HC Deb 11 April 1934 vol 288 cc365-434

6.2 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out "one hundred," and to insert "fifty."

This is one of a group of Amendments which are not intended to reduce the existing penalties in any way. The same maximum of £100 is retained, but it is intended to differentiate between the first offender and the persistent poacher. A good deal has been said about the recommendation which was made by the Mackenzie Departmental Committee in 1923. That Committee recommended an increase in the penalties for illegal trawling, but there are two points that we have to remember in that connection. In the first place, when the Mackenzie Departmental Committee sat there was a great deal more illegal trawling going on than there is now. In the second place, the Government at that time were very strongly pressed to increase the penalties, but on a number of occasions they refused to do so because they considered that the alternative policy which they had adopted was dealing successfully with illegal trawling.

I should like to read an extract from a statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland at that time, the present Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Speaking on the Scottish Estimates, on 4th August, 1925, he said: The prevention of illegal trawling has made very considerable progress, and we have succeeded in materially reducing not merely the cases which have been prosecuted, but even the number of complaints made, which leads us to believe that we are actually succeeding in cutting down the practice of illegal trawling around our coasts. We have carried out the construction of two new auxiliary fast motor cruisers. One of these is a skimming boat capable of doing 33 knots an hour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August, 1925; col. 1284, Vol. 187.] The claim which the Under-Secretary made at that time is fully justified if we look at the figures of convictions, and compare them with convictions in the three years preceding the addition of the cruisers. In 1921, 1922 and 1923 the convictions were 73, 40 and 44 respectively, and in the three following years they were 16, 12 and 9. In the first three years there was an average of 52 convictions and in the second three years an average of 12 convictions. That shows, I think, that the claim that efficient policing reduces illegal trawling to a very considerable extent is fully justified. The same point was raised by the present Under-Secretary when he was speaking on the Second Reading of the present Bill. He said: Already this winter in districts where our drifters have been on patrol there has been a very marked disappearance of the trawlers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1934; col. 1120, Vol. 287.] That disappearance is not connected with any increased penalties, because the Bill has not yet come into force, but is due to the fact that a large number of drifters which have been bought by the Government are patrolling the West coast, the poachers know about it and the result has been a considerable diminution in the amount of poaching which has been going on.

The Government were pressed to increase the penalties, as I have said, when the Mackenzie Report was issued, but the Under-Secretary at that time justified the fact that the penalties were not increased. He was asked whether he would agree to the imposition of severer penalties, especially in the case of second or third offences, and he replied: My Noble Friend's attention has been called to complaints of the kind referred to in the question. He is not satisfied that the existing statutory powers as to penalties axe inadequate, and on the information before him it does not appear that they are fully exercised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1923; col. 794, Vol. 160.] We may say the same thing at the present time in connection with the convictions, that the powers which the court has to impose large fines is very rarely exercised. In the majority of cases the fines are very much below the maximum. I have a list of the local convictions that have taken place, and I find that, reading backwards from the present time, the fines have been £40, £40, £50, £25, £40, £30, £50 and £100. In only one case has the maximum fine been imposed. The question is, what fine constitutes a deterrent fine? I have tried to get at that as far as possible by tracing the local convictions during the past three years, and I find that of the fines that have been imposed of over £40, only in two cases have they been paid. In all the other cases the man has gone to prison. We may take it that, as a general rule, £40 is the maximum that a skipper can pay.

According to the Report of the Commission a skipper in Aberdeen earned from £7 0s. 8d. to £8 3s. 8d. a week, but the Commission's report was issued some time ago, and since then fishing has become more depressed. I am told that a number of skippers at the present time do not earn more than £2 odd per week. Certainly there are some of them who are in exceedingly bad circumstances, and they are having to sell part of their household furniture in order to keep things going in these difficult times. A fine such as £200 is something altogether outside the power of any skipper to pay. It is suggested that the owner would pay the fine, and that therefore it does not matter how much the fine is. I have tried to verify every case, and I find that so far as Aberdeen is concerned the owner does not pay the fine. I have investigated all the last cases of convictions, 15 in number, and I find that in each of them either the skipper himself or the relations of the skipper paid the fine, or else the man has gone to prison. There was only one of the 15 cases that I was unable to trace. Therefore, as a general rule, the skipper either pays the fine or he goes to prison.

I know that the owners warn the skippers as far as possible when they are going out not to indulge in illegal trawling. They have done their best to stop this practice, and it is only where the skipper is coming back with a very small catch, and he is anxious for the future and afraid of dismissal, that occasionally this illegal trawling takes place. I am satisfied that it does not take place with the consent or with the approval of the owners. Therefore, in fixing the fine we should fix an amount which it is within the limits of the skipper to pay. I am strongly against increasing the maximum penalty of £100, but where there is persistent illegal trawling I suggest that we should keep the maximum where it stands at £100. If we increase the fine to £200, we are fixing a fantastic figure which can never be realised, and it will mean that the man automatically goes to prison.

6.14 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I have sometimes heard it said that the National Government are a Government of reaction. I believe that that is a charge which is disproved by the record of the National Government, and that within the past two years they have shown an openness of mind which has not been surpassed by any Government of modern times. They have shown a desire to adapt themselves to new conditions, and to adopt new expedients to meet those new conditions. It is, therefore, the more regrettable that in this case Homer has nodded and my right hon. Friend has introduced a Bill which is, in my opinion, thoroughly reactionary. This Clause is one of the most reactionary Clauses in a reactionary Bill. On such a Measure it is not surprising to me to find the two sections of the Opposition rallying to the support of the National Government. Whenever the Government have done anything which shows that they are a little in advance of the times, the two parties of the Opposition have attacked them tooth and nail, but now, when they are introducing a Clause and a Bill which are definitely reactionary, it is perhaps only natural that these two parties to the Opposition, one which persists in following the phantom of Sir Robert Peel and the other which still dallies with Karl Marx in the regions of the British Museum, should join in supporting the Government in a most enthusiastic way.

This Clause is extremely reactionary. We have heard of people trying to get back to the vanished world of 1914, but this is trying to put us back to an horizon far more distant than that. It is trying to put us back to the conditions which existed in 1800, when the state of English law was peculiar. At that time all kinds of savage penalties were inflicted. There were hundreds of offences for which the penalty was death. But even at that time this Clause would have been considered rather excessive. In the Poaching Act, which was passed in 1800, the penalties inflicted are nothing like as severe as those inflicted by this Clause. The maximum penalty imposed for a first offence of poaching was one month's detention in a house of correction, but the maximum penalty inflicted by this Clause for a first offence is three months' imprisonment. That is to say, the present Bill is three times as severe as the Act of 1800, and that Act is regarded as a sort of museum case of class privilege and vindictiveness. The Amendment we propose is extremely moderate. We are not asking the Government to go to the degree of leniency shown by the Act of 1800. If the Government accept the Amendment, the penalty will still be twice as severe as the penalties imposed in that Act. I hope, therefore, that the Government will accept the Amendment, and that the Committee will give it an easy passage.

6.19 p.m.


I hope that the Government will resist this Amendment, as well as the other Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett.) and the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law). We have listened to a speech from the hon. Member for South-West Hull general in its tone, describing the Bill as reactionary, as going back to the middle ages, but if the hon. Member had been a student of the Press he would see, if he had looked at the news from Iceland, that only 10 days ago a Grimsby trawler was fined £1,200, and it is not an uncommon thing for fines in Norway and Sweden to be £1,200 or £1,000. When you are creating a penalty you must look at the offence. Those who know the conditions in Scotland regard illegal trawling as one of the worst offences, a most serious form of crime, because it filches away the livelihood of a lot of honest men. If you look at it from that point of view, you will not say that £100 is too large a fine. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen has given us instances where fines varying from £40 to £100 have been imposed. But it is quite a common thing for fines of £100 to be imposed for illegal trawling, with confiscation of some parts of the gear. Only a fortnight ago a fine of £100 was imposed in Stornoway, and in the West of Scotland such a fine is regularly imposed. Instead of this being a reactionary fine, I think it is up-to-date, and not a bit too much. I think that £200 for a second conviction is not too much. There is a clear line of demarcation, and every sea-going skipper knows the line, he knows the three-mile limit well. He has up-to-date methods of navigation, and I say that when he gets inside the three-mile limit he is doing it not unwillingly, but willingly. Accordingly, I look with the greatest severity upon a criminal offence of this kind. I hope that the Government will stick to the Bill. I do not know what their intentions are, but I know that I am speaking the views of people in Scotland and in England, apart from towns like Grimsby and Fleetwood, and of all those who take an active interest in the livelihood and welfare of a decent body of men, when I say that these fines are not too much, and that the country expects the Government to stick to their Bill.

6.22 p.m.


I have some difficulty in following the line of thought which underlies the Amendment. From some of the remarks of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett), it would almost seem as if he wanted the penalty reduced to such a level that it was worth a skipper's while to consider whether it would not be better for him to break the law and risk the penalty, or keep the law and come back with an inadequate catch. If you are to have penalties, you should make certain that it will not be worth while for anyone to break the law, and I do not regard £100 for a really glaring case as being at all out of the question. I rather thought that the hon. Member gave away his case when he pointed out that in the vast majority of instances the fine does not reach anything like £100, and that most of the skippers were fined about £40. Probably the fine will be £30 or £40 in the future, but what you want to do is to provide a maximum penalty for the man who is obviously a deliberate breaker of the law. If there is anything to be said in mitigation, then a fine of £100 will not be imposed. The Bill does not make £100 the minimum; it is the maximum for the worst cases, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will not give way. I do not want to be vindictive. I think there is something to be said for the reduction of three months as an alternative. A first offender skipper can hardly ever be so guilty as to deserve three months' imprisonment, and I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment to reduce the three months to 60 days, and also with some of his later Amendments. But, as far as the financial penalty is concerned, I hope that the Government will not reduce the figure of £100.

6.25 p.m.


The case against the Amendment has been so well stated that I do not wish to take up much time in supporting the proposal of the Government. For the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) to describe the Clause as reactionary and vindictive is rather to strain the credulity of the Committee. Who are the people who are going to suffer by the imposition of this fine? They are those who are in command of big ocean-going trawlers, who have a considerable portion of the seven seas over which they may carry on their occupation. Those who have to suffer from their depredations are the inshore fishermen, who have only a limited area in which to fish, and if that area is ruined by illegal trawling their livelihood is entirely gone. A big trawler can kiss and sail away, but a local fisherman is bound to stay where his livelihood exists. The right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) quoted a case of a fortnight ago in the Icelandic courts. I believe there has been a more recent case. I read on Saturday that another poaching trawler has been fined £1,000 by the court in Reykjavik. Hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment would be better employed in trying to get the administration of Iceland to reduce their fines, rather than in trying to induce His Majesty's Government to lower these very reasonable penalties. This is one of the best minor Measures which the Government have introduced, and I hope that they will not give way to the two hon. Members who are running this series of Amendments.

6.28 p.m.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)

The hon. Member for South West Hull (Mr. Law), who seconded the Amendment, has described the Clause as reactionary. Its object is to safeguard the legitimate rights of inshore fishermen, and, in view of what has been said by several hon. Members, I do not think it can really be described as reactionary. All we are anxious to do is to secure the legitimate rights of these men. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment made two points. In the first place he said that the convictions prior to 1924 were, on an average, 52 per year, but that in the three years 1924–26 land 1926, according to his statement, which I have no doubt is accurate, the average was 12 per year. Naturally, when the number of convictions is reduced from 52 to 12, the assumption is that illegal trawling is declining, and no doubt the Minister had that in mind when he decided that he would take no further action. The figures, however, have shown an increase since 1924, and for the three years ending 1933 the numbers are 11, 17 and 16.


May I suggest that since 1925 the fishery cruisers are 11 years older, and a number have been laid up? That would account for the small increase in the last three years.


I think it rather tends to show that if the cruisers had been more efficient the number of convictions might have been considerably increased. But he also stated that the fines imposed were on an average about £40. The official information I have is that the average fine for Scotland in the year 1932 was £77, and that in 1933 it was £74. And, as other hon. Members have pointed out, the fines are maximum fines. It is in the discretion of the sheriff, if there are extenuating circumstances, not to impose the maximum fine. The hon. Member also said that during recent months, thanks mainly to the drifters and the Q boats, the number of convictions has dropped. That may be a passing phase or a permanent phase. I hope it is a permanent phase. But the Government have set out with the one deliberate object of suppressing this illegal trawling for all time. If our Bill does not secure that, future Governments, no doubt, will bring in stronger measures. But side by side with the penalties imposed under Clause I we are to have modern fishery cruisers as well as new Q boats.

Since the Bill received its Second Reading we have been pressed by the Convention of Royal Burghs to increase the penalties very severely, and it is true that there are much heavier penalties in other countries. But before the Government came to the decision to impose the penalties contained in this Clause, they took all the facts into consideration, and although we are to be pressed to-day in various Amendments both to increase and to reduce the penalties and sentences, I appeal to the Committee to support the Government by resisting those Amendments. We have endeavoured to steer a middle course between excessive and inadequate punishment of these offenders, and we think that the penalties will be sufficient to end permanently the process of illegal trawling that has gone on around our shores for many years. I argued the case for these penalties at length on the Second Reading, and I hope, therefore, that the Committee will excuse me if I do not go into the reasons as fully now.

