HC Deb 30 November 1983 vol 49 cc879-81
37. Mr. McQuarrie

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if he will discuss with procurators fiscal prosecution policy in respect of offences of salmon poaching.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I have discussions with procurators fiscal from time to time about all aspects of prosecution policy. I am satisfied that procurators fiscal take proceedings against salmon poachers in appropriate cases and that, like myself, they view the level of poaching, particularly commercial poaching, with concern.

Mr. McQuarrie

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that on the north-east coast of my constituency large quantities of salmon are poached but that no prosecutions take place? One of the reasons—I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will clarify the position—is that there are no prosecutions for reset. Once the salmon is landed and is handed over to the person who is purchasing it, he cannot be prosecuted. Will my hon. and learned Friend take further steps to ensure that procurators fiscal are more diligent in their duties in prosecuting offenders?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

My hon. Friend is correct. Salmon taken illegally is not stolen and accordingly cannot thereafter be resetted. I recognise that my hon. Friend has had problems in his constituency but he will be encouraged to know that last summer the Department in Scotland which has responsibility for this matter used spotter planes and helicopters in an attempt to crack down harder on the growth in poaching, particularly poaching of a commercial character.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the exaggerated attention being given by the Scottish Office to this offence, especially in relation to fishery cruisers picking up nets, when foreign vessels are fishing illegally all around the British coast? What is his attitude to the rights of bailiffs in the light of a recent case in Lewis where, although a person suffered severe personal injuries, the accused was fined only £50?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

On the latter point, I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is not for me to comment on particular sentences. But I am surprised that, as an hon. Member concerned about tourism, he does not recognise that the growth of commercial poaching of salmon in Scottish rivers and offshore waters is damaging and that, if it is allowed to continue, will do nothing for the reputation either of his part of Scotland or any other part.

Mr. Soames

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the level of fines imposed on people caught salmon poaching is by and large ludicrously low? Will he take steps to consult his colleagues with a view to having the fines greatly increased?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I appreciate my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. There is concern that the level of fines is sometimes not adequate. However, if my hon. Friend were to look to the level of fines imposed for commercial poaching in Scotland he would be satisfied that, in those circumstances, substantial fines are imposed.

Mr. Canavan

Does not the return of salmon to the upper reaches of the Clyde, which has been largely due to public investment in river purification, strengthen the case for my private Member's Bill calling for the public ownership of all freshwater fishing rights in Scotland? If that were enacted the people would own all the fishing rights and would, therefore, have no need to poach.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wishes to allow his constituents a free rein to fish anywhere in Scotland. However, as the hon. Gentleman will know, this is properly a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.