HL Deb 03 May 1860 vol 158 cc559-60

THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE moved,— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire, Whether, having regard to the Rights of Property of the Crown and Individuals in Salmon Fishings on the Sea Coasts and in Rivers and Estuaries in Scotland, it was just and expedient that any and what Legislation should take place for the Regulation of such Fishings so far as regards the Use or Prohibition of Bag Nets, Stake Nets, Cruives, and other fixed Nets and Engines, and so far as regards Close Times or otherwise. The noble Duke said that the question was one of such difficulty and importance that he thought it ought to be the subject of inquiry before a Committee of their Lordships' House. By the law of Scotland the right to fish for salmon belonged to the Crown; but certain rights had been from time to time granted to individuals. As regarded rivers that right had never been disputed, and a question having arisen as to whether it extended also to the sea fisheries, their Lordships last year, upon an appeal from the Court of Session of Scotland, decided in the affirmative. The rights of the Crown were of considerable pecuniary value, but the general interests in regard to these fishings also required to be taken into account. While the litigation to which he had referred was pending it was impossible that there could be any general legislation on the subject; and in the meantime the Office of Woods had offered leases of two years to all parties willing to take them. Under the existing state of the law with respect to the use of cruives, bag nets, and stake nets, the quantity of salmon had been greatly reduced in almost every river in Scotland. Between the 14th of September and the 1st of February salmon were not allowed to be caught. A private Bill had been introduced to regulate the Ness and the Beau-lay salmon fisheries, the effect of which would be entirely to destroy the rights of the proprietors of the sea fisheries. A similar Bill had been brought in for the Thurso fishery, and afterwards withdrawn; but its promoters proposed to introduce it again next Session. It was felt to be improper that the rights of the Crown and other proprietors should be interfered with by private Acts; and the Government were of opinion that whatever legislation took place on the matter should be general in its character. The proprietors themselves agreed that that would be the proper course; but, before it was adopted, conflicting rights must be reconciled. There was no mode by which that could be so fairly or effectually done as by a Committee of their Lordships' House. He understood the promoters of the Ness and Beulay Bill were prepared to suspend their measure till the Committee which he proposed had reported. General legislation on this subject had been beneficially applied to Ireland, where it had been found desirable to establish some central control over these fisheries. That power had been intrusted to the Board of Public Works, and its exercise had given general satisfaction. The Committee would, therefore, consider whether the extension of that system was necessary for Scotland. Considering the valuable character of these fisheries, and the employment they afforded to a large number of people, he thought their Lordships would consider that he had not over-rated the importance of the subject. The noble Duke concluded by moving the appointment of a Select Committee, the Members of which, he said, would be impartially selected.


thought that legislation was necessary, and remarked that since the adoption of stake nets the number of boxes of salmon annually sent to London had diminished one-half.

Motion agreed to.

Committee to be named To-morrow.

And on the Morrow, the Lords following were named of the Select Committee:

D. Richmond. V. Eversley.
Ld. Steward. (E. St. Germans.) L. Colville of Culross.
L. Polwarth.
E. Malmesbury. L. Stewart of Stewart's Court. (E. Moray.)
E. Cawdor.
E. Ducie. L. Colchester.
E. Innes. (D. Roxburghe.) L. Lovat.
L. Lismore.
V. Hutchinson. (E. Donoughmore.) L. Wrottesley.
L. Stanley of Alderley.