgow, and prosecuted by the Burgh Fiscal, and the magistrate who tried the case was one of the magistrates of Glasgow. He convicted the accused, but pronounced no sentence, but gave an admonition, and subsequently that conviction was quashed or set aside five and a half years ago by the High Courts in Edinburgh, and there the matter ends, and the Secretary for Scotland has no power of any kind to intervene.
§ Mr. HUNT
The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about five and a half years ago at all. What I said is perfectly true. Of course, if I cannot go into this case, there is no more to be said, but may I say this, that I think it is a most scandalous injustice that this woman has suffered, and I think it is a scandalous thing, if it is the law, that apparently neither the Secretary for Scotland nor anybody else can interfere to give justice to this woman! The right hon. Gentleman is a great suffragette, and it is enough to make anybody a suffragette to have a 1148 woman treated in the way those two right hon. Gentlemen treated this woman.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Really, I think the remarks of the hon. Member are perfectly outrageous, because neither the Lord Advocate nor myself had anything to do with the case. How the hon. Member, in view of those facts, can reconcile his statement with any sense of fairness or justice, I do not know. The subject of serious debate—
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The hon. Member has been ruled out of order on that question, and I should be out of order if I attempted to answer him. The question of the fisheries of Scotland is of the greatest importance—in fact, it is one of the great industries in that country, and one in which Scotland stands in the very forefront of the countries of the whole world. It is a more important thing in relation to the wealth of Scotland than the fishing industry in England. Hon. Members will appreciate its magnitude when I say that the value of the boats fishing in Scottish waters last year was £5,750,000, and the value of the catch was nearly £3,750,000. That was a record year for Scottish fishing. Anyone occupying my position who did not take an interest in the fishing question under these circumstances would be unworthy of his position. This year, so far as the fishing season has gone, the result has been far less satisfactory, but we are not yet at the end of the season, and, as everyone concerned with the fisheries is aware, the results fluctuate from year to year in a manner no one can calculate or anticipate. Still, it is a great and, on the whole, a very flourishing industry for Scotland, an industry which, by independent enterprise, has attained its present dimensions.
As an illustration of this I may mention that there are of Scotch-owned steam-propelled vessels over £2,500,000 worth, and that compares favourably with less than £250,000 ten years ago, so that they have increased tenfold in value in ten years. That the Government appreciates the importance of this industry is shown by the number of inquiries instituted dealing with various aspects of it. First of all, I will take the Hobhouse Committee, presided over by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. That Committee is considering the very difficult international question of 1149 the limits of territorial waters and also among other matters the question of trawling for herrings. That is a question which has not assumed very serious dimensions as far as the Scottish ports are concerned, but there has been considerable trawling for herrings from English and Continental ports, and the grave fear of Scottish fishermen is that this trawling will destroy the immature fish and interfere with the herring fisheries. When one considers the way in which the trawlers work and the small meshes employed, one cannot say that these fears are without foundation, and one cannot help feeling that this question of trawling for herrings may be a very serious question in the future, and may deal a blow to a very prosperous industry. Further, the Fishery Board has been anxious that the question should be dealt with and scientifically investigated, and they are using their trawler, the "Gold-seeker," to make trawls to see the effect of this kind of fishing, but unfortunately they were not successful in catching a great deal of fish, because the proper time to deal with the matter is the month of September and October; and the Fishery Board have applied to the Treasury for a small sum of money to enable them to fit out a proper staff to make a scientific investigation of the effect of trawling when the herring season is in full swing.
