§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £12,250, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of. March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Fishery Board for Scotland and for Grants in Aid of Piers or Quays."—[NOTE.—£8,000 has been voted on account.]
On a point of Order. Is it possible that this Vote might be postponed, seeing that no Report has come from the Fishery Board? We are unable to consider that, owing to the fact that we have no Report of last year's proceedings, and I should like to move that this Vote be postponed.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
That is not a point of Order. The Vote has been set down, and it is my duty to put it to the Committee, and I know that some hon. Members are prepared to speak upon it.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
I should like to say, in reference to what the last speaker has said, that I have every sympathy with him in regard to what he has said about the Report of the Fishery Board, but I think there are certain topics which can conveniently be raised. I remember myself, 1953 in happier days before the War, dealing with the subject of fish, a most entrancing and alluring topic which I brought to the notice of the House at great length, and, though I say it that should not, with no inconsiderable research in spite of that, it is definitely on record that an utterance of mine at one o'clock in the morning, on the relation of the Bell Rock to the doctrine of the three-mile limit, kept at least one English Member awake to the extent of nearly a column in the "Morning Leader." The Secretary for Scotland, whatever his personal opinions, is estopped from saying I talked bad law, because, being a private Member at the time, I believe he actually followed on the same side. War has changed many things. I have had some practical experience of the three-mile limit. It used to depend on the principle of ubi finitur quercuum vis. I have myself shot out to sea from an Egean island, which shall be nameless, well over three miles with a weapon of comparatively modest calibre. I only say this because I desire to peg out a claim—political life is a little uncertain—on behalf of the line fishermen at Arbroath in the present or late constituency of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, and, indeed, in the constituencies of others of my hon. Friends, to a considerable extension of that doctrine in days when the principle of the freedom of the seas is established in a British, not in a German, sense. But there has been a curious inversion of fishing politics as to the proper limits of trawling. I fear that the vexed question of trawling must remain, shall I say, quiescent during the War. But there has been—and that is my reason for referring to this portion of the topic of sea fishing as distinct from fresh-water fishing—quite recently a rather curious inversion of what I might call the official views as to the proper limits of trawling. Courts inflicted heavy penalties for illegal trawling this year, and, following upon it, the Fishery Board have since, by arbitration—and they did right without coming to this House—permitted in certain conditions, and within certain areas, trawling within the three-mile limit as a war measure.
I understand that this was actually done at the request of the line fishermen themselves, who had previously most strongly opposed it, but I understand this is confined to specified types of vessels with specified types of nets. I have sufficiently described the point for the opinion of my 1954 right hon. Friend, on which I should be glad to have a reply. Of course, I must not be taken as agreeing, and I do not think he himself would be taken as agreeing with that on the broad question of food supply. That is wise as a permanent measure. Of course, there remains to be considered the question of spawning grounds and of nurseries for young fish, and I think it would be very convenient for the information of fishermen themselves in Scotland if my right hon. Friend I would take this opportunity of making a general statement of what has been unquestionably a departure from policy in this regard. I also desire to raise a quite separate topic as to fishing with rod and line on all lochs and streams—what is known as free fishing. This has been raised again with considerable vigour quite recently, but I would emphasise the fact that this is not by any means a new question. I remember at my first election in Forfarshire having this topic brought to my attention. The general question is this, How far landlords, proprietors, riparian owners, whatever you choose to call them, are entitled to claim that a limited number of human beings are alone to take fish for food by methods which are in themselves perfectly legitimate and sportsmanlike? The contention which is advanced is that this exclusive claim is not justified either in law or as a matter of policy. I will refer at once to the well-known point, that I am not entitled on these Estimates to argue the question of legislation owing to the Rules of the House, and, indeed, had the Rules of the House permitted me, I would not have desired to argue it at all upon this occasion. Because, to my mind, the Secretary for Scotland could himself do a great deal by personal influence in the matter. I have myself drawn his attention to very widely-signed petitions from my own Constituency—one from Forfar, I think, at the end of March of this year, and another quite recently, within the last few days, from Montrose.
