§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.22 a.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It is a very pleasant thing on this fine Spring morning to be able to turn for a short time from the more important matters of legislation to the question of the protection of trout. The Bill which has just passed its Second Reading dealt with the interests of a very large and important section of the community, but the people who are interested in this Bill are also a large and important fraternity, and, as Izaak Walton said long ago and has been accepted ever since, it is well known thatall anglers be such honest, quiet, civil men.There has been legislation in the past on this subject in Scotland, and, in fact, the earliest legislation dates back to the time of James VI when a law was passedanent destroyers of Parks, Woods, Plantings, Doweats, Lochs, and Stanks.Subsequent to that there were two Acts passed, one in the reign of Queen Victoria, and the other in the time of Edward VII. Then we come to 1913, when the angling societies in Scotland thought it desirable that a consolidating Bill should be produced. Consequently, a consolidating Bill was introduced into this House by Lord Dalrymple, but it raised so many points of controversy that it was decided to modify the Bill, and in the following year a modified measure was introduced by Sir John Barran. Then came the War, which of course, stopped all legislation of that nature, and it was not until 1928 that I had the honour of introducing what was then entitled the Fresh Water 634 Fish (Scotland) Bill. That Bill also raised various matters of controversy such as polution and so on, and after consideration it was decided that it would be better to cut out all those controversial matters and reduce the scope of the Bill so as to cover the two most important things which the angling associations in Scotland wished to see dealt with at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, in 1930 I again introduced a modified Bill, known as the Trout (Scotland) Bill. The Bill which I am introducing to-day is the same as that which I introduced in 1928 and also at the close of 1932. It is quite possible that had we some reasonable measure of devolution in Scotland this modest little Bill would have already found its way on to the Statute Book.
The two main objects of the Bill are, first, to alter the date of the commencement of trout fishing. At the present time, trout fishing begins in Scotland on 28th February, but by general consent it is agreed that the 28th February is too early a date. Therefore, it is proposed to make the opening date in future the 14th day of March. The father of fishing, to whom I have referred, said that:A man should not in honesty catch a trout till the middle of March.When we find that in England, and in the south of England, the middle of March is generally accepted as a fair opening date for trout fishing, it will be agreed that in the northern country of Scotland the 14th March will meet the general requirements just as well as in England.
The second point of the Bill is to stop the sale of undersized fish. When the Bill was under consideration and being drafted we found some difficulty in regard to the method that should be adopted to meet, this point. It was first suggested that it should be made an offence to take undersized fish, but it was very soon realised that it would be impossible to carry out such a proposal, also that in many of the hill burns in Scotland the fish are very small indeed and that it would be rediculous to make it an offence for small boys to catch small fish. Therefore, the line on which we decided to proceed was to make it an offence to expose undersized fish for sale. That, I think, is accepted as being a most reasonable way of getting over 635 the difficulty. It so happens that a fish about 7 inches in length is very acceptable to restaurants and hotels. These small fish can be placed on a large platter and handed round, each guest taking one. Where there is a commercial demand for small fish of that size there is no doubt that that commercial demand should be supplied. It has been thought that the best way to meet that point is to make it an offence to expose undersized fish for sale, and the size that has been adopted is 8 inches in length.
If the Bill becomes law we are satisfied that it will improve the trout stock in the rivers in Scotland, improve fishing generally and be of benefit not only to the home anglers but to the strangers from south of the Tweed who come in such great numbers to Scotland to enjoy the trout fishing there. In these days when there is such a strong movement in support of the "Come to Scotland" cry, I think that anything that can be done to improve our fishing there should be looked upon with a welcoming eye. The originators of the Bill—when I say the originators I mean the people who have taken the greatest interest in it and in its drafting—were the late Lord Constable and those well known anglers and delightful writers, Mr. John Stirling and Mr. Henry Lamond. The Bill is sponsored by the Scottish Anglers' Association, a very important association in Scotland, to which a large number of important angling clubs and association are affiliated. The Bill is backed by Members of all parties in this House, and I commend it for speedy passage into law.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I rise with great pleasure to second the Second Reading of the Bill. I usually confine myself in this House to questions of high finance, and it is a delight to change to the most delightful pursuit of supporting a Bill intended to further the gentle art of trout fishing. Lord Grey of Fallodon, a great authority, says that trout fishing develops not only patience but self-control and endurance. I should like to commend the art to many hon. Members. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) might devote a little of his spare time to fishing, because 636 there is no art more likely to lay the foundations for the career of a great statesman than the pursuit of this gentle art.
