HL Deb 17 June 1902 vol 109 cc814-6


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I venture to think your Lordships will not have much difficulty in agreeing to pass this Bill, as on a former occasion when a Bill, if not in identically the same words at any rate having in the main the same object, was before you, it was agreed to not only unanimously but almost without discussion. The object of the Bill is to provide an annual close time during which trout may not be taken from the water. The time-fixed in the Bill is from 15th October to 28th February. Personally, I would not have objected to giving the trout a rather longer close time—from, say, 1st October to the end of March—but there would have been less agreement if that bad been proposed, and it might even have imperilled the passage of the Bill through another place. There is no restriction upon fishing where fishing is not now private property. The sole idea of those who are anxious to see this Bill pass in to law is this, that legitimate sport may be protected, and that the illicit taking of fish which are useful at the proper season, both for food and for sport, may be prevented. There is at present in England a close time for trout, and it has always been a matter of great surprise to me that in Scotland, where, relatively speaking, the trout is a much more important fish than it is in England, there has never been a close time enacted for its protection. I am sure your Lordships will agree that to take a fish when it is out of season, and when it is breeding is not only a useless and a senseless practice, but a practice which does a great deal of injury to a very legitimate form of sport, and deprives, or tends at any rate to deprive, people of a very pleasant recreation in the summer time. A large number of Angling Associations have petitioned in support of the Bill, and nearly every I County Council in Scotland has expressed an opinion in its favour. Three years ago, your Lordships were good enough to pass the Bill, and this year I am glad to say it has received the sanction of the other.

Perhaps I ought to allude to two changes—not of very great importance—which have been made in the Bill since your Lordships last saw it. By the second clause a restriction is placed upon certain forms of fishing, as against the owners of water, which does not exist at the present time. At present as against everyone else other than owners and those who have their permission, it is prohibited to have recourse to certain methods of fishing which I think myself, and which I believe your Lordships will think, are not very much different from poaching. The public are not allowed to use cross lines or to practice what is known as other fishing or burning the water or spearing trout; but there is no prohibition against these methods of fishing so far as owners of water are concerned. I venture to think that the owner who desires to have recourse to these methods is not entitled to much sympathy from your Lordships, and I do not think that the insertion of that clause will interfere with the willingness of the House to pass the Bill. There is a restriction placed also upon fishing by net even as against the owner except where such fishing is prosecuted for scientific breeding, or restocking purposes, and I do not think that in that case any more than in the other your Lordships will care to preserve the power which at present exists. But this prohibition does not operate in waters which all belong to one owner. The other alteration which has been made in the Bill is one which will, I am sure, receive the hearty approval of the House. The use of dynamite in any form or in any way for destroying fish is prohibited. I am sorry to say that this is a practice which has been on the increase lately in some of the mining districts in Scotland. It has interfered very largely with the stock of trout in some waters; and by a recent judgment in the law Courts it has been decided that, although one may not put dynamite into the water, it is not, as I understand if, an offence to place it on a stone in the middle of the stream or on the bank where, though not actually in the water, it operates to destroy the fish. The third clause of the Bill prohibits that, and I am sure it will meet with the sympathy of the House. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Bill read 2a (according to order) and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.