HC Deb 05 April 1951 vol 486 cc490-5
Mr. McNeil

I beg to move, in page 12, line 9, column 2, to leave out from "nine," to end of line 11, and to insert "paragraph (2) shall be omitted."

It will be remembered that when we made our first effort to secure a Clause covering the weekly close time there resided with the Secretary of State power to vary the application of close time. When we offered the compromise which was unanimously accepted by the House, I indicated it would be better to end that power. This repeals Section 9 (2) of The Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act, 1868.

Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[Mr. McNeil.]

9.9 p.m.

Lord Dunglass

We consider this to be a useful Measure and we have no desire to delay the Third Reading. There are two or three points, as for example the licensing of dealers, on which the Maconachie Committee lay great stress, and which we would have liked to see in the Bill. However, we do not intend to go over that ground again. On the whole, we are grateful to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Measure for the trouble taken over it and the consideration given to our views.

9.10 p.m.

Brigadier Thorp (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) that this is a useful Measure and I would express my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for a very kind letter from him which cleared up a point I raised about whether the lakes in Northumberland were affected by the Bill. He told me that the lakes, ponds, reservoirs, etc., were not affected, unless they drained into the River Tweed.

I also want to ask what is the date of the coming into operation of this Bill? Is it the day when it gets His Majesty's Assent? If I understand the position correctly, is it not a little unfair that it should come into operation now when employers have taken on their fishermen from the beginning of the year at certain wages on the basis of 36 hours a week? That is true. It is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite shaking their heads. Now the basis will be altered in a week's time or a fortnight's time, and they will go on to a basis of 42 hours close time. Therefore, the whole system will have to be altered.

9.11 p.m.

Mr. McKie

Like my two hon. Friends who have spoken, I have no desire to stand between the House and a decision on the Third Reading of this Bill; nor have I any wish whatever to criticise the Bill. This is the last chance we have of making any points we wish to make regarding the actual substance of what is in the Measure. When a Bill on Third Reading is about to leave this House, we can only discuss the Clauses as they then stand. We are not at liberty to say what we think should have been in the Bill.

First, with regard to Clause 7, which this evening has been the subject of a good deal of controversy—though I must say that it was controversy conducted in a much more amicable atmosphere than was the case on the Committee stage—I at once congratulate hon. Members opposite on their much more restrained attitude this evening. Mention has been made by the Lord Advocate of the principle of the one witness as it was first incorporated in the Game Laws in 1862. I am bound to say that, as well as a constituency interest, I have a personal interest in this Bill and, in the form which has long been the customary procedure in this House, I declare it at once.

I was about to remind the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate—I am sure he has not forgotten, though his hon. Friends behind him perhaps never knew it—that the principle of the one witness, in cases of salmon fishing, goes back long before 1862 to 1804 when the Solway Salmon Act passed through all stages, having been brought into being by the Government of Mr. William Pitt. I do not know whether the name of William Pitt appeals to hon. Members opposite, but it certainly appeals to me.

I certainly hope that the Solway salmon fishers who have so long enjoyed the benefit—hon. Members opposite may object to the use of the word "benefit"—of the one-witness procedure, will not have their interests jeopardised by the passage into law of this Bill with Clause 7 as it now stands. I hope that the Lord Advocate may be able to clear my mind on that subject. He must believe me when I say that I have had certain representations on this point. The Secretary of State for Scotland appears to be very annoyed, but I must put the points on behalf of the people whose interests I have represented for so long in this House. If the Lord Advocate is in a position to clear my mind on the matter, I shall be very happy.

I am very glad indeed that a reasonable compromise has been achieved on Clause 13 on the question of the weekend close time. There again, the interests of the Solway salmon fishers differ, perhaps, from the interests of those concerned in salmon fishing in other parts of Scotland, owing to the very quick ebb and flow of the tides in that estuary. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who is smiling, will be familiar with the lines in Sir Walter Scott's "Marmion": Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide. As I was saying, already the week-end close period has in effect been something like 48 hours. If we had agreed to the previous provisions in Clause 13, there might have been created very considerable prejudice so far as the salmon fishers of the Solway Firth are concerned. I am delighted at the reasonable compromise which has been effected, and I certainly think that both sides of the House were well advised to accept it. I congratulate the Government on the Bill, and wish it a speedy passage.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)

This Bill is about to receive its Third Reading with so many blessings from the other side that I feel that it would be quite unfair to allow it to leave the House without a parting kick from this side. We have had a good deal to say about it during the previous proceedings, but I am sure the whole House now recognises it for what it is—a landlord's charter—and, as such, we have very freely condemned it on this side. Even though the Bill has not yet received the blessing of another place, nevertheless, with the wholehearted support of the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) and his supporters on the opposite side of the House, I think there is no doubt as to its reception in another place.

It may be interesting to note some of the effects which are already taking place as a result of this Bill. I have in my hand a letter which I received yesterday from a Tweed fisherman, who happens to be a friend of mine, but not distinguished even as an occasional poacher. His letter tells me that, so far as the Tweed is concerned—and he knows the river very well—the Bill has not been well received by the ordinary people, as it clearly gives the owners of the rivers more power and privilege than ever before. I think it is a pity that any person outside this House should be writing to us in terms such as these.

I quoted to the House on another occasion the heavy charges now imposed for fishing for salmon in Scottish rivers, particularly in the area which the hon. Member for Galloway knows so well—the Solway Firth, where £1,000 per annum is charged. The writer of this letter tells me that, on the part of the Tweed owned by the Duke of Roxburgh, the rate for a day's fishing has already been increased to £1 and that, if an individual with a permit does catch a salmon, he has to go back to the owners with the salmon which he has caught and ask if he may retain the fish.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think that is going beyond the Bill.

Mr. Rankin

I thoroughly agree with that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I say, without offence, that I was trying to make that particular point in order to emphasise what I have already said—that it would be a pity if we on this side of the House parted with this Bill without a final kick. Now that I have had my final kick, I thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for your indulgence.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. McNeil

I do not want to hold the House at this late hour, particularly as I know that, after our Scottish friends have departed for their trains, there is a little praying to be done by some of their hon. Friends.

One question was asked me, and I think only one. The hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Brigadier Thorp) asked me if I could say when the Bill would become operative. Of course, I cannot. The Act provides that it shall be operated when it receives the Royal Assent. With great respect, it is a little ungrateful when the Law Officers have strained to find a formula acceptable to these commercial organisations that they should seek for further help which we had no intention of giving. I think we have offered a reasonable protection.

I am indebted to the noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) and his right hon. and hon. Friends for their help. Despite the bitterness, I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) was weeping for the clear rich streams which flowed through his division.

Mr. Rankin

No, not bitterness.

Mr. McNeil

If we have had help, as we have had, from the Opposition, I know we have had a great deal of help from several of my hon. Friends. It is rather dangerous to single out one, but I should like to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde), a great angler, a great friend of anglers and a very restrained debater.

I know some of my hon. Friends would like the Bill to go further. It was not meant as a massive Measure. It is not concerned with the landlord but with the freshwater stock of Scotland. We hope the Bill will improve that stock. I particularly hope that the limited extension of the close time may contribute to that. In parting with the Bill I might add that we have shown throughout its course a tenderness for the traditional Scottish poacher who finds trout quite as attractive as salmon.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.