§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In the nature of things it is only very rarely that a Home Secretary, rising to move in the House the Second Reading of a Bill dealing with Irish affairs, can, with any confidence, claim that the Measure is non-controversial.
I do not propose to tempt Providence in that way on this occasion, but perhaps I may go so far as to say that the omens today are more auspicious than usual. The Bill which I am moving has its origin and its justification in an agreement between the Governments of Northern Ireland and the Government of the Irish Republic to take joint action in the area of the River Foyle and Lough Foyle to protect, preserve and improve the valuable salmon fisheries which have suffered severely for many years from the depredations of poachers.
The two Governments have agreed in principle to acquire jointly the fisheries in the tidal waters and set up for their administration a Foyle Fisheries Commission on which each Government shall have the same number of representatives as the other. A common code of Regulations will apply throughout the area, and poachers, who have hitherto been in- 2073 clined to poach just over the Border, so that they can, if detected, escape into their country of residence with a reasonable prospect of avoiding prosecution, will no longer be able to do this. A resident of one country who offends against the common code in the other country will be guilty of an offence in his country of residence, and, if caught in the act, will be sent back there for trial.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has not, I think, got the geographical background.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am dealing with Lough Foyle in Northern Ireland at the moment. I am using that term in its geographical sense and with the district on the Border between Northern Ireland in its political sense and the Republic of Ireland. I do not follow the implication of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. Delargy
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is using the word "countries" as though there were two countries there. With great respect he is not using a geographical or historical term, but merely a legal term which, in my opinion, is really a legal fiction.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think the hon. Gentleman will, with a little further trouble, appreciate what I was trying to indicate, and I think he will pardon me, in view of the background of his interruption, if I do not follow more closely its political connotation.
May I just indicate to the House the requirement of giving effect to the agreement between the two Governments? The legislation that is required in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic is to give effect to the agreement which I have mentioned, and legislation will be necessary both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, and it is intended that the legislation to be presented in both 2074 Legislatures shall be, as nearly as possible, in similar terms. The only differences will be those necessitated by the existing constitutional and legal differences in the two countries.
The greater part of the legislation required will consist of detailed provision regarding fishery administration, restriction of the use of nets, provisions as to the close season, and so on. On those matters the Northern Ireland Parliament is already competent to legislate, but the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, imposed limitations on the powers of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, as a result of which that Parliament is not competent to deal with all the matters which arise from the agreement about the Foyle fisheries.
Section 4 of the Act of 1920 prohibits the Northern Ireland Parliament from making laws in respect of matters relating to that portion of Ireland outside its jurisdiction, or in respect of any relations with foreign States or offences connected with such relations, or in respect of the return of fugitive offenders from or to any part of His Majesty's Dominions. The Northern Ireland Parliament has no power to deal with any of those matters unless it is expressly enabled to do so by further legislation of the Imperial Parliament. That is the purpose of this Bill.
It is purely an enabling Measure, without which the Northern Ireland Parliament would not be competent to pass the legislation which it must pass if effect is to be given to the measures which the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of the Irish Republic both agree they ought jointly to take in the interests of preserving and improving these valuable fisheries.
If I may very briefly indicate the provisions of the Bill, Clause (1, a) empowers the Northern Ireland Parliament to authorise the making and carrying out of a formal agreement with the authorities in the Republic to acquire the fisheries in the Foyle area. It is an interesting historical point with which I shall not deal at any length, but in which the House might be interested—that the greater part of the fisheries are at present owned by the Honourable the Irish Society, an ancient body of trustees for public purposes, which derives its title to the fisheries in the tidal waters from letters patent granted in 1613 and 1662.
2075 The Society has voluntarily agreed to sell its rights for £100,000 to the Ministry of Commerce in Northern Ireland and the Minister for Agriculture for the Republic acting jointly. Each Government will pay £50,000 for these rights. Provision will be made for reasonable compensation to be paid to any other person who can show that he has had lawful rights diminished or extinguished by the transfer.