I told the petitioners at Forfar at the time that legislation under existing Parliamentary conditions was not very promising. But there are, as is well known, angling associations. They are getting to work. They are responsible bodies and represent very large numbers of fishers, responsible and respectable men. They would be in a position, I think, to guarantee legitimate methods of fishing and to give some sort of security 1955 against wilful damage. What I desire to put before my right hon. Friend is this, that if the angling associations undertook to negotiate with the owners, are they not entitled to expect the good will—indeed, I personally would go so far as to say the active assistance—of the Scottish Office? I do not wish to develop this point, because other of my hon. Friends are prepared to emphasise it, but I should like to add my personal point of view. Many of us have lived during the War in lands where perhaps natural rights have been more conspicuous than landlords' rights. In the aerodrome where I lived for some time, for instance, there was no more private property in a game bird than in a mosquito. It was a question of who had a gun or a cartridge and not who had a board with "Trespassers will be prosecuted." I doubt if, when men come back from the War, whether you will get the jealous regards for landlords' vetoes which used to be regarded as part and parcel of the British Constitution. I do not wish to enter into any disquisition on the Game Laws. I confine myself entirely to this special case. I want to be understood as saying there is no reason to suppose that the riparian owners are not perfectly amenable to argument. I never desire to attack a man before he has been given, at any rate, the opportunity of coming to an amicable and honourable agreement, and I believe it would be fair to say that some of them have always permitted the right which is being claimed at the present moment. The question has certainly grown both in urgency and importance, and my right hon. Friend will be acting in accordance with a real and genuine popular opinion if he himself will give a lead in the matter, and will use his good offices to see whether this long outstanding question cannot be settled by agreement, and, I would add, cannot be settled at an early date.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
I should like, in the first place, to supplement what my hon. Friend opposite has said in his later remarks. With his experience and his views regarding the three-mile limit I am less acquainted and less interested, but in all that he said on the subject of line and rod fishing in lochs and rivers I am in cordial agreement, and I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend will take his views into consideration. It has been already pointed out that on this particular Vote we are at a great disadvantage by 1956 reason of the fact that we have no Report from the Fisheries Board before us. That disadvantage is increased by the fact that another Report, the second interim Report of the Select Committee on Scottish Fresh Water Fisheries, which was presented to my right hon. Friend as long ago as 27th March this year, is not before the Committee in the ordinary sense. Numerous inquiries have been made by myself and my hon. Friends interested in this matter why the Report has not appeared. We have never been told why it should not have seen the light of day. We have merely been informed that my right hon. Friend has been engaged in a careful and close scrutiny of the matters arising out of it, and we now find ourselves in the position that this Report, which, as I say, is dated 27th March, 1918, has actually found its way into the offices of newspaper editors, and has been made the subject of comment and quotation in the public Press, while Members of this House are unable to get a copy of it from the Vote Office.
I think it is not unfair comment to say, in the first place, that, in view of the approach of this Debate, the Report, which has been in existence so long, and about which my right hon. Friend has known that there has been a great deal of legitimate and not unfriendly interest, might have been made available; and, in the second place, that for the future in all similar matters it surely lies with the Scottish Office to see that documents which are ready for going out for comment in the public Press are at least ready at the same time for the use of Members of this House who may wish to see them. I am personally indebted to the courtesy of my right hon. Friend for the copy of this document which I hold in my hand. It covers ground less far-reaching and less important than those matters which have been dealt with hitherto this afternoon, but nevertheless it is a document containing certain concrete practical suggestions of a by no means unimportant kind. It deals with the question of fisheries from two points of view. There is, first, the question of fisheries as a means of increasing our food supply—a more immediately important question—and there is, secondly, the question of fishing from the point of view which has already been put by my hon. Friend opposite. As a means of increasing the food supply of this country, the Committee point out that further steps can quite well be taken. 1957 They allude to such matters as the increase of netting for certain varieties of coarse fish, and the increase in the use of set lines for the same purpose. With regard to the more difficult and vexed questions of the taking of salmon and sea trout, they lay down certain general propositions which are important enough to warrant me in asking the Committee to let me quote. This is what they say:We consider that the pursuit of salmon angling must, as far as necessary, give place to the need for food supply.They base certain practical suggestions on that broad principle. They recognise that certain rivers in Scotland are already as fully fished as they can be from the nature of the case, but at the same time they declare that there are certain other rivers from which an additional supply of salmon and sea trout can certainly be obtained by more extensive netting, and that there are yet more rivers in which no netting has taken place at all, and it is to these that they draw attention for the purpose of this increase. They do not stop there. They proceed to say that the selection of the rivers to be so treated should, in their opinion, rest with the Inspector of Salmon Fisheries with the consent of the Fishery Board for Scotland. This gentleman is to say, having regard to the merits and the circumstances of each case, which streams should be so netted. They recognise, as