6.34 p.m.


The only point I wish to make is that I think it is correct to say that the fine under the existing law is £100 for the first offence. Therefore, so far from the Government having increased the penalty for the first offence, they are allowing it to remain as it was before. I do not know whether that is realised by the Committee.

Amendment negatived.

6.35 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, at the end, to insert: and, where the person convicted is the skipper of the vessel, to the cancellation of his certificate. We have heard arguments put forward for and against the Clause as it stands, and for minimising the penalties that are to be imposed on individuals who trawl illegally. The question of illegal trawling has been before the House of Commons time and time again. That is because it is of such a serious nature and because it affects the well-being of Britain. That is what is at stake here. It is not the case that we who wish the Bill to be strengthened have any animus against the trawler as such, but it is because we are doing our best to safeguard the interests of our country. We are putting our country first, before individual interests. Nothing but individual interests could have emanated from the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) in defending the trawlers which are destroying at the moment, as they have done for 10 years, the finest race of men on earth. They are not simply taking away the fish; they are taking away the livelihood of the fishermen, particularly around the Hebrides.

The Amendment suggests not a fine, not imprisonment, but that we take away the certificate from the skipper. Every one who has taken any interest in this question knows perfectly well that even the fines that are to be imposed by the Bill are of such a character that skippers will risk them. It is such a rich harvest that they can reap as a result of their illegal trawling. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen told the Committee that the skipper would not do this were it not that he might have a bad catch, and he did not want to go home with a bad catch because he might lose his job. Previously the hon. Member told us that the owners of the trawlers instruct their skippers that upon no consideration must they trawl illegally, and that the skippers have no encouragement to do anything of the kind. Yet he said, on the other hand, that if the men did not come back with a good catch they got the sack. If that is not an inducement to illegal trawling, I do not know what is.


I did not say that they would get the sack, but that they feared, if they came back continually with poor catches, that they might get the sack. But that has nothing to do with the owners.


I leave the Committee to judge as to that. The fact remains that this illegal trawling is a menace to the Western Isles and to the whole of the west of Scotland, which is the richest fishing ground in the world. Those trawlers are destroying this rich fishing ground; they are absolutely tear- ing away everything. The fishermen around the western shores of Scotland at one time could have shown you that at certain seasons of the year the waters were literally alive with fish. Not only were the folks resident on the coast able to secure a good staple food that would produce a hardy and intelligent race, but they were able to catch enough to enable them to sell some of their catch and obtain some of the luxuries of life. To-day they are being denied that. It is not simply the Labour party, the Socialists, who are up in arms against this illegal trawling. It is every individual who has given any thought to the subject, and who has come in contact with the terrible crime that is being committed. It is depleting that section of the communiy which was second to none in serving the country during the War. If war broke out to-morrow we have not one-fourth of the men to man the drifters that we had 12 years ago. That is an alarming statement to make and the worst of it is that it is true.

The Secretary of State told us that the Convention of Royal Burghs has appealed to him to strengthen the Bill. They are supporting him all the way, just as we on the Labour benches are doing. We recognise that we are really getting something from the Secretary of State, that this Bill is going to help us somewhat. The Convention of Royal Burghs by no stretch of the imagination can be termed Labour or Socialist. It is Tory to the backbone, the greatest lot of old Die-hards that any country ever had. I have told them that when they have come down here. They are the team who are responsible for the present Tory Government, as far as Scotland is concerned. They would not give us Labour men a kind look, never mind a vote. But they are anxious to do what they can here to safeguard the Highlands of Scotland, and they are supporting me in this idea of suspending the certificate of the skipper.

No less a person than Lord Mackenzie in the report of his committee suggested the very same thing. Why the Secretary of State has not accepted Lord Mackenzie's suggestion is beyond me, because Lord Mackenzie is not a revolutionary by any stretch of imagination. Lord Mackenzie had before him all the evidence. He went carefully into this matter, and he suggested that the certifi- cate of the trawler master, on his being convicted the third time of fishing within prohibited waters, should be suspended. That is what I am asking. It is a scandal that the benches here this afternoon should be almost empty as per usual when Scottish affairs are being discussed. Every time we discuss Scottish affairs we find the same thing, and this fact is thrown at us in Scotland as a ground for demanding Scottish Home Rule. Here we are discussing a question which means life or death to this hardy and intelligent race; and the benches are empty. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Practically speaking they are. Only a few Members are here. The Press can judge, and I leave it to be judged by everybody who is here whether the benches are full or not. Facts are chiels that winna ding, An' daurna be disputed.


Quote it correctly. It should be "downa" not "daurna."


The suggestion which I make in this Amendment is a modified one, because I hold that offending trawlers ought to be taken into port and kept in port. If the skipper and the men concerned were kept on board the trawler for a month, without wages, they would not break the law again. That would put a stop to this practice, but, of course, that method would not give the lawyers any jobs. We always seem to find a way of dealing with these matters which means that lawyers must be employed to prosecute and to defend, and so on and so forth. I would like to take hon. Members to the West Isles and show them these men, as I have seen them for myself, going about with nothing to do. They are losing all ambition. They cannot go out to fish because the trawlers have taken away all the fish. Parliament and the country have a serious decision to make between scientific fishing, which is trawlingx2014;




Yes, the most up-to-date method of fishing is trawling, and if I were to carry out what the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) said about Karl Marx I should support trawling if it were only a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. As I say, it is the scientific method, and it eliminates the dangers attaching to the occupation of the men who fish in their little yawls. Theirs is one of the most dangerous occupations in Britain. As a Socialist, I would be in favour of it, but the price which I am asked to pay here is too great. That price is to let down one of the finest bodies of men and women in the British Isles. It is for those people that I am fighting here. I know that a case in favour of trawling can be put up from a monetary, a scientific and a modern point of view. It is the same as the employer of labour introducing more up-to-date machinery and doing away with manual labour. I am all for that as a Socialist, but I draw the line when I find that society to-day has made no provision to safeguard the welfare of those men and women whose only means of livelihood is fishing.

The present Government and previous Governments have allowed this matter to drift, and these Highlanders are deteriorating even worse than the people in the slums of our big industrial centres. The Government have to choose between allowing these fishermen the means to live and allowing the unrestricted use of the more up-to-date method of scooping the fish out of the sea by means of steam drifters and trawlers, leaving the poor fishermen high and dry. In order that this Committee and the country may know the type of men for whom I am standing up, and the contribution which they have made to the greatness of this country and this Empire—which did not begin with the last War—I am going to quote from a speech made by a famous Englishman, the Earl of Chatham, on 14th January, 1765. He said: I have no local attachments; it is indifferent to me whether a man was rocked in his cradle on this side or that side of the Tweed. I sought for merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it and I found it in the mountains of the North. I called it forth, and drew it into your service, a hardy and intrepid race of men, men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies and had gone nigh to have overturned the State in the war before the last. These men in the last war were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity as they fought with valour and conquered for you in every part of the world." It is the descendants of the men to whom the Earl of Chatham paid that tribute whose livelihood is at stake to-day, and that is why we are asking the Secretary of State to stiffen these penalties and make the punishment of these offending skippers harsher than it is. A fine of £100 or £200 is no use. They can get away in a night with £3,000 worth of fish where, without trawling illegally, they would not have £200 worth. Therefore, they will take the risk, and by doing so they destroy the livelihood of those fishermen who have stood by their country through thick and thin at all times. I have no compunction or conscience in standing up here in the British House of Commons and saying to this Committee that where any concession is possible it should be made to the fishermen round our shores.

6.68 p.m.


I have great pleasure in supporting this Amendment. It is on the lines of the recommendation in the report of Lord Mackenzie's Committee which, as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has said, has been allowed to slide by Government after Government for, I think, nearly 20 years. I think that the report was made in 1911.


No, it was 1923.


At any rate, it is over 11 years ago, and it is a shocking thing that the matter should have been neglected so long, because during all that time large numbers of fishermen have suffered serious loss by illegal trawling. What the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs has said is true. They can scoop up in a single night hundreds of pounds' worth of fish, and a fine of £100 is no deterrent to these dishonest skippers. If a man is convicted repeatedly of motoring offences, we often find that his certificate is suspended for life. If a solicitor is discovered in even one act of dishonesty, he is disbarred. Is there anything sacrosanct about trawler skippers? Is there any reason why they should get repeated chances when they have acted illegally and why we should let off not only the skipper but also the owner who may have benefited materially from the skipper's illegalities if he is a rascally owner?

I do not say there are many such owners. I want to say here that there are very few cases from Grimsby or Hull. But when you get Fleetwood trawlers coming in and breaking the law surely something should be done to deal with persistent offenders. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Boss and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there is actually a case of a man who was convicted nine times. Surely that is persistent wrong-doing. Why should a fellow like that get off with a fine when he has made a profit which is far more than the amount of the fine imposed? Until it is made definitely unprofitable, you will not put an end to this kind of law-breaking by certain individuals of a certain class. What the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs said on the last occasion was most sound. They lay up the ship, and the men lose their jobs. It may be said that that is very hard lines on the men, but it is nothing more than Army justice. If one member of a platoon overstays his leave, the authorities do not punish him but they stop the leave of the platoon, and the men give him what he deserves for landing them in that state. If the men and the boat were laid up for a period, the trouble would very soon be cured.

I agree that the certificate should be taken away from a man who commits this offence three times. He should not put to sea again; he ought to go back to the land. He is damaging the fish and ruining the livelihood of hundreds of individuals. The punishment would be for the sake not only of the injured individuals, but also of the country. Through the legislation that was passed after Culloden, we lost the most magnificent body of men we had. The feeling was that with the infliction of the distilling laws they lost a little industry of their own—which was very possible. We perpetrated every injustice on them, and Canada and Australia have benefited by getting that population. A large number of them, however, still remain. Look what splendid fellows they make in the Mercantile Marine. I have never been in a ship without finding men from the Isles and men from Argyllshire. I have talked to little boys at school, and when I have asked them what they were going to be, they have all said that they were going to sea to get their training. You may talk about education, but you could not get a finer education for a boy than going out with his father in a fishing boat. You are making a man and a seaman of him at once. They go out to catch fish, but they cannot catch fish now, because the trawlers destroy the fish. There are plenty of fish out in the further water, and the illegal trawling is done by knaves who do not care a button for anyone but themselves. After a man has been convicted three times he should never be allowed to go to sea again except as a deck hand. He is totally unfit to be a skipper, because he is a dishonest man, and a dishonest man should not be allowed the opportunity of taking away the livelihood of thousands of honest men. I, therefore, have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.

7.3 p.m.


I rise to support the Amendment, and I came to the conclusion to do so after very careful thought. I watched with great interest the evidence given before the Mackenzie Committee. I know something about Lord Mackenzie, and I am quite satisfied that as long ago as 1923 he would never have recommended punishment of this kind if he had not thought that it was bound to be effective. He is a very humane man, and his fellow members of the committee were humane and just. I am satisfied that this is a fair penalty for the third conviction. The withdrawal of a certificate is not a mystery. It is done every day. The scallywag in every profession has to submit to the withdrawal of his certificate. Take, for example, the sea. A captain who is guilty of faulty navigation loses his certificate. That is not a crime; it may be negligence or slackness on his part, but the Board of Trade have decided that these certificates shall be respected and kept clean, and they do not hesitate to withdraw the certificate of a man who is guilty of faulty navigation. Illegal trawling is a crime, and that is the main distinction between the two. Here, for the first time, the Government have the courage to introduce an illegal trawling Bill, but where a man has been convicted of committing a crime three times he will be more leniently dealt with than a man who, for the first time, has been guilty of no crime at all, but of faulty navigation. The situation is preposterous.

I am reminded of a boat which was caught in the Minch last summer, the captain of which had nine convictions. What mercy should the House show to a man of that kind? If he has done it once, he knows what the penalty is. If he does it twice, he should know all the more. But if he does it three times, knowingly and with malice aforethought, why should this House show him any mercy? Decent, law-abiding skippers of trawling fleets abhor a man of that kind, and will be the first to condemn one of their own class who persistently indulges in this atrocious act. No class of men would more willingly see this penalty included in the Bill than the trawling skippers themselves. They are a respectable and gallant lot of men, and I have always taken the view that it is the scallywag of that class who commits this offence. If we can get at him satisfactorily, we should do so now.

The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), with his customary eloquence, had a certain amount to say about the Convention of Royal Burghs. I do not entirely agree with him, but when feeling is running high in Scotland, the Convention represent that feeling adequately and fairly. At their last meeting they unanimously agreed to support this Amendment. When they have public opinion behind them, as I venture to think they have in Scotland now, and indeed in England and in Wales, the Government should not hesitate to accept an Amendment of this kind.