There are one or two points to which I should like to draw attention in relation to Clause 4. Under the Game Licensing Act of 1860 a person desiring a licence to kill game makes an application to the Justices of the peace, who hold a Special Sessions for that purpose. The Clerk of the Peace keeps a register of licensed dealers in game and that register is available for inspection. I suggest that the same procedure should apply to trout fishing. That point might be borne in mind on the Committee stage. Another suggestion is that Clause 8 should be so drafted that proceedings can be instituted in any court of summary jurisdiction.
I entirely agree as to not making it a penal offence to take out trout that are undersized. Like many other people, I started trout fishing with a stick and a bent pin, and, of course, we do not want to penalise small boys, but every sportsman will agree that it is unsportsmanlike to take out undersized fish and attempt to sell them. This Bill will prevent that in future. With regard to the date for the commencement of trout fishing the proposal to fix the date in March is all to the good. It will improve Scottish fishing. Every fisherman will agree with me—and there are many Members of this House who pursue the art of fishing—there is nothing more discouraging than to take out a fish which is flabby in appearance. I hope the House will give a Second Reading to this desirable Measure.
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Mr. J. DUNCAN
I am a little surprised, but none the less pleased that two members of the Liberal party have shown an interest in this subject and have moved and seconded the Second Reading of this Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Mr. D. Mason) is not considering mixing up trout with gold fish, because he has a well-known antipathy to anything which is not gold. It is also interesting to notice that members of the Liberal party, who in the past have been inclined to be a little cranky on the question of blood sports, should be introducing a Bill which permits a blood 637 sport. Fishing, after all, is an occupation for the patient, and it is appropriate, therefore, that members of the Liberal party should be introducing this Bill because they have often been called in the past the patient oxen. In spite of all this, however, I heartily welcome the Bill as an English Member, but none the less a Scotsman, because anything which can be done to improve fishing in Scotland is all to the good. The change of date from the 28th February to the 14th March is very desirable. For the North of Scotland which I know best even the 14th March is too early, because not only is the weather beastly as a rule in the early part of the season, but the trout themselves are not in a fit condition to be caught before the 1st April. I should be perfectly happy to support an even later date than the 14th March. Clause 3 (1, a) says:He shall not sell to any person in Scotland except a person licensed to deal in trout.Very often people who are selling trout sell game to the big dealers in the Midlands and in London, and that is a point which may have to be looked into. In Clause 4 the county council is to keep a register, and any officer of constabulary or officer of the Fishery Board may inspect such register of licences. Surely it should be within the right of anybody who wants to sell trout to see the register so that he may know whether the person to whom he is selling the fish is on the register. I think the Bill should be amended in this respect. Speaking as a Scotsman, as a sportsman, and as one interested in fishing, I welcome the Bill, although it comes from such a surprising source. I hope it will receive a Second Reading, will be improved in Committee, and become law at an early date.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Mr. JAMES REID
I do not object to the main principles of the Bill, but I look in vain to the somewhat uninformative memorandum affixed to the Bill for any justification for the extremely elaborate machinery which is set up in the various clauses, and I listened in vain to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder for any justification for that machinery. I do not know of any other machinery which is like it, and to me it seems totally unnecessary in order to achieve the main purposes of the Bill, which 638 appear to be an alteration of the close time and to restrict the sale of fish under a certain size, both undoubtedly most desirable objects. But I entirely fail to connect these purposes with the machinery which we find in the Bill, and before the House passes the Second Reading I think we are entitled to a fairly full explanation of the reasons which make this machinery necessary.
