HC Deb 17 June 1981 vol 6 cc1020-1
37. Mr. Canavan

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what criteria are used when deciding to prosecute anglers.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

A decision is taken according to the circumstances of the offence.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Solicitor-General confirm that in rivers and lochs, while they are in the water, fish do not belong to anyone, but, once caught, they become the property of the angler who catches them, irrespective of whether he owns the fishing rights or has received permission to fish? Will he join me in encouraging anglers to enjoy their favourite sport free from the fear of prosecution, harassment and intimidation by water bailiffs and game keepers? Will he support my call for a democratically constituted Scottish anglers trust to regulate and administer all freshwater fishing rights in Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was going to ask that fish should be controlled by warrant sale. I am not willing to confirm such a gross misstatement of the law. The hon. Gentleman will know, if he reads the Lord Advocate's letter, which clearly he has not, that in the 1951 Act the position is set out clearly. In closed lochs and stanks, the fish belongs to the riparian owner, but in fresh water, in which the fish is at liberty to come and go, it is, until caught, ares nullius —which means, for the hon. Gentleman's benefit, that it is nothing at all until it is caught.

Mr. John MacKay

When considering angling legislation, will my hon. and learned Friend note the interests of the legitimate angler, the legitimate angling club and the riparian owner, who has provided the fishing, as against the interests of some of the people of whom the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) seems to approve, who invade fishings with cans of worms and six rods—

Mr. Peter Fraser

And hand grenades.

Mr. MacKay

Perhaps even hand grenades —and who indulge in illegitimate fishing to the detriment of legitimate anglers, who wish to enjoy their sport?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I would not wish to refer to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) as a can of worms or a hand grenade. There are competing interests of owners and fishermen, those who genuinely enjoy the sport. A review is going on of the law, but it is unlikely that the solutions to be applied in the West Stirlingshire democracy are those which would satisfy any of the parties who live together and enjoy the sport which is enjoyed by a large number of people in all parts of Scotland.

Mr. David Steel

In pursuit of the question asked by my former fishing companion, the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay), may I ask the Solicitor-General whether there have yet been any prosecutions under the protection order on the Tweed, and, if so, whether any of them relate to persons from West Stirlingshire?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I am sorry to know that the right hon. Gentleman has given up fishing with my hon. Friend and taken up instead picnics on the lawn with the Social Democratic Party. I am afraid that I do not know whether there have been prosecutions under the Tweed order, but I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman. If there have been occasions of lawlessness, I dare say West Stirlingshire may be responsible.

Mr. Canavan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, which is a direct contradiction of a letter that I received from the Lord Advocate, I beg to give notice that I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.