Clause (1, b) enables the Northern Ireland Parliament to legislate for the establishment of a Foyle Fisheries Commission. In this Commission, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic will have equal representation. I do not think I need say very much about the functions of the Commission, which will include conservation, protection and improvement of the fisheries in the Foyle area generally. I submit to the House that it will be clearly useful for the whole area to be administered together.
Clause (1, c) empowers the Northern Ireland Parliament to make it an offence for a person resident in Northern Ireland to do anything on the other side of the Border in the Foyle area which would be an offence against fishery laws if done in the Northern Ireland part of the Foyle area. I have already explained the purpose of that.
Clause (1, d) enables the Northern Ireland Parliament to make it possible for residents of the Republic who may be caught poaching in the Foyle area in Northern Ireland to be handed over to the police in the Republic to be dealt with for the offence in the courts of their own country, and it is the intention that so far as possible this should be done. The House will appreciate that this is really ancillary to Clause (1, c), so that when the offender is handed over he will be treated as having committed the offence in his own country.
I wish to say a word on this because it is an unusual provision, but any Bill which gets complete agreement from the whole of Ireland is an unusual Measure. I do not think anyone in the House would dispute that. I ask the House to note that by using the words "found offending" in Clause (1, d) the Bill enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to legislate only in regard to persons caught in the act and it is intended that the two 2076 Irish Bills should confine this provision to poachers who either refuse to desist from their offences when required or refuse to give their names and addresses on demand.
The provisions will hit only those poachers who are caught red-handed poaching outside their own country, and either wilfully continue to defy the law after detection, or try to avoid punishment by concealing their names and addresses. Therefore, I would point out to the House that two conditions must be fulfilled; the offender must be caught red-handed and there must be reason to believe that he is resident in the Republic.
The next point I wish to impress on the House is that the arrangement will be reciprocal. The third point is that it is not likely to be detrimental to the persons involved, for these reasons. The object is to enable a man to be tried by the courts of his country of residence. If I may refer to something which I am sure is in the minds of hon. Members—whether we are giving too great powers to the Government of Northern Ireland about what is our responsibility—I would point out that the Parliament of Northern Ireland can, without enabling powers, provide for the arrest of anyone caught offending against the fishery laws on Northern Ireland territory. It has that power which is a transferred power under the Government of Ireland Act.
Second, if a resident of the Republic is arrested in Northern Ireland and is not handed over, he will still have all the protection of the law. This does not cut out his present legal rights. As the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will appreciate, one has to consider this further point. In the absence of arrangements for handing over a poacher who is caught red-handed in Northern Ireland, he would have to be arrested and detained until trial, because if he returned to Southern Ireland the procedure of issuing a warrant and getting it backed by the courts of the Republic would be very cumbersome for dealing with this class of offence. It would, in fact—and one must face the point—result in the procedure have just mentioned: the man would be arrested and detained in imprisonment until trial.
Therefore, from the point of view of the persons affected we thought this was a procedure which is speedy, which has 2077 the essential features of justice and which will result in the people being dealt with in their territory of origin. I hope the House will forgive me for having dealt at some length with that point, but I know that hon. Members are most jealous to see that any provision dealing with the liberty of an individual is justified by whoever puts it forward in the House.
Clause (1, e) seems unusual, but I am informed that the smuggling of salmon is a lucrative business, and that these provisions are necessary. I now come to Clause 2 and, again, I am sorry to take up so much time. The Clause proposes that the Commission should be exempted from the payment of Property Tax and Income Tax. That is a matter upon which the House is entitled to ask for an explanation. This will not involve any reduction in the revenue accruing to the Exchequer from the Foyle fisheries, because the Irish Society, as I have mentioned, is a charitable institution, and, for that reason, is already exempt from taxation.
The Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic both agree that to avoid doubts and difficulties which might otherwise arise, and which do not think I do not need to go into at length, it is desirable that there should be a statutory exemption.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
This seemed to me the most objectionable Clause in the Bill. I have no doubt that there is an explanation for it, and that the explanation is perfectly reasonable. But it is the sort of Clause which, if given publicity, does cause disquiet in the minds of many people; and I think we should be told why it is necessary to introduce it if they are not liable to taxation anyway.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The point I was making was that it will not involve any reduction in the revenue to the Exchequer, because at the moment the Irish Society is a charitable institution and is exempt from tax. But both Governments agree that to avoid the doubts and difficulties which might otherwise arise it is desirable that there should be a statutory exemption.
If the Commission were assessed for tax it would be necessary to make adjustments between the two Governments on account of the different levels 2078 of taxation from time to time in the two countries. A direct declaration of exemption will make the position of the Commission quite clear in this respect. So that one is really adopting a procedure which prevents difficulties arising between two countries at no loss to the Revenue at all. Therefore, I hope the House will allow what is an exceptional provision, and that is the reason I wanted to put it to the House, just as I did with the last provision.
Considering that on many fundamental questions the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic hold directly contrary views, their agreement to join together in overcoming the difficulties which have arisen in the Foyle area is no small achievement. Each Government will be making considerable concessions, and at a time when we all hope for so much from attempts at international agreement in every sphere these proposals for the Foyle area merit, I suggest, a welcome from this House.
The House may remember that earlier this year we had a debate on Northern Ireland and that hon. Members on both sides expressed the hope that moderation on the part of the Governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic would make possible increased co-operation between the two communities. I hope the House will share my view that the setting up of the Foyle Commission will be a welcome step in the right direction, and that for that reason they will give the Bill their support.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I welcome this Bill, with the preliminary negotiations for which I had the responsibility while I held office, and I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on being able to present to the House this further Measure towards Home Rule for Ireland. It is not a very much larger concession, but it steadily takes us along the road where in the end Irishmen, by agreement among Irishmen, will be responsible for Irish affairs.
This Bill has a very interesting history, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. It originates in the arrangements made by the City of London for turning the City of Derry in Northern Ireland into Londonderry, and for arranging for some of the necessary work which had to be done in that connection. I would say 2079 at once how pleasing it is to find that even on the national sport of salmon poaching these two countries, which quarrel about so much, can be agreed in taking some action which might almost be supposed to be against the Irish temperament altogether. It does show the extent to which they have managed to get together.
There has, of course, been some litigation in recent years about this matter, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not allude. I do not think I am called on to make any comment on it except perhaps to say that there is a claim by some people. in the Republic of Ireland that only the land in Northern Ireland is Northern Ireland; that the territorial waters around are part of the Irish Republic, and that the tidal waters are all part of the Irish Republic. I do not think that has been put forward by the Government of the Republic, but it is put forward by certain people living in the Republic. What I wish to say on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House is that we do not recognise it and have never recognised it as a legitimate claim. It is so fantastic that nowhere, except in Ireland, could one expect to have such a claim put forward, and I wish to make it quite clear that we do not share, and never have shared, that particular view of the situation.
What this Bill does do, and it does it very cleverly, is to leave undecided where in the tidal waters of the Foyle the boundary really is between Northern Ireland and the Republic. That is very important. In point of fact that boundary has never been agreed. Only the Irish could have found a way of dealing with the situation so that they can get their own way without raising in this Bill that particularly awkward area. It does not matter whether the man is found on either side of this very ill-defined boundary, because he is to be tried in the country where he resides. So it does not matter very much whether he is a few yards on one side or the other of what either Government imagines is the boundary line. That is a typical Irish way of dealing practically with a problem that would be insoluble to the minds of the more practical English, or the more dogmatic Scots. There again I think 2080 we must congratulate them, and ourselves, on the final decision which has been taken.
These fisheries are very valuable and this charity of the Irish Society is a very important charity. It is unfortunate that the disputes in recent years regarding this matter have deprived the charity of a substantial part if not the whole of its income. I am quite certain that this arrangement by which they get £100,000 capital sum, £50,000 from each side, represents a reasonable arrangement and one about which the society need have no qualms. It will enable this whole matter to be dealt with in the future by bodies fully capable of enforcing the laws and the byelaws which are to be made in respect of the fisheries.
