§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Noel Buxton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It will be difficult to enlarge the discussion on the Bill for which I now ask a Second Reading. The Sea Fisheries Regulation (Expenses) Bill seeks merely to rectify an omission which arose by inadvertence in the passage of the Local Government Act of last year. Section 52 of that Act empowers county councils to defray travelling expenses incurred by members of the council or of any committee thereof to which the Section applies. The sea fisheries committees are in effect committees of county councils, and the majority of them are coterminous with the county in the area which they represent. Section 52 applies to them. It, however, goes on to say:This section shall apply to any committee of the county council appointed for the discharge of functions throughout the whole area for which the county council is charged with those functions, and shall also apply to any sub-committee or joint committee so appointed as if it were a committee of the council.Sub-section (5) defines a joint committee asa joint committee or joint board appointed by a county council jointly with the council of another county or of a borough or with a court of quarter sessions.Therefore, the power of paying travelling expenses is limited to those committees of county councils whose area is coterminous with that of the county council as a whole, or, in the case of a joint committee, with the combined area of the two county councils. This provision in the Local Government Act omitted to take account of three particular areas, 1711 where the fishery committee is not coterminous with the county. In Cornwall, Kent, and Lindsey there is more than one sea fishery committee in the county. Therefore, it is now, under the present wording, illegal to pay the travelling expenses of those committees. The simplest way of rectifying the anomaly is by an amendment of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act, 1888, under which the committees are constituted. The present Bill is, therefore, drafted with that small and limited object in view. No new question of principle is involved at all.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
The right hon. Gentleman has been very chary in giving the House very much information with regard to the subject of this Bill. I do not see that there is any need to be ashamed of it, nor do I consider that the provisions are as depressing as the right hon. Gentleman, by his demeanour, would have us believe. He might have elucidated several points a great deal further than he did. He may say, perhaps, that it is largely a question for the county councils themselves; that it is largely a question of their interpretation of the Act. What is actually meant by these travelling expenses? What are the county councils actually entitled to refund? Do travelling expenses merely mean railway fares? Have the county councils, as a general rule, merely to interpret it in that way, or does it mean also that a member of a committee is entitled to recover his out-of-pocket expenses; for example, his lunch, or, should it be necessary for him to spend a night away from home, would he be entitled to recover all the expenses he thereby incurred?
There is also another point. It is very well-known that the districts which a good many of these fishery committees cover are very large, or, at any rate, very considerable areas. In many cases the railway facilities from port to port are of a very secondary character. If you wish to go from one port to another it often means that you have to go 10 or 15 miles inland to a junction, and then come back to the port on the seacoast, a journey of 20 or 30 miles in order to get to a place which by road is only eight or 10 miles away. I should like to know whether county councils in their interpretation of this provision consider that it enables 1712 them to make an allowance for the use of a motor car. That would save the representative time and money, and might easily result in the work being done in half or quarter the time. I do not know how county councils are interpreting the provisions of the Act, but I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether travelling allowance is being permitted on a liberal scale, not so much in amount but whether the subsidiary expenses which one naturally incurs in spending a day away from home are considered to be recoverable, and whether a member is entitled to use a motor car and receive a reasonable allowance per mile?
§ Mr. FOOT
I welcome this Bill, and more particularly because of representations I have received from those interested in the County of Cornwall. I put a question some months ago to the right hon. Gentleman asking what the experience was of the committees of the county in relation to these expenses and the answer he gave was that the subject was one of some legal intricacy and that inquiries were being made. I hope the Bill will receive a Second Reading and be passed into law quickly. I have some experience of this work on two counties. The County of Cornwall is, I understand, included, and I had an earlier experience in the County of Devon. For some years I had the honour of serving on the Sea Fisheries Committee of that county. The expenses of the representatives of a borough like Plymouth were paid, but they were paid by the borough. There is a little difficulty because the boundaries are not co-terminous with the counties of Devon and Cornwall. Some parts of the area of Cornwall come within the jurisdiction of the Devon Committee. In Cornwall I found that some of the fishermen who had served on the Committee in earlier days had been compelled to withdraw because of the difficulty of meeting the expenditure. There is a wonderful fishing community in Cornwall. One man, a fisherman, who commands the confidence of his neighbours had served for years on the County Fishery Committee and his presence was welcomed because of his personal experience. I asked why he was not still serving and he told me that it was because he could not afford to pay the travelling expenses. It is an excellent thing for the County of Cornwall, or for any other 1713 county, to be kept in vital contact and association with the needs of fishermen themselves, and if this is to be done there must be representation on the Committees by those who actually know the life of the fishermen.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present: House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. FOOT
It is an essential element in the constitution of these committees that working fishermen should be amongst their members. That is good for the committees and in the interests of the fishing population. The impression among the fishermen at the moment is that these committees are something with which they are not really concerned and are made up mainly of the big people of the county. The meetings are held a long way away. If they can have direct representation, if one of their own number is a regular attendant at the meetings, they will be interested in the agenda and will discuss the proceedings in their own small communities in their own villages and bring a vigilant watchfulness to bear, which will be all to the good of the fishing folks themselves. I cannot understand that there will be any opposition to a Measure which will make these committees more useful and as the Bill is designed to bring the practical fisherman into direct association with the work that is being done I give it my hearty support.
