HC Deb 22 April 1983 vol 41 cc521-34

Mr. Buchanan-Smith: I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 4, line 41, leave out 'shall forthwith' and insert `may'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 7, 11 and 12.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I hope that the House will accept this group of amendments. The amendment seeks simply to clarify the intentions of the Bill. The subsections to which the amendments relate—new subsections 4(1) and 4A(1)—carry forward the wording of the 1937 Act. However, we recognise that that wording could be interpreted as making it mandatory for an inspector to impose movement restrictions every time he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that waters are infected.

The power, as drafted, is extremely inflexible. Anyone with experience will bear me out when I say that it is not a good idea to be inflexible when dealing with fish diseases. It is important to ensure that legislation is properly drafted and clear, and that there should be a reasonable and sensible degree of flexibility. As drafted, the Bill is inflexible. In some cases, that would be undesirable as all that may be necessary is information about the disease. Therefore, the purpose and effect of the amendment is to make the serving of preliminary precautions notices discretionary, thus bringing the provision into line with the discretion already available to the Minister in relation to the power to designate areas in clause 2. It might be said that, by giving that discretion, we are weakening the legislation or making it less clear, but I believe that the Bill will ultimately be more effective if there is that flexibility. It is also sensible, in that inspectors can use the powers appropriate to the circumstance. I hope that the amendment will also be welcomed by the industry. Indeed, I think that it will welcome such flexibility of approach, because it is better for it. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will see the amendments as an improvement to the Bill that will aid the working of the powers to control disease.

Mr. Farr

I welcome the Government amendments and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) will also welcome them. The amendments introduce a sensible measure of humanity. They make all the proceedings much more flexible which will lead to less "aggro" and friction between the authorities represented by the inspectors and the individuals involved.

In Committee I drew attention to the difficulties that arise out of a non-flexible system. I hope that the Minister will explain how the inspectors will decide how to act. We are right to replace the words "shall forthwith" with "may" in clause 3. Without flexibility and the word "may" the inspectors would not be able to use their common sense. The word "may" allows inspectors flexibility in both the critical areas—inland waters and coastal waters. The inspectors have a massive burden on their shoulders when dealing with disease.

It may not be appropriate to introduce a code of practice, but it would be a good idea if the Minister could publish a letter containing what matters he considers the inspectors should take into account when making up their minds.

The amendments are critically important. They give the inspectors necessary flexibility, but we should not ask them to make up their minds how to act under the legislation without guiding them. I am sure that if guidance is not provided officially by the Department, the inspectors will ask for it and they should receive it. I hope that when that guidance is given to the inspectors the Minister will also make it available to the House.

Mr. Currie

Of all the Government amendments, I welcome these most. I was at a conference in Oban three or four weeks ago and fish farmers severely criticised me for drawing the Bill so tightly. They rightly said that if the industry and Government were to get on together a flexible approach must be adopted. The amendments provide that flexibility. The industry was worried about the Bill as it stood. It will be happier when it learns how the Bill is to be changed.

So long as there is an agreed procedure between Ministry officials and people in the industry we can go a long way towards stamping out the many problems associated with disease in fish farms, not only in Scotland, but in England and Wales.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) I shall be interested to hear how the inspectors will decide what to do in each case. We shall put a great responsibility on their shoulders if we ask them to decide whether to do something about a particular problem. The amendments do not slacken the Bill's powers and they will be warmly welcomed by the industry.

10.15 am
Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am happy to respond to my hon. Friends. I agree that flexibility is important because different action is often appropriate when dealing with different diseases. Inspectors will act according to which disease is suspected. It would help the House if I explained the procedures. I hope that I can assure my hon. Friends that operating flexibly will take care of the interests of those directly concerned and inform a wider public.

The fish disease laboratory or one of my Department's veterinary investigation centres is usually the first to learn that a notifiable disease may be present on a site. The information is usually given by a fish farmer, a private veterinary surgeon or a water authority.

