HC Deb 05 March 1997 vol 291 cc894-6
8. Mr. Hawksley

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the future of wild salmon in Scotland. [17320]

12. Mr. Garnier

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the future of wild salmon in Scotland. [17324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Raymond S. Robertson)

The recent excellent report produced by Lord Nickson's task force on Scotland's salmon fisheries, subject to consultation, will form the basis of future Government policy in this important sector.

Mr. Hawksley

Has my hon. Friend any specific proposals to restrict the commercial netting of salmon, which seems to be one of the major causes of the reduction in numbers?

Mr. Robertson

My noble Friend's task force has approached the matter head on but, as my hon. Friend will know, its findings are out for consultation, and I think it only right to wait until the end of that consultation before presenting specific proposals.

Mr. Garnier

Is my hon. Friend aware that, to celebrate the work of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Labour-controlled Glasgow city council is to spend a huge amount on red dye, which it will tip into the River Clyde? What will that do to reintroduce wild salmon into that great river? Does my hon. Friend agree that, whereas wild salmon is good to eat and is a source of much employment in Scotland, new Labour is simply slimy and pink?

Mr. Robertson

My noble Friend's task force was not asked specifically to look at the impact of red dye on salmon in the Clyde, but I am sure that, were its members to do so, they would be appalled—as are most people in Scotland—that Glasgow city council is considering spending up to half a million pounds of council tax payers' money on a ridiculous stunt.

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Minister agree that the laws and regulations relating to salmon are unduly influenced by unrepresentative landowning hereditary peers? Is it not right, therefore, that the next Labour Government will wipe them away, and that in future the laws on salmon will benefit everyone, not just landowning lackeys?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman has obviously not looked at the membership of the task force. There were no landowning hereditary peers on it. It represented all those in Scotland—and, indeed, beyond—who regularly fish for salmon and support the salmon industry.

Mr. Wilson

May I correct the Minister's last statement? The task force certainly did not represent all interests; as usual, the interests that were not represented were those of people who live in the communities where the ownership of salmon, and other natural resources, is in the hands of a tiny minority who are absurdly over-represented—and it is absurd that they are represented at all—in the other place.

When he considers his colleagues' questions, will the Minister recognise that one of the most spiteful and irrational campaigns undertaken by the Government in defence of the riparian owners' interests has been that against the historic industry of salmon netting in Scottish rural communities? How does he defend the fact that, to wipe out salmon netting in those communities, the Government have been prepared to give charitable status to a bogus organisation so that it can buy up the netting stations? They have been prepared to destroy the excellent industry of salmon netting in many parts of Scotland to give all the benefits to riparian owners and the angling interests that sell fishing rights in Scotland's salmon rivers for huge amounts.

Does not all that need reform, and is not getting rid of the unelected interests in the other place a major stepping stone towards rational legislation on such matters?

Mr. Robertson

"Spiteful" and "irrational" are not adjectives that I would use to describe my noble Friend's task force report, but I would use them to describe the hon. Gentleman. Once again, he has shown complete disregard for a proud industry that brings in thousands of jobs, tourists, other visitors and money to the most rural parts of Scotland, some of which are very fragile and depend on the very people whom he has castigated—and shame on him for so doing.