Let me for a moment examine the machinery proposed, but, before I do so, may I say that as far as my knowledge is concerned there is no corresponding machinery regarding the sale of salmon trout or sea trout, and I see no reason why these fish should not require protection, and why trout should require protection of this character. If you look at Clause 3 you will find that the person who consigns trout to a dealer has not only to furnish his full name and address but he has to append a statement specifying when, where and how, such trout were caught. I shudder to think of some illiterate fishermen being confronted with all these requirements and having to put down on paper how he caught the fish consigned for sale. I fail to understand the meaning of the word "how". Is it sufficient to say that he canght it by means of a rod, or has he to say the kind of fly which he used? It is an example of particularly bad draftsmanship, and I think that paragraph will have to come out altogether.
But let us go on and see what he has to do next. When consigning the trout by means of a carrier he has to put on the outside of the parcel a statement which shall not only say that it contains trout consigned for sale but he has to specify the number and weight of the trout. That will put an intolerable burden on these people. Why should people in respect of trout alone of all merchandise have to give particulars of this kind? If this kind of protection is a good thing—I am glad the Liberal party think that some kind of protection is necessary for somebody, if only for trout—why is it not a good thing for all other kinds of fish, and indeed for all kinds of game which are protected by the Game Laws? We cannot introduce a new and entirely separate code for trout as distinct from salmon or wing game or every other kind of bird, which Parlia- 639 ment has in the past sought to protect against the depredations of those who are not true sportsmen.
Let us go on to see how these requirements are to be backed up by sanctions. We find that any officer of a market authority or any officer of police may open any package that is consigned which is suspected to contain trout. That is putting an impossible burden upon a police officer. How is he to suspect that the package contains trout? Is it to be by smell; or how is it to be done? This is an attempt to put upon police officers, whose duties are multifarious and difficult enough, already a duty which cannot possibly be carried out and which will become a dead letter from the moment it is enacted, because it is quite impracticable. It may be a good thing to provide things that look nice in Acts of Parliament. Personally, I do not think it is. It is the function of this House to pass Acts of Parliament which are going to work and not Acts which are going to look nice. I beg the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading to say that he is prepared to drop all this elaborate machinery. If he is not I think that some of us will have to think very closely whether or not we can give a Second Reading to a Bill which is mixed up with things of this kind.
Then again a police officer may detain any package of that kind, but as it is obvious that if he detains a package of that kind the trout will be quite unusable, the Bill is good enough to go on and say that when the trout become unfit for human food the package may be destroyed. That will happen in any case. Surely it would be very much easier for the Bill to say that in every case where a package is suspected it has to be destroyed straightaway. Do not let us have any humbug about keeping it until the time when the fish become unfit for human food. Then we have in Clause 4 another thing to which I thoroughly object, namely, a licence solely for the purpose of selling trout. If I mistake not, there is already a game licence in operation, and I should have expected that the Bill would provide that any dealer who already held a game licence required no further licence. But apparently that is not so. He will have to pay an extra 10s. 640 for a trout licence. I can conceive of no possible justification for elaborating and duplicating licences in that way.
Moreover the licensee has quite intolerable burdens put upon him under Clause 5. The holder of the licence has to keep a book and to put in it particulars of every parcel of trout, not only the date and the names and particulars of the people by whom the trout were sent, but the number and weight of the trout of each consignment. Can one imagine a thing of that sort being carried out properly by a country butcher or fishmonger It is the one type of merchandise, fish or flesh, in respect of which any such proposals have ever been suggested. To try to introduce elaborate provisions of this sort, which so far as has been explained serve no useful purpose whatever, is going far beyond anything that the House will authorise.
I am completely in the dark in the matter, but it looks to me as though the framers of this Bill thought that any commercial dealings in trout were a thoroughly bad thing. They do not like to say in the Bill that no trout may be sold; they thought that that would be going too far; but they have achieved the same object by tying up the sale of trout in such elaborate restrictions that in point of fact no trout ever will be sold within the law. It will be sold surreptitiously outside the Bill, but if the provision of the Bill were followed they would stop all commercial dealings in trout, because the difficulty of carrying out the provisions is so great compared with any profit that might result from the sale of trout as a commercial proposition. If the Mover of the Second Reading really thinks that trout ought not to be sold in the market, let him get up and say so, and let him put that into the Bill. If he does not think that, let him tell us that he is willing to withdraw all these vexatious restrictions. We are entitled to have it one way or the other.