As soon as we hear that a notifiable disease may be present, arrangements are made for someone from the fish diseases laboratory or from the local veterinary investigation centre to visit the site and, if appropriate, to take samples of the fish. The samples are examined at the laboratory and if the presence of a notifiable disease is confirmed, the normal action for that disease is taken. That action will vary in accordance with the disease and the appropriate control. If movement restrictions are necessary the fish diseases laboratory will immediately issue a 16-day notice and perhaps subsequent notices under clause 4. The notices are sent by recorded delivery, the initial notice being under cover of a letter explaining that a named, notifiable disease has been found and that movement restrictions are being applied. Lists of movements of fish both on and off the infected sites may be required. Attempts are then made to determine whether the disease exists on contact sites.

Immediately following the issue of the 16-day notice, the laboratory will notify my Department which will, if appropriate, prepare the infected area orders. The amendments relate to the need for different action for providing information and sampling.

The infected area order is an administrative order made under clause 2. This order declares the specified area to be infected and prohibits the movement of live fish, live eggs of fish and foodstuff for fish from the site without my Department's prior written consent. My Department will notify the occupier that the order has been made. It will also notify the water authorities, the National Water Council and the National Farmers Union. A trade notice will be issued. The order is published in the London Gazette as required by the Diseases of Fish Regulations 1937. I describe this in detail because I think it is much better to describe the full procedure and so answer the particular point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough.

Mr. Farr


Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a moment. I hope that this reassures him, not only that the matter is dealt with sensibly and flexibly at the different stages, but that anyone who has an interest is kept fully informed at the appropriate stage of what is happening. It is important that people should know what is happening.

Mr. Farr

Is it appropriate to advertise these facts in the London Gazette? Would it not be much more appropriate if the valuable action that my right hon. Friend will cause the Department. to take were advertised instead in the press or other media rather than in the London Gazette, which has a traditional ring about it and, I imagine, is of little use in this respect?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It has been our experience over a number of years that this is the appropriate way to proceed. If one did not use the London Gazette, one would not be certain that the information would be published. It is important to have a central point where the information is published so that those who have a direct interest — they may be from fisheries organisations and so on — know that by obtaining copies of that one publication they can be kept abreast of what is happening. One has no certainty that a notice issued to the general press would be published. If it is known that the information is available in one publication those who have a direct interest in these matters will know what is happening.

The procedures are based on experience and practice over the years and show that, at the different stages, depending on the information that has been received, and on the results of the sampling and testing that is carried out at the laboratories, a whole series of different courses of action may flow, particularly with regard to the type of disease that may be found. It might not be appropriate if an inspector were restricted by having simply to follow one course of action forthwith. Putting the extra flexibility into the Bill should help and reflects what inspectors already endeavour to do in practice and the type of approach that the industry prefers and has found to be of benefit to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) said that he had received representations on this matter directly from those involved in the industry who felt that the Bill as drafted had been too narrowly drawn. I accept that the practices that could flow from the Bill do not limit the powers of the inspector to control diseases or to inform people and will make their action more effective. I am encouraged that this is welcomed by the industry as well. Therefore, I hope that the House will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 7, in page 4, line 43 after 'and', insert '(if the inspector serves such a notice) he shall'. —[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 5, line 3 after second 'no', insert 'live'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following Government amendments: Nos. 13, 16, 17, 27 and 29.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for grouping the amendments, because their purpose is the same.

In Committee I made it clear—I have also made it clear at all times in the discussions with my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), and those who have helped him and have participated in the debates—that we wished to limit the scope of the Bill to the most important areas where the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 has been shown to be out of date. We could, of ers ofcourse, have taken the opportunity to extend the powers in many other directions. I recognise that, in principle, there may be a case for controlling the disposal of dead fish, parts of fish or of dead fish eggs. However, I do not think that the case has been made out for that and, therefore, I think that we should limit ourselves to keeping the powers that we are seeking in proportion to the threat that may be presented. Therefore, the purpose of the amendment is to limit the powers under the Bill, in relation to live fish or to live fish eggs, to the existing law and, as a result, to keep the purposes of the Bill in line with our intention to bring up to date the present legislation.

While no specifically strong recommendations have been made to us about it, if dead fish, parts of fish or dead fish eggs were, in an unforeseen case, to present a hazard, I would be very surprised if fish farmers and fishermen did not follow the reasonable guidelines or codes of practice. The best reassurance that I can give to the House is that, in the exercise of existing powers, we have not seen this to be a special problem or difficulty. Therefore, in the interests of the general purposes of the Bill, I think it is better to keep this narrow aspect—as with so many other aspects—running on the same lines as before. I do not think that the amendment weakens the Bill or weakens the powers that my hon. Friend is seeking to introduce. For the sake of the conformity of this part of the Bill with other parts of it, I would rather this amendment be made. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept it.