7.8 p.m.


I am, in the Committee stage, the only English Member who has spoken who does not represent a trawling constituency, but I represent a fishing constituency. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) made a very eloquent speech urging us to support this Amendment, but I sincerely hope that the Government will not accept it. He found it necessary to go back to the time of Lord Chatham, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) went back even 20 years further, in order to prove his case. I wonder why they did not go back to the Flood, because there was so much more water then that illegal trawling should have been much more prevalent. This is a technical point. There are two obvious reasons why the Government should not accept the Amendment. The first is that it would be extremely unfair to apply such a vindictive penalty only to British masters of trawling vessels. We can have no jurisdiction over foreign vessels. I agree that it is quite possible to fine foreign vessels which come to our shores and engage in illicit trawling, but I do not think that any court can remove the master's certificate from the captain of a foreign vessel. The second point is that under this Bill, if a man is convicted three times of illicit trawling, he will certainly lose his job, anyhow.


Is the hon. Member aware that there are practically no convictions for illicit trawling, and can he suggest why the man who had nine convictions continued in his job?


I am not professing to argue that the Bill should not be very drastic. I should be prepared to oppose many of the other Amendments which are on the Order Paper, because I feel that the Bill should, be made stronger. It is, however, obviously unfair to apply only to a British trawler-master a penalty which you cannot possibly enforce against foreign masters. Secondly, it is obvious that even after one conviction the master runs very grave risk of losing his job, and after two or three he is absolutely certain to lose his job, and then the question of his certificate carries no importance at all. It is for those reasons that I very much hope that the Government will, with no uncertain voice, refuse to accept such a harsh Amendment.

7.11 p.m.


I have now been in this House in five Parliaments, and in every Session of every Parliament I have heard this question discussed. Now at last we are getting down to business. I, for one, am not going to half-do the job while we have the opportunity. It is not often that I have the pleasure of supporting my hon. Friend, but I am not going to let it be said today that it is only those hon. Members representing the Highland constituencies who will support him in the action which he suggests taking. I believe that the whole of Scotland is in favour of this drastic measure. As the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) has said, they laugh at fines. What can we do? We must do something to keep that hardy race in the Highlands in existence, and the whole of Scotland desires to do so. I, for one, shall go into the Lobby and support the Highlanders on this occasion.

7.13 p.m.


My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), when he made his very comprehensive speech in moving this Amendment, referred to Scottish Home Rule. I do not know whether the hon. Member has any ambition to sit in a Parliament at Edinburgh, but I can assure him that if he ever does so he will not be able to pass Measures of this kind, or to do to English fishermen the kind of thing that he wishes to do in this Bill. He would do much better to stay at Westminster, and I hope that he will do so. Both he and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) seemed, with respect, to be the victims of a certain confusion of thought. On the one hand they said that, entirely as a result of the depredations of the trawler, all the fish is taken out of Scottish waters and the unfortunate Scottish fishermen have nothing to live on. On the other hand, they both went on to argue that any trawler could come into these same Scottish waters and get a catch worth £3,000 in one night's work. If a British trawler can do that, I cannot see why the Scottish fishermen are in such a bad way. The fact is that the British trawler cannot do it.

At the same time, the hon. Members who have quoted from the Mackenzie Report in this connection concerning the damage which is done by trawlers to these inshore fishermen are far more positive than the authors of the report themselves. The report submits its conclusions with a very considerable degree of diffidence and without any very great certainty. It says, in effect, that scientific knowledge has not developed to such an extent that we can say with certainty what the effects of trawling are. It seems to me that the tenour of the report is far more qualified and far less strong than the tenour of the speeches which we have had on the Second Reading and this afternoon in respect to this Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) pointed out, justly, that the Amendment was in effect unnecessary, because no skipper would stay in command of a ship under this Bill until he had committed a third offence. The hon. Member also asked why it was that the Government did not implement the full recommendations of the Mackenzie Committee in this respect, and why they had not themselves provided for the cancellation of a skipper's certificate in the Bill. The reason for that was given very clearly by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in the Second Reading Debate. I am sorry that he is not here now, because I want to make some reference to what he said, but he explained that, much as the Government would like to take away a master's certificate, they dared not do it. His exact words were these: We departed from the recommendation of the Mackenzie Committee in this respect, because there were difficulties in suspension or the taking away of a master's certificate for this class of reason, and we felt that exactly the same or sufficiently similar results could be obtained by the method which we have adopted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1934; col. 1121, Vol. 287.] I think that what my hon. Friend (meant by that—I am subject to correction, and I am sorry he is not here to correct me, if necessary—was that the Board of Trade granted a certificate of navigation to a master of a ship for certain definite qualifications and with certain definite regulations, and the only way in which he could lose that certificate would be if he began, for some reason or other, to lack those qualifications or to break those regulations of the Board of Trade. It is obvious that if that is the case, the Scottish Office could not take away a Board of Trade certificate, or, if it did, there would be such an enormous outcry that it would not be wise to do it. Therefore, my hon. Friend has gone a long way round in order to get the same result, and it seems to me that that attitude on the part of the Government is very much as if Scottish Members should come to them and say, "There is an awful lot of sheep-stealing going on in Scotland. Do you not think you had better hang people who steel sheep, as they did 100 years ago or so?" And as if the Government should answer, "We would like to do it very much, but we are afraid that, in the face of the enlightened public opinion of to-day, we cannot. However, what we will do is to make their lives so unbearable that they will commit suicide." That is really the effect of the Bill so far as this Clause is concerned.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) said that there was no feeling on the part of decent skippers in English trawling ports against this Amendment, but I should like to disabuse his mind on that point, because there is a very strong feeling indeed among the skippers in the port that I have the honour to represent in this House. They feel very strongly that it is an insult to their calling that their certificate of navigation or their master's certificate should be taken away from them by anybody but the Board of Trade for anything but the offences which are specified by the Board of Trade, and they have very strong feelings indeed on that score. I hope very much that the Government will turn the Amendment down with no less firmness than they turned down the Amendment which we were discussing a few minutes ago.

7.20 p.m.


The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) mentioned that the trawlers were destroying the finest race of men, and speaker after speaker has spoken about the depredations of the trawlers being responsible for driving the inshore fishermen out of existence. While I admit that there are fewer inshore fishermen now than there were formerly, I do not admit that it is the depredations of the trawlers that has caused it. We have our experience locally on the north-east coast. We in Aberdeen had a large fleet of line boats, and we had a large population of inshore fishermen. Then the first trawler came to Aberdeen, in 1874. It was unpopular, and trawl fishermen were stoned there. At the beginning of the 1880's the trawl fleet in Aberdeen began, and the population began to see that the trawlers were getting fish in quantities quite different from those got by the line fishermen. The result is that now we have something like nine larger line boats and a certain number of smaller motor and other boats round the coast, which berth at the fish market alongside the trawlers, and we have no hand-line fishermen left.

The reason is not the depredations by trawlers. Hand-line fishing meant a great deal of hard work at home. It meant not only the work of the fishermen, but it meant the wife, the family, and all concerned working as well, baiting the line, getting the line ready for shooting, and so on; and when the trawlers came they found that the work could be done much more easily. What is the result? We have, I am told, 50 per cent. of our trawling population in Aberdeen who have come from round the Moray Firth and the coasts of Aberdeenshire and Kincardineshire, and they have come because they have found that they could only make a precarious living by line fishing. At the examinations for engineers and for fishermen which are held in Aberdeen large numbers come from Peter-head and the Moray Firth. This tendency is going on all over the country, and I agree with what the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs said on this point, that trawling, as the more progressive industry, is attracting the line fishermen, and the inshore fishing population is consequently dwindling. I think it is a mistake on the part of the Government to try to attract men to line fishing, and they would surely be better employed in trying to favour seine-net fishing and trawling, so that those industries could be started on the west coast. Fisheries could then be much better used than they are just now. The difficulty at present relates to the problem of marketing by line fishermen. The converted drifters come round, the buyers follow them to Oban and other towns, and while they remain there, the fish can be marketed. Then the converted drifters go and the marketing facilities cease.


The hon. Member is not only getting away from the Amendment, but he is getting away from trawling altogether.


I should like, in connection with the Amendment, to say that I think the cancellation of a master's certificate is practically achieved in the Bill already. There is no doubt that an owner will not employ a skipper who has already been convicted, because the penalties are too heavy, and it means that a skipper will be idle for a period of three years or five years. The object of the Amendment is fully achieved in the Bill, and I cannot see why the principle should carry it further.

7.24 p.m.


The question which is raised by the Amendment is one to which I have had to give a considerable amount of attention on previous Bills dealing with this subject. The cancellation of a master's certificate for illegal trawling at one time rather appealed to me, because I thought it would be the most appropriate punishment to inflict, but I afterwards came to the conclusion that that method of dealing with a master's certificate could not be carried out very satisfactorily, mainly for the reason that was advanced by a previous speaker.


Is the hon. Member aware that any licence-holder convicted three times has his licence forfeited automatically?


There are great difficulties in dealing with skippers' certificates for offences of this nature. You can deal with them for offences under the Merchant Shipping Act, which is a different matter altogether. Therefore, we are faced with having to find some method of dealing with the skipper Who commits these offences, and I am inclined to think that the method which is devised in the Bill will be found to be the most effective, because it is obvious that a skipper who has a black mark against his name, whose employment may entail a very heavy pecuniary loss on an employer, will not get very easy employment as a skipper of a trawler, but at the same time it does not destroy his possibility of obtaining his livelihood in some other line. He still has his skipper's certificate, and he can still get employment as a skipper, although he may have very great difficulty in getting employment as a skipper of a trawler. Therefore, the Amendment would really be ineffective, because we shall never have a case in future, I think, of a skipper having three convictions against him for illegal trawling, because it is obvious that if he is employed again after one offence and he lets his owner in for a fine of £500, he will not be employed again.


He may have caught £5,000 worth of fish.


I think the scheme in the Bill is worth supporting, although I am no friend of the skipper who commits these offences any more than are any of my hon. Friends here. I think that if the rest of the Bill goes through as it stands, the Amendment is unnecessary.

7.28 p.m.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Wilfrid Normand)

I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment. Its purpose is to empower the sheriff to inflict, in addition to the other penalties provided for in the Bill, the penalty of cancellation of a master's certificate. It is important, therefore, that the Committee should realise what the penalties at present provided by the Bill are. For a first offence, they include a fine on a skipper of £100 plus imprisonment up to three months, and for a second offence a fine of £200, or imprisonment up to six months, and these two punishments may be cumulative on a third or subsequent conviction. Further, there is the very important consequence that the names of persons convicted of illegal trawling are to appear on a list provided for in a subsequent Sub-section of this Clause, and one effect of a name appearing on that list would be that if he again commits an offence, the owner becomes subject to a fine also. The result of the penalties, therefore, which the Bill provides is undoubtedly that it will be difficult for any skipper, once convicted, let alone three times convicted, to find employment as a skipper of a trawler again. I think these penalties are severe—not, I believe, more severe than the offence requires—but it is important that we should not impose penalties that are needlessly severe, as I believe the cancellation of a certificate would be.

As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), the owner himself may, as well as the skipper, be subjected to penalties in consequence of the conviction of the skipper for the third time. If that skipper has been in the employment of the same owner, the owner may be liable to a penalty up to £500. There accordingly may be involved a penalty of £200 on the skipper or six months imprisonment, and £500 on the owner of the vessel. In addition the name of the skipper may be listed thus greatly increasing the difficulty of his obtaining employment, so much so, that I think it would have the same effect on his prospects of employment as the actual cancellation of his certificate. There is also the other point which has been mentioned, that the certificate which the skipper holds is not a certificate that he is a law-abiding man, but that he is a qualified navigator. The fact that he carries on systematic illegal trawling does not mean that he is an unqualified navigator, and it is not a proper ground for the withdrawal of his certificate. On these grounds, it would be improper to accept the Amendment.

The broad grounds on which I invite the Committee to act is that we have provided large penalties in the Bill which are, I think, sufficient, and we should not go beyond what is required in order to debar people from breaking the law. Lord Mackenzie's Committee did suggest that there might be upon the third conviction a withdrawal of the certificate, but the committee did not suggest many of the other penalties which we have included, and it would not be right to take all the penalties that the Government have suggested plus the penalties which the committee suggested and accumulate them upon the head of the offending skipper. I think the committee will be satisfied that the penalties we have put in the Bill will be sufficient to meet the purpose we have in view.

7.33 p.m.


I am disappointed that the Lord Advocate has intimated the refusal of the Government to accept this Amendment. He speaks about difficulties that stand in the way, but I cannot see why such difficulties cannot be overcome if the Government are really in favour of some such deterrent as is proposed in the Amendment. We drafted this Amendment knowing what it meant, because we believe that where the skipper of a trawler is persistently breaking the law he is no longer qualified for being a skipper of a trawler. The very fact that the Government propose cumulative penalties for recurring offences by the same skipper is an indication that they themselves believe there is a type of skipper in command of trawlers who is prepared, because of the monetary advantage to be reaped in illegal trawling, to continue the practice. Consequently, the Bill contains heavier penalties for each succeeding offence on the part of the skipper.