I think everyone is to be congratulated on this result of the negotiations. There may of course be a few other people who have some rights in these fisheries. I do not think there can be very many, in fact, some authorities think there is none. But there may be a few people with small rights, and I understand the arrangement is that if anyone can prove his right he also will be compensated, and that the compensation will be paid equally to both sides. I rather imagine that that is so, and that, if any claims are admitted, they will be of equal number from both Northern Ireland and the Republic. I cannot see their agreeing very easily unless it is reciprocal, otherwise I suspect there will not be any claim worth recognising.
This Bill does give us proof of the way in which, on practical issues that concern both good government and reasonable relationships, these two countries, or rather this province and this self-governing State, can work together. It is to be welcomed, especially by all of us in this House, for that if for no other reason, I am certain that, no matter what our views may be on the ancient controversies and deplorable happenings in history with regard to this country, we do desire to see concord and prosperity in this small island. I am quite certain that the more they can get back to practical affairs and prove that, when it comes to managing affairs that are their joint responsibility, the more they can succeed, the better it will be for the world, and the better it will be for Ireland, without 2081 distinction between the six and the twenty-six counties.
In the hope that, today, we are making a further contribution towards promoting understanding between Irishmen themselves, I have very much pleasure, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, in assuring the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary of our complete support for this Measure.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. William Wellwood (Londonderry)
This enabling Bill is just another example of that extraordinary understanding which exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—a matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McKibbin), referred a few days ago.
Unfortunately, I must confess that, in reaching this understanding, there has been a considerable delay. To my knowledge, negotiations have been going on certainly for the last 30 years, and they have been passed from Attorney-General to Attorney-General in Northern Ireland throughout the existence of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. During those years, the negotiations have always been very friendly, and it is a matter of very great pleasure to me that, at last, materialisation has been reached. I hope that, when this Bill goes on the Statute Book, it will be a complete success and that it will be another feather in the cap of our Home Secretary.
I feel quite sure that it will be a great success. Almost all the Foyle fisheries are within my constituency in Northern Ireland, and I have for long enough appreciated the good work done by the Honourable the Irish Society for many years. I think that this is a matter for satisfaction in that it will no longer be a drag on their operations, but will enable them to devote their efforts to their other charity in Northern Ireland, which is in my constituency, particularly in Londonderry and Londonderry County.
The Honourable the Irish Society devote their attention to many events and developments in Northern Ireland. They have endowed schools there, and they do very much appreciate the money which themselves will save by means of this enabling Bill, quite apart from the fact that they are to receive a capital sum of £100,000. I am afraid, however, that 2082 this sum will have been considerably reduced by the time all the law charges over the period of 30 years have been met. I think those charges will be considerable, if they have not already been met as they went along, and I do not know whether that is so or not.
My right hon. and learned Friend has explained all the technicalities of this Bill, and I am not qualified to make any remarks about a legal matter such as this. I will merely say that, while I regret that the Honourable the Irish Society is losing some of its property in Northern Ireland, I welcome the Bill and give it my wholehearted support.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
I am not quite certain, because the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken did not himself make it explicit, whether we have just listened to a maiden speech or not. It is a very odd but charming coincidence that I, the very hon. Member who strongly opposed his election to this House, should congratulate him upon such a charming speech. I hope that, when Northern Ireland matters are being discussed in this House, we shall hear the hon. Gentleman very often in future.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, and also my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) the former Home Secretary, have been at great pains to persuade the House that this is one of those Measures concerning Irish affairs which is not controversial. I do not share the view that we should take that for granted. If I were so minded, and if I were not the peaceable sort of man I am, I could find quite a few points of controversy in this Bill.
I might be able, for example, to point out that it confers still further powers on the Government in Northern Ireland, and that many of us are seriously of opinion that no further powers should be conferred upon that Government until such time as we are convinced that the powers which they have already are administered in a just and democratic matter, with the rights of minorities properly safeguarded. I could also, if I were so minded, point out that we are conferring still further powers on the Northern Ireland police force, and that it is well within the recollection of 2083 the House that many serious accusations have been made against this force.