Meantime the Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend is considering other parts of their reference, and they will wait until these results have been obtained and given in evidence before them. I hope we shall be able to carry out this experiment in a satisfactory and conclusive manner. So much for one of the inquiries dealing with fishing. The other inquiry, which has been proceeding for two years, is dealing with a very much smaller industry. It is dealing with a large range of subjects, and was appointed to acquire experience by comparison of our system of administration with the administration of foreign countries. The small Committee which the hon. Member for Montrose said reported in a few months had to visit Devon and Cornwall only, but the Scottish Committee had to visit Norway, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and Germany, and, therefore, they have had a much larger field of investigation. It has to do with the question, among others, of proposed loans for motors, and that on a much greater scale than the English Committee 1150 which dealt with a very small business indeed compared with the the great Scottish fishing industry. I am not responsible for any delay in regard to their Report. I have communicated to them our desire on more than one occasion that they should report quickly, and I thought that the Report would have been out by this time. I certainly was informed that the last meeting of the Committee had taken place. Of course, it is not for me to say when a Committee like that shall report, because it is not under my control, but I think its work must now be nearly completed. I know the greater part of its Report has been in print for some considerable time, but we must make allowance for the fact not only that it has to deal with a wide field of investigation, but some of the subjects are very thorny ones, upon which there is a difference of opinion in the fishing industry amongst those best acquainted with it.
One or two questions have been raised as to the position of the fishermen who have suffered damage from trawlers, and as to the question of the protection of other kinds of fishermen from illicit fishing by trawlers. There is the case raised by the hon. Member for Banffshire and the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn, of cod fishing from harbours in the Moray Firth by anew method, or, to be more accurate, by an old method which had fallen into disuse but which has recently been revived. It has been used for three or four years, and has been most successful in the Moray Firth—I mean fishing with anchored nets. One of the difficulties of this method of fishing, with some at least of the fishermen—the habit varies with different fishermen—is that they go out, fix their nets, take up the catch, fix their fleet of nets again, and proceed to shore, sell their catch, and then return to their nets after a lapse of some hours, and, if the weather happens to be stormy, after some days. Difficulties have arisen and loss has been sustained by the damage caused by trawlers sailing through these nets. It is obvious that there is nothing to indicate the position of these nets at night, and that is one of the difficulties of the position. It is quite true that a buoy is put at the end of it with a flag upon it, but that is not visible at night, and as the fishermen leave the nets, according to the laws of the sea they are derelict, and nothing can be done to the trawler who destroys those nets. The problem is to find some remedy for the protection of the owners' nets. Of course, 1151 the suggestion that the cruisers should deal with the matter is quite a futile one, because you could not get one cruiser to ride each fleet of nets. It would cost more than the value of the nets and is obviously perfectly impossible. The Fishery Board have shown great ingenuity and earnestness in dealing with this problem, and are trying to arrange amicably with foreign countries to agree to a convention as to lights and a certain arrangement of lights as indicating the position of these anchored nets, which would be respected by the trawlers. I think that is the most reasonable suggestion for dealing with the matter that I have heard, and I certainly hope that it will be effective. So far, the representatives of foreign Powers whom we have approached have been most reasonable. Fishing matters of that kind have been arranged by an amicable agreement with Norway on other occasions. It does not seem to be a case of wilful damage. It is merely because the trawlers cannot see the nets in the dark, and drive in among them by accident.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Oh, yes, foreign trawlers are there. The other question which was raised is rather a complicated one, but I will try to explain it to the best of my ability to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wick Burghs (Mr. Munro). It relates to the unfortunate damage done to the nets of the fishing boat "Mafeking" by a trawler, which, at any rate, flies a foreign flag. Of course, it is extremely difficult to deal with a boat flying a foreign flag which is outside the territorial limit. If the boat had been within the three-mile limit, of course the Fishery Board could have dealt with it; but, as it was outside the three-mile limit when the damage was done, the Fishery Board are not able to deal with it. There are two things that can be done: One rather roundabout and complicated, and the other more practical and businesslike. I will venture to offer the two solutions to my hon. and learned Friend, and he is a far better judge as to which is better from the legal point of view, though from the business point of 1152 view I may express an opinion. The simplest thing from the business point of view would be for the owner of the boat, which has been injured, to wait until the vessel comes into a British port as it does regularly, because there are suspicions that although the boat flies a foreign flag the capital is not all foreign, and it would then be possible under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 to arrest the boat, it being a foreign boat, and she would in that case either have to pay damage or give security. The owner of the boat would be able to pursue her for the damage in the British Courts, instead of having to deal with a foreign boat in a foreign port. My hon. and learned Friend has asked me several questions as to the way of dealing with the matter, and, therefore, I venture to make these suggestions. If it could be shown that a foreign vessel which does damage, and then escapes could be dealt with in this way, it might be a useful thing as a lesson to other vessels. I cannot proceed against them. It is the owner who has suffered the damage who will have to proceed by that method.