Mention was made of the difficulty that stands in the way, because the certificate is granted by the Board of Trade, not because the man is a skipper of a trawler, but because he has certain qualifications with regard to navigation that makes it possible for him to be entrusted by the Board of Trade with the power of navigating a vessel. A similar class of certificate is given to a medical practitioner to show that he is qualified to act as a doctor, and he receives it on taking his degrees. The same thing applies to a solicitor who receives his qualifications through some degree from another body. If a medical practitioner commits any offence against the law or any offence that is considered to be a breach of his professional conduct, the Medical Council—not a court of law or a sheriff as in the case of a skipper of a trawler—will, in spite of the fact that he has all the qualifications for continuing practising surgery or medicine, take his certificate from him. The legal committee concerned will also deprive a solicitor or barrister of his living for some practice it considers to be outside the professional code of morals.

The difficulty which the Lord Advocate said stands in the way of accepting the Amendment has been met in other professions, and it can easily be met here. If the Government were favourable to accepting the Amendment, we on this side would not object to a redrafting of the wording in such a way as to bring the Board of Trade into it. It might provide that where the offence was the third offence the sheriff would have power to bring to the notice of the Board of Trade the conduct of the offending skipper, so that the hoard could consider whether in the circumstances he was worthy to hold his certificate for a further period of time or whether it should be taken from him for a time.


That is not the Amendment.


I know it is not. I am pointing out to the Lord Advocate that there is a way to overcome the difficulty. A difficulty has been put forward which the Lord Advocate said stands in the way of the Amendment, and I am pointing out a way in which it could be overcome. The whole of Scottish thought and the opinion of the Press and of public bodies are in favour of this form of punishment, and I suggest that since the Government are taking powers to act against those who are guilty of illegal trawling, it is as well to go the whole hog so that there will be an absolute deterrent to these skippers carrying on this practice.

7.41 p.m.


I regret I cannot support the Amendment. I cannot agree with the practice with regard to doctors and solicitors, for I have always thought that the taking away of the certificates of these people was far too severe, and I am not inclined to extend it in the case of skippers. As the Amendment stands, there is no time limit for the suspension of the certificate. In the vast majority of these cases the man is an employé. If you take away his certificate you take away his livelihood, not merely on a trawler, but at any other job in a similar capacity. I cannot agree that that should be done. It seems to me terrible that if a man is sent out by the employer to do something the alternative to which might be dismissal and a lack of work, you should say to him, "You have done this at the request of your employer, but we are going to punish you practically for life by seeing that you can never take on a similar job in any other sea-going ship." That is a punishment with which I cannot agree.

On the question of penalties, I am not going to oppose the Bill because it is in the nature of an experiment. I have a feeling that it is going too far, but I have stood aside in the Debates on it because I do not know sufficient of the problem to take sides. I look upon it as an experiment to which I am prepared to give a reasonable chance. I cannot agree, however, with so severe a punishment as taking away a skipper's certificate. I have always felt that doctors may have their careers stopped for far too trivial causes, and I cannot agree to it in the case of these skippers.

7.44 p.m.


I am surprised at the line of argument taken by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). This matter has passed the stage of experiment. It has been a crying evil to the line fishermen for a considerable number of years, and it is only at a very late stage that the Government come along and take some steps. I do not think it is a very severe penalty when a man is guilty three times of a breach of the law and of continuing a practice which everyone is agreed materially affects the ability of a big proportion of his fellow subjects of earning a livelihood. This is somewhat more than an ordinary conviction, and I would remind my hon. Friend that a man who is convicted once of a crime of this kind has had a sufficient indication given to him of the feeling of the country on the matter, and if he persists he is entitled to the punishment even of the cancelling of his right to act as skipper of one of these vesels. It has been pointed out that the man is an employé, but there is no law to prevent even a skipper of a vessel who is an employé from becoming a member of a trade union, and if his fellow skippers also joined the union they would be able to deal with any employers who sought to intimidate them into doing things which would bring them into conflict with the law. I sincerely hope the Lord Advocate will reconsider this matter along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan. We are not tied to the wording of this Amendment, but we are particularly anxious that this evil should be prevented, and in our belief one of the main means of preventing it is by imposing a penalty such as we have suggested.

7.47 p.m.


I hope the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate will not do what is suggested by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). There are many of us who are not very fond of this Bill and who think the penalties are very hard indeed. We wish such penalties could be inflicted on the skippers of some of the foreign trawlers which come round our coasts at other places. The case of a medical man deprived of his right to follow his profession has been mentioned, but we do not take away a doctor's right to practice because he happens to have been convicted for exceeding the speed limit. Neither do we take away the degree of a Master of Arts because he happens to have been caught poaching. I do not wish in any way to belittle the offences committed by some of these trawling skippers, but I do not think we shall improve things by these very severe punishments, which must leave a grave sense of injustice in the minds of the men concerned. On this occasion I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). It seems almost inconceivable that people who say that they represent the interests of labour Ian wish to take away the very hardly-earned certificates of these working-men. I think it is a monstrous suggestion. The Government have been obliged to pursue the course which they are now taking because it would be unjust if they did anything else, but as one who does not like the Bill it was with much relief that I heard the Government announce their decision on this particular Amendment, and I hope they will resist those who wish to go on adding penalty to penalty. The way to deal with this matter is by being strictly fair and impartial, by getting people to realise that the whole fishing industry must stand together, and that we cannot allow this poaching; but we shall not stop the evil by these absurd penalties.

7.51 p.m.


The attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) on this particular subject has given me a feeling of disappointment. I do not yield one inch to him in my interest in the inshore fishermen and all that concerns their calling, but I cannot follow his argument when he attempts to set up a parallel between doctors and lawyers and the captains of these trawlers. To my mind my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate gave a complete answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Govan. A certificate is given to a man for the mastery of his work, it is a captain's certificate.


Pirates had captains' certificates.


Well, pirates were not condemned to everlasting piracy, but have been given a second chance, and at times in our rough island story there have been admirals of the Fleet who had been pirates. My hon. Friend's Amendment would make it absolutely impossible for one of these trawler captains to follow his career in future. I always thought that my hon. Friends in the Labour party had a somewhat kindly feeling for those who work on the sea, whether as sailors or captains, and I was not prepared for the vindictive action of my hon. Friend towards a man who has made a mistake three times. Let him turn to the Scriptures, in which he was so carefully nur- tured, and he will find a direction given there about forgiving a moan not three times and not seven times but seventy times seven. Why my hon. Friend, who has the interests of the working classes so much at heart, should, suddenly become so cruel and autocratic in his attitude towards the man who has sinned three times I am quite at a loss to understand. As I say, I consider the Lord Advocate has given my hon. Friend a complete answer, and I hope that this Amendment will be resisted. The penalties in the Bill are sufficient to deal with all the offences.


Are you not prepared to apply that Scriptural injunction about seventy times seven, to the Lord Advocate in regard to these penalties?


For a Scotsman, my hon. Friend's mind works rather slowly. It is a long time since I made that reference.




I will give way.


No, I can speak again after you.


I am sure that my hon. Friend will permit me to disclaim any intention of saying anything to offend his susceptibilities, and if I have said anything of that kind I would like him to deal with it now; but I forgive him his interruption, and if he interrupts three times I shall still forgive him. I feel very strongly that full provision has been made in the Bill to deal with all possible offences, and I hope the Government will resist this, to me, extremely vindictive Amendment.


May I point out to my hon. Friend that we on this side are by no means vindictive? What we are doing is to punish vindictive trawlers who persist in illegal trawling and so take away the livelihood of the very men whom my hon. Friend ought to be defending.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided; Ayes, 42; Noes, 236.

Gillett, Sir George Masterman Magnay, Thomas Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Gledhill, Gilbert Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Scone, Lord
Glossop, C. W. H. Mander, Geoffrey le M. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Goff, Sir Park Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Gower, Sir Robert Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rPd. N.) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Granville, Edgar Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Skelton, Archibald Noel
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chlsw'k) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Moreing, Adrian C. Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kind'line, C.)
Guy, J. C. Morrison Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Somervell, Sir Donald
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Soper, Richard
Hales, Harold K. Moss, Captain H. J. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Munro, Patrick Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Harbord, Arthur Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Head lam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid Stevenson, James
Honeage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. North, Edward T. Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Hornby, Frank O'Connor, Terence James Stones, James
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Stourton, Hon. John J.
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Strauss, Edward A.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Pearson, William G. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Inskip, Rt. Hon Sir Thomas W. H. Peat, Charles U. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Penny, Sir George Summersby, Charles H.
Janner, Barnett Petherick, M Sutcliffe, Harold
Jennings, Roland Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Templeton, William P.
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh "pt'n, Bilston) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Potter, John Thorp, Linton Theodore
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Pybus, Sir Percy John Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Kerr, Hamilton W. Ramsden, Sir Eugene Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rankin, Robert Tree, Ronald
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Rea, Walter Russell Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Law Sir Alfred Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Renwick, Major Gustav A. Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Leckie. J. A. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Leech, Dr. J. W. Rickards, George William White, Henry Graham
Lewis, Oswald Roberts, Aled (Wrexham) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Liddall, Waiter S. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe. Ropner, Colonel L. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Little, Graham, Sir Ernest Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Lieweilln, Major John J. Ross, Ronald D. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Loftus, Pierce C. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Wilton, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A. Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Wise, Alfred R.
Lyons, Abraham Montagu Runge, Norah Cecil Withers, Sir John James
Mabane, William Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Womersley, Walter James
MacAndrew. Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Worthington, Dr. John V.
MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
McCorquodale. M. S. Rutherford, John (Edmonton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l) Sir Frederick Thomson and
McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Salt, Edward W. Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.
McKeag, William Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
McKie, John Hamilton Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart

The following Amendment stood upon the Order Paper:

In page 1, line 15, at the end, to insert: Provided that in any case where a person guilty of illegal trawling offers resistance to any superintendent of the herring fishery or other officer employed in the execution of the Herring Fishery (Scotland) Acts, 1771 to 1890, the court may impose a penalty in excess of that provided in this Sub-section."—[Mr. Maclean.]


If the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) desires to move his Amendment, he should move it as an Amendment to Clause 3.

8.8 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, at the end, to insert: Provided always that a person shall not be deemed guilty of illegal trawling nor shall any vessel be deemed to be used for the purpose of illegal trawling under this Act, if, in the opinion of the appropriate court of summary jurisdiction, any such vessel shall be found trawling inadvertently and without deliberation in any restricted or proscribed area in consequence of fog, bad visibility, stress of weather, force of wind or tide or (without the privity of the skipper or any certificated hand in charge) careless navigation of any of the crew, or in consequence of any similar extenuating cause. The object of the Amendment is to make a distinction between the case of a man who has inadvertently transgressed the law and that of a pirate. We have already made a distinction between the first offender and the man who persistently offends, and it is only right that we should make the distinction between the man who offends innocently and the man who puts out his lights, blacks away his number, hides his identification mark and has masked men on board. There is considerable room for error and the existing law has not allowed for it. A fog may arise and no land may be visible. I gave a recent instance of that during the Debate on the Second Reading. A trawler travelled south from northern fishing grounds and was passing the Moray Firth. No land was in sight because there was a thick fog. It was only when the skipper saw a line boat that he realised that he had gone too far westward. He turned promptly and went to sea, but he was summoned and a modified penalty was imposed.

A skipper may go four miles out from land and drop a Dhan buoy. He does not go round and round the buoy covering the same ground over and over again, but he takes a beat on the far side of the Dhan buoy parallel to the land, which may be five or seven miles in length. Suppose that the skipper goes down below to have a sleep and leaves the mate in charge on the bridge, or leaves the second fisherman there instructing him to keep the buoy in sight; a fog may come up, and the mate may inadvertently pass inside the buoy, or there may be unskilful navigation. The fishery cruiser cornea and the skipper is then accused of illegal trawling, although clearly there is no guilty intention. I think that kind of case ought to be allowed for. There may be stormy weather. A gale may be blowing landwards, or there may be a strong current towards the land or a strong tide. Especially if that happens at a time when the skipper is hauling up the gear—if there is a strong landward wind at the time, it is very easy for the boat to drift a considerable distance before the skipper is aware that he has come inside. Those are cases of error that may arise, and it is very important to allow for them in the Bill.

It is not always easy to make certain of bearings. The skipper of the trawler has not the same navigation instruments and cannot get bearings in the same accu- rate way as can the officer of a fishery cruiser. The officer has a sextant, but the skipper of a trawler has to rely upon compass bearings. Very often lights are spaced far apart. The distance between Girdle Ness Lighthouse and the lighthouse at Tod Head is about 20 miles. It can easily be understood that it is difficult, especially if there is fog, to see more than one light, and if only one light can be seen it is difficult to reckon how far away it is. It may be two and a-half or it may be five miles. The angle has to be got by compass, and it is very easy to go slightly out, and to arrive a mile inside the position. Errors like that may easily arise, and for that reason it is very important that the skipper should have opportunity, in cases of doubt, of checking bearings with the officer of the fishery cruiser.