However, I am not in a controversial mood this afternoon. There was at least one statement made by my right hon. Friend which gave me hope indeed. It was when he said that he was looking forward to the time when Irishmen would be responsible for Irish affairs. I do most heartily welcome this somewhat belated conversion, because, when my right hon. Friend was in office—
§ Mr. Delargy
I do not remember, when my right hon. Friend was Home Secretary and I advocated this particular policy, that I found him very forthcoming.
§ Mr. Delargy
We know that the Home Secretary administers the law, but he should also change it when that law is unjust. Particularly when the Labour Party is in office, the Home Secretary should legislate to change an unjust law, and I regret that my right hon. Friend did not do it.
However, I do not want to argue this point. I admit the convenience of this Bill, but I deplore the necessity for it. We are debating this Measure because, as the Home Secretary has pointed out, the Irish Border runs across Lough Foyle, and, apparently, not only across the surface, but right down to the bed of the lake. It runs in a similar fashion through other odd quarters, through streets and houses and backyards and over fences—the most absurd border in all the history of geography. The sooner we get rid of this absurdity the better. I would be very well prepared to debate that proposition here and now, but I have a feeling that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may not think I was completely within the rules of order.
There is another absurdity about this Bill, which I may call a geographical Bill, and this particular absurdity still further complicates my notions of geography. I observe that the Bill is backed by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, the gentleman who, we were assured, was to give his whole time to the administration of Welsh affairs. I regret that he is not in his 2084 place; he has probably gone to the Welsh Office. What a Minister for Wales has to do with the administration of Irish affairs is quite beyond my capacity to understand. I believe that this is a studied and deliberate insult to the Welsh people, and I think it is only proper that, on their behalf, someone should protest.
We all remember that, during the General Election, the Tory Party manifesto pointed out the very great importance of Welsh affairs, and promised that a special Minister was to be responsible for them. His cares were so great that he would have a special Department of his own. Of course, the Welsh people have not got that separate Minister; all they have got is an Under-Secretary in the Home Office, who is, apparently, also responsible for affairs in Northern Ireland. That promise, like so many promises which the Tories made during the Election, has gone with the wind.
Nevertheless, despite that and the other absurdities contained in the Bill, I assure the Home Secretary that I do not intend to divide the House on this matter. I hope that what I have said in regard to the very sad necessity for the Bill at all might be borne in mind, and I hope that the approval for my policy, which has been shown by the former Home Secretary, may also be exhibited by the present one.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Professor Savory (Antrim, South)
I certainly welcome this Bill, because I think it a very valuable contribution to the co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
This is not the first occasion on which this co-operation has taken place, because it will be within the recollection of the House that we passed a Bill in regard to the waters of Lough Erne and the provision of electricity, which was a very good example of such co-operation. Only recently, there have been negotiations between the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic, and the Minister of Commerce from Northern Ireland has visited Dublin and been warmly entertained there, while the Minister of Commerce from the Republic has visited Belfast. These negotiations have now resulted in an agreement for the purchase of the Great Northern Railway.
2085 I congratulate very heartily my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on his very lucid statement and his very clear explanation of the Bill, and I would also express my gratitude to the former Home Secretary for the very skilful way in which in the past he has presided over these negotiations. He was certainly very helpful in bringing them to a satisfactory conclusion. I think we should also pay tribute to the Honourable the Irish Society for having sold, for what I consider—and I am sure is the case—a very moderate sum, its rights in this matter.
These rights are very ancient. They were conferred on the Society by King James I, and they have always been exercised with extraordinary moderation and generosity. I have visited the schools in Londonderry and Coleraine, which are not merely national schools, but also secondary schools, which have been built and subsidised by the Honourable the Irish Society. Every year, the Society send a deputation to Northern Ireland to cary out an inspection of their property, and they are always ready to listen to any appeal to their generosity.