practical men, that while, happily, there is likely to be a very large measure of consent on the part of owners and others interested that more fish should be taken from the rivers in the national interest and that their view about it is likely to be generally responded to, there will probably be cases of unwillingness, and they suggest that an Order under the Defence of the Realm Act may be necessary in order to meet such cases. There are certain concrete and practical suggestions for an immediate increase in our food supply in this fourth year of war which is a matter of very urgent necessity, and we are entitled to ask the reason for the delay in dealing with them. What has caused the delay? Where has the block been? Who has been stone-walling these proposals? What are the negotiations with the Treasury to which my right hon. Friend referred when I put a question to him on this subject a few weeks ago? In spite of his assurance at that time that he is very anxious about this matter and desirous of pressing it on to some practical result with the least possible delay, I am 1958 sure he will be the first to admit that the circumstances of the case, so far as they stand at present, are distinctly against him and that without further explanation his profession of anxiety to push this matter forward is very hard to reconcile with this delay. I hope that this afternoon he will be able to give us not merely some explanation as to why nothing has been done until a large portion of the suitable season has already gone by, but also some assurance that something is in shape now, or is going to be in shape shortly, whereby these suggestions may be put into force.
I will say a further word on a matter to which I have already alluded and which has been dealt with at some length by the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Harcourt). Free fishing, as it is called, is no doubt relatively unimportant as a means of producing food, but it has a distinct utility—the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit it—from certain other points of view. The Committee in their present Report suggest that agreements should be found between riparian owners and popular angling associations for the extension of that practice. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose Burghs that that is not going far enough. It is not going as far as I should like to see the Scottish Office go. When there is found a great body of keen anglers, prepared to play the game, prepared to regularise and extend this sport on a popular basis—with that existing on the one side and a great body of public spirit and good will existing on the other side on the part of riparian owners, the Scottish Office is not playing a very distinguished part in merely standing by with folded hands and saying, "Let them make private agreements amongst themselves." Here is eminently a case in which the right hon. Gentleman can step in as amicus curiœ and take active steps in bringing together all those who are prepared to make arrangements on this matter. In that direction he can go a long way towards the solution of the question, which is not without difficulty, but which I am sure is capable of solution with common sense and good will on both sides. The prospects in that direction are so promising that I urge him most carnestly to consider whether he cannot tell us this evening that he is prepared to take active steps towards extending and making very widespread, if not universal, these agreements.
1959 I say that with the more insistency because both this question of what is popularly called free fishing and the kindred question of the taking of salmon from Scottish streams are interwoven so closely with the question of poaching. I am not going to enter at this moment into the ethics of poaching, nor am I going to ask the right hon. Gentleman to do so, but I would point out this to him: He is perfectly well aware that every year, and this year, perhaps, more than in most years, the taking of salmon from Scottish rivers otherwise than by legal lure has been going on, not merely on a big scale, but in the broad light of day, not merely winked at but openly regarded and taken almost as a matter of course of everyday proceeding. My right hon. Friend will agree, I am sure, that, whatever may be the ethics of poaching, it cannot be a salutary thing that if a law exists it should be broken in that downright and wholesale fashion in the light of open day. There is something wrong about the state of the law which permits that extent of popular recognition and toleration of poaching which must underlie such an habitual course of proceeding. I am not going to suggest precisely what the remedy is, but this I do say, that if he, as the responsible head in these matters, will see to it that our streams yield, by whatever methods, the maximum amount of human food they are capable of yielding, he will to that extent provide himself and provide the representatives of law and order with an answer, which they lack at present, to those who say that they are not going to stand by and see the rivers maintained merely as a preserve for the taking out of a handful of fish, when far larger quantities can be removed from the streams without any damage to the streams or to the maintenance of the supply of fish by these other methods. That is true of the taking of salmon. It may be in other ways true of the methods by which trout and other fish are taken from the streams under the present restrictive conditions. I urge the right hon. Gentleman most strongly to take a lead in this matter; if need be, to take his courage in both hands, and to show that he is determined to put the whole question on a sounder and, as I think, a fairer footing. He may rest assured that if his Department remains supine and procrastinating on this question, neither the landlord 1960 element on the one side nor that vast body of public opinion on the other side which looks at the matter from the point of view of the working man will hold him and his office in very high esteem. He will get, and I am sure he will deserve, neither thanks nor credit from either party unless and until he will take some practical step on this question. I hope, therefore, that what I have ventured to urge on him to-night will not fall on deaf ears, but that he will, in the first place, put this document immediately at the disposal of Members of the House, announce to us without delay what the immediate practical steps are to be, and, further, that he will lay down some general lines of policy which he proposes to adopt towards the solution of the fishing problem, generally speaking, in Scotland.
