HL Deb 16 June 1865 vol 180 cc349-51

asked Her Majesty's Ministers, Whether the Chairman of the Fisheries Commission, appointed under the Act 26 & 27 Vict. c. 114, is a Clerk of the House of Commons? And, Whether Her Majesty's Ministers will consort to the Appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the Working and the Results of the above-mentioned Act? The Act which was now before the other House for amending the Salmon Fisheries' Act, professed to follow the Act which had worked so well in Ireland. Now, the English Bill provided a form of appeal which was quite different from that provided by the Irish Act; and, in fact, it appeared to be drawn up without the slightest consultation between the parties. The Act was so badly drawn that when it expired, as it must do at the end of next Session, every owner with a good title, whose weir had been pulled down, might set it up again, and the trial would begin again. This, however, was not a matter of right or title, it was a matter of practice and procedure, and he hoped the Government would consider the case with a view to appply a remedy.


said, that in answer to the first Question of the noble Marquess he had to state that Mr. Eden was a clerk of the House of Commons, and was appointed clerk to the Committee appointed to inquire into the fishery laws; and the Chairman of the Committee, who previously had not known Mr. Eden, recommended him to the Government as the fittest person to preside over the Commission. It was a temporary appointment, which could not endure for more than two or three years, and Sir Denis Le Marohant had consented to allow Mr. Eden's name to remain upon the list of clerks of the House of Commons, he receiving no pay, and it being understood that he was not to re-enter upon those duties unless there should be a vacancy. With respect to the capabilities of Mr. Eden, from the information he had received from the Irish Office and from the Home Office, it was their opinion that a fitter person could not have been appointed than this gentleman; and a high legal authority who had been consulted, in consequence of a difference which arose between Mr. Eden and one of the legal members of the Commission, was surprised at the just and admirable manner in which he had decided most difficult and intricate cases. With regard to the manner in which the Commissioners had discharged their duty, he might mention that there were only forty-four appeals from their decisions out of an innumerable list of cases determined; that fourteen of these were heard; that only one was decided against the Commissioners, and then only upon a technical point, and that the other thirteen were given entirely in their favour. A very large number of the other appeals were withdrawn in consequence of some of these decisions; and, as far as he could ascertain, the administration of the law by the Commissioners was irreproachable. The Commission would expire in another year, and he was sure their Lordships would agree that it would not be desirable to appoint a Committee to conduct an inquiry which would involve legal points, or matters in course of being determined by the Commissioners. The noble Marquess had asked whether the Government would consent to a Committee of Inqniry, but the noble Marquess had given reasons why such consent should not be given. As to legal difficulties which had arisen, it could not be expected that their Lordships would interfere with matters that were before the legal tribunals. He was informed that there had been forty-four appeals, of which fourteen had been decided, one only against the Commissioners, and that upon a technical point.


said, that there were several vague charges against the Commissioners, but in spite of the assertions of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and of certain violent articles which had been published, he thought that their Lordships would be of opinion that these gentlemen had performed their duty. He (the Earl of Donoughmore) was much interested in one river, and could say that the public feeling in that part of the country was strongly in favour of the Commissioners. Certain persons had taken possession of public rights of considerable value, and under the Act of 1863 they had been compelled by the Commissioners to give them up; these persons were, no doubt, much dissatisfied at being obliged to surrender up what they had, in fact, got by usurping the public rights. The fact, however, was, that the Act, and the way in which it had been carried out, had conferred an inestimable benefit upon Ireland, and had furnished employment for a great many fishermen who had been previously starving.