10.30 am
Mr. Farr

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for explaining the purpose of the amendment, which deals with an issue on which we did not touch in Committee. It seems strange that my right hon. Friend considers the issue sufficiently important to justify tabling and introducing the amendment. We are considering amendments Nos. 8, 13, 16, 17, 27 and 29, all of which seek to insert "live" in front of "eggs". I should not have thought that a dead fish egg would be of concern to anyone. In any event, is my right hon. Friend not attaching rather too much weight to this "problem"? Who would bother to move dead fish eggs anyway? I listened to him carefully but I could not understand why the exception should be made. I consider the Bill to be perfectly satisfactory in its present form. In the absence of an explanation of why he wants to concern himself with dead fish eggs, I could not support the amendment if a Division were called.

Mr. Corrie

I tend to support much of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). However, I do not like parting company with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I understand his purpose in bringing the Bill into line with existing legislation. I am worried about some nasty diseases on the continent of Europe which are not yet found in Britain. I pray that they will never get here. It is excellent specifically to control the movement of live fish and live fish eggs, but it is worrying that the movement of dead fish is not controlled. For example, if a fish farmer found that his fish had contacted one of the nasty diseases to which I have referred, he might very well want to sell them before it was discovered that he had the disease on the farm. The fish could be perfectly edible while carrying a disease that would kill other fish. Someone in that position might, virtually intentionally, spread disease by moving dead fish in those circumstances.

My right hon. Friend has been much involved in updating much of our other animal health legislation. Foot and mouth disease can strike bovine animals. If that happens, the slaughter policy dictates that the animals are put down on the farm. That means that there is no chance of the disease even moving off the farm. If a beast dies from anthrax, if must be burned and buried on the farm so that there is no chance of anthrax spreading elsewhere.

At present, we have a reasonable control of most diseases, but in future there may be diseases around that we want more tightly to control by stopping the movement of dead fish, parts of fish or dead fish eggs so that we can stop the diseases spreading. I shall be interested to hear my right hon. Friend's reply.

Mr. Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that grave concern has been expressed about the importation of fish and fish eggs to Britain and the relevant control measures? It has been reported that it is regarded by many of those in authority that the import controls on fish and fish eggs are extremely lax. Possibly this is one of the major reasons for the diseases that we are now experiencing.

Mr. Corrie

I have heard reports to that effect. I have heard that dead fish that are brought into Britain for the table in some instances possibly carry disease. Most of our powers of control over imports are contained in the Animal Health Act 1981 and, therefore, have not been written into the Bill. We have not had a chance so far to consider exactly how the import controls will work. I know that the industry is keen that something should be placed on the record. If my right hon. Friend catches the eye of the Chair on Third Reading, he may have the chance to explain how imports are being controlled.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has said, there is some worry about imports and control measures. Having given the matter careful consideration and having spoken to many within the Ministry, I am now pretty satisfied that the Minister has all the powers that he requires. The problem lies with appointing a sufficiently large inspectorate to ensure that nothing can come into the country that might be diseased.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We shall widen the debate considerably if we have a general debate on imports. However, I recognise that it is a matter of concern to the industry. It may be possible to discuss the issue on Third Reading. At this stage I do not want to delay progress on the amendments. If my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), or anyone else, wishes to raise the matter on Third Reading, I shall be happy to respond. It would be helpful to clarify the control powers.

We are seeking to bring the Bill into line with previous legislation. If I had felt that there was a necessity for wider powers covering dead fish, I would not have tabled and introduced the amendment. I have sought not to extend powers unnecessarily where the extension of powers has not proved to be necessary. It is helpful to provide clarification by ensuring that no one need fear prosecution over the movement of dead eggs, especially where no risk is involved.