For instance, it is only a very short time ago that, when they saw that the gates of Londonderry Cathedral were in a rather parlous state, they immediately made a generous offer to provide new gates for the Cathedral of Derry.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. Gentleman has spoken favourably and eloquently about the co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland. Will he say how far he would extend that? Would he extend it in the matter of legislation and administration over the whole island, and, if so, why does he support partition?
§ Professor Savory
The convincing answer which I can give to the hon. and learned Gentleman is that under the 1920 Act a provision was made for a Joint Council of the whole of Ireland on which 20 members were to be nominated by Southern Ireland and 20 by Northern Ireland.
§ Professor Savory
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am only endeavouring 2086 to answer the question put to me by the hon. and learned Member opposite.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
May I respectfully point out, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman was allowed by you, and without any objection, to express a favourable view upon co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland. I ventured to ask him how far he would extend that—whether he would extend it to legislation and administration.
§ Professor Savory
I think I am in order in saying that so far as fisheries and railways are concerned they were handed over by the Act of 1920 to the Council of the whole of Ireland consisting of 20 members from the North and 20 from the South to be presided over by the Lord Lieutenant, but, unfortunately, that Council, due to no fault of Northern Ireland, never came into existence. Had it done so, it would have been a most valuable means of co-operation.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has pointed out the legal necessity for the introduction of this Bill. It is because Clause 4 of the 1920 Act not merely prohibits Northern Ireland from having relations with foreign countries, but also with any other part of His Majesty's Dominions. The Republic of Eire has become a foreign country, and clearly, therefore, it comes under that Clause. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend has had to demand legislation to enable Northern Ireland to carry out this agreement, because, obviously, it consists of a relation between Northern Ireland and a foreign country. I feel that this is a very encouraging sign of co-operation—the third instance of co-operation which comes to my mind—between the North and the South, and I certainly hope very much it will continue.
When I was interrupted by the hon. and learned Member opposite, I was pointing out that the Honourable the Irish Society has made a very valuable concession in handing over these rights which brought in a very large revenue in the past, in order to enable this agree- 2087 ment to be carried out. Throughout all history, I think this Society in its treatment of its tenants in Northern Ireland and of its charitable trusts has behaved with the utmost generosity, and that on this occasion it has really excelled itself. I think that we in this House should express great gratitude towards it.
I do not wish, as did the last speaker, to introduce a discordant note into this discussion. It would be very easy for me to answer the points he raised, but in view of the very conciliatory—
§ Mr. Manuel
Regarding the introduction of a discordant note, I think the hon. Gentleman has already done that. He mentioned James I of England when he he should have said James VI of Scotland.
§ Professor Savory
It was as James I of England and not as James VI of Scotland that he granted these Letters Patent to the Honourable the Irish Society.
In view of the very conciliatory speeches made by my right hon. and learned Friend and by the former Home Secretary, to whom I have already expressed our gratitude for his efforts in bringing about this agreement, I shall not follow the last speaker in entering upon a discordant note, although I am sorely tempted to answer the charges he has made. But as both sides of the House are, I believe, going to give this Bill a unanimous passage, I should be sorry to disturb the harmony so beautifully introduced by the Home Secretary and the ex-Home Secretary.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Hyde (Belfast, North)
I shall only detain the House for a few minutes to express my own pleasure at the prospect of this Bill reaching the Statute Book. As my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory), said, the keynote of the Bill is cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Eire. The Bill is welcomed not only by every quarter in this House, in spite of what the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) feels about possible controversy, but also by both Governments in Ireland. Indeed, it is welcomed by everyone except the members of the poaching community who will feel, 2088 no doubt, that as a result of this Bill their income will be substantially reduced. We have heard something about the interesting historical associations of this Bill.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to the poaching community. To whom does he refer under that description? Does he mean the people who traffic backwards and forwards across the Border between the north and the south, and, if so, would it not be a good idea to get rid of that Border and to have the administration and legislation for the whole island under one Government? Like his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has expressed his appreciation of the co-operation between north and south. Would he be in favour of extending that co-operation into the field of legislation and administration?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
I am afraid I would be out of order if I answered that question as I should like to do. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked me who these poachers are. Most of them come from the Eire side of the Border, from County Donegal, but I must be truthful and admit that there may be one or two adventurers from Northern Ireland as well. But, unquestionably, the majority come from County Donegal.