§ Sir DENNIS HERBERT
I do not want to oppose the Measure but I think the Minister of Agriculture might have given us a little more information on one or two points. He told us that the Bill is to remedy a defect in Section 52 of the Local Government Act of 1929. His explanation of the omission there was, of course, perfectly satisfactory, but I was a little surprised to find that the most convenient way of remedying an error in Section 52 of the Local Government Act of 1929 was to introduce a Bill to amend different sections of the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act, 1888. There may be something in it, but I think we should have some reasons why the Government have not followed what anyone would have considered to be the normal and ordinary course of introducing a short Bill to amend Section 52 of the Act 1714 of 1929 instead of a Bill to amend the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act.
I think we also want to be perfectly assured that when the omission of Section 52 of the Act of 1929 is dealt with in this way it is being dealt with quite correctly and that the power given by this Bill in regard to the payment of expenses by a Fishery Board is exactly the same in all respects as the power given to the county councils and other committees under the 1929 Act. I have been looking at the wording of this Bill and also the wording of Section 52 of the 1929 Act and, although I am not prepared to say that there is any real difference, there is certainly a difference in the wording which should be looked at very carefully. In Section 52 of the Act of last year it is provided that:It shall be lawful for the council of any county to defray any expenses necessarily incurred. … in travelling to and from meetings of the council.When I turn to this Bill I find a totally different wording. It says:It shall be lawful for a local fisheries committee. … to repay to any member of the committee the amount of any travelling expenses necessarily incurred by him in attending any meeting of the committee. …I am not sure whether they necessarily mean the same thing. If they do I do not see why the Government should not follow the actual wording of the Section which they desire to remedy. I am not as well acquainted with fishery committees as those hon. Members who sit for constituencies on the sea coast but I notice the provision in this Bill is that it shall be lawful for a local fisheries committee to repay these monies. The other monies, travelling expenses, to be paid under Section 52 of the Act of last year, are to be defrayed by the county council, and I think we should know why these expenses are not to be defrayed by the county council, we should know the difference between the funds at the disposal of the county council and the funds at the disposal of the fishery committees. Perhaps the Government will be able to give some explanation on these points before we give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. PYBUS
I only desire to intervene for a few moments in order to ask the Minister of Agriculture whether he is really satisfied with the composition of these committees? I have every reason to be profoundly dissatisfied with 1715 the make-up of them. There is no art in the world in which knowledge is more acquired by hard work and many years of experience as that of sea fishing. There is no livelihood which depends so much on local knowledge and real experience. So far as I can see, the makeup of the committees at the present time consists of far too little practical fishermen.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that question arises on this Bill. The Bill merely refers to the payment of travelling expenses.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
It refers tothe payment of travelling expenses necessarily incurred by him.These committees have certain duties. If we are to enable the local authority to collect this money, are we not entitled to point out that the duties of the committees involve a considerable amount of travelling or a small amount of travelling, which would justify the payment or the non-payment of the expenses?