I heard of a case which arose not very long ago off the Isle of Skye. A trawler was there and the skipper was challenged for illegal trawling by the fishery cruiser. The skipper maintained that he was not within the limit and asked to be allowed to check bearings with the cruiser officer. He went on board the cruiser, and it was found that one of the lights had been taken, in mistake, to be Dunvegan light. The mistake was explained. But suppose that the skipper had not gone on board the cruiser; he might easily have been brought up on a charge of illegal trawling and have been convicted. It is also very important, for the avoidance of error, that convictions should not take place solely on the evidence of inshore fishermen. Inshore fishermen have as a rule no experience of navigation instruments. They have rough and ready methods of getting bearings, by sinking stakes into the ground it may be. Convictions have been secured upon that. They may take bearings from heaps of stones, or in various other ways. A certain number of small line boats have compasses, but there is not the means of checking deviations from the bearings, and in even a slight swell it is absolutely impossible to get accurate bearings with the card of the compass continually rocking. The only way of fixing a position accurately is either by horizontal angles with sextant and station pointer, or by a compass with an Azimuth mirror.

There is thus great likelihood of error, and it is important that convictions should not take place only upon the evi- dence of inshore fishermen, but that there should be evidence from the fishery cruiser in support. At present there is no differentiation between honest error and piracy, and something should be done to remedy that situation. Very heavy punishments should not be inflicted upon a skipper who may inadvertently have committed an offence.

8.13 p.m.

Commander COCHRANE

I hope that the Minister does not intend to accept this Amendment, because I think that it would then be impossible to obtain a conviction. The Amendment deals with the case of a man who has made an error "inadvertently," to use the word of the Amendment. It will be impossible to ask the court to decide to what extent a trawler may have gone inadvertently beyond the limit or to what extent the skipper may have got her into that position deliberately. There is even a simpler and more complete answer to the Amendment than that. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) spoke as though there was some necessity for a trawler to be just outside the three-mile limit and in danger of just coming over the imaginary line; as though there were difficulty for them to know whether they were outside or inside. The distance between Girdle Ness light and the other light which he mentioned is obviously a case where it might be difficult for a trawler to determine whether she was 2.8 miles north or 3.2. Why should she be either at one or the other distance? There is no compulsion for a trawler to be always dodging about just outside the three-mile limit.


During the winter months fish are usually within five miles of the shore, and naturally a trawler which is six miles from the shore is very likely to catch nothing. That is my information.

Commander COCHRANE

I would not like to dispute with my hon. Friend as to what fisherman gave him that information, but, clearly, no information of that sort can be of general application. It may be, and no doubt is, true as regards the particular place to which my hon. Friend's informant was referring, but one cannot make any general observation of that sort with regard to the whole coast of Scotland, and in any case the intention of the Bill is to prevent trawling within the three-mile limit, for the very purpose of protecting the fish. The answer to the Amendment of my hon. Friend is, I suggest, that there is no reason for trawlers to dodge about just outside the three-mile limit. I agree that, if they persist in doing so, there are bound to be charges in cases where they may claim, and possibly correctly, that they were just outside the three-mile limit, but all those cases of difficulty and hardship can be avoided if the skippers of trawlers will treat the three-mile limit with respect, as being a place where they ought not to be. The solution of the difficulty is really in their own hands. I am sure that the insertion of this Amendment would make any and every enforcement of the law impossible, and, therefore, I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will not accept it.

8.17 p.m.


My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane) speaks with considerable authority on these matters of navigation and so on, but at the same time I think he has been a little too definite in his remarks on this Amendment. His argument, as I understand it, falls into two parts. In the first place, he says that there is no reason at all why a trawler should be fishing 3.2 miles from the shore. But, surely, if this is a Bill to impose a three-mile limit, and to impose penalties for transgression of the three-mile limit, there is every reason why a trawler should be fishing 3.2 miles from the shore if the fish happen to be there. The limit is not one of 3.2 miles but of three miles.

Commander COCHRANE

I should agree with my hon. Friend provided that the trawler could accurately fix her position. My point is that admittedly there are difficulties in fixing the position, and it is far better that the trawler should keep farther out, where there can be no doubt as to her being outside the three-mile limit.


I admit that there is some force in that contention, but, at the same time, it seems to put a great responsibility on the trawler to suggest that she should keep four or even five miles out on a certain coast when the limit is put at only three miles. I remember that my hon. and gallant Friend raised the same point on the Second Reading, but it seems to me, on thinking the matter over since, that he was rather forgetting that the question of the limit does not always arise along a plain and simple coastline. There are some cases where to determine the three-mile limit is a matter of extreme difficulty and doubtfulness. For example, if you take the mouth of a firth in Scotland, the three-mile limit is then a line drawn between two points three miles from each of the two headlands of the firth, and to keep outside the three-mile limit in a case like that is to be to all intents and purposes in mid-ocean. If there is any thickness in the weather at all, the skipper might Just as well be in the middle of the Atlantic, and he has to rely entirely upon such instruments as he has and upon his judgment. It may very well happen that his judgment may be wrong, and it seems to me that there ought to be some distinction in the Bill between the skipper who makes an error of judgment of that kind and the skipper who embarks on what has been described as an act of piracy.

It is all very well to say, as my hon. and gallant Friend did say in an earlier Debate, that the skipper ought to avoid the three-mile limit as he would avoid a rocky coast in a fog, but even a skipper trying to avoid a rocky coast in a fog sometimes makes a mistake and goes ashore. Sometimes he gets his boat off. But in this case, even though his error of judgment may be an honest one, there will be no question of getting his boat off; the whole gamut of the penalties of the Act will fall upon him if he makes the slightest error of judgment. My hon. and gallant Friend also said just now that the great weakness of the Amendment was that if the Government accepted it no court would ever convict, and I was very sorry to see the Lord Advocate make signs of approval. No doubt we shall have an explanation from him on that point, but it seems to me that a Scottish court will be quite capable of looking after the interests of Scottish inshore fishermen as against English, or even Scottish, trawlers. I should not have thought that there would be any reason for anxiety, but that, if there were any benefit of the doubt in a doubtful case, it would certainly go to the local inshore fishermen rather than to the foreign trawler. But, even if we admit the argument that this Amendment would in some way prejudice the course of justice, the whole teaching of history seems to point exactly the opposite moral to that which my hon. and gallant Friend pointed. All experience seems to show that it is when the penalty is vicious and drastic that courts are unwilling to convict, but that when there is a lenient and moderate penalty the courts are not afraid of convicting, and you do not get any perversion of justice.

I cannot see how the Government can adopt the attitude which they seem to adopt throughout this Bill, namely, the attitude that any straying at all over the three-mile limit is a crime which must be stamped out like the plague. They seem to make no kind of distinction between one kind of poaching and another. The Bill makes no kind of distinction between active piracy and honest error. As far as I can understand the Bill, everything in it is either black or white. There is no modification; there is never any black shading into gray, shading into white; there are never going to be any doubtful cases. Experience seems to me to show that such an attitude is most unreasonable, and any Bill based upon it must, in my opinion, be to that extent a bad Bill. I very much hope that the Government may find it possible, if not to accept this Amendment, at any rate to consider whether they themselves could not insert some form of words in the Bill which would bring it more into accord with the facts of life as we know them to-day—of a life in which men are human, and sometimes make mistakes.

8.24 p.m.


I should like to echo the concluding words of the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law), in which he asked whether the Government would not consider at any rate some Amendment on these lines. I confess that I do not very much like the actual wording of this Amendment, but could not an Amendment be put forward to provide something like this, that, if the court were satisfied that the skipper in question had an honest and bona fide belief that he was outside the three-mile limit, and it was simply an honest mistake on his part if he was inside the limit, the court should be entitled to acquit him? If there were an Amendment framed something in that way, would the Government be prepared to consider it? We are greatly increasing the penalties to be imposed on trawler skippers, and we are imposing new penalties altogether on owners, and surely there ought to be some proviso of this sort in order to ensure that, if a man is to be convicted and to suffer these very heavy punishments, there should be the element of knowledge in the offence that he has committed.

8.26 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I should like to stress what has been said by the last two speakers. These penalties are much too rigid. I can suppose a case where the first conviction is purely on technical grounds. The subsequent penalties are very severe, and I see no modification in the Bill whereby the court may take a lenient view as to stress of weather, for example. The only parallel that I can see is a motoring case, and I know, as a magistrate, the difficulty of convicting when the penalties are severe. For that reason, I suggest that it is to the interest of those who wish to preserve the three-mile limit that something on the lines of this Amendment should be adopted.

8.27 p.m.


I think the Committee ought to realise that what the Amendment purports to do is to alter the existing law and make it more lax than it is at present. The Bill deals with the enforcement of the existing law. The Amendment provides a defence to a charge under the existing law which is not open to-day, and, therefore, it will make the substantive law of illegal

Division No. 193.] AYES. [8.32 p.m.
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Janner, Barnett TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Fool, Dingle (Dundee) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay) Mr. Burnett and Mr. R. Law.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Brass, Captain Sir William Clayton, Sir Christopher
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Broadbent, Colonel John Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
Albery, Irving James Brown, Col. D. C. (N'thId., Hexham) Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks, Newb'y) Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Browne, Captain A. C. Conant, R. J. E.
Attlee, Clement Richard Butt, Sir Alfred Copeland, Ida
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Cadogan, Hon. Edward Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Burnley) Craven-Ellis, William
Banfield, John William Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Crooke, J. Smedley
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cape, Thomas Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Caporn, Arthur Cecil Crossley, A. C.
Batey, Joseph Carver, Major William H. Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Daggar, George
Braithwaite, Mai. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.) Christie, James Archibald Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Clarry, Reginald George Denman. Hon. R. D.

trawling laxer than it is to-day if it goes through. I do not think this is an appropriate occasion for relaxing the law of illegal trawling. If the Amendment were passed, it would be almost useless to prosecute in any case. A fishery cruiser finds a trawler in a forbidden area. The only evidence that the prosecutor can give is the geographical fact that the trawler was there trawling. If you admit a defence such as that it was there without deliberation, that it was there through the careless navigation of a member of the crew, or that the skipper had the honest and bona fide belief that he was outside the three-mile limit, you need never commence a prosecution at all. The defence will succeed in every case. There is no counter evidence that you can bring against it.


Is it not the case that under Admiralty law a defence of that kind is good, but, in spite of that fact, prosecutions are sometimes successful?


I think not. If you are in breach of one of the articles for the prevention of collision at sea, it is no ground of defence to say you thought the light that was actually on your starboard bow was on your port bow. Bona fide error is no defence for failure to take proper observations. You have to take the consequences both of your errors and of your deliberate actions. Accordingly, this, or any similar Amendment will drive a coach and four not only through the Bill but through all the existing enactments, and it is impossible to accept it.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 5; Noes, 223.

Dobble, William Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rickards, George William
Doran, Edward Law, Sir Alfred Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Drewe, Cedrie Lawson, John James Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Duggan, Hubert John Leckie, J. A. Ropner, Colonel L.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Leech, Dr. J. W. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Dunglass, Lord Leonard, William Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Eady, George H. Liddall, Walter S. Runge, Norah Cecil
Eastwood, John Francis Lindsay, Noel Ker Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Edwards, Charles Liewellin, Major John J. Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Loftus, Pierce C. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Salt, Edward W.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Lunn, William Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Lyons, Abraham Montagu Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Sanderson, sir Frank Barnard
Everard, W. Lindsay MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Scone, Lord
Flint, Abraham John McCorquodale, M. S. Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Fox, Sir Gilford Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Fuller, Captain A. G. MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Skelton, Archibald Noel
Gledhill, Gilbert McEntee. Valentine L. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Glossop, C. W. H. McKie, John Hamilton Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Glyn, Major sir Ralph G. C. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Smith, Sir J. Walker. (Barrow-in-F.)
Goff, Sir Park Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Gower, Sir Robert Mainwaring, William Henry Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Somervell, Sir Donald
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Soper, Richard
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Greene, William P. C. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Stevenson, James
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mayhew, Lieut-Colonel John Stones, James
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Milne, Charles Strickland, Captain W. F.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Milner, Major James Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Summersby, Charles H.
Groves, Thomas E. Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Sutcliffe, Harold
Grundy, Thomas W. Moreing, Adrian C. Templeton, William P.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Moss, Captain H. J. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Thorne, William James
Hales, Harold K. Munro, Patrick Thorp, Linton Theodore
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Tinker, John Joseph
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Hanbury, Cecil Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Hanley, Dennis A. O'Donovan, Dr. William James Tufnell, Lieut. Commander R. L.
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Parkinson, John Allen Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Pearson, William G. White, Henry Graham
Hornby, Frank Peat, Charles U. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Penny, Sir George Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Petherick, M. Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n) Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Potter, John Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)
Jenkins, Sir William Ralkes, Henry V. A. M. Wills. Wilfrid D.
Jennings. Roland Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Wilmot, John
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles) Withers, Sir John James
John, William Ramsden, Sir Eugene Worthington, Dr. John V.
Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Rankin, Robert
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rea, Walter Russell TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Captain Sir George Bowyer and
Kerr, Hamilton W. Remer, John R. Commander Southby.
Kirkwood, David Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.