Police constables are to be given very large powers of search, not only of parcels, to which I have referred, but of un-offending individuals, without a warrant. Look at Clause 7. Any police constable may, without a special warrant, "search any person found in or upon any river, water or loch or in any enclosed or unenclosed ground;" that is to say found anywhere at all in Scotland. The constable is to be entitled to search if he 641 has cause to suspect a person of possessing any trout taken in contravention of the provisions of the Bill. That appears to me to provide that any angler who is going about may be liable to search. I do not understand the Clause myself, and I hope it will be explained to us. The police already have quite adequate powers of search to prevent criminal offences, and to discover them after they have been committed, but to put in elaborate and ill-thought-out provisions of this kind without any explanation at all, is rather trespassing on the patience of the House, and in effect is asking us to buy a pig in a poke. Personally I do not want to be in the least obstructive. I do not want to divide the House against the Bill but I do think that I and others are entitled to have a much fuller explanation of the machinery of the Bill, as distinct from its general provisions, before we are asked to assent to its passage.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER RAMSAY
Though I do not represent a Scottish seat I do, as a humble member of the fraternity to which the hon. Member for Orkney (Sir R. Hamilton) referred, wish to support the Bill. It strikes me as being not only a humble but a meagre Bill. The Bill does not say that it will be illegal to take trout under age; it says only that it will be illegal to sell trout under age. No respectable fisherman fishing on respectable water would ever think of taking out a trout of that size.
§ Mr. RAMSAY
The hon. and gallant Member is facetious but his remark does not alter the point. The phrase in the Bill is "expose for sale". In the Trent Conservancy Board area, a very large watershed, and in the Severn area, both of which I know very well, it is illegal to take a trout under nine inches. The hon. Member opposite spoke in feeling terms about the small boy fishing in the Highland burn. Nobody desires that he should not be able to catch his fish, but I do not think that is quite the standard to apply to a whole county. A hill stream in Caithness, for example, is no criterion of the conditions which ought to apply to larger rivers. If the hon. Gentleman responsible for the Bill will consider Amendments in Committee to deal with 642 that point he will be doing a service to the fishing community.
As I have said, I have no vested interest in Scottish fishing, but I have an occasional interest, because I fish from time to time in Scotland, and I have no desire that my predatory countrymen should kill off the young trout before the rest of us can get there. A young fish is much easier to catch than one which has reached years of maturity. If these 8-inch troutlings were allowed to grow to 10 inches, there would be more difficulty in catching them, but there would be a great deal more fun in the process. There is a definite financial interest involved in this matter. I do not know how many hon. Members are acquainted with the Welsh waters. In Wales, miles from anywhere, there is excellent trout water which has been spoiled by over-fishing and failure to restock, but, particularly, because it has been the national fashion to take out immature trout. Thus, a great potential source of wealth is bringing in no money at all, because people do not go to fish in the Welsh waters. Were it otherwise, this fishing would be a valuable asset.
With regard to the question of the date, I do not attach great importance to that, and I think the House might accept 14th March as suggested in the Bill. In the Trent Valley the opening date of the season is, I think, 15th March, and in the Severn area, dominated by the Lord President of the Council, the season opens on 2nd March. Whether that indicates that the men of Worcestershire have Scottish charactristics or not, I cannot say, but I do not think there is much practical difference involved, because a man fishing with a fly is very lucky if he gets many trout before 1st April, and the man fishing with a worm ought not to be encouraged, while the netter ought to be driven out of any civilised community.
As to the hon. Member who subjected the Bill to such a great deal of criticism, I wish he could have been a little more friendly. It seems to me that he went out of his way to make difficulties. One of the difficulties which he suggested was that of a policeman not knowing when to suspect that a bag might contain trout. I have often seen a policeman inspecting a very ordinary bag in a village street, because he suspected that 643 it contained rabbits, and what the hon. Member forgets is that trout-fishing is not done in back gardens but in rivers, lochs or estuaries where very frequently there are water bailiffs. In any case, the local policeman generally knows what is happening within his own range and, apart from all that, there is the moral sanction, the moral effect of making this thing illegal, which, I believe, would do a great deal to change the habits of my countrymen in this respect.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. JAMES STUART
I do not wish to oppose the Bill, and I am in agreement with its object as set out in the very brief Memorandum which accompanies it, but I feel that there is a great deal in what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington (Mr. J. Duncan). If this Bill goes to Committee an effort should be made to make its provisions less vexatious. As it stands at present, it appears to me that the Bill may give rise to a considerable amount of evasion. There is the point of view of the licensed dealer in trout who accepts fish for sale. I quite agree with the hon. Member in thinking that the existing system ought to be quite adequate, and I think that, as far as possible, the provisions in the latter part of Clause 3 of the Bill should be made As easy of application as possible rather than more difficult. For example, there is the provision requiring a statement specifying when, where and how such trout were caught. It must be clear that such a provision will give rise to a great deal of trouble to the ordinary fisherman who is merely out to enjoy himself and who, after a successful day's fishing, may wish to dispose of some of the proceeds in order to help to pay his expenses.