§ Mr. PYBUS
I am anxious to keep strictly in order. In Harwich we feel that the present committees are not worth the expenditure of carrying them back and forth to London. For that reason, I thought that the matter which I raised came in as a financial point. I hope that when we have passed the Bill—and I hope that it will be passed—arrangements will be made by which the committees will consist more of local fishermen, and that researches can be made into local conditions such as are not now made. Before the War there was a good, prosperous fishing industry in Harwich but to-day, after 15 years, there is practically no industry left. We desire that the local knowledge of the people in the district should be brought to the attention of the Government and that steps should be taken to investigate the causes of this unfortunate position.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I beg to move to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I hope to elicit from the Minister of Agriculture the largest amount of information by putting down the Motion for 1716 the rejection of the Bill. I and other hon. Members were hopeful of extracting information from the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, but we found ourselves totally bereft of information, and I have been compelled to take what I conceive to be an extreme measure for the purpose of extracting it may be only one or two small crumbs of information from the Minister's very dry and arid mind. He was kind enough in his opening remarks to give an explanation why this Bill has been brought forward. He reminded us that it has something to do with Section 52 of the Local Government Act of last year, that by an accident under that Act, which was a very carefully considered Act, a slight error had arisen and that the county councils were not able to pay the travelling expenses of certain people who do work in connection with the county councils. He pointed out that the provision was all right so long as the area concerned was inclusive of the whole area of the county but if it was not quite inclusive of the whole area of the county but was minus, the county council could not under the Act of last year pay travelling expenses.
He gave us one or two examples. He mentioned that Devon so far as these fishery committees were concerned overflowed a little into Cornwall. That did not affect Devon so far as last year was concerned. It happens somewhere near the mouth of the river Tamar, which separates the two counties, that it is necessary to have one form of control so far as fishery matters in that river are concerned. The result of that arrangement is that Cornwall has been deprived of the administration of part of the Cornish area, and has been deprived of the right under the Act of last year to make payment—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I was showing that Cornwall has been deprived under the Act of last year of the right to pay the travelling expenses of the members of these committees. I understood that the whole of the Bill dealt with that point.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is referring to the Act of last year. I am referring to the Bill of this year.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Minister explained that the reason for this Bill was 1717 that certain counties were not entitled to pay these committees because the area covered was not inclusive of the whole area of the county. I was trying to point out, as clearly as I could, that so far as Cornwall was concerned they could not pay travelling expenses because a certain part of the county for fishery purposes was attached to Devon. Was I not entitled to point out that fact?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member asks me, on a point of Order, what he will be in order in saying, I can tell him that it is in order to discuss the question of the payment of travelling expenses, and nothing else.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
If we are only entitled to discuss the principle of the payment of travelling expenses, we are not entitled in any way to discuss the reason why this Bill has been brought forward. The Minister gave as the reason for the bringing forward of the Bill that there was a defect in the previous Act. However, I accept at once your Ruling. I am sorry that I have erred, but I have erred in company with the Minister, who dealt with the matter. There is a great deal to be said on the principle of the payment of travelling expenses. I have never necessarily approved of the general principle of the payment of travelling expenses but in these particular cases there is some justification for the payment of travelling expenses.
The hon. Member for North-East Cornwall (Mr. Foot) represents a very wide area in Cornwall. In a county like Cornwall the payment or the non-payment of travelling expenses may have an enormous effect upon the composition of one of these committees. When you have a committee drawn from members of an industry scattered over a wide area it is almost always extremely difficult for the members in that scattered area to attend the work of the committee, unless there is some form of travelling expenses.
It was laid down by the House in the Act of last year that travelling expenses should be paid, and we now find that, by a pure and simple accident, certain people are not being paid their expenses. In these circumstances the Minister could have made a very much stronger speech in support of the Bill. If he had been endowed with that capacity for illustra- 1718 tion which some people possess, he could have taken one of the counties which he mentioned, either Lindsey, Kent or Cornwall, and pointed out what might have been done in the payment of travelling expenses. In Cornwall certain members of the committee may live comparatively close to the place where the committee sit, while others would live a very long way off, but it is not merely a question where the Committee sits, because in Clause 1 (b) it is in respect of the discharge of the duties of the committee that travelling expenses can be paid. Those duties are exceedingly wide and are liable to lead members of the committee on rather extraordinary errands.