§ Mr. GULLAND
I am sorry I have not had the privilege which the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Barran) seems to have had of seeing this very valuable Report. I could have hoped it would have been out before this discussion to-day. I should like to associate myself with everything that my hon. Friend has said with regard to the matter of free fishing and angling generally. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do something before the season proceeds much further, because everyone, who, like myself, is an enthusiastic angler, knows that over the most of Scotland the best time for angling has already passed. I, for one, look forward to spending some part of my vacation—if there is a Parliamentary vacation—somewhere in Scotland where I can have a chance of catching some trout, and if I can get access to waters and lochs which are not usually available, where I have a better chance of getting a good basket and thereby helping the national supply of fish, I shall be only too glad. I am sure that the large number of people in Scotland and England who are keen anglers would like to know as soon as possible what facilities there will be for either free fishing, or paid fishing, or regulated fishing, or whatever it may be called, and that it will be made known in time to enable them to catch some fish.
I want to talk about the other facilities for fishing. For instance, to go to a part of the world which has not been mentioned in this discussion, there are in the South and West of Scotland many bays and waters, such, for instance, as "Luce" Bay, where trawlers might, I think, very well be allowed to fish. I have brought this matter to the attention of the right 1961 hon. Gentleman again and again, but during the War, where so many places are naturally closed to fishermen, there are many bays and inlets of the sea where trawling might justifiably be allowed without doing anyone any harm and with the distinct advantage of adding to the national supply of fish and thereby reducing the price the people have to pay for it. The chief matter I wish to bring to my right hon. Friend's attention is the question of the salmon fishing in the Sol-way Firth. There is a strong feeling in the South of Scotland that the time for fishing salmon in the Solway should be extended for a fortnight. At present the closing date of the River Annan is 9th September, and all the interests on the Solway are in favour of extending it for a fortnight. By law there must be 168 days close time in the twelve months. There is no question of reducing that. Everyone who is interested is quite prepared to give up fourteen days at the beginning of the season and to extend the open time by fourteen days at the end of the season. Salmon are very kittle fish, and they have curious ways of doing things, and their habits, at any rate in that part of the world, have changed of recent years. They are running up very much later than they previously did. The fourteen days at the beginning of the season are worth very little so far as catching fish is concerned, but fourteen days at the end would be of great value. That is all the more reason why I should like that Report to be published at the earliest possible moment, because it would enforce my argument. The matter has been before the Annan Town Council, which is very greatly interested in the matter, and it unanimously requested the Annan Fishery Board to present a petition to the Secretary for Scotland to grant this extra time. The Annan Fishery Board refused. The chairman, Mr. McGlasson, a very competent expert, said there could really only be two reasons why the matter should be refused. One was, would the alteration of date injure the interests of the riparian proprietors, and the second was, would it reduce the number of salmon migrating to the rivers for breeding purposes. With his practical experience of thirty-seven years, he gave an emphatic No to both questions. On that committee is the Scottish salmon inspector, and if he also gives that as his opinion it seems to 1962 me that that is conclusive. The River Annan—and it applies, I know, to the Nith and other rivers in the South of Scotland—is overstocked with salmon at the end of the season.
