HC Deb 21 February 1973 vol 851 cc459-60
14. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will instruct the Highlands and Islands Development Board to secure for the benefit of the public such fishing rights as may be disposed of within its area by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in pursuance of its policy of divorcing itself of responsibility for activities not directly related to its own function of generating and distributing electricity.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

This may become a matter for discussion with the board, but there is no situation at present appropriate for this.

Mr. Johnston

The Minister will be aware that the hydro board sold fishings in Inverness-shire and is thinking of doing so in Ross and Cromarty. This would represent an occasion for such discussions. Does the hon. Gentleman by any chance remember the Hunter Report? I know that it was a very long time ago but clearly the previous Secretary of State lost it. Has the present Secretary of State found it again? If so, when is action proposed? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity of assuring us in this connection that the appointment of Sir Douglas Haddow has not presaged the merger of the boards.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman should be careful about his facts. I know there has been talk about waters in Ross and Cromarty which the hydro board controls but so far there have been no proposals by the board concerning the future of these waters. That must be remembered before one takes it any further.

Mr. Ross

What about the other part of the question?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sorry I did not answer the point concerning the Hunter Report. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to a very good White Paper which the present Government produced.

Mr. Strang

Surely the Minister agrees that there is need to make more of our fishings in the Highlands available to local people and tourists. In view of the widespread resentment towards the hydro board's policy of selling off fishing rights to exclusive, private, wealthy interests, will the hon. Gentleman agree to have another look at this whole vexed issue?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I look forward to the lion. Gentleman's support of our White Paper concerning the future of fishings in Scotland, but I also note with interest his proposals about the nationalisation of croft land and sporting rights and fishings. What I would ask him to bear in mind is that it was his right hon. Friend who gave approval to the disposal of fishings by the board.