It is possible that a member of a fishery committee who lives at Mousehole, in Cornwall, may be suddenly called upon to go to Port Isaac or Bude to inquire into a fishery matter, and give a report. If he goes by motor his travelling expenses for the return journey may run him into payment for a mileage of 120 to 150 miles. Even anyone as half-hearted as the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) would agree that for a poor fisherman to go all that distance it would be rather hard if he could not get some allowance for travelling expenses. I am not dealing with isolated expenses. The duties of these committees are very wide. They have to deal with every sort and conceivable question in connection with fishery matters, and they have to get their own information. This can only be fairly done, as it is fairly done generally, by picking up information on the spot. That involves an immense amount of travelling which it is perhaps difficult for hon. Members here to understand. They have to travel for the purpose of seeing whether the regulations in connection with lobsters are being carried out. They have to travel in connection with various matters arising out of the 1888 Fisheries Act. They have to travel extensively in connection with the 1887 Act, the Oysters and Crabs and Lobster Fisheries Act. Thus they have to move from one part of the county to another. They are also compelled to travel for other reasons. They have to look into such matters as the pollution of rivers in certain cases, and they have to go into matters in connection with the organisation of the commissioners for looking after fishing in- 1719 terests in rivers, as in the case of the county which I represent. All these matters compel them to wander over a great part of the county they represent, and it will be easy for hon. Members opposite to realise that it is not possible for a poor fisherman always to do this unless he is given some help in the form of expenses.
I should like to ask the Minister one further thing. I wished to know what expenses under this Bill were to be paid, but the Minister has not enlightened us. Is it merely a matter of travelling expenses, or does the expenditure cover any form of subsistence allowance for meals, etc., when the men are traveling? I would also ask if the money for these allowances will be collected by the county council or what local authority will collect them. Am I right in presuming that these committees have not the power in any way, so far as the county council is concerned, of levying a rate? I wish to put this further question: As there would be this increased cost to the local rates, will there be any increased contribution to these rates from any Parliamentary authority? We have the right to know this, for we are laying a burden on local authorities on this occasion. I do not know if any other Members of the House could explain it to me, but I should like to know if the sum of money we are imposing will bear directly on the county council, or will we get an increased grant?
The Minister paid a great tribute to the amazing work which these local committees have done in carrying out their arduous duties over a scattered area. That tribute, I would wish to endorse. My only regret in connection with this Bill, although I formally move its rejection in order to enable the Minister to answer me, is that the Minister has taken up our time by bringing in a Bill of this sort, and has failed to deal with the whole matter. It would have been simple and easy to have done so instead of having kept himself to the one point which we are discussing this evening. I see the Secretary of State for Scotland has come into the House and I would like to ask him if he is in any way concerned with this Bill. I do not think he is, because I believe they have a better system in 1720 Scotland than we have in England. I am asking him, however, because it will give him an opportunity of explaining the position—and it would be interesting to know—how he manages in Scotland. I have been trying to find out why Scotland has been left out of the Bill and I should also like to know, on behalf of some of my Irish friends, whether the Bill applies to Northern Ireland. It may be that, like Scotland, they are under some other system or deal with it themselves. I am sure that some of my friends would welcome an answer by the Minister on that point.
There is another point I would like to raise, if I may revert again to the question of travelling expenses. There are several Acts which are administered by different local authorities, it may be the board of conservators or committees such as are mentioned here. I refer to some of the Salmon Acts, which are complicated and varied. I do not suppose that the Minister will be able to tell me which local authorities will pay their expenses under this Act and which will not, but will it be possible for him, before the Committee stage of the Bill is reached, to indicate which of the various boards of conservators, if any, will be able to pay their expenses under the Bill as it now stands? I merely ask that question because there is a certain vagueness in connection with the Bill, and I have some interest in it, because of the fact that some of my constituents are interested and greatly concerned in these maters. They are handicapped to-day, because for some of these fishermen it is not easy to take part in the work in the county as they would like to do. They live some way from the place where the committee sits, and that means that travelling expenses are of enormous importance to them.
May I assure the Minister that it is in no hostility to the Bill that I now formally move the Amendment on the Second Reading. There may be matters on which we shall have to seek adjustment on another occasion, but, if he can answer my questions and give me some assurance, particularly in the last matter I raised, I will not unduly press this matter. I hope he will do everything in his power to give me an answer to the very short questions I have raised. I have particularly kept these questions 1721 short and avoided the longer matters which will be brought forward on the Committee stage. I appreciate the courtesy of hon. Gentlemen opposite in having listened to what I have had to say. After all, I am in a different position under a Bill of this kind than many people, for I have been brought into the closest contact with the people concerned in this Bill, though not so closely as some hon. Members, over a large period of my life. I say, therefore, that I am not hostile to the Minister, but I do want an answer to my questions.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I beg to second the Amendment.