§ Mr. GULLAND
There was a division. The Annan Fishery Board turned it down by a majority. I think it was four to three or four to two, or something like that. It was the up-river people who voted against it, and the Solway people who voted for it. The rivers are overstocked at the end of the season, and the result is disease, which does no one any good. Instead of getting good wholesome fish, which could be used and sold, and would be of great service to the national supply, you only get later on diseased fish, which are of no use to anyone. The rentals of the minority represented on the Annan Fishery Board, favouring the extension, amounted to £2,123 10s., and the rentals of the up-river proprietors, who were in the majority, was only £170, so the big interest is that of the Firth. The burgh of Annan is interested to an extent, and so are the interests that my right hon. Friend represents in connection with the Government. The Secretary for War now draws a rental of £200 from the Solway fishing, and the Crown, in respect of the new areas of land that it has bought there, has a rental of £426; so that the right hon. Gentleman is interested in his capacity as a member of the Government, apart from the interests of the people of Scotland. I know my right hon. Friend is very favourable to this. He has been extremely good about it, and has allowed it to be known that if the Annan Fishery Board declared in favour of the extension he would be very glad to agree. It is really only a matter of legal procedure that prevents this being done, and I suppose legally the Secretary for Scotland is not entitled to do it except on the petition of the Annan Fishery Board. But many things can be done nowadays, not according to the ordinary law, but under the Defence of the Realm Acts. There is a great need for increased food, and the Food Controller, whose death we all deplore, has expressed himself again and again in favour of every opportunity being taken of increasing the the supply of food, and there is no 1963 better or more wholesome food—and I believe we often eat it in this House—than Solway salmon. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman devise some means by which this can be granted as a war measure? The matter presses, because 9th September will be upon us very soon, and if the Government is to act it must act quickly; Therefore, I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to grant this fortnight's extension.
§ Mr. MUNRO
The Debate on this Vote recalls to me recollections of what now seems to be the dim and distant past, when many of us who represent fishing constituencies addressed much larger audiences than I am addressing now upon these engrossing and important topics. My hon. Friend (Mr. Harcourt) referred to the Fishery Board Order permitting a limited form of trawling. It is quite true that an Order was made by the Fishery Board, with my consent, authorising beam and otter trawling within three miles of low-water mark along a certain stretch of coast of Forfarshire and Kin-cardineshire. A request for the relaxation of that Order came from the line fishermen. At the same time other line fishermen presented a petition against the proposed Order. After carefully considering the whole matter, the Fishery Board came to the conclusion that the Order should be made, and they made an Order extending the period from 1st March to the 13th April this year. The main reason which animated the Fishery Board in taking that line was that, as a rule, fishing is less productive off that particular coast during those two months, in consequence of the spawning season, than at any other period, and it was hoped by permitting trawling under certain conditions during that period a contribution to the food supply of the country would be achieved which would not otherwise be accomplished. The permission granted was limited in various respects. It was limited in respect of the size of the vessel. Permission was granted to vessels not exceeding 45 ft. That meant in practice that the only vessels which came within that description controlled by mechanical power were motor-boats. Other conditions related to the size of the mesh and the maximum size of the fish which it was permissible to land. These restrictions were placed upon this limited form of permission, and we are in a position to judge of the result so far. The policy represented 1964 by this Order is that of removing restriction upon methods of fishing that can properly be done in the interests of the food supply and without endangering the productivity of the fishery. As I have indicated before, the scale of the experiment was limited to an Order full of necessary safeguards, it must not be inferred for a moment that any general Order permitting trawling within the three-mile limit by all classes of vessels can be thought desirable, or that this should form a precedent for any such request. The result of opening the waters in question was quite disappointing, and my information is that most of the fishermen have already abandoned trawling operations. The experiment has had a full opportunity of being tested, and the result is not what we had hoped so far as increasing the food supply is concerned. That is all I can say on that point.