The principal problem lies with the movement of fish, whether live or dead. That is the area in which there are particular risks. We have no wish, in introducing legislation of this sort, to interfere with the orderly marketing of dead fish. The issue is better illustrated by considering dead fish rather than dead eggs. In most instances at the marketing stage fish are dead, and if we introduced powers that were too wide we could find ourselves interfering with the legitimate movement of dead fish commercially for eating. If the risks had been sufficient to justify including a definition of movement, we would have taken the opportunity of incorporating one within the Bill

Those problems have not arisen and, given that we do not want to interfere with the orderly marketing of dead fish for legitimate purposes, the legislation has been drafted as in the past and I think we should continue on that basis. This series of amendments seeks to do that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) cited the control of animal diseases on agricultural farms. There are times when dead material must be dealt with in a particular way. I urge my hon. Friend to refer to subsections (2) and (3) of new clause 2A, under which we have powers in appropriate circumstances to direct a fish farmer to remove dead or dying fish from waters. The illustration I have given should be a reassurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough. We have the necessary powers to deal appropriately with the circumstances to which he referred.

I hope that the House will feel that the powers we have are adequate—in practice, they have proved to be so—to deal with the various situations that could arise. Accordingly, my hon. Friend will, I hope, feel that he need not press the matter to a Division. These proposals are broadly welcomed by the fish fanning industry.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 9, in page 5, line 25, after `who', insert 'intentionally'.—[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 5, line 39, at end insert 'This subsection does not apply to Scotland. (6) In Scotland if any person entitled to take fish from any inland waters, or employed for the purpose of having the care of any inland waters, has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the waters are infected waters, it shall be his duty forthwith to report the facts in writing to the Secretary of State, or, if the waters are situated in the area of a district board and are not a fish farm, to the board; and if without reasonable excuse he fails to do so, he shall be guilty of an offence.'. Subsection (5) of new section 4 provides for the reporting of suspicions of disease in inland waters to water authorities or, if the waters are fish farms, to the Minister. This subsection applies to Scotland by virtue of section 11 of the 1937 Act, subject to the references to "water authority" being read as "district salmon fishery board". The wording was not wholly appropriate in that, whereas there are water authorities throughout England and Wales, in Scotland there are districts for which no boards have been set up.

10.45 am

Accordingly, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland thought it best to set out the position for Scotland in a separate subsection. If the amendment is accepted, in waters which are not fish farms, reports will be made to the district board, where a district board exists, or, in the absence of such a board, to the Secretary of State for Scotland. This is an appropriate amendment which clarifies and takes full account of the somewhat different position that exists in Scotland in circumstances where there is no district board. No new power is being taken here. We are just making sure that the powers we already have in the Bill are properly exercised and appropriate.

Mr. Farr

Having listened with interest to my right hon. Friend's comments, I find it rather odd that, the clause having been considered carefully in Committee, this change should be proposed. Therefore, some of the responsibilities being inserted by the new subsection deserve closer examination. It requires, for example, any employee in Scotland involved in the care of inland waters to report if he has reason for suspecting that there is disease in those waters, and that brings us back to the question of notification and the promulgation of a new law.

This is an excellent Bill, which I hope will reach the statute book at an early date, but we are putting every employee on every inland water in Scotland at risk of committing an offence unless he reports his suspicions of a disease in the waters under his control. The situation is even more onerous, possibly misguidedly so, because it is not good enough to say that a gillie on the upper Dee, having left the waters for which he is responsible, should telephone the Department and leave a message on its answering machine in Edinburgh or elsewhere saying, "I think there is some sort of disease in my beat on the Dee." That is not adequate. It must be reported in writing.

It is farcical for the House to make such rules, because people in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland would not bother to write letters to Ministers in such circumstances. If one made a phone call without effect, that would be the end of it. Indeed, a telephone call would probably do more harm than good because, if one telephoned and did not then send a formal letter, one would be committing an offence. Knowing that most busily employed people simply would not take any notice of the disease, but would leave it for somebody else to find. Therefore, the wording is unfortunate in requiring any employee to make a written report. It is unreasonable, asking too much and, if put on the statute book, will tend to bring the law into contempt.

What will be the penalty for the offence? I have studied the Bill as it left Committee. Certain clauses list the penalties for offences concerning shellfish. I understand that we are concerned with all diseases relating to fish. Therefore, I should like to know the penalty for the offence with which we are concerned here. I think that it is £200, but, having checked the Bill as amended, I cannot be sure. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider the matter. It seems unreasonable to expect anybody employed on any river in Scotland to write a letter forthwith to the Department in Scotland.