There is another method of dealing with the matter under the Sea Fisheries Act of 1883. The Board of Trade can make representations to the Foreign Office as to this damage, and by an understanding the Foreign Office would make representations to the foreign Government, who would then prosecute, it being, of course, the understanding that in a similar case we would prosecute. That method, of course, is less direct and businesslike than the other, but it is still a practicable method of dealing with the matter. I think that it is very natural that my hon. Friend should press for information as to the methods of dealing with matters which, of course, always raise points of considerable difficulty. That, I think, is the answer to the question he put in his speech, whether there is any power to punish offenders who commit offences outside the three-lime limit. There was another question he put as to the official to whom complaints in cases like this ought to be made. In this case complaint should have been made to the superintendant of mercantile marine. If the offence had been committed within the three-mile limit, then it should have been made to the fishery officer.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Yes, I believe that information was given to an official of the Board of Trade who is not under my jurisdiction. I am glad to say that the complaints of illegal trawling within the three-mile limit are reducing in number. We have had fewer this year than in previous years, and the policing of the sea appears to be of increasing efficacy. The suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), that we might have wireless telegraphic communication is, I think, a good one if we can induce the Treasury to give us the necessary money. We are, of course, spending the whole of the money we have in hand now. I hope that this season, which has begun unfavourably, may improve. Although it is too much to hope that we shall have a record season as we had last year, I hope that the unprofitable character of the fishing industry will not continue, but, of course, it is one of the characteristics of the industry that it should be of a fluctuating nature. No one can follow the migration of the herring with scientific accuracy, and anyone engaged in it knows, of course, the vicissitudes of the trade. At the same time, taken as a whole, it is a great and prosperous industry, which has employed a great many people in Scotland and which has proved a great source of profit to the nation. I hope we shall be able to assist its prosperity in the future, and that we may again have a return of the prosperity which marked last season.
§ Mr. ACLAND ALLEN
I desire to ask the Secretary for Scotland what action he proposes to take with regard to industrial and reformatory schools in that country. As he knows, the Report of the Committee on English Industrial Schools, recently published, recommends certain rather wide changes—amongst other things, the placing of the inspection of education in these schools in the hands of the Board of Education. The Report was based to a considerable extent on the assumption that the inspection generally of the schools will be taken over by the Scottish Office, instead of its being done, as now, by an inspector of the Home Office in London. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered this point? Is it his intention to appoint a Departmental or some other Committee to inquire into 1154 the condition and necessities of the Scottish schools? There is a good deal to be said for the latter course, because it brings into touch with these schools people outside ordinary Departmental influences, not governed by the traditions, which may be somewhat hidebound, such as are held by those who have been managing these schools for a long time. It is a matter of considerable importance, because these changes are being made with regard to the English schools, and I understand that steps are actually being taken to ensure, as far as education is concerned, that the inspection of the English schools shall be taken over by the Board of Education. Therefore the Scottish schools cannot remain on their present footing. I should like to know if the inspection of the Scottish schools will be taken over by the inspectors of the Board of Education in Scotland. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has all these matters under consideration, and I trust he will give us some idea whether he proposes to appoint a Committee or whether he will simply adopt the findings of the Committee which has already held an inquiry.