I take a special interest in this matter as the representative of a part of the county mentioned by the Minister namely Lindsey, and also part of the large and important borough of Grimsby which is the premier fishing port of the world, and any subject concerning sea fishing or the work of committee of this kind, is of great importance in my constituency. I wish to get from the Minister more information than he has given us so far upon this matter. For instance, I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman can give the House any information as to the possible cost involved in the payment of these travelling allowances. We know that this cost is going to be put on the rates and, presumably, it will be a matter for the Lindsey County Council. In that area important fishery questions arise and a great many fishermen live there and it is quite possible that the committee there may be brought into some of the important discussions which take place in London and elsewhere involving matters of world-wide interest. I am not sure if this matter is limited to questions connected with sea fisheries. In my constituency we have very important sea fisheries but we have also some important inland fresh-water fisheries—
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
I think the hon. and gallant Member was in the House when Mr. Speaker ruled that the question of travelling expenses was the only question which could be discussed on this Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Perhaps I have been a little long about leading up to my point as to the travelling expenses in relation to those areas where there are 1722 both sea fisheries and fresh water fisheries and the question of whether expenses are to be allowed in such cases. In view of the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) mentioned the question of river pollution I thought I might raise this other question.
I did not hear the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) make such a reference. I may not have been paying attention at the moment, but certainly the question of river pollution does not arise on this Bill.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. May I say that I only raised the question of river pollution because these people in the course of their duties as laid down in the Act of 1888 have to travel from one part of the country to another to see if there is river pollution.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
I was dealing with the principle of giving travelling expenses and I was merely raising the point that there would have to be joint meetings in cases of the kind to which I was referring. I wish to know if the principle of travelling allowances will apply to joint meetings. These committees, as has been said, deal with river pollution and there will doubtless be joint meetings with other bodies as, for instance, certain land drainage committees. In Lincolnshire there are important land drainage bodies and questions affecting those bodies arise in connection both with sea fishing at the mouths of the rivers and with the fishing higher up in the rivers. Indeed it is a burning question when the two interests conflict, because the fishing interest, on the one hand wants to keep the water in the rivers for fishing and on the other hand there is the interest which wants to get the water away for the purposes of drainage, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give facilities during the Committee stage for considering the question of these joint meetings. I think this Bill is required, although there is some apprehension as to the unlimited use which might be made of it in adding to the rates. I think that in Lindsey there is really very little fear but I should like the Minister to 1723 give an indication as to how much is likely to be put on the rates.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister said the Bill was necessary because it had been found that fishery committees which operated in areas not co-terminous with county boundaries, namely, Cornwall, Kent and Lindsey had no authority to allow travelling expenses. This being legislation by reference, it is impossible to tell on the face of the Bill how these matters are rectified by it. The Bill makes it lawful for a sea fisheries committee properly constituted under the original Act of 1888 to pay expenses—that is to say all such committees and not those committees minus three or plus three. I desire to know whether the Minister is satisfied that there is adequate legal authority in some other statute for all sea fishery committees to pay travelling expenses. I have looked up Section 10 of the Act of 1888. Incidentally may I say that my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) need not be in any trouble about the position of Scotland or Ireland because Section 15 makes it plain that the Act does not apply to them. Under Section 10 the expenses as far as they are payable by a county council:shall, according as is provided by the order providing for the constitution of the local fisheries committee, be general or special expenses within the meaning of the Local Government Act of 1888.Special expenses are to be charged in the manner directed by the order. The expenses of a Committee as far as payable by the council of a borough are to be paid out of the borough rate or the borough fund. The point is, did the Local Government Act of 1888 confer powers either on county councils or borough councils to pay travelling expenses to their fishery committees? If it did so my question is answered. The authority rests there and not in any Act which has anything to do with the Ministry of Agriculture. As I read Section 10, however, there is no mention of travelling expenses and I do not think that any authority of the kind is conferred under that Act. I desire to know if the Minister is sure that, in addition to the counties of Cornwall, Kent and Lindsey, every other county council in England and Wales will be entitled, when this 1724 Bill becomes law, to pay travelling expenses, regularly and legally.
