HC Deb 04 February 1937 vol 319 cc1929-31

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 69.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to prevent the spreading of disease among salmon and freshwater fish in Great Britain, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of such sums as may be necessary to defray any expenses incurred by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries or a Secretary of State in connection with the execution of the said Act, or in connection with any arrangements made by him with the consent of the Treasury for the carrying on of scientific investigation or laboratory diagnosis as to diseases affecting fish of the salmon family or freshwater fish." (King's Recommendation signified.)—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]

11.52 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. W. S. Morrison)

The Bill to which this is the Financial Resolution deals with furunculosis in fish. On the last occasion when it was before us an hon. Member opposite drew attention to the amount of money to be spent on administering this Bill. He expressed the view that it was too slight an expenditure for the purpose. I would like the Committee to understand that all research necessary for this purpose has already been done, and the expenditure now involved is merely to work a testing station and pay one or two extra salaries for men who will test fish suspected to have this disease. The disease is well understood, the bacillus has been identified, and all that is necessary for the working of the Bill is that this money should be sanctioned for a testing station so that the disease can be identified if samples are sent.

11.54 p.m.

Earl Winterton

This matter is obviously capable of a good deal of facetiousness, but I do not rise for that purpose. I would like to ask the Minister whether there will be any report made of the result of the interesting experiment so that hon. Members may be informed of the work.

Mr. Morrison

The House will be kept informed of the progress of the work. It is a matter in which the whole House is interested, irrespective of party, and it is a matter of great commercial as well as of sporting interest.

11.55 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

Is not the Minister doing that sort of work as the ordinary routine? Why come and bother us with a special Vote for this money? I thought that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had a general duty to look after these matters. It is very interesting to hear that this is an important industry. There are only about 20 people employed in it. I have had occasion to meet one or two men engaged in that industry on previous occasions when they have been in difficulty. I know that there is only a handful of them. The main interest concerned here is the sporting interest. That is the one interest that is really concerned. It is preposterous that we should be asked to sit here until midnight discussing blisters on salmon.

11.56 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

I wonder whether the money which is to be spent in eradicating this very devastating disease among salmon will be of any great advantage to the large number of working men who are very artful and skilful in the catching of salmon. It is a pity that all this waste of salmon goes on, but there is another aspect of this matter which alarms me very much. I have in mind probably the best salmon river in England. It is a river that I know very well. If the present practice on that river continues, it will become practically impossible for working men to catch the salmon which you are going to save from disease in the future. On the river of which I am speaking, men pay up to £2 10s. for a licence, and then the Duchess of Northumberland will express a wish that she wants to fish the best part of the river for about a month at the best time of the year, and, of course, working men are warned off. I want the salmon family to be saved from disease, and I am very much interested in working men having an opportunity to fish our rivers for migratory fish which proceed to and from the sea. It alarms me when working men have their pleasures curtailed. We are going to save these salmon for wealthy men, who can buy up long stretches of river. Some of these stretches are let on lease for about £200 for probably about six weeks' fishing in the spring and in the autumn. It is this sort of thing in which I am interested, and probably we shall have something more to say about it.

11.59 p.m.

Sir Hugh Seely

I disagree with the view of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), and I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I am the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed, and there is no doubt that salmon fishing, with which this Order has a great deal to do, is more to the benefit of the poorer people and of the real industry, and not necessarily for the line fishing. It is for that reason that I support it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton said he knew of only 12 people, but it is not so; it is a whole town which is dependent on this industry. It is not the line fishermen for whom I hold a brief; I hold a brief for those people engaged in salmon fishing and any money spent on that to make it better will be to the advantage of some of the poorest and most hard-hit people in the country.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.