Another point is that of free fishing. I am sure you would immediately call me to order, Mr. Hogge, were I to deal with that subject from the point of view of the legislation which is required to give effect to the argument of my hon. Friends. Accordingly I do not touch it from that point of view. I did receive, early in the year, from the Border Angling Association, and certain petitioners in Forfarshire, representations in favour of free fishing, and my hon. Friend questioned me about this on 6th March, when I said that I was in consultation on the subject with the Fisheries Board and the Freshwater Fisheries Committee. On the 9th April, in reply to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, I gave an answer that I had consulted both the Board and the Committee, and both of these bodies were of the opinion that no material addition to the food supply would result, and I saw no reason to differ from that conclusion. I adhere to that view still. This question may be regarded from two different standpoints. It may be suggested on the one hand that a valuable addition to the food supply can be obtained if these facilities were given. A more general point of view might be taken that it is right that people should have fuller access to the rivers and lochs of the country than they now possess. On the first point, as regards increased food production, I do not think any of my hon. Friends who have spoken will dispute the view taken by the Freshwater Fisheries Committee that it is an unimportant matter. In other words, 1965 so far as rod and line are concerned, fishing in in a river or in a loch is not likely to produce very important results as affecting the food supply of the nation, and the people who use their rod and line during the day might be more usefully employed in using a hoe and a spade in the present state of things. From that point of view, the increasing of the food supply, I am not very greatly impressed by the necessity of my intervention. One has important duties to perform at the present time, and whether or not this subject is sufficiently important to warrant me in endeavouring to bring the people concerned together, is a matter for consideration. I suggest that it would be desirable if riparian proprietors and the angling associations would meet and endeavour to come to some amicable arrangement between themselves.
§ Mr. HARCOURT
My right hon. Friend was good enough to confer with me at the time, and I passed on the suggestion. I hope he will be able to deal with the point.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I hope in both cases something followed upon the suggestion, but neither of my hon. Friends seem to be in a position to tell me that anything did follow. If local enterprise is exhausted, if the resources of local civilisation are exhausted, and if every effort has been made to bring them together and has failed, I will consider whether or not it is possible for me to endeavour to achieve what has not been found possible locally. I should be very happy to reconsider the matter in the light of any further information, but I do think, looking at the unimportance of the question from the point of view of the food supply, which is corroborated by the Freshwater Fisheries Report, I am justified in suggesting to both my hon. Friends that first of all local effort should be made. Whether or not that has taken place, they are not able to tell me. If they come and tell me that local effort has been made and it has failed, then I would be very willing to confer with them again as to whether or not my services would be of value in the matter. Further than that at present I do not think I can reasonably be expected to go. I regret that the Report of the Fisheries Committee was not published before this Debate. I understand that so far as the Fishery Board Report is concerned, some of my hon. Friends were under a misapprehension in thinking that 1966 it has not been published. I understand that the main Report was presented on the 19th June.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
I asked for a Report of the Fishery Board in the Vote Office this afternoon and could not get it.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am merely passing on the information I have received. I much regret it that the Report is not available. It was presented on the 19th June, and I will have inquiries made why it was not available, as I had assumed it was, in the Vote Office for hon. Members to-day. My information was that the only Report which was not available was the Land Court Report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries Burghs referred to the question of Luce Bay, and I shall have it again considered as he has brought it up to-night. There is also the question of salmon fishing in the Solway Firth. My right hon. Friend knows quite well the difficulties—he himself has stated them—however he may analyse the majority and minority vote from the point of view of rental. That may be a fair enough test. I am not concerned to dispute it. Nevertheless you have a divided local board, and there are certain difficulties not only legal, but real, in the way of my taking action and overruling the local board. But as my right hon. Friend has pressed it upon my attention I will have that matter also again considered in the light of what has happened and see what can be done. Further than that at the moment I am afraid I cannot go, and I do not think that my right hon. Friend would expect me.
§ Mr. MUNRO
That I must frankly admit I have not considered. I will look into it from the point of view, first, as to whether I have got the power, and, second, as to whether I should exercise it. I think that I have dealt with the various points raised. I am very much indebted to my hon. Friends for the speeches which they have made and I shall bear their views in mind.