I do not think there can be any doubt about the desire of the House that these expenses should be paid. If there is one thing more necessary than another in order to make these committees effective it is that there should be a number of practical fishermen on them. Travelling expenses ought to be allowed not only in the case of a place such as Newton Abbott in Devonshire, but to and from the centre to such a place as Salcombe on Start Bay—places which it has been found necessary to visit in order to settle some particular question. I believe that these sea fisheries committees were the very first to recognise the necessity for paying travelling expenses. I am not at all sure what legal authority they had for doing it. The Plymouth Borough Council were farsighted in this matter and did it, but whether or not they had legal power I am not sure. Is the Minister satisfied that this Bill gives him the power to give the real authority in the matter? I am thoroughly in sympathy with the intention, which has been the practice, of course, of a number of sea fishery committees in various county council areas in England and Wales.
§ Mr. N. BUXTON
It would undoubtedly be attractive if this Debate could be enlarged into a Debate upon the subject of fisheries in general, and if I had been at liberty to extend my remarks, they would have been less arid than when I presented them an hour ago, but, within the limits of order, I should like very much to give what information I can. The question was raised by the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward), and subsequently by other hon. Members, as to the purposes for which these expenses may be charged. The Bill applies to travelling expenses only, not to subsistence expenses. In regard to cars, a charge is made at the mileage rate, and allowance may be made for motor transport when it suits the case. The principles, of course, are already accepted in regard to the members of committees to which the Bill does not apply, under the Local Government Act, 1929. This Bill applies to sea fisheries committees alone.
1725 The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) raised the question of the personnel of the committees and suggested that there should be a larger proportion of working men, but I am afraid you, Sir, would hardly allow me to follow out that line of thought. The hon. Member for Watford (Sir D. Herbert) suggested that this legislation should have taken a different form. I must screen myself behind the authority of His Majesty's draftsman in proposing that the House should adopt the Measure in this form as that which, on the whole, meets the case best. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. E. Brown) asked whether powers are complete and clear in regard to the payment of expenses by committees in general. Under the Local Government Act, 1929, power is given tothe council of any county to defray any expenses necessarily incurred by members of the council or of any committee thereof to which this section applies in travelling to and from meetings of the council or committee or in travelling by direction of the council or committee for the purpose of carrying out any inspection necessary for the discharge of the functions of the council or committee.The powers are perfectly definite except in regard to these three cases, which were overlooked. I must confess to some surprise that the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) should find fault with the Bill, because it is of particular interest to his neighbours in Cornwall. That county, in which he is specially interested, is perhaps the largest area affected by the anomaly which it is sought to remedy by the Bill. Perhaps when he put down his Amendment he did not realise that, if it were accepted, some of his constituents would be unable to receive benefits which clearly the late Government, the authors of the Local Government Act, intended that they should have, and it would be intolerable that there should be an anomaly, an exception, continuing a day longer than is necessary. It is the case that the whole position has arisen solely through the overlooking of the point of the division of counties into fishery areas, and I should have thought an attempt to put the matter right would have been specially welcome, among others locally interested, by the hon. Member for Torquay.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
I said most carefully that I welcomed the readjustment of a grievance, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not continue, as he is doing now, to misrepresent me, because I said clearly that I put my Amendment down to enable him to give a full and proper explanation of the Bill.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I am still not clear about the point that I raised. Do I understand that the reason these three counties are outside the others is that Cornwall, for instance, has two committees? Does it mean that because they have two committees they are not regularly constituted inside the Cornwall area? If so, my mind is clear; otherwise, I fail to see the position. The Devon sea fishery committee's area, to my knowledge, has a part of Cornwall in it. If the right hon. Gentleman tells me that it is because there are two committees in each of these counties, and that that makes a technical reason for the Local Government Act not applying, I understand the point; otherwise, I am as much in the dark as before.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question, which was whether any joint meetings of other committees, such as river pollution and land drainage committees, would also be allowed expenses?
§ Mr. BUXTON
I am afraid that that is outside the purview of the Bill, which deals solely with the power of paying the expenses of members of certain committees, and the nature of their functions is not involved. I am not sure that the hon. Member for Leith was in the House when I read the Section which made it clear that at present it is only lawful to pay expenses in the case of committees which apply to the whole area of a county. Therefore, a section of the area of a county does not provide a field in which it is legal to pay these expenses. I think I have covered the points so far as they are in order, and I trust that the House will see fit now to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Mr. C. WILLIAMS
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to where the finance is to come from?
§ Mr. BUXTON
The precepts are made on the counties by the fishery committees, and the expense, therefore, falls upon 1727 the rates. It is not assisted by any Government grant, but is raised in the normal way by precepts.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Barnes.]