HL Deb 07 June 1923 vol 54 cc436-50

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 24:

Power for fishery board to place grating in water-courses.

(5) If any person,—

  1. (a) injures any such grating or other device; or
  2. (b) removes any such grating or other device or part thereof, except during any period of the year during which under a by-law made by the fishery board gratings need not be maintained; or
  3. (c) opens any such grating or other device improperly; or
  4. (d) permits any such grating or other device to be injured, or removed, except as aforesaid, or improperly opened,
he shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.

THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (THE EARL OF ANCASTER) moved, in subsection (5), after paragraph (d), to insert: (e) Obstructs any person legally authorised whilst doing any act authorised by this section. The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is practically a drafting one to make this clause consistent with Clauses 19 and 20 which deal with similar situations.

Amendment moved— Page 17, line 35, at end insert the said paragraph.—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 48:

Representative members of rod fishermen for fish other than salmon.

48.—(1) In every fishery district in which duties are payable for licences for fishing with rod and line for fish other than salmon there shall be appointed or elected such number of members representative of the holders of such licences on the fishery board for that district as is hereinafter mentioned, that is to say; if the aggregate amount of duties for such licence does not exceed the sum of fifty pounds, one member; if the aggregate amount of such duties exceeds fifty pounds, one additional member for every additional fifty pounds or part of fifty pounds; so, however, that in a district in which duties are payable for licences for fishing for salmon with rod and line the number of such representative members shall not exceed one-third of the total number of members of the fishery board in the preceding year.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Bledisloe, who unfortunately is unable to be present, I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name, to insert in sub-section (1), after "as" ["as is hereinafter mentioned"], the words: "in the ease of each river shall be severally determined by the Minister or, failing such determination, as".

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 25, after ("as") insert ("in the case of each river shall be severally determined by the Minister or, failing such determination, as")—(Earl Beauchamp.)


My Lords, I fully appreciate the object that the noble Lord has in view in this Amendment, but I think the words which he desires to insert are not quite suitable. If, however, the noble Lord thinks the insertion in line 25, before "as", of the words "as may be provided by Order made under Part IV of this Act and in default of and subject to any such provision" will meet the point he raises, I shall be prepared to accept an Amendment in that form.


I am much obliged to the noble Earl and will accept the words he suggests.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 25, after ("district"), insert ("as may be provided by order made under Part IV of this Act and in default of and subject to any such provision").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 59:

Power of boards to make by-laws for certain, purposes.

59.—(1) A fishery board, or where there is no fishery board the Minister, may, subject to the provisions of this Act, make by-laws for any of the following purposes; (that is to say)— (t)To authorise the fishing with rod and line for eels during the annual close season for freshwater fish:

EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, in paragraph (t) of subsection (1), after "eels," to insert "and pike." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this clause, which gives fishery boards power to make by-laws for various purposes, authorises the new boards to make by-laws dealing with fishing with rod and line for eels during the close season for freshwater fish. I wish to add a provision giving the boards power to make by-laws relating to pike as well as to eels. In this matter we are not dealing with private waters but solely with public waters, and all I ask is that the local boards shall have power, if they think right, to make these by-laws. It is no great or revolutionary proposal. In matters of fishery, as well as in matters of agriculture, one of our chief difficulties is the difference of conditions in various parts of the country, and it is much better to give to the local authority, which knows local conditions, the power to make by-laws. That which may be suitable for one district is not necessarily suitable for another district. That is the principle on which the Bill goes and the Ministry of Agriculture could not have proceeded upon happier or wiser lines. I ask that the same power should be given to local fishery boards with regard to pike as are, given to them with regard to eels.

The question is governed by all kinds of safeguards. If local anglers are anxious the matter is not settled by them but by a board, on which all the various interests are represented. If the local board goes wrong then the Ministry itself is able to refuse sanction to the order made by the local fishery board, and I am wholly unable, therefore, to understand why the Ministry of Agriculture refuses to allow this provision which only carries out the policy of their own Bill. Although I have no personal acquaintance with the subject myself, I am told that a large number of people around Birmingham are anxious that this power, which exists now, should continue. Anglers in this district are able to fish for pike at this moment. The Bill proposes to take away this right because other people in other districts do not wish to have it. It seems to me only reasonable that you should allow these people to go on doing what they have been doing up to the present, especially having regard to the fact that the Ministry have perfect power, if they think it advisable, to refuse to allow a by-law to come into force. I hope the Government will not refuse this power to the fishery boards. Now that these local fishery boards are being set up, on which anglers are to be represented, the natural thing to do is to give them such power. It is no use setting up these boards and then refusing to give them any power or authority. I hope the noble Earl will accept the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 43, line 17, after ("eels") insert ("and pike").—(Earl Beauchamp.)