There are some questions which I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the Fishery 1967 Board. I have in my Constituency several shipyard workers who spend their weekends on different parts of the Clyde catching fish, and during the last twelve months they have been prevented from following that pleasant occupation through their inability to get petrol for their motor boats. The Petrol Commission have refused licences to these men, and they have been unable to follow that occupation during the summer months. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would bring pressure to bear upon the Petrol Commission to set free a certain quantity of petrol for these men? I need not mention that it is very advisable that during the week-end they should have some sort of occupation and pleasure. They are working during the week in the shipyards, and the strain during that time is very great, and if they can during the week-end spend time profitably and pleasantly in fishing in the lower reaches of the Clyde, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will think that it is a national advantage. Then there is another point, if it is in order. That is in reference to the price that may be paid by the Food Controller to the fishermen in Scotland for their fish.
I have no desire to question your ruling, but I am sure that you are willing to give a little latitude to myself and hon. Members in raising this point. The point is that the Fishery Board should be consulted by the Food Controller if the Food Controller decides to fix the price of fish in the immediate future in Scotland. Having put myself in order, I may draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that in the past the fishermen in the North Sea have not received a fair percentage of the price of fish. These men, plying their trade in these dark and difficult waters, are receiving a small reward for their services in comparison with—
My point is that the Fishery Board should lend all their influence and all their power to press the claims of fishermen when the Food Controller decides to fix the price.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is quite in order to suggest that they should do that, but my hon. Friend cannot pursue the subject further.
Having made my point, I will only ask the hon. Member (Mr. Pratt) to bear these remarks in mind and consider the claims of these poor men in the immediate future.
§ Sir J. BARRAN
I must press my right hon. Friend to give the Committee an answer to the specific point which I made in the course of my previous remarks on the recommendations of the Committee with reference to increased salmon netting. Their Report was presented to us on 27th March. The right hon. Gentleman has assured us again and again that he has been considering that Report, and that he has had lengthy correspondence with certain individuals about it, and has been in touch with the Treasury on the subject, but as yet he has made no announcement as to what he is going to do, and this afternoon, in response to my question, he has not stated what he has done or is going to do. It is not unreasonable that I should take this opportunity of getting something definite stated on the matter. The best part of the season is slipping away. Here are recommendations not without value for the purpose of achieving certain objects. These recommendations include resort, if necessary, to action on his part under the Defence of the Realm Act. Yet I understood him, in reply to my right hon. Friend, to say that he has not yet considered whether he can take such action. If I have misunderstood him on that I am very glad, and no doubt he will correct me, but I beg that he will, in a few words, give the Committee a clear answer on some of these points, and set at rest a great deal of criticism.
§ Mr. WATT
There is a small point which I have put forward in the form of questions. That is the system of sending over-iced fish to markets, such as Glasgow market. That is the market to which I particularly refer. Boxes are sent with an over-supply of ice, and when they are opened they are found to contain not so much fish as ought to be in such boxes, but an unduly large quantity of ice. In some instances, I am told, that when buyers are supposed to be buying 180 lbs. of fish they find, on opening the box, that they have only 150 lbs. of fish, and that they have 30 lbs. of ice. The rule in the 1969 markets is that if attention is called to the fact that the boxes have been over-iced on the day on which the transaction takes place, and before the fish leave the market, some consideration would be given to the buyer. But in working this out it is found that if buyers, especially small buyers—and it is for them that I am speaking—seem dissatisfied on opening the box after the purchase, the result is that the auctioneers do not see or hear their bids on subsequent occasions. They, therefore, suffer by that complaint when they attend to get fish at the ensuing sales. I have brought this matter to the attention of the Fishery Board before, and they asked mo for specific cases. But buyers do not like to give their names, as they think they suffer injustice. Rightly or wrongly they think they have suffered for having given specific complaints to the Fishery Board. For my part, I think the Fishery Board should themselves take the intitiative by intervening in these markets to see that the boxes are labelled with the exact weight of fish, or endeavour to adopt some other remedy. May I congratulate you, Mr. Hogge, on the very great honour of occupying the Chair. There is an old adage that the poacher makes the best gamekeeper, and we have seen that adage justified to-night by the particularly smart manner in which you called my hon. and gallant Friend to order when he was only following your own lead.
§ Question put, and agreed to.