I also take exception to the power of search which seems unnecessarily severe. It is proposed to give the police powers which might on occasion give rise to a good deal of ill-feeling. It has just been said that the local constable is generally in touch with the people in his own district who are likely to go fishing, and I agree that in most places that is so. On the other hand, there are some centres in the North, on the Spey, for example, to which visitors go during every holiday season for the fishing and those visitors cannot possibly be known to the local 644 police officers. To empower any policeman to search any person whom he may suspect of having been fishing for trout seems to be going very far. The only possible justification that I can see for it is to be found in the words,any police constable may without special warrant search any person found in or upon any river, water or loch.If I were "in any river, water or loch," I should be very much indebted to the policeman who came to search me. As I say, I am in agreement with the object of the Bill and have no desire to see it killed. At the same time, I hope that if it receives a Second Reading everything possible will be done in Committee to make it easier to work and to avoid the vexatious restrictions to which I have referred. I hope also that steps will be taken to see that visitors to a district for holiday fishing are not subjected to too strict a watch by the police for no reason whatever.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I am in general agreement with the intentions of the Bill as expressed by my hon. Friend, but, like other hon. Members, I am doubtful about the machinery by which he proposes to give effect to it, and it is our duty to examine that machinery carefully. There does not appear to be any exemption under Clause 3 from the risk of penalty for exposing for sale trout under 8 inches in length. There is a considerable industry in Scotland in connection with trout hatcheries. How does this Clause affect that matter?
§ Commander COCHRANE
If that wording proves, in practice, a safeguard it would meet my point. The hon. Member said he did not propose to impose any penalty for the taking of fish under 8 inches in length, but in Clause 6 of the Bill he goes very near doing so. There it is laid down:It shall be lawful for any officer of police to seize and detain any boat, net, or article of any kind or description, used or intended to be used in the commission of any offence against this Act. …It seems to me that the only offence of that description which could be committed would be that of catching a fish of less than eight inches in length.
§ Commander COCHRANE
That may be the intention of the hon. Member, but I am taking the words of his Clause. It seems to me a very wide provision indeed. I pass to Clause 9, and I am not at all sure that the hon. Member, in spite of all his machinery, has succeeded in making his interpretation watertight, because while he says that trout shallinclude all trout by whatsoever name called,there is a number of exceptions, including trout known "by other local name." It is very difficult, I think, to interpret that Clause in practice. There is the general criticism of this machinery that if the proposals for restriction, and so on, are too elaborate, they will defeat their own ends. The hon. Member who spoke just now referred to the by-laws in force in Wales, I think, in regard to certain rivers there, but I suggest that what may be appropriate for a. local by-law, where you may, for the benefit of the fish and the fishermen, have a very definite limit of length of fish, which may be taken, may not necessarily be appropriate in legislation for the whole of Scotland.