8.40 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 1, to leave out "1771 to 1890."

This is a purely drafting Amendment. The Bill repeals the Act of 1890, and therefore it is necessary to delete these dates. In view of this brief explanation, I hope that the Committee will agree to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

8.41 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 2, to leave out "(exclusive of warps)."

The Sub-section to which this Amendment is directed permits the officers of the Fishery Board to seize any net and gear (exclusive of warps) used or attempted to be used for the purpose of illegal trawling. Hon. Members whose names are associated with mine in this matter are of the opinion that it is permissible at the present time to seize the warps as well. We are also guided in that opinion by the fact that these warps are essential factors in the equipment of trawling, and as such we are at a loss to understand why they should be excluded from the action of the Fishery Board. We therefore desire the Secretary of State for Scotland to give an explanation as to why, as it appears to us, the powers of seizure are being lessened instead of strengthened under the Bill as it is at present.

8.42 p.m.


I can understand the uncertainty arising in the mind of the hon. Member about this very email point. We propose to leave out the warps for the reason that they are useful at sea and may be used at times for towing purposes, and we think that if warps were seized trawlers might not be quite so safe. It is purely on the question of safety at sea that we have made the provision on the lines I have indicated, and I hope that after that simple explanation the Amendment will be withdrawn. There is no other reason or purpose behind the provision except that of safety.


Have the warps been confiscated on any previous occasion, and is there any known occasion when there was any danger to a vessel from which the warps were seized?


I cannot charge my memory with a specific answer to that question. In preparing the Bill we considered whether a trawler might not be exposed to danger if the warps were confiscated, and it is purely on this account that the exception has been made. At the moment I am not fully seized of the cases which have occurred in the past, but it was pointed out to me that life at sea might be endangered.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.44 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 5, after "owner," to insert: of the vessel in or from which such net or gear was used or attempted to be used as aforesaid. The Amendment is in order to make it clear that the boat referred to is the one in which such gear or net was used or attempted to be used. It is a purely drafting Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

8.45 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, to leave out Subsection (3).

This Amendment relates to the penalties which are imposed upon owners. The Sub-section creates an offence. If the skipper is guilty of illegal trawling and thereby commits a criminal offence, the owner is to be vicariously responsible. Under Scottish law, if the servant of a master commits damage the master is liable for that damage, but if the servant commits a criminal act in the course of his employment and the master has no felonious knowledge of what he is doing, the master is not guilty. If, for instance, a chauffeur gets drunk and, in driving his master's car runs down a man, the master is not guilty of culpable manslaughter, I do not see why in the present case the trawler owner should be guilty.

The Sub-section goes entirely on the supposition that the owner is aware of what the skipper has done, whereas my experience is, and I have made inquiries as fully as possible, that the owners have done nothing, certainly not the Aberdeen trawler owner, to encourage illegal trawling in any way. They have done their best to put it down and have dismissed skippers who have been guilty of illegal trawling. The Sub-section falls most heavily upon the skipper, because an owner, naturally, will not employ a skipper who has already been convicted; the punishments are too heavy. If it is a case of inadvertence, such as I have mentioned before, if the skipper has inadvertently committed an offence, then under the Bill his career is ruined. He may have had an absolutely blameless record before, but because he has gone over the line he is convicted, and, in consequence, an owner will not employ him for another three or five years, as the case may be. I think that is putting too heavy a, penalty upon the skipper. The Sub-section is objected to by the owners because it places a stigma upon them. It suggests that the owner is responsible for illegal trawling when, as a matter of fact, the owner is doing nothing to encourage it but is doing his best to discourage it. For these reasons, I propose the Amendment.

8.49 p.m.


I want, briefly, to support the Amendment simply on the ground expressed by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett), that I think we ought to regard with great suspicion any extension of this particular principle into our law, whether it be the law of Scotland or the law of England. It is only on very rare occasions that the House has agreed to incorporate in legislation the vicious principle of vicarious liability. I know that it has been done on one or two very rare occasions. It was done in the Licensing Consolidation Act, 1910, and it is possible to find one or two other examples where it has been put into a Statute because there has not been any other effective way of enforcing the law; but it is only in such cases that we have admitted the principle of vicarious liability. As a general rule, the House will be well advised to stick to the sound general principal that mens rea is an indispensable factor, and that there should be no crime without a guilty mind. In this case there may be no element of knowledge whatsoever. The owner may have given the most expressed orders to the skipper that he is not to indulge in illegal trawling, and he may be many miles away at the time when the offence is committed.

The result of this Sub-section can only be further to penalise a man who has already got a conviction against him. Already the owner may have suffered some loss because it is possible, on conviction, to have confiscation of the gear in addition to the imposition of a fine upon the skipper. Therefore, in effect, there may be a heavy penalty imposed upon the owner. We are going very much further in this Sub-section when we expressly say that a man may be responsible for an offence of which he has no knowledge and which he may have done his best to avoid. There are two ways of deterring the spread of a particular offence. One is to increase the penalties for the offence and the other is to increase the efficiency of the method of policing. Before we impose heavy penalties of this kind and try to extend the principle of vicarious liability in our law we ought to see what can be done by improving our policing methods, whereby the offence of illegal trawling can in future be detected. We heard from the Secretary of State on the Second Reading of the Bill that the Government had ordered new boats, of greater speed than any former cruisers have been able to command for this purpose, and I suggest that we ought to wait and see what effect they have before we impose these very heavy penalties and extend a principle which the House should regard with the very greatest suspicion.

8.53 p.m.


I support the Amendment. Earlier in the evening the Lord Advocate pointed out to hon. Members who complained that the Bill does not implement the whole of the recommendations of the Mackenzie Report, that if they would study the Bill they would find that in some important respects it went even further than the recommendations of that report. Sub-section (3) is a case in point. I doubt very much if the Committee realise that not only does this Sub-section go further than the Mackenzie Committee's recommendation but that actually in this Sub-section the Bill goes directly against one of the recommendations of the Mackenzie Committee. In discussion of penalties, on page 60 of their report, the Mackenzie Committee recommend that in cases of certain offences more drastic penalties should be imposed. It proceeds to define the kind of offences as offences in which the skipper falsifies letters and numbers of identity, or offences in which a ship is engaged in trawling without the prescribed lights in prohibited areas. For that kind of offence the Mackenzie Committee recommend that power should be given to the Sheriff in the case of a first offence to cancel or suspend the master's certificate. It then goes on to say that in cases of first offences which are not made worse by falsification of identity or by absence of lights at night no additional penalty should be imposed, and the master's certificate should not be suspended or taken away. In fact, under this Sub-section the master's certificate is suspended no matter how innocent he may be of the offence, and no matter whether it is a purely technical offence or not. That is not only going beyond the recommendations of the Mackenzie Committee but against their recommendations. Reading the Sub-section it would seem at first sight that the skipper is not penalised for the first but for the second offence. The Sub-section reads: A person who has, within the immediately preceding three years been guilty of illegal trawling…and has been more than once so convicted, the owner of the vessel shall be guilty of an offence…. It looks as though it is only the second offence to which the Sub-section applies, but in practice it must prove that if a skipper commits an offence he loses his employment; no employer will employ him for three years because of the penalties to which the employer would be subject. In its result this is equivalent to suspending the master's ticket for a first offence for three years, and I submit that that is harsh treatment indeed. It would not be so bad but for the argument used by the Lord Advocate in resisting the last Amendment, when he pointed out that it was impossible for Scottish law to take cognisance of any factors such as carelessness, negligence or misfortune, or any extenuating circumstances whatever.


Shipping law.


It does not alter the force of my argument, that owing to the exigencies of the law it is impossible for the court to make any recommendation of mercy, it has to record a conviction although it does not levy a fine. In the War there were numbers of cases in which British trawlers, acting on instructions from the Admiralty, fished within prohibited areas, and they were arrested for breaking the law. When the skippers pleaded that they were told to do so by the Admiralty the court said that although they sympathised with them and admitted that it was not their fault, they had to record a conviction and a fine of £5, which shows that the court thought they were purely nominal offences. If the Sub-section stands as it is now a skipper who comes before the court for what the court itself admits to be a purely nominal offence will have a conviction recorded against him, even if no fine is imposed, his name will be put on the black list of the Board of Trade and he will be effectively prohibited from employment as a skipper of a trawler for three years. It is a poor argument to say that if he loses his employment as skipper he can always go as deck hand. It is a most unjust and monstrous penalty to impose on a man who makes one mistake of a trifling character, and I hope the Government will find some way out of the difficulty. A skipper is being most unjustly and unfairly treated by a penalty which takes away his livelihood for a first offence.

9.0 p.m.


I think the Committee will insist on some such Sub-section as we have in the Bill. Most of those who voted for the Government on the Amendment regarding the suspension of a skipper's certificate did so on the understanding that an alternative procedure was provided under Sub-section (3). Therefore, it seems to me that something on the lines of this Sub-section must necessarily be included in the Bill. Whether the Sub-section is susceptible of some Amendment is another matter. I see there is a proposal to reduce the three years to two, and no doubt there is a good deal to be said for it, but could not some alternative Amendment be proposed whereby the sheriff might have a discretion not to report the skipper to the Board of Trade for inclusion in the black list in a case where he thinks there are extenuating circumstances. In that way, the case put so strongly and so justly by the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) would be met, and, whatever be the exigencies of the law in the direction of it being necessary to record a conviction, although it may be only a technical offence, we have sufficient confidence in the discretion of Scottish sheriffs who administer the law to leave in their hands the question whether it was a deliberate offence, in which case no one will object to the man's name being put on the black list, or only a technical offence, in which case there is much to be said for the man not being penalised for three years in respect of a first offence. I suggest that an Amendment on these lines might be considered before the Report stage.

As far as the point put by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) is concerned, anyone engaged in the practice of the law deplores an extension of vicarious responsibility in cases where there is no knowledge in the person who is found guilty. But the hon. Member has omitted to realise that there is a knowledge in the man at present. He has knowledge in the black list that the man he is employing is an untrustworthy person and has been proved such by a previous conviction. That is a notice to the employer that he employs such a man at his peril and, if he chooses to employ a man knowing that he has broken the law in the past then—and if the Government accept an Amendment such as I have indicated his name would not be on the black list for a trivial offence—then a fortiori an owner who employs such a man is justly convicted because he is employing a man who has not only committed a technical offence but a real offence. Subject to the suggestion that the sheriff might be given this discretion I entirely favour the retention of the Subsection.

9.4 p.m.


The point raised by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) is a little previous. He is anxious to leave a discretionary power in the hands of the sheriff, but if the Amendment is carried the Sub-section disappears. The Amendment, indeed, cuts at the root of the Bill, and it is impossible for the Government to accept it. There seems to be some misunderstanding still as to the present practice. Under the law as it stands the owner of a trawler for a first offence may lose gear of the value of about £120. Under the Bill, if the captain of the ship has not committed an offence before, the owner is not penalised. The owner is penalised only if the captain of his vessel has been convicted before within the specified period. Therefore there seems to be ample precaution against the owner being unfairly treated. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot) stated that we should not penalise the owner who had done his best to avoid being penalised. The hon. Member must have forgotten that if the owner employs a skipper who has been once convicted he does it with his eyes open and knows that he is taking a sporting, chance of being convicted.

The Mover of the Amendment stated that there were not many convictions from Aberdeen. I am glad to say that from certain East Coast ports which I shall not mention there have been very few convictions. It is only from certain ports that there has been this illegal practice, which led the Government to bring in the Bill. The hon. Member for South-West Hull (Mr. Law) argued with force about the conditions which existed and the penalties which were imposed upon trawlers during the War. He pointed out that so far as he could gather there were some convictions which appeared to be unfair to those who were concerned. But to argue from the strange conditions of those days to the impartial justice which I think our sheriffs in Scotland will mete out to those who are brought before them under this Bill, is hardly consistent. We have been urged, as I stated earlier, to increase the penalties far more, but we feel that the penalties are sufficient for the purpose, and if they are not sufficient amending legislation may be forthcoming. I appeal to the Committee to resist the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.8 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 15, to leave out "three," and to insert "two."

This raises the question of the length of time for which a skipper would be black-listed. If the period is three years the skipper will lose practically all his skill by the end of the time. I hope that the Government will consider a mitigation of this penalty. It may be a first offence, where the skipper had no guilty intention at all but has just got into difficulties owing to foggy weather or the fault of someone else. If he has to be black-listed I hope the Secretary of State will see his way to make the period as short as possible, seeing that it is for a first offence.

9.9 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I am glad to support my hon. Friend on this Amendment. Although I would rather see one year instead of two, if we can get this concession from the Government it will do something to help the man who may be thrown out of employment. I fear very much that as soon as it is found that a conviction has been recorded against a skipper, especially when there are so many skippers available, a man who is a first-rate fisherman may be thrown out of work.

