HC Deb 28 November 1958 vol 596 cc797-9

Order for Second Reading read.

3.54 p.m.

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

There are six minutes left, and I should like to back my luck, for the first time since 1931, by explaining this Bill to the House and asking for a unanimous Second Reading. It is a small Bill, but it would remedy an injustice to the seine net inshore fishermen which has existed since 1895. I think everyone here will agree that it is time this anomaly was put right.

Under the Illegal Trawling (Scotland) Act, 1934, if a trawler is seized or held up for illegal fishing the sea fishery officer, for the purposes of trial, takes the gear. The gear is then stored and used as an exhibit in the trial. If there is no conviction, compensation under the 1934 Act is available to the trawler owner for any damage that has occurred to the gear, the nets, ropes and so on, during the period that these items of gear have been under the control of the sea fishery officer. By a curious error of the law in the last century, however, that does not apply to the seine netter. The seine netter is probably the skipper of a small inshore boat fishing round our coasts. The object of the Bill is to remedy that injustice.

The number of cases involved is likely to be very small, but this is a real feeling of injustice to the inshore fishermen of Scotland. My noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) and the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), for instance, asked Questions about this subject on 19th November, 1957. This change has been asked for by the Aberdeen Fish Producers' Association, the organisation of the inshore fishermen, for many years.

The number of cases varies from year to year. In 1951, for instance, there were 25 prosecutions, and, therefore, seizure of gear, and 14 convictions. In nine cases, claims for compensation could have been made had the law been different. In 1957, the cases were fairly few. They vary from year to year but the average is probably two or three. They are, nevertheless, an injustice to the inshore fishermen as compared with the trawl fishermen.

In the hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary will give the Bill his blessing, I now ask the House to give it a Second Reading.

3.57 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Nixon Browne)

The Government fully support this Bill and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) on his success in the Ballot after so many years of trying and the use that he has made of it to introduce the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be glad to see the removal of the anomaly with which this Bill deals.

It may strike the House as curious that we are considering today a Bill which applies the compensation provisions of an Act passed in 1895 to offences under a byelaw made in 1898. Hon. Members may justifiably wonder why the point has not been attended to before. The reason is neither that Scottish fishermen have become less law-abiding than of old nor that the commanders of my right hon. Friend's fishery cruisers are enforcing the law more vigorously than hitherto. Indeed, I understand that so far there has not been, on average, more than one case a year in which the compensation for which the Bill provides could be claimed. It may be that the steady increase in the number of boats fishing with the Seine net is part of the reason for the growing demand for the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).