§ Mr. A. RAMSAY
I was speaking of the great watersheds of the Severn and Trent, which can scarcely be described as covered by local by-laws.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I am sorry if I misunderstood my hon. Friend, but my own view is that such descriptions as might be applicable to a loch or a particular river might not be appropriate when you come to legislate for the whole of Scotland. It is on those grounds that I feel some doubt as to whether my hon. Friend has in fact provided suitable machinery for the very admirable purpose of extending the close season and prohibiting as far as possible the sale of these small trout, because there can be no doubt that the efficient protection of small fish of whatever species is essential if we are not to run the risk of losing the supply of that fish, whether it be fresh-water fish or sea fish. There is only one other question that I would like to ask my hon. Friend, and that is whether there is in fact any precedent for these restrictions which he is seeking to impose. I am not sufficiently familiar with the Acts dealing with the sale of salmon to know whether they are on similar lines, 646 but it would undoubtedly strenthen his case if that were so, otherwise it seems that we are seeking to impose very considerable restrictions on a number of people for what, after all, may be an important object, but not, I think, an object of sufficient importance to warrant us in creating a number of new offences, which we should be very chary of doing. If my hon. Friend can say that the provisions here are in line with what has already been enacted for the purpose of protecting and limiting the sale of salmon, it would make me more willing than am to support the Bill on its Second Reading.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I do not apologise for intervening in a debate on a Scottish Bill, but I hope the House will give me every consideration in joining in a subject about which, in a sense perhaps, I have not the same facility for talking as have all those who have preceded me. I come of a most accurate and careful race, and the discussion of fish becomes much more difficult, therefore, to me than it would be to Scottish people, but it is interesting to notice that we are having this peculiar Encouragement of Blood Sports Bill simply because of the luck of the ballot, a Bill that is very different in every respect from that which came before it and that which follows it on the Order Paper. It is preceded by the Solicitors (Scotland) Bill and followed by the Banditry Bill, two quite similar Bills possibly, but this Bill at any rate is violently different in every way.
I would like to congratulate most sincerely the promoters of this Bill, who are, if I may say so, a very mixed crowd, on doing something to try to get what can only be called one of the blood sports into some sort of orderly fashion in Scotland. I would like to call attention to the fact that not only were the Mover and the Seconder of the Second Reading both Liberals, but that one of the most prominent names on the back of the Bill, possibly the most prominent, if I may so so without offence, is that of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). It is really nice to think that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs is changing his habits. I am sorry he is not here, but the other day he was becoming the leading supporter 647 of the Government, and to-day he is a supporter of a Blood Sports Bill. I think those of us who come down here on a Friday afternoon and find these things happening must congratulate ourselves that this House of Commons has a marvellous capacity for widening the outlook of its Members.
The fact of the Liberal party promoting a Blood Sports Bill is one of the nicest things that has happened for a long time, particularly when we think of so peculiar a Member of the Liberal party as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), supported by an even more peculiar Liberal Member for one of the Scottish divisions, solemnly coming down here and devoting their time and energy to the constructive Liberalism of promoting a Blood Sports Bill on a Friday afternoon. I congratulate the Liberal party also on having at last found one thing on which two Liberal Members can agree. May I further congratulate the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland on coming down here in a very fit and proper spirit? A very interesting feature of the Debate is that we are being told by one Scotsman after another that if you are to have anything good, you must come to England for it. This is a most becoming thing for Scotsmen, and they are really giving me some hope of progress. What did the hon. Member say in introducing the Bill? The basis of his argument, very largely, was that, having become acquainted with the literature of the great sister nation of England, he had discovered a gentleman who was born about the year 1593, somewhere in the centre of England, called Walton; and the hon Member, I can assure the House, was on this occasion absolutely accurate when he called him "the father of fishing." But how becoming for a Scotsman to take as his example an Englishman; how very nice, how very pleasant; and I am sure he did it looking across to this side of the House so that he might get the support of any Englishman here. The proposer of the Bill, it may not be known, possibly, to all Members of the House, at one time took a prominent part in destroying grey seals.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
I took a prominent part in helping to pass a Bill for the protection of grey seals.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
But if you take protection too far, as the Liberals tell us, it always kills itself. If you take the protection of grey seals too far, it is fatal. I am glad of the interruption, because I gather that the real object is to deprive human beings in the towns of fish, in order that its friends, the grey seals, may have rather more, if possible. I leave it at that.