9.10 p.m.


The Committee having agreed to keep in Sub-section (3) of the Clause the question of the three years is a matter of detail. We have been impressed not only by the Debate here but by many conversations with those who have an interest in this matter that the period of three years is rather long. If I thought that two years would prejudice in any sense the full purpose of the Bill, which is to suppress illegal trawling, I would be no party to accept- ing it, but because I feel that the reduction of the three years to two years will tend to mitigate the hardship which may arise in the case of those skippers who have been convicted of illegal trawling and that at the same time the Bill will not suffer in its purpose, I have very much pleasure in accepting the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

9.12 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, at the end, to insert: and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. Since the Secretary of State has for the first time accepted an Amendment, I trust that he will be equally generous in accepting this proposal. It is an Amendment which seeks to have heavier penalties imposed on the owner. The last few lines of Sub-section (3), if the Amendment were incorporated, would read: The owner of the vessel shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding, on a first conviction one hundred and fifty pounds, on a second conviction two hundred and fifty pounds, and on a third or subsequent conviction five hundred pounds, and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. The purpose is perfectly clear. We have in the Bill penalties upon the skipper who has had a number of convictions. The Amendment will make it possible for the sheriff or whoever tries the case to impose upon the owner not merely a fine, but a period of imprisonment as well. Some may think that this is another case of vindictiveness against the owner of the trawler, but I think the Secretary of State and the Lord Advocate have pointed out on several occasions to-day that the owner of a trawler will have only himself to blame if he employs a skipper who has had several convictions recorded against him.

The Bill lays down that a record is to be kept by the Board of Trade or some responsible authority of every skipper convicted of-illegal trawling and the number of convictions. If the owner of a vessel employs a skipper who has been fined on several occasions and whose convictions are recorded, he is taking a risk. If he is prepared to take the risk of employing a skipper who has been convicted on several occasions, he should be prepared to suffer the penalties which accompany that risk if he is discovered. In this case, not merely is the skipper to have a penalty imposed upon him, but the owner who employs a skipper with previous convictions incurs the risk of being fined. We suggest that if the owner himself is convicted upon several occasions in that way it should be within the power of the sheriff to impose a sentence of imprisonment.

A great deal has been said about the rectitude of the trawler owners. I am not going to dispute that. I accept at once every staement made with regard to the great majority, indeed almost all of the trawler owners. But there have been, in the past, individuals, it may be individuals each of whom owns only one vessel, who have been prepared to take the risks I have indicated. We are now, for the first time, seeking to deal in a drastic manner with the illegal trawling which has gone on round the coast of Scotland for so many years. This has been a burning question in Scotland. It has raised much conflict between various sections and caused much strife and has been an issue at elections both national and local. I submit that in a Bill of this kind we ought to take effective steps to end a practice which has caused so much trouble.

If you are going to make it possible for a skipper, who may have been acting under the instructions of an unscrupulous owner, to be sent to prison, then a similar punishment ought to be the lot of the owner who has been found guilty on three or more occasions of the offence specified in this Sub-section, and has already suffered several fines. As the Government accepted the previous Amendment which was in the nature of a concession to those who are upholding the interests of the trawler owners, I hope they will also accept this Amendment which seeks to tighten up the law and to secure that owners and skippers will be placed in the same category in relation to these offences.

9.20 p.m.


This is quite a good Bill and to a large extent we are prepared to support the Government in carrying it into law, but we take serious objection to any discrimination in favour of the trawler owner as against the skipper. As my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) has said, we do not seek to act in any vindictive manner against trawler owners, but we are anxious that those responsible for continued breaches of the law in this respect should not be looked upon as good citizens at all. They should be treated as bad citizens and particularly is that so in the case of the trawler owners. This Sub-section provides for pretty severe penalties on the skippers and if the skippers alone were responsible for the breaches of the law we should not take strong exception to its provisions. But I think it is agreed that past experience has shown that the trawler owner is as guilty as the skipper in these cases. We wish to ensure that the law will be carried out in regard to this matter and that the longstanding grievance from which the inshore fishermen have suffered will be ended as speedily as possible. We wish to have it made plain that breaches of the law will be followed by severe penalties and that those penalties will be applicable to all who are in any way concerned with endeavours to defeat the object of this Measure. We desire that equally severe treatment shall be imposed upon all offenders. Hon. Members are aware of the motives of the Government and the object which they have in view in this Bill, and I think practically all the Committee are in sympathy with the Government's effort to relieve a very decent body of men from a very serious grievance, but I hope that consideration will be given to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan.

9.24 p.m.


The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) suggested that we might accept this Amendment because we accepted the previous Amendment. But the previous Amendment was a concession made to the skipper, and the fact that we have agreed to a concession to the skipper is no reason why we should proceed to balance that concession by imposing a heavier penalty on the owner. I do not think it is sufficiently realised how far the Government are going in this Bill in penalising the owner. If it could be proved that an owner had incited the captain of a trawler to fish unlawfully within the three-mile limit, we should be able to prosecute the owner for inciting to a wrongful act in contravention of the Statute. It is just because that proof can never be available that the Bill has become necessary.

We have imputed to the owner a share in the criminality when he has been employing a skipper who has already infringed the Act although not necessarily under that owner's employment. The result of that provision is, however, inevitably that we may be imputing some share in criminality to a few owners who may have been doing what they could to prevent actual infringement. We do that in order to secure a very important public interest. I quite agree that the penalties which my hon. Friend has suggested are not to apply except after three convictions. Nevertheless, one or even more of these convictions may have proceeded upon an actual case of infringement for which the owner was only legally, and may not have been morally responsible. We have imposed the penalty of a very heavy fine, amounting to £500, upon a third conviction. Our view is that that will be a sufficient deterrent and that actual imprisonment, that is to say, imprisonment without the option of a fine, would not be quite a fair penalty to impose for this imputed crime, because that is the true nature of the crime of which the owner is guilty. I hope that the hon. Member, having heard what I have to say, will feel himself in a position to withdraw the Amendment.


No; I cannot withdraw it.

9.27 p.m.


I am sorry, but we consider the discrimination between the captain and the owner of the trawler to be unfair, and we cannot withdraw the Amendment. With regard to the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that the owner might have had some offences against him for which he was not definitely responsible, that point is left to the court which tries the offence, as is the discrimination between the two guilty parties.

9.28 p.m.


I shall go into the Lobby on this Amendment along with my colleagues Every time the Lord Advocate has spoken to-night, it has been to defend those who could defend themselves. To hear him, one would think that this Bill was not necessary at all, and that all the agitation with which we have continued for years had been a matter of exaggeration. The reason why this Bill has been introduced is to protect those who are not able to protect themselves. The trawling interest is a big moneyed interest compared with the poor fishermen, and the Government have come along, after a good deal of pressure has been put upon them and upon every other Government which have been in power since I came here 12 years ago—

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

I find a little difficulty in reconciling the hon. Member's speech with this Amendment. It might have been most suitable on the Second Reading.


I beg your pardon; I do not wish to dispute your Ruling, but I am replying directly to what the Lord Advocate said. I have, surely, a right to reply and to follow him along the lines that he took. The trawlers have good support in this House, and particularly outside Scotland. The Lord Advocate, in the last speech he made on this Bill to-night, drew attention to what was said—although he did not mention myself—about the Mackenzie Committee's Report, and complained because we were asking that that report should be embodied in the Bill. He said that we wanted it both ways: what the Committee stated in their report, and also the fulfilment of what we desire. He said that the Government had tried to come in between those two points of view; that they did not give us all that Lord Mackenzie's Committee had suggested, and that they would not yield to our suggestion. Before two hours had passed, when it suited the policy and outlook of the Lord Advocate, he entirely changed his position and accepted an Amendment from the trawler division, justifying the Secretary of State for Scotland in accepting the Amendment of those who are standing up for the trawlers as against the poor fishermen of Scotland. He has shifted his ground, and has accepted Amendments from the trawler department of the House of Commons. It may be that he will stretch his imagination a little further and allow those who are on the other side of the House, those who are defending the fishermen and who do not represent fishermen, who are not cadging for fishermen's votes, who have not a single fisherman in their division—


I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the Amendment. He is quite entitled to answer the Lord Advocate, but he has not so far begun to do so.


I did not quite catch your Ruling on that question, Captain Bourne.


I remarked to the hon. Member that he is quite entitled to answer the Lord Advocate's argument, but that with the arguments brought forward by the latter on this Amendment he has not yet begun to deal.


That may be; I will abide by your Ruling. Our Amendment provides that the owners of the trawler should be implicated in the same way as the skipper. That is our Amendment; I hope that I am in order now. If I am, I shall probably be able to proceed along those lines. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) stated on a previous Amendment, that when he was on that side of the House, before he shifted over to this side of the House—why he shifted, I do not know, but he has now shifted his ground altogether, for he has left the precincts of the House—that the owners put pressure on the skippers. He got up to correct me and said that it might be that on occasions owners would compel the skippers who had not had a good catch to fish illegally, in order that they might get a good catch, and the skippers would do so for fear that they might lose their job. That is the statement of one who is supposed to be the greatest authority on this subject, a far greater authority on the actual working of it than the Lord Advocate.

If we had wanted proof that our Amendment was sound and just, we could have got no better proof than this statement from our opponents, which makes our Amendment more than necessary in order to see that owners will not use their power over skippers to make the skippers act illegally. It is true that the skipper, like the ordinary trawler man, will do almost anything at the moment to retain his job. It has been stated by another hon. Member that it is a terrible thing that we are denying to the skippers and operatives of the trawlers the right to work. Our Amendment is with a view to safeguarding the skippers against certain types of trawler owners, who, as we have had evidence from those who have been briefed by the owners to state their case, are capable of holding the terrors of unemployment over the skippers and making them do what, under normal conditions, they would have no desire to do, namely, trawl illegally. We shall therefore go into the Lobby for this Amendment unless the Government accept it.

9.38 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I hope the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) knows exactly what he is doing. He proposes that people who are perfectly innocent should go to prison for three months. They have made it quite clear that these owners might be ignorant of where their trawlers were fishing, yet under this Amendment they would be liable to imprisonment, innocent men who have not the slightest opportunity of voicing their case being sent to prison by an Amendment moved by two Socialist Members of this House. That is Socialism pure and simple, and I hope the hon. Members are satisfied, but does the hon. Member realise that some of these owners are men in not quite as high a social position as himself?


They are in a higher social position than I am.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

Not in private life. Some of them are men who have saved all their money, perhaps, to buy a ship—


Money does not give you a high social position.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

The hon. Member proposes to put them in prison for three months. There are also people who are part shareholders in some of these ships, and who have practically no control over them. I hope the Committee fully realise exactly what Socialism means—sending to prison innocent men who have not the faintest opportunity of defending themselves and who do not even know that an offence has been committed.

9.41 p.m.


I feel in some confusion about this Amendment, because the moving appeal of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) with regard to the protection of skippers touched my heart.


Have you got such a thing?


At any rate, I think there is something which ought to be answered by the Government on this point. I accept, of course, everything that the Lord Advocate said, and I should be inclined to vote for him, but I have had this further appeal, which has rather reversed my point of view. My trouble is that if you imprison the owner and keep him locked up for three months, it seems to me that not only his vessel, but quite conceivably other vessels also, may be short of the guiding hand of the owner in telling them where to go. The Lord Advocate knows the whole of the legal side of this question, but we have been accustomed from time to time in this House, when we get these very difficult technical questions before us, to have the best expert advice. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) on the Treasury Bench, and he understands the position of the trawler owner. I cannot understand why on this occasion he, being the Government expert on this subject, should not give us his opinion. He would be able to give his opinion to a person like myself, who is doubtful, not knowing which Lobby to go into, very desirous of doing what is right, not at all liking some of the very grave punishments which are to be inflicted, a little suspicious of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs, yet having been appealed to by him so brilliantly.

The opinion of the hon. Member for Grimsby might be turned down on the ground that he was merely an English Member and of a higher race, but I do not see why we should not have other opinions as to whether, if the Amendment were carried, you could work the vessel. This question of the imprisonment of the owner all hangs on whether you could work the vessel with the owner in prison. There is the hon. Member for ode of the Aberdeen divisions, who could perhaps give us some explanation, because he knows where he stands in this matter. I want to get to the bottom of this matter, and why should the House on this important occasion be deprived of the excellent advice which I see that two hon. Members are anxious to give.