As I was saying, we have heard a good deal about the very interesting historical associations of this Bill, about the Irish Society and its connection with the City of London, and the fact that it was the intervention of the City through the grant of James I which caused the change of name from Derry to Londonderry. I think I am justified in drawing the attention of the House to the very remarkable historical conspectus of the fisheries made by the late Mr. Timothy Healy, who was for many years a Member of this House and the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State. In a book which he called "Stolen Waters," and which was published in 1913, he showed how from the time of the original grant the Irish Society has suffered from poaching.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hook to which the hon. and gallant Member refers was, if my memory serves me correctly, about another loch, Lough Neagh, and not about the one under discussion in this Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde
I think the hon. and learned Member is misinformed. The book refers to several waters in the North of Ireland, including Lough Foyle and the River Foyle, and there is a very considerable portion of the book devoted to other waters, but Lough Foyle also occupies a considerable part of the book.
Mr. Healy showed how the chief trouble of the Irish Society has always been poachers, and sometimes poachers placed in a very exalted position. One of them, I think the ancestor of the noble Lord the Marquess of Donegal, staked a claim to have four salmon out of the Foyle each day, and had to be bought off. Up to 1920, injunctions granted by the courts all over Ireland had some effect in this matter, but after that year, for reasons into which I need not enter, the courts in the Irish Free State or the Republic of Eire refused to grant those injunctions. As a result, about three fifths of the Lough and the river became quite valueless to the Irish Society from the point of view of revenue.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary referred to other litigation. As a result of that litigation between the Irish Society and the authorities in Southern Ireland, the Governments of both North and South very properly realised that if the valuable fisheries were to be saved intact, the only solution was for the private rights owned by the Irish Society in the Lough to be extinguished and acquired by the two Governments at present functioning in Ireland.
Hitherto, the fact that the fisheries are situated on the border between Northern Ireland and Eire has made it impossible to enforce the fishery laws owing to doubts about the extent of the jurisdiction of the courts on either side. I was very glad to note that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) paid a tribute to the ingenious method by which any possible conflict of jurisdiction as regards this Bill has been obviated. This is, I think, a promising experiment in joint Government, and it may well point a way to similar ventures between the two Governments in the future.
There is only one other point I wish to make. I think it was the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who I do not see in his place at the moment, who raised the question of Income Tax. Surely, the proposed exemption from 2090 Income Tax in Clause 2 of the Bill is a logical result of the proposed Government ownership. As the respective Exchequers of Northern Ireland and Eire will in any event reap all the profits and bear all the losses in equal shares, it would surely be invidious to subject the Commission's income to unequal codes of taxation.
I hope that the Eire authorities will play their part in the contemplated arrangements under this Bill—the setting up of a joint Commission to administer the fisheries. Indeed, I am sure they will do so, and that there will be an abundance of good will on both sides of the Border in this practical administration. It is in the interests of both to cooperate in this matter and thus to preserve and maintain this common asset of great value and hand it down undamaged to the posterity of both countries.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
It has been said by several speakers in the debate that this Bill has the agreement of the whole of Ireland. I am not at all sure about that because it seems to me that the Bill is directed against one of the last great artists of society, against the salmon poacher. It is a monstrous thing that these two great machines of Government, both north and south. should get together to try and crush between the upper and nether millstones this last survival of true Tory private enterprise. It would not be fitting to let the Bill go through Second Reading casually like this without saying a brief word on behalf of the poacher.
I must admit I came here with some intention of speaking against the Bill and possibly even of opposing it in the Lobby because of its possible effect on the poachers. But I have been reflecting on the whole business of poaching. I am quite sure a number of hon. Members have experience of it. I am sure the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) knows something about the thrill of going along the river in the gloaming, as I think they call it in Scotland, with one eye looking round the corner for the bailiff and the other eye looking for the swirl of fish in the water and the glint of a tail under a ledge of rock, the taking of the gaff out of the pocket and the struggle with a great fish as it leaps in the air.