I come to the Bill, and to a remark of my hon. Friend sitting behind the Treasury Bench. I do think that, especially for the Highlands of Scotland, the date of the close season, 14th March, is rather early, and that it might really go on another fortnight. I am not altogether innocent of fishing in Scotland, and I feel that there is a very strong case, both from the point of view of the condition of the fish, and also because of the fact that until early in April it is very difficult, at any rate in the Highlands, to get very much with fly. I would therefore ask whether a later close season would not be a good thing, and that at least another week should be given. There is another point I would raise. It is no use stopping the sale of this fish in Scotland if you are not going to prohibit its sale in England. It is not right that it should be prohibited in a Scottish town if it can be sold quite freely and easily in an English town. I have always taken the side of the Scots in everything fair and right, and I say that on this occasion it is up to some of us to see that the position is made absolutely impartial.
There is one further point, and that is on Clause 9. There, I think, you have got into rather the danger which is becoming increasingly obvious in much of our legislation, that of putting too much in a Bill. I have often heard skilled lawyers say that you must not overdo the definition part of a Bill. So far as I read the Clause, there may be something in it which will make the law less watertight than is desired, and I would recommend, most humbly and respectfully, that in this, and even some of the previous Clauses possibly, in the Scottish Standing Committee the Bill might be simplified very considerably. One of my hon. Friends has pointed out the large number of Committee points in regard to this Bill. It is always said that Tories are probably Liberal on one point. My hon. Friend undoubtedly exposed his one Liberal point to-day. He made a speech 649 which was very excellent in many ways, but it was rather like a cantankerous Liberal speech in picking out little holes. I am sure that he has never made a speech like it before, and I hope that he never will again. I hope that the House this afternoon will look on the wider and broader lines of the Bill, and recognise that it does, on the whole, do something to encourage a very valuable part of our great sister nation north of the Tweed. There you have an extraordinary capacity for development if some help and encouragement are given in this way. I hope that Members of the House, whether they come from north or south of the Tweed, realising that, will give the Bill a Second Reading, and I trust that in Committee it will be dealt with in an expeditious way. Therefore, I recommend that it might possibly be sent to an English Committee, so that the proceedings may be shortened and the Bill improved.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
I am sure that the House will congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) on his fortune in the Ballot which, after many years persistency in this matter, has today given him the opening for which he has sought for years past. The Debate has ranged over the Bill, and we have had certain criticisms directed against certain Clauses. I suggest that those are points for consideration on the Committee stage of the Bill. I have risen to say, on behalf of the Government, that we welcome this Bill. It is a, modest Bill, but it is a Bill in the right direction. Many hon. Members have discussed, with more knowledge than I possess, the question of the exact date of the close time at the beginning of the season. I am advised that the close time could with advantage be extended further than the Bill proposes. In the majority of districts, I understand, the 21st March would be none too late for the opening of the fishing. On the other hand, I understand that 14th March, the date suggested in the Bill, may be regarded as a reasonable compromise, and the hon. Member, having tried for so long to get this Bill through, may feel that we should stick to the exact date incorporated in the Bill. But there are also 650 good grounds for the view that the open season should be curtailed at the other end, also.
I throw out these points for the consideration of my hon. Friend when the Bill reaches, as I hope, the Committee stage. The B ill itself does nut propose any size limit at which fish may be legally caught, and while the different circumstances of the numerous rivers and streams in Scotland may make it difficult to impose a uniform size limit for general application, I suggest to my hon. Friend whether it might not be worth considering inserting in the Bill a provision giving the local authorities power to draft by-laws to meet the various necessities of the different rivers in Scotland. With regard to the proposal which was touched on by several hon. Members that there should be a limit during which trout may be sold, the question arises whether the period during which it is proposed that it may be sold should be restricted both at the beginning and the end of the season. It has been suggested that the season during which trout may be sold should be restricted to the period from the 1st April to the end of August of each year.
Provisions with regard to licences to deal in trout are new to Scottish fishery law, but in my opinion they will substantially assist in the prevention of poaching. On that ground, I regard them as worthy of support, although some minor amendments may be necessary. The Bill, as the hon. Member who introduced it reminded the House, has been supported by the Scottish Anglers' Association. He advocated the Bill on that ground and also on the merits of the case. He observed that if the Bill passed into law the "Come to Scotland" movement might be increased. We hope that that will be one of the results of the Measure. It is a modest Bill, and on behalf of the Government I have pleasure in supporting it and asking my colleagues to give it a Second Reading, so that the various points which have been brought up to-day may be considered upstairs on the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a, Standing Committee.