As I said, a gillie — generally a person of high intelligence and great ability — may, with his professional knowledge, notice something wrong in the water. But it is not only a person with that expertise who will commit an offence if he does not report suspicions. If a humble employee cutting weeds on the Dee in summer sees something that he suspects may be wrong, he will be guilty of an offence if he does not immediately write a letter to the Department reporting his suspicions.

I submit that this is a typical case of introducing a law that can never be enforced and which, if it is enforced at all, will probably do more harm than good.

Mr. Corrie

Will the Minister clarify the following point? The amendment provides: This subsection does not apply to Scotland. (6) In Scotland if any person entitled to take fish from any inland waters, or employed for the purpose of having the care of any inland waters, has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the waters are infected waters, it shall be his duty forthwith to report the facts in writing to the Secretary of State, or, if the waters are situated in the area of a district board and are not a fish farm, to the board". Does that mean that in the last circumstance the person is not required to write to the Secretary of State as well as to the board?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The answer to my hon. friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) is yes. I am glad to give him that assurance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Fan) has raised more substantial points about the amendment. I do not think that the provision is as momentous as he implied. He fairly and rightly said that we must ensure that any powers of this kind are reasonable and sensible. There is, however, nothing in the amendment to increase or extend the powers in the Bill. We simply wish to ensure that the powers in this part of the Bill apply properly to Scotland in administrative terms. Unfortunately, despite the assiduous scrutiny given to the Bill in Committee, that point had been missed. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who has Scottish responsibilities that I do not have, has taken this opportunity to ensure that the Bill is correctly drafted in that respect.

The powers to which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough referred are already in the Bill and were agreed by the Standing Committee of which he was a member. Moreover, the powers are also in the 1937 Act. Therefore, they have been in operation for more than 40 years and they have not given rise to the problems envisaged by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Farr

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that helpful information about the 1937 Act, which had slipped my memory. As that Act is now being superseded in part, can he tell us how often the provisions now being continued in the Bill were acted upon? According to my information, they have been disregarded in practice for more than 40 years.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I cannot give that specific information at such short notice, but I will look into the matter and let my hon. Friend know, as it is clearly relevant. I am advised that the power, which has existed since 1937, has been necessary. Therefore, I hope that at this stage my hon. Friend will be prepared to accept that it is right, especially as it has been in operation for so long.

My hon. Friend also asked about penalties. At present, the penalty for an offence is £200, but, if amendment No. 49 were accepted, the maximum penalty would be raised to £500.

My hon. Friend feels strongly that the powers should not be used indiscriminately. I shall try to discover the extent to which they have been used in the past. I remind him, however, that the employee may demonstrate "reasonable excuse" for not acting. There is that safeguard and protection for the employee if there are reasonable grounds for not reporting the circumstances, so the power is perhaps not quite so draconian as my hon. Friend suggested.

With those assurances, I hope that the House will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 11, in page 5, line 42, leave out from beginning to 'serve' in line 43 and insert 'waters— (a) he may'. No. 12, in page 6, line 3, after '(b)', insert 'if the inspector serves such a notice he shall'. No. 13, in page 6, line 8, after second 'no', insert 'live'.

No. 14, in page 6, line 33, after 'who', insert `intentionally'.—[Mr. Buchanan-Smith.]

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move amendment No. 15, in page 7, line 6, at end insert— `(6) In Scotland if any person who

  1. (a) has a right to fish for salmon in any marine waters; or
  2. (b) has a right of fishing in any private non-navigable marine waters; or
  3. (c) is employed for the purpose of having the care of any waters mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above,
has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the waters (excluding any marine waters in which a cage used for the purposes of a business of fish farming is situated) are infected waters it shall be his duty forthwith to report the facts in writing to the Secretary of State; and if without reasonable excuse he fails to do so, he shall be guilty of an offence.'. The amendment, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, relates specifically to Scotland. My hon. Friend and I considered the effect of the Bill on fishery interests in marine waters other than farming in sea cages, which is already covered.

