HC Deb 02 March 1976 vol 906 cc1187-91

  1. '(1) The Secretary of State shall appoint a committee to be called the Scottish Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee for the purpose of advising the Secretary of State on the general co-ordination of salmon and brown trout fisheries management in Scotland, especially in those areas where protection orders are established, until such time as Area Fishery Boards are set up.
  2. (2) The Scottish Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee shall consist of such number of persons as the Secretary of State may from time to time decide, being persons appointed after consultation with bodies representative of salmon fisheries, brown trout fisheries and any other interests which in the opinion of the Secretary of State should be represented'.—[Sir John Gilmour.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir John Gilmour

I beg to move. That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpem)

With this we are to discuss Amendment No. 31, in Schedule 1, page 7, line 6, after 'order', insert: 'he shall consult the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and'.

Sir J. Gilmour

As we have had a considerable discussion on whatever bodies ought to be used to co-ordinate the interests of fishing, for both salmon and trout, during the debate on the previous new clause, I need not say a great deal about this proposal. I agree with the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) that our proposition speaks for itself.

Mr. Buchan

I hesitate to raise a point of order and to disturb a speaker, but I wonder whether a confusion on my part could be cleared up, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understood that two new clauses were about to be voted upon, New Clauses Nos. 1 and 3. Was New Clause 3 not moved?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

New Clause 3 was not moved or put to a Division.

Sir J. Gilmour

We suggest that the new committee should be called the Scottish Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and it should operate until such time as the area fishery boards may be set up. In the second paragraph of the new clause we state that the committee shall consist of such number of persons as the Secretary of State may from time to time decide. We have left this matter open, but clearly this committee would include a representative of owners. "Owners" would also include local authorities, in many cases because local authorities, by virtue of their ownership of reservoirs and other waters, are important owners of fisheries and can play a big part in their development. We also wish to have clubs represented and the tourist industry represented so that visistors could be catered for. Fisheries, as individuals, could also be represented on this committee.

The fact that the Government have tabled Amendment No. 4 to Clause 1, saying that they feel that there should be consultation with people wishing to fish for freshwater fish in inland waters in Scotland, shows that the spirit of our new clause is a feature that the Government have very much in mind.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Again I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's constructive approach. Perhaps I should apologise to him and to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) for not having had adequate consultation about what we are proposing, which is basically on the same lines as the new clauses—in other words, in the short term, a general recognition that there is a need for some advisory body to consult and the differences of opinion among anglers themselves and their various associations. Therefore, all that divides us here is what would follow from the new clause. It is that it would be a statutory obligation and a statutory body as compared with what we are proposing in Amendment No. 4, to which we shall come later, which is an advisory body. It may be a subtle distinction not of great meaning to the public.

However, perhaps I can save time by giving the hon. Gentleman this assurance now. If we are disposed to accept the idea of an advisory committee—and perhaps we could spend a moment or two on that when we reach Amendment No. 4—I think that we shall be able to satisfy the hon. Gentleman about what we have in mind. It would include representation from the various bodies that have interests in angling, as well as anglers, the tourist bodies, the Sports Council and local authorities. As the hon. Gentleman suggested in the previous debate, the wider one makes it, the more difficult it becomes to ensure that there is a fair representation of all those who have an interest. If the hon. Gentleman responds in the constructive way in which he moved the new clause, perhaps he will see fit to withdraw it.

Mr. Monro

The Under-Secretary is being so reasonable that it is very hard to be as rude as I intended to be. There is no doubt that there has been monumental mismanagement of the Bill over the past few weeks. Clause 1 is so much like a jigsaw puzzle that it is almost impossible to fathom exactly what the Government mean. We have tabled New Clause 4 in order to bring some order out of the chaos in which the Government have got the Bill. It is a Bill which, they will appreciate, but for the support of the Liberal Party and my hon. Friends, would have gone down the river, sunk and hopelessly lost, on the second day of the Committee stage.

I appreciate that Amendment No. 4 has a bearing on the new Clause, but there is a very subtle and important distinction. The Government's point is that we are concerned with freshwater fish, and the Under-Secretary knows that under Section 24(1) of the 1955 Act that does not include salmon. Therefore, he is setting up a body of advisers or representatives of opinion interested solely in trout fishing. This is most important in relation to what we are trying to do in New Clause 4, which is to bring together the skill and knowledge of the fishery boards that deal solely with salmon fishing and co-ordinate their knowledge with those who are skilled in the management of trout fishing through an advisory committee. A knowledge of trout fishing is comparatively hard to come by. Maybe the hon. Gentleman, from Faskally, Pitlochry or elsewhere, has a source of first-class information about trout fisheries and their management, but we feel that if he is to have advice, it must include salmon fishing knowledge.

It is not possible to manage a river for one type of fish. River management must cover all the fish in it. Therefore, we must include salmon fishing if we are to look after the spawning beds and upper stretches of a salmon river. We cannot have a host of fishermen flogging the water for trout while salmon are up the river for spawning. Co-ordination of fishing interests is important.

I do not think that Amendment No. 4, unless the Minister has much more information to give us, will meet the wishes of those who have a responsibility for much larger stretches of water, especially those including salmon fishing. The Minister must consider this matter seriously. According to the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, four additional officials and one technical adviser will be appointed. How are those five people—presumably they will be based in Edinburgh—to advise all those who are likely to seek advice about protection orders? The Minister will have to establish a much larger committee of experts who know a great deal about the management of rivers. It will be necessary to set up such a committee to give practical and speedy advice when required, and especially in the first few years of this measure's operation.

Like the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), I want eventually to see river boards set up as under our White Paper, which made similar recommendations to those of the Hunter Committee. The Hunter Committee recommended 13 boards, and we recommended 14.

The Bill is becoming less and less involved with salmon fishing—references to salmon are removed by later amendments—but it would be inappropriate to expect the Government tonight to give way on river boards, which must to a large extent cover salmon fishing. The Government have got themselves into an unholy mess. I believe that expert advice is needed more than anything, whether on drafting, policy, or fishing committees.

It is to that end—namely, to give the Government the expert advice that is so singularly lacking—that we suggest that the Government set up a salmon and freshwater advisory committee. Such a body would be able to offer expertise. It would have some practical knowledge, which at present is not available. That lack of knowledge will lead to a great deal of unhappiness and chaos.

That will be the result before we get anything out of the Bill, which is basically intended to give more trout fishing to those interested in fishing in Scotland. At the moment we are moving further away from that objective hour by hour. I hope that the Minister will recognise that the new clause gives him a tremendous chance to rescue the Bill from its present shambles.

Question put and negatived.

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