HL Deb 23 March 1888 vol 324 cc151-4

, in rising to move to resolve— That legislation on the Irish fisheries will not be attended with beneficial results until a reduction on the rates of carriage of fish from the Irish coasts to the English markets is assured by Her Majesty's Government, said, that last year a Royal Commission had been appointed to take into consideration the condition of certain industries in Ireland, prominently among them the fishing interests. That Commission had issued a Report and made certain recommendations. Lord Monteagle had given Notice, at the termination of the Easter Recess, to criticize that Report. If the noble Lord had confined himself to that, for his own part, he would not have ventured to interfere; but the noble Lord also intended to inquire of Her Majesty's Government how far they proposed to act upon the recommendations inserted in the Report of that Commission. He felt that if he were to delay any observations which he might have to make upon this matter until after the Easter Recess, Her Majesty's Government would have quite made up their minds upon the course they intended to pursue. His first object was to impress upon the Government the earnest necessity of inspection, with regard to the fishing grounds on the Irish coast, before any legislation took place on the subject of those fisheries. His second object was expressed in the terms of the Resolution of the Paper. In 1865 a Royal Commission had been appointed for the purpose of taking into consideration the fisheries of the United Kingdom, and had earnestly supported the inspection of these grounds. Year after year the Irish Fishery Inspectors had been urging that they should have vessels placed at their disposal for the purpose of thorough and scientific investigation. This matter might be regarded from two points of view—Imperial and local. Those who were engaged solely in the fishing industry in Ireland were in a very bad way; and but for a prospect of increased stir in the industry, it would be better for them to take to some other pursuit in life. The question was also a very important one in connection with the great food supply of the nation. The Irish were not fish eaters themselves, and it was really the English consumer who was chiefly interested in this question. Owing to the rates charged by the railways, the transport of fish from East to West was very small. On the Midland in 1887 only 1,200 tons of fish were transported across Ireland from the West to the East Coast, and the only chance of stimulating the demand for fish caught off the Irish Coasts lay in providing cheap and easy access to the English markets. Wick, in Scotland, was 700 miles from London, and the fare for a ton of fish from Wick to London was £3 1s.; Cork, in the South of Ireland, was 550 miles, and the fare for a ton of fish from there to London was £5 1s. He, therefore, thought it clear that the Irish fish could not be profitably brought to the English markets unless its transit was facilitated by subsidies. The noble Earl, in conclusion, moved the Resolution which stood in his name.

Moved to resolve— That legislation on the Irish fisheries will not be attended with beneficial results until a reduction on the rates of carriage of fish from the Irish coasts to the English markets is assured by her Majesty's Government."—(The Earl of Howth.)


said, that although railway and canal rates might be regulated, yet the passage by sea would have to be attended to in order to render the carriage of fish to England cheap. He had great confidence in his Friend Sir James Allport, but thought he had possibly erred in making first-class tickets too cheap. It cost him before railways were established £30 to go from and to London and back from Derbyshire; but now an expense of only £5 6s. for three persons was charged— two first-class £4, one third-class £1 6s. He ventured to think that if, without loss to Railway Companies, more could be charged for all passengers and less for heavy goods and articles of food, it might benefit Ireland.


said, no one could feel surprised that the noble Earl, whose experience in regard to Irish fisheries was so great, should bring forward this question. He would not, however, attempt to follow the noble Earl through the various points on which he had touched, but would content himself with saying that it was impossible for him to accept the somewhat sweeping Resolution which had just been moved. He rather hoped that the noble Earl would content himself with the valuable remarks which he had made—remarks which would receive the attentive consideration of Her Majesty's Government—and would not press their Lordships to divide. He was glad, however, that the noble Earl had afforded him an opportunity of stating to the House the position of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Reports of the Royal Commission to which the noble Earl had alluded. The noble Earl was aware that the Royal Commission had made two separate Reports. The reference to the Commission was in the following order—first, they were asked to inquire into the subject of fisheries and harbours; secondly, into the subject of arterial drainage; and, thirdly, into the subject of railway communication. But the Commission thought it right to apply themselves to the subject of arterial drainage in the first place, and having reported upon it, the Government thought it their duty to deal as soon as possible with that subject. A Bill on the question was now in an advanced stage of preparation; the Government hoped to lay it on the Table in a short time, and that it would receive the sanction of Parliament during this Session. Though they had received the Report of the Commission on the fisheries, they had not received either the evidence or copies of the important documents on which the Report was based. As soon as they had received the evidence and the documents, they would proceed with the task they had undertaken with reference to the fisheries, harbours, and railways also. More than that he could not say on the present occasion. The subjects which had been referred to the Royal Commission were, in the opinion of the Government, of the most vital importance to Ireland. They might not, perhaps, be as exciting or sensational as other questions relating to Ireland which had occupied the attention of Parliament; but they were subjects which must be treated with the utmost care and consideration. The Government would not defer laying their proposals before Parliament any longer than they could help, and he trusted they would receive the support of noble Lords on the other side of the House.


explained that the Secretary to the Board of Trade had shown him that he was wrong in thinking that the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill did not apply to Ireland, and he was ashamed not to have studied the 4th clause of the Bill more carefully; and, as it had passed their Lordships' House, he regretted that he had said anything in doubt of its efficiency.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.