In Scotland, some valuable salmon fishery rights, which are held privately, extend to marine waters. The main purpose of the Bill is to deal with fish diseases, primarily in relation to fish farming—the drafting was quite right in that the problems arise most acutely in that sector—and in discrete units to which restrictions can be applied in practice and, I hope, to good effect. Nevertheless, we felt that the obligation to report suspicions should also be placed on holders of such private fishery rights in marine waters. The amendment puts the position beyond doubt and thus, I hope, clarifies the purpose of the Bill, but it in no way changes its general purposes.

I, like other hon. Members, am anxious that, in technical amendments such as this, we may be merely extending powers. This amendment simply restores what applied in the 1937 Act. I am sorry to have to make these amendments to my hon. Friend's skilfully drafted Bill. I hope that he will agree that, when we identify gaps or deficiencies, it is right to make the appropriate amendments. I do not in any way wish to spoil his Bill.

11 am

Mr. Farr

I support amendment No. 15. My right hon. Friend carefully answered my point on amendment No. 10 about it not being fair that a humble river employee should have the full majesty of the law brought on his shoulders. My right hon. Friend has reassured me to some extent about such people being protected. Nevertheless, it is my experience that in the more than 40 years during which the 1937 Act has been in operation that obligation has been more ignored than respected.

It is always a bad thing simply to transfer provisions from one rather ancient Act to a new Bill, especially if those provisions have decayed and been almost completely ignored because, on the ground, the river or the estuary, it is impractical to put them into action. I hope that the Bill will bring a breath of fresh air into the industry.

I should like my right hon. Friend to take a more enlightened view of amendment No. 15. It is all very well for the House to pass such measures—we have done a good job — but how will they be transmitted to the places where the people concerned congregate? How will they know about the responsibilities that we are putting on their shoulders today?

Amendment No. 15 provides that: '(6) In Scotland if any person who

  1. (a) has a right to fish for salmon in any marine waters; or
  2. (b) has a right of fishing in any private non-navigable marine waters; or
  3. (c) is employed for the purpose of having the care of any waters mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) above,
has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the waters, (excluding any marine waters in which a cage used for the purposes of a business of fish farming is situated) are infected waters it shall be his duty forthwith to report the facts in writing to the Secretary of State.' The least my right hon. Friend can do today is to assure us that those responsibilities will be printed on the back of the licence that the legal fisherman holds. Unless the Department attempts some form of communication with the people who fish in Scotland, this section will be ignored. How will visitors to Britain who fish in those waters know their responsibilities unless it is printed on the back of their licence?

My right hon. Friend should take a real interest in the subject and say, "We have a brilliant colour photography section in the Department which produces excellent wall charts that are available to schools, education departments, and departments of agriculture throughout the country and show different agricultural diseases." That section recently produced an excellent colour chart of all the diseases of edible and non-edible fungi that was sent to schools in many country districts.

Why cannot those experts be employed to produce a chart which shows the types of diseases that people should look out for when they are fishing in marine or non-navigable marine waters? It is all very well to show on the back of the licence that the holder is required to report any disease when he sees it, but most fishermen who are legally active in those waters would not recognise a disease when they saw it without some guidance.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), who has piloted this Bill successfully so far, is an expert on fish diseases but not many people who fish would recognise more than one or two straight away. A colour chart should be put up on a wall in such places as club houses, pier heads, coastguard offices and pubs where the people who will be subjected to the requirements of the new subsection are likely to congregate. The chart should show the diseases that we are worried about and describe the fish that might suffer from them and the symptoms. Moreover, the chart should be written in language that any Tom, Dick or Harry can understand, without the aid of a dictionary or a complicated science or biology handbook so that he can recognise the symptoms when he sees them.

I beg the House not simply to put on to the statute book again a section that has been largely ignored and is 46 years old. If we are to include a section of that defunct legislation in the new Bill, I hope that, this time, it will be accompanied by a departmental effort to explain to people on the ground in Scotland what their responsibilities are so that they can recognise the symptoms of the diseases which they should look for. Apart from that reservation, I support the amendment.

Mr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)

This is my first opportunity to pay a warm and generous tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) who has produced an important Bill which will be of great benefit to the industry.