I took the liberty when in Scotland last week of going to Leith to inquire into the condition of matters there. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) had blocked the Bill which affected Leith docks, and I found, in consultation with people at Leith, that the block was not affecting the strike or the shipowners in the slightest degree. Many of the latter are not at all concerned whether the Bill passes or not. I thought it my duty to inform the hon. Member that his block was not affecting shippers one way or the other, and I understand that he has now withdrawn it. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the latest information regarding the position of the strike at Leith? I took advantage of being there on Thursday to visit the strike committee and was told by them that all they were asking for was a wage equal to that earned by men at adjoining ports. On the face of it that seems a fair request to make. On the other hand, I found in consultation with one or two shipowners that they had a very great grievance at that port, inasmuch as restrictions on the raising of grain and other substances in ships very materially affected the quickness of unloading. One shipowner informed me that it took eight days to discharge a ship at Leith which could be discharged in two days at Rotter 1155 dam or Hamburg. I venture to ask the Secretary for Scotland for information as to the exact position of the dispute, because I am told authoritatively that, unless the strike comes to a determination at the end of the week, there is likely to be a general strike all over the country. I should look on that as appalling. I understand that negotiations have been going on, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to say if anything can be done to bring about an understanding between the parties to the dispute.
§ Mr. KING
I desire to raise a question directly affecting the Secretary for Scotland—one which seems to me a matter of the greatest national importance. It is in connection with his action in the case of the convict Graves, who was apprehended in April of last year on a charge of espionage, and who was shown to be a member of an international firm of spy agents on the Continent. He was kept in prison for three months, and last July was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. The prosecution, which was conducted by the Solicitor-General (Mr. Anderson), asserted that this man was a very dangerous character and that the information which he had was of a very deadly nature. It was stated in the course of the prosecution that the information which he was conveying abroad was likely to be of unusual value to enemies of this country. Although Graves did not plead guilty, he admitted at the end of his trial that he had been justly convicted, and had had a fair hearing. It came to the knowledge of the public only in June last that the man, who was admittedly a very capable and dangerous spy, was set free in December. Questions have been asked in the House by myself and others as to the reasons for this, but no explanation or justification of any kind has been given. I earnestly protest against the prerogative of mercy being utilised for a man of admittedly dangerous character, a man who has been justly convicted, and who, himself, admits his guilt. The matter has had a good deal of public attention owing to the publicity given to statements made by the man in New York. He says, or the man who figures under his name says, that he was set free in order to obtain for the Government of this country secret and confidential information of a spy nature abroad. No doubt it was for some reason of this kind that he was set free. I believe 1156 it is the first occasion known in which such a course has been adopted, and an undoubtedly very dangerous character has been set free in order to obtain spy information abroad. I protest against it. I believe it is contrary to the whole sentimental feeling of public opinion, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman for some information on the point. I trust he will give us an assurance that there will be no repetition of such action.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
By permission of the House I will answer the three questions put to me. In answer to the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Acland Allen) I would say that the question of the inquiry regarding industrial schools is engaging my attention. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. C. E. Price), I quite agree with him as to the immense importance of this strike, which, of course, has given rise to scenes of considerable violence, by which public order has been gravely disturbed. I regret that I am not able to give him much information on the subject, because the conciliation which is being attempted is under the control of the President of the Board of Trade and Sir George Askwith, and any information upon the subject my hon. Friend will have to obtain from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. With regard to the point raised by the last speaker, I am afraid I cannot add anything to the answers I have given. I cannot quite understand my hon. Friend's position, because I believe he has a difference of opinion with the Home Secretary on the ground that he has refused to liberate a spy, and with me because I did liberate a spy.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
My hon. Friend makes two assumptions, first, that we obtained information for which the spy was liberated—that is a pure assumption; and, secondly, that he knows the reason why the other spy was not liberated, which is another pure assumption. I am unable, in the public interest, to give him the information he desires, and I regret very much that I am unable to gratify his desire for information.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
The last few words of the right hon. Gentleman mean that the statements which have appeared in the American Press relating to the reasons for the release of this man were absolutely correct.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Not at all. Those statements included matters which have been denied entirely by those involved in them, and my hon. Friend is not justified in making that remark.
§ Question put, and agreed to.