2091 Surely there are two elements in poaching. One is the element of danger—the fact that there is a bailiff round the corner, that one has to go home with a fish down the back of one's coat, with another coat over it, and one has to get past the local policeman and, with a bland air of innocence as one goes by, wish him a good night.
The other element is that it is necessary that there should be fish. Therefore, on sober reflection it is in the interest of the poacher that we should give this Bill a Second Reading. We must preserve the fish for him. We cannot allow lorry-loads of spivs to come across the Border or even across the sea from Scotland to take the fish out of the river. We must also preserve the element of danger, because if the business of poaching completely breaks down and anybody can get a fish it is not a sport any longer. In the hope that the Commission which it is proposed to be set up will be tolerant and reasonable in their attitude towards this last great artist of society, I am prepared on behalf of the poachers to give this Bill a Second Reading.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
I think the whole House is glad that there is at least one Conservative Member who has not forgotten the origin of Toryism. As anyone who looks it up in an old dictionary will find out, the Tory was a species of Irish robber and it is very proper that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), should defend private enterprise in this way.
I do not know what experience hon. Members have had of lecturing in prisons. If they do have occasion to do so they will find that those who have the misfortune to be there are stout Conservatives. They always believe that anybody who is attacking private enterprise is attacking their source of wealth, and I can well appreciate why the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, takes the point of view he has expressed.
I thought it a pity that nobody on this side of the House got up to welcome this first measure of modest nationalisation introduced by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It does not go far, but it introduces nationalisation into a new sphere. I do not think that even that would have tempted me to speak had it not been for 2092 listening to five hon. Members from Northern Ireland speaking on the subject, none of whom mentioned the important reason for passing the Bill.
It is to do something for Derry, an area where there is more unemployment proportionately than in any other part of the country. I appreciate what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Wellwood), whose maiden speech we all welcomed and whom we welcome to this House. But I see he is already dropping into a political frame of mind. For years he was one of Ireland's distinguished civil servants. He would have said then, "That is another feather in the cap of the Ministry." He now says, "It is another feather in the cap of the Minister."
What we are up against is desperate poverty in the area where there is this fishery. It is a poverty due to the cutting off of Derry from its hinterland and from areas on which it previously depended for a market and for trade. The problem we are up against with regard to this Bill is not so much arranging for fishing to be done as arranging for the marketing of the fish and the proper dispersal of the fish in a situation where the river from which they are taken wanders from one country's territory to another's.
This is a kind of economic problem and I do not think facile speeches about the amusingness of the Irish will solve a problem which causes a great number of people to live in desperate poverty. All the time when we in this House are thinking of and dealing with people in that part of the world we should realise that we are thinking of and dealing with many people who have not been employed for some 20 years, and where shirt factories and the like are one by one closing down. It is against that background that the House should pass this Bill.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
On this occasion there has been so much agreement, including a belated but none the less importtant contribution and agreement from the poaching community conveyed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), that there is really nothing for me to do except first—and I am sure the House would wish me to do this—to congratulate the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Wellwood) on a maiden speech which the whole 2093 House enjoyed. Secondly, I am sure my right hon. and hon. Friends would like me to say a word not in contravention but rather in complement to what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing).
The hon. and learned Member referred to the origin of the name Tory as being that of an Irish robber. He did not go on to complete the history of the bestowal of the name. It was bestowed on those who refused to be deceived by the stories of Titus Oates and the Popish Plot. Speaking for my hon. and right hon. Friends, we take no shame that the origin of our party is that we were not taken in by the lies of knaves. In fact we are quite prepared to go on as a perpetual protest against such lies in the future. But where, oh where, is the border of order? If I have transgressed it, I make my most profound apologies.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman resumes his seat, in view of the comment made on the origin of the name Tory, will he also add from his immense legal experience some definition for the House of the difference between poaching and private enterprise?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Tomorrow.—[Mr. Vosper.]