Many of the people who hold licences and fish in the waters that we are discussing will be tourists. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has done the House a service by drawing attention to the fact that it is critical that, if someone is to fish in those waters, he should be aware of his obligations and responsibilities.

It has often been said in the House that we need to attract tourists to Britain. Amendment No. 15 relates to Scotland. That wonderful country has great benefits to offer the tourist industry. If visitors to Scotland take the opportunity to fish, I believe that they will be responsible people and accept the obligations that are put upon them.

It would be foolish to set out the conditions on the back of the licence. People are not hooked on the idea of looking at the back of the licence. However, the Department is able to provide literature which can be displayed at fishermen's gathering points. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough said, it is vital that the information is available.

Mr. Farr

Would my hon. Friend agree that the Department in Scotland should make available to the Scottish tourist authorities copies of the leaflets, wall charts or colour charts that I have suggested should be produced, so that anyone going to fish for the vanishing salmon will know what to look for?

Mr. Blackburn

It will come as no surprise to the House to know that the hon. Member for Harborough and I are kindred spirits, particularly on this subject. He must have the gift of prophecy, because the point that he has made in his intervention was one of those to which I intended to direct the Minister's attention. If the people who use the waters are asked to accept the liabilities placed upon them, the Department should accept the responsibility of producing the necessary information for fishermen. As my hon. Friend suggested, the ideal channel of communication is the tourist board.

I hope that the Minister will consider the suggestions in a positive way. I am sure that he will have the full support of the House, because it is a good Bill.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am well aware of the concern expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and Dudley, West (Mr. Blackburn). I welcome their interventions because I know of their deep interest in fishing matters. Although I do not have direct responsibility in Scotland for the matters that they raise—they are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland —none the less I have two major salmon fishing rivers in my constituency. I also have the lower stretches of the river Dee, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough referred.

If certain events take place later today concerning the changes in constituency boundaries, I may find that I have an interest in the whole of the river Dee rather than simply the lower part of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) is unfortunate in that his constituency does not contain the river Dee, although it has other excellent salmon rivers. I am sure that he must be envious of me concerning the river Dee, although, as I said earlier, I do not fish, so that I do not take advantage of the great opportunities available to me in that respect.

I entirely agree with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West concerning visitors to Scotland. We want to see people enjoying the important fishing assets, which bring a great deal of benefit to the areas concerned. We also want to ensure that those who enjoy the fishing meet their responsibilities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough referred to the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 as being defunct. We are, of course, making many changes in the Act. My hon. Friend may think that some of the powers under the 1937 Act are not being exercised. We are extending its powers and they are certainly not defunct. Therefore, I should not like to let some of his remarks go unchallenged. It might have been thought that the existing powers were not being exercised. I understand that reports are made regularly under the provisions of the 1937 Act.

I do not have the exact figures available but I believe that the fisheries interests, including employees such as bailiffs, regularly report suspicions to the responsible Departments. I understand that in Scotland about 40 reports a year are made. Therefore, we are not extending a defunct power or a power that is not used in practice. Those who have responsibilities are fully aware of them and are exercising them.

We are moving into a very different position from that under which the 1937 Act operated. I believe that that is what inspired my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) to introduce the Bill. Many of the problems relating to fish diseases are totally new, not only in fish farming but in the wild.

11.15 am

I pay tribute to the architects of the 1937 Act. Some of its powers may not have been thought necessary at the time, but they anticipated that eventually it would be necessary to have greater control over fish diseases. In recent years the powers have become very relevant and necessary. Therefore, I make no apology for extending the powers. They are being operated under the present legislation and it is now necessary to have the new legislation that my hon. Friend has introduced.

The responsibilities to which my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough and Dudley, West referred rest on those who have the right to fish; they do not extend to the casual tourist. I am unable to give an assurance at this stage concerning the suggestion that those responsibilities should be made widely known. As I have said, the responsibilities are relatively narrow and apply only to particular people. In Scotland, reports are made regularly, so that those on whom responsibilities fall are fully aware of them. I shall draw my hon. Friend's suggestions to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, so that he may consider whether the responsibilities should be made more widely known. I entirely accept the point that it is unsatisfactory if the responsibilities are not understood by those who should be exercising them. I hope that the amendment will bring about an improvement in that respect.

Amendment agreed to.

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