HL Deb 21 June 1867 vol 188 cc260-2

, in rising to present a Petition from Pelham Joseph Mayne complaining of the operation of the Salmon Fishery Act (Ireland), 1863, and praying for relief, said, that at the time the Act regulating the fisheries of Ireland was before their Lordships' House he took objection to the clause which provided that any person should lose his right of fishing in a particular way, even though the privilege was one which he had lawfully enjoyed from time immemorial, if he had failed to exercise that right during the year 1862, being the year preceding the passing of that Act. He thought at the time that that was a monstrous proposal, striking at the very root of private property, and as such he denounced it. A man might have enjoyed the right which had existed from time immemorial, and yet if he failed through want of funds, because it would have been attended by personal inconvenience, or for any other cause, to avail himself of his right during the year previous to the passing of the Act, he was never to be permitted to exercise it afterwards. The Petitioner in this case complained that he purchased the fishery in question in 1851 in the Encumbered Estates Court, and had worked the fishery down to the year 1859; but he had failed from some cause or other, which was immaterial in considering the subject, to exercise his right in 1862. He had resumed the fishing after 1862; and had to appear before the Fishing Commissioners to show his right so to work his fishery. The Commissioners acknowledged that he had proved a perfect and indefeasible title under the Encumbered Estates Act, but were of opinion that since he had not exercised his right in the year 1862, or the year preceding, the Act of 1863 compelled them to decide against him. He then appealed, as entitled to do, to the Court of Queen's Bench in Ireland; but the Court felt themselves bound to decide against him under the express provision of the Act, contained in the clause which he (Lord Cranworth) had denounced. In confirming the decision of the Commissioners of Fisheries, one of the learned Judges expressed his great regret that the Act of Parliament should have such an effect, and said that the Petitioner's case was one of great hardship, and ought to be brought before Parliament. He (Lord Cranworth) had willingly complied with the request that he should present the Petition to their Lordships' House; and he also proposed to bring in a short Bill which would remedy the harsh effect of the previous Act.


hoped that the noble and learned Lord would make the Act general, so as to make it extend to England.


said, that he also had a Petition to present on the same subject, and he was glad to find that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cranworth) had brought the question before the House. It was most unjust that property which had been possessed by individuals for many years, and which had been confirmed to them by Act of Parliament, should be taken away from them by a subsequent Act. It was said that Parliament had the right to take away the property if they thought such a course to be desirable. Undoubtedly Parliament had the power to do so; but to take away property in that manner was a most unjust and improper proceeding. He would state shortly the facts contained in the Petition he had to present, which, he thought, would show that the effect of the law was as harsh as it was unjust. The petitioner, a Mr. Little, was the owner of a bag-net salmon fishery, from which he derived a profit of between £200 and £300 per annum. The Act prohibited bag-net fisheries within three miles of the mouth of a river, and empowered the Commissioners to fix the limits of the river's mouth. The Commissioners having decided that his fishery was unlawful, he appealed to the Court of Queen's Bench, who reversed the judgment of the Commissioners, and declared his fishery to be lawful. After the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, the Commissioners defined the mouth of the river in such a manner as to bring the petitioner's fishery within three miles of it, and consequently his fishery was declared illegal, and he lost an income of above £200 per annum. He, therefore, trusted that the noble and learned Lord would persevere with his intention, and would bring in a Bill to mitigate the harshness and injustice of the Act of 1863.


also hoped that something would be done to protect the rights of the owners of salmon fisheries.


said, there could be no doubt that the persons who had been deprived of their fisheries by the operation of the Act had enjoyed a peaceable title to their property before those Acts were passed. He suggested that an inquiry should be instituted into the operation of the existing Acts.

Petition ordered to lie on the table.