HC Deb 15 February 1978 vol 944 cc418-20
8. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications for protection orders have been made under the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1976; and how many have so far been granted.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

My right hon. Friend has received one application, for the Rivers Tweed and Eye. This is under consideration. No orders have yet been made.

Mr. Canavan

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern amongst many ordinary anglers in central Scotland about the River Tweed applications? Will he reject any application whose terms are so exclusive and expensive that fishing would be confined to rich syndicates and Tory landlords, such as Lord Home, the Marquess of Lothian, the Duke of Buccleuch and even the Duke of Sutherland, who seems as intent on clearing the Borders as his ancestors were on clearing the Highlands?

Mr. Brown

From past experience, I am well aware of the use of extravagant language by my hon. Friend. However, I assure him that I do not meet the Lords whom he has mentioned every day of the week, and I have to stick to the facts, which are that we are going through the procedure at the moment. Fifteen objections have been made. The consultative committee met yesterday and is meeting again. There is ample opportunity through the democratic machinery within the Act—I am sure that my hon. Friend will give me credit for this—to examine carefully all these proposals. We have a long way to go before he can jump to any conclusions.

Mr. David Steel

Since most of the people named by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) are constituents of mine, though not necessarily supporters, may I ask the Minister whether he will look at this matter very carefully, because the point made by the hon. Member is perfectly valid and my constituents would be outraged if there were any order which had the effect of giving protection to water that was not open to the public?

Will the Minister accept that I do not understand how, at this early stage, a protection order could possibly be applied to the whole of the River Tweed and its tributaries? It would be far better to deal with the matter tributary by tributary.

Mr. Brown

That will be considered by the consultative committee, which will advise the Secretary of State, who, in turn, can hold a public local inquiry if necessary. I take the point made by the right hon. Gentleman. We are talking about proposals that cover 600 miles of rivers, tributaries, and tributaries of tributaries, so it is a massive scheme. I am seized of the representations that have been made that there should be greater access.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Minister look, for example, at the protection order that was read out at a public meeting of anglers of the British Leyland Club in Blackburn, whereby one riparian owner gave a day's fishing to his hairdresser in Berwick in return for a shave?

Mr. Brown

I must confess at this stage of the proceedings, happily, that I am not involved in knowing such detail. I remind my hon. Friend that that is a devolved matter. If he has any constructive ideas, I am sure that he will see that they are put in the Labour Party's manifesto for the Assembly.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will the Minister reassure his hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) that once we live in the Elysium of a Scottish national independent State we will all have an equal amount of land, none of the people he mentioned will be allowed more than 100 acres and, since it is to be such a rich, oil-fired, tartan Ruritanian tax haven, he can spend all day fishing?

Mr. Brown

I have given up trying to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) on anything. The machinery is adequate. It is the first application under the Act and it will most certainly receive adequate scrutiny, bearing in mind the representations that have been made to me by my hon. Friend.