Division No. 194.] AYES. [9.46 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mainwaring, William Henry
Banfield, John William Jenkins, Sir William Maxton, James
Batey, Joseph John, William Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cape, Thomas Kirkwood, David Tinker, John Joseph
Daggar, George Lawson, John James Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Dobbie, William Leonard, William Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Edwards, Charles Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Lunn, William Wilmot, John
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) McEntee, Valentine L. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Grundy, Thomas W. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Mr. Groves and Mr. D. Graham.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gledhill, Gilbert Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Glossop, C. W. H. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Glucksteln, Louis Halle Milne, Charles
Albery, Irving James Goff, Sir Park Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Gower, Sir Robert Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd. N.) Moreing, Adrian C.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Greene, William P. C. Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Moss, Captain H. J.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Grimston, R. V. Munro, Patrick
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gritten, W. G. Howard Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Guy, J. C. Morrison Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Brass, Captain Sir William Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid
Broadbent, Colonel John Hales, Harold K. Nunn, William
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham) Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd) O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Hanbury, Cecil Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Browne, Captain A. C. Hanley, Dennis A. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Burnett, John George Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Pearson, William G.
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Peat, Charles U.
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Heligers, Captain F. F. A. Penny, Sir George
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Petherick, M.
Carver, Major William H. Howard, Tom Forrest Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Potter, John
Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.
Christie, James Archibald Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Clarry, Reginald George James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Clayton, Sir Christopher Janner, Barnett Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Jennings, Roland Rankin, Robert
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Jesson, Major Thomas E. Rathbone, Eleanor
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Rea, Walter Russell
Conant, R. J. E. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Craddock. Sir Reqinald Henry Law, Sir Alfred Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Craven-Ellis, William Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Remer, John R.
Crooke, J. Smedley Leech, Dr. J. W. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Crookshank. Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Lees-Jones, John Rickards, George William
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cross, R. H. Liddall, Walter S. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lindsay, Noel Ker Ropner, Colonel L.
Davies, Maj. Geo. P. (Somerset, Yeovil) Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Denman, Hon. R. D Liewellin, Major John J. Ross Taylor. Walter (Woodbridge)
Drewe, Cedric Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Runge, Norah Cecil
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Lloyd, Geoffrey Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Dunglass, Lord Loftus, Pierce C. Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'td, B'tside)
Eastwood, John Francis Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Salmon, Sir Isidore
Emrys-Evans, P. V. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Salt, Edward W.
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Macdonald. Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ) McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) McKle. John Hamilton Scone, Lord
Everard, W. Lindsay Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Flint, Abraham John Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Shaw. Captain William T. (Forfar)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Fox, Sir Gifford Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col, Sir M. Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Fuller, Captain A. G. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.

Why should they not enlighten the House on this difficult question?

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 33; Noes, 198.

Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich) Stourton, Hon. John J. White, Henry Graham
Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.) Strickland, Captain W. F. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Klnc'dine, C.) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Somervell, Sir Donald Sutcliffe, Harold Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Templeton, William P. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Spencer, Captain Richard A. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Stevenson, James Thompson, Sir Luke Worthington, Dr. John V.
Stewart, J. H. (Fife.) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Stones, James Ward. Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Storey, Samuel Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock) Sir Frederick Thomson and Mr.

9.54 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 8, after "shall" to insert "if the court see fit."

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State joined in the discussion on the Sub-section, he said there seemed to be some misunderstanding as to the exact effect that the Sub-section had upon the owner of the trawler. In this Amendment I am more interested in the skipper of the trawler than the owner, and I do not think my right hon. Friend altogether answered the point which I tried to make in the discussion on Sub-section (3). The Committee ought to realise that under this Sub-section the skipper of a trawler may be deprived of his means of livelihood for three years for a first offence, and for a first offence which may be purely a technical offence. The purpose of this Amendment is to allow the sheriff, even where the skipper has been convicted, to decide whether or not the skipper's name should be put upon the black list. It seems to me a reasonable Amendment and one which the right hon. and learned Gentleman might very well accept. I must confess that if he does not accept it he is, as it seems to me, doing a very grave injustice indeed to a very deserving and hard-working section of the community.

9.57 p.m.


I think it may be a little difficult for the Government to accept the Amendment as it is framed, because it looks as though putting the man's name on the black list is a kind of extra penalty, and that the sheriff would only ordain that particulars should be forwarded to the Board of Trade if he thought it was a particularly bad case. I venture to ask the Government to consider whether the Amendment could not be accepted if it were put the other way round. Supposing it were made the rule that particulars should be sent to the Board of Trade and that the Amendment were so framed as to say that this should be done "unless the court otherwise directs." That would draw the attention of the court to the fact that only in cases where there were mitigating circumstances should the court direct the withholding of particulars from the Board of Trade. Further, the Government might well limit the Amendment to first offence cases. I do not think there is any necessity to show any particular leniency to one who offends a second time, but a first offender ought to have some chance of escaping from what is, in effect, two years suspension of his certificate, if the offence has been of a more or less technical character. We have heard from the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) of one or two cases in which the fines were not £100 or £75 but £30. In such a case there is something to be said for giving the sheriff the power to allow the man to carry on his ordinary job, and not forcing him, when imposing a fine of only £30, to deprive the man of his livelihood for two years, because that would be the effect of every conviction if the Bill goes through as it stands.


I wish to support the point put forward by the hon. Member who has just spoken. If a sheriff decides that a case is one in which a £10 fine only ought to be imposed he ought to have the power to say that the name of the offender should not be put on the black list.

10.0 p.m.


If the suggestion of the hon. Member for Stirling and Fal-kirk (Mr. J. Reid) were accepted by the Government, it would mean that the name of practically every man convicted would be sent up to London, or wherever it may be, and that we should be piling up a list of names in Government offices. The effect of the Amendment is to tell the court that unless it particularly wishes to do so it need not put a man's name on the black list. I do not think we need to have these lists filling up a Government pigeon-hole and I hope the Government will accept the Amendment, which is obviously well intentioned and in keeping with the whole spirit which the Government have displayed in making this Bill a workable and commonsense Measure. It is not common sense to compel a sheriff to send in names to a list; it is greater common sense to leave it to the sheriff to decide whether the case is so bad that the man's name should be put on the black list. What is wanted is a list of the really bad cases, and under this Amendment that would be obtained. Under this Amendment, if there were something in the nature of an accidental offence a fine would be imposed, and the thing would be settled, and we do not want such an offender to feel that for a definite or an indefinite time his name will be written down somewhere and that there will always be that black mark against him. I hope the Government will accept the Amendment, which is full of common sense and natural sense, and not be led away by hon. Gentlemen opposite who, I am afraid, have permitted their desire for lists of names to overcome the discretion which is more usually shown in their speeches.

10.3 p.m.


The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has a wonderfully kind feeling for some kinds of criminals.




If he had the misfortune to be brought before any of the Scottish courts and were convicted, that conviction would be recorded against him, and the next time he came before the court that conviction would be brought up against him and in all probability an additional month or so would be added to his sentence. Personally, I prefer the view of the Government in this matter, and hope they will not accept the Amendment. The object of the Bill is to deal with a type of criminality which has existed for a considerable period, and with a number of people who have no right to any sympathy from this House by reason of the depredations they have carried on.


The standpoint of the Government in this matter is not that illegal trawling within the three-mile limit may take place by accident or inadvertence. The Government's position is that all that illegal trawling can be prevented if ordinary care is taken. It is from that point of view that we judge the usefulness of the proposed Amendment. By balancing the penalties against the tendency towards infringement because of increased profits, we arrive at the means to prevent any infringement without inflicting hardship upon anybody who is reasonably careful.


Does the Lord Advocate consider it is a suitable penalty for one act of carelessness that a man should be deprived of his living for two years?


I have already said that this kind of carelessness can easily be avoided if people realise that it may have serious consequences. Carelessness will take place just in the degree in which people suppose that it will not be visited by any serious penalty. It has to be borne in mind that the statutory consequences of conviction, namely, the appearance of the name of the man convicted in the Board of Trade List, is the very foundation of the liability of the owner. It is essential that there should be uniformity, and that it should not be a matter for anybody's discretion whether a man who has been convicted should enter the list or should escape the list. Just consider upon what the liability of the owner rests. There are a certain number—I think a minority—of trawler owners who are prepared to take into their employment a man who may be likely to increase their pocket by fishing within the prohibited limits. That is the basis of it. If they find a man who has been convicted and who has not entered the list, they will employ him until the time of his next offence. That will simply be putting a premium upon the man who has been convicted but has been excused from being put into the list as against other people, in the eyes of the supposed dishonest trawler owners. The statutory consequences should follow invariably upon conviction. I cannot suppose for a moment that illegal trawling takes place by inadvertence on the part of anybody who is really anxious to keep upon the right side of the law, and the Government intend to ensure by this Bill that anybody who is in charge of a trawler at sea shall, when he is trawling, be outside the three-mile limit. For that reason, the Amendment cannot be accepted.

10.8 p.m.


May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain one point which troubles me a little? Sub-section (6) says: The clerk of the court by whom any person shall, after the passing of this Act, be convicted of illegal trawling shall send particulars of such conviction to the Board of Trade and to the Fishery Board for Scotland, and the Board of Trade shall take such steps as may to them seem necessary to secure that a list containing the names of the persons who have been so convicted and particulars of such convictions is available at each mercantile marine office. Does that mean that it is mandatory upon the Board of Trade?


I am afraid that that point does not arise upon this Amendment.

10.10 p.m.


I think that the Lord Advocate has missed one point. He said that the court should not have discretion in regard to the two years of being on the black list. If that is so, why should the court have discretion as to the amount of the fine? If the fine is to prevent people from trawling illegally, why should not the first fine be £100 without any discretion being left to the court? It seems rather funny to give discretion as to the amount of the fine and no discretion as to the two years. I ask the Government if they will accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.


Before I call the next Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) and other hon. Members, I must point out that that Amendment and the last Amendment on this Clause—in page 3, line 17, to leave out from "conviction," to "no," in line 21—are really one.

10.13 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I beg to move, in page 3, line 16, to leave out "Sub-section (1)," and to insert "Subsections (1) and (3)."

You have said, Captain Bourne, that the next Amendment goes with this one. As the Clause stands, under Sub-section (7) the trawler owner starts with a clean sheet, but not so the skipper. If the Government were in the Bill to rank the previous convictions of the skipper to the detriment of the owner, that would have been grossly unfair, and I am glad that they have not done that. I suggest that the Government ought to let the skipper start with a clean sheet. Fines are being increased out of all knowledge. The Bill has ventilated the matter all over the Kingdom, and there is no doubt that skippers know exactly where they stand. As the Government have refused the Amendment which was moved some time ago dealing with stress of weather, I suggest that it would be only fair to let the skippers start afresh. Such leniency would not be misplaced. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that illegal trawling does not take place inadvertently. By that, I suppose he means that trawling is not accidental within the three-mile limit. We maintain that there is trawling within the three-mile limit which is accidental, and that there are convictions which are merely technical ones.

In the past a man faced the weather; now fie definitely has to face loss of employment. I do not know how many skippers, with the passage of the Bill, will be involved in loss of employment without any further convictions, but quite possibly there are some. Is it the intention of the Government, because those skippers, who have had to pay a fine for taking a risk, with danger to the owners and to the crew, shall be liable to be turned off? The Government should face up to that, and should tell the Committee that they fully realise the danger which confronts some of these people. There is a case which rather comes into this question, and that is the case of the skipper-owner, which I do not think has been fully dealt with. I understand that there are more skipper-owners and skipper-part-share-owners in Scotland than there are in England. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Burnett) will stress that point, but I venture to suggest that, before this Clause is passed in its present form, the question of the skipper-owner and the skipper who owns a part-share in a trawler should be more fully considered.

10.15 p.m.


As Subjection (7) of Clause 1 stands, a previous conviction would affect the skipper; that is to say, a conviction dated before the passing of the Act would count as the first or second conviction, as the case may be, against the skipper, but it would not count against the owner. I think it is manifest that, to be consistent with ordinary fairness, it could not be made to count against the owner; but after hearing what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage), I think it would be fair and just that any convictions prior to the passing of the Act should count neither against the skipper nor against the owner. After all, it is a strong step to count, for the purpose of these penalties, something which has taken place before the penalties became law, and, therefore, I think that this is an Amendment which ought to be accepted. I cannot accept it quite in the form in which it is put down, but it is comparatively easy to suggest a form of words. I suggest that in page 3, line 18, the words: there shall be taken into account any conviction of illegal trawling, whether dated before or after the passing of this Act; and that, in line 21, the words "such conviction" should be left out, and there should be inserted instead the words "conviction of illegal trawling." The Sub-section would then read: For the purpose of any reference in Sub-section (1) of this Section to a second, or third, or subsequent conviction, and for the purposes of Sub-section (3) of this Section, no account shall be taken of any conviction of illegal trawling dated before the passing of this Act. If my hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw his Amendment, I will move Amendments giving effect to my suggestion.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

My hon. Friends and I very gladly accept the Amendments suggested by the Lord Advocate.

10.19 p.m.


I think I am expressing the desire of the whole Committee when I say that this concession, as far as it goes, will do a great deal to make for a sense of fairness in the fishing industry. It is a concession of great value, and I think the Government ought to be thanked for it, particularly when one remembers how the trawling interests have been criticised during the whole of these Debates.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: In page 3, line 17, leave out from "conviction" to "and," in line 20.

In line 21, leave out "such conviction," and insert "conviction of illegal trawling."—[The Lord Advocate.]

Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.