My Lords, this Bill has now been before the country for some eighteen months. It has been the subject of repeated negotiations and conferences between the different parties concerned. We have had numerous discussions in your Lordships' House. The Bill has been discussed in the House of Commons, and in Committee here. Therefore, it has received considerable attention, and many of its clauses have been agreed upon after repeated conferences and discussions between the parties interested. One of the conclusions arrived at, and one of the things laid down in the Bill, in which all parties concurred, was that there should be a close time for salmon and sea trout and for all coarse fish. One of the chief advantages of this Bill, after the improvement of fishing in this country and the decrease of pollution in our rivers, is that we recognise far more the needs of those fishermen who fish for coarse fish. They were almost unanimous. I have not heard of one case, and the noble Earl has not brought forward a single resolution or produced any evidence, to show that coarse fish anglers are opposed to the provisions of the Bill and desire this Amendment.

Having come to the conclusion that there should be a close time for salmon and sea trout and coarse fish we feel that we cannot depart from it. The noble Earl said that we allow the fishery boards to make regulations as regards eels. That is true. But eels are quite different from pike. An eel does not breed in fresh water. It returns to the sea, whereas the pike breeds in fresh water. The pike, I know, is a predatory animal and occasionally plays havoc amongst the small fish. At the same time, coarse fish anglers look upon the pike as the king of their sport and would be sorry to see him annoyed during the breeding season and the numbers reduced in those waters where he does no harm. I am reminded of the song, which is more familiar to me than it is to the noble Earl as I come from Lincolnshire, of the Lincolnshire poacher, in which he showed that he respected the breeding time of animals. I think that is the feeling of a good many anglers for coarse fish with regard to one of the most noble of fish, the pike.

From that point in view I most sincerely hope that the noble Earl will not press his Amendment, because in spite of the frequent negotiations which we had on the different clauses of this Bill this point was not raised, nor has it come to our notice that there is any strong-feeling among fishermen that powers should be given to a fishery board to allow pike to be taken during the breeding season. As your Lordships are aware, private waters are amply protected in this Bill, wherever pike are doing harm to salmon or trout, and there are provisions that those pike can be destroyed at any season of the year. In addition, I am told that nearly all the waters to which this Amendment would refer are in private hands. I cannot but feel, therefore, that there is very little real backing for this Amendment, and that the desire to take pike during the breeding season must be confined to a few pike fishermen who are afraid that in certain weeks during the months of April and May, which I believe are the close time, they will not be able to go pike fishing. We should be going back on all we have done in trying to reach agreement on the Bill if I accepted the noble Earl's Amendment, and I am afraid, therefore, that I cannot do so.


My Lords, I do not know if it will be any assistance to your Lordships if I add one word to what has been said by my noble friend in charge of the Bill. I agree with him, although I am quite willing also to acknowledge the efforts of my noble friend on the Front Opposition Bench in favour of preserving the more valuable forms of fish. As Chairman of the Thames Conservancy Board I have been through all this matter so far as the Thames is concerned. I was rather anxious not to give too much protection to pike, but we held a great many conferences with all those who were interested in securing sport for the poorer fishermen and they were unanimously of opinion that pike afforded them most excellent sport. Indeed, they seemed rather to consider that it was benefiting those fish more favoured by the richer classes if pike were treated merely as a predatory fish. If pike are doing harm there is power under the Bill to put some curb on their predatory instincts. I look at this matter rather from the point of view that has been discussed very fully by the Thames Conservancy Board. They have come unanimously to the conclusion that they would not like to see the pike treated merely as a fish of prey, but rather to put it in the category of those which afford most excellent sport to the angler. The poorer fishermen look upon the Mundella Act regarding coarse fish as their charter, and they consider this Bill a great improvement on that charter. It would be a mistake, I think, at the last moment to do anything which might create distrust in the minds of the poorer anglers.


In the absence of any further support I should not think of troubling your Lordships to go to a Division, but I should like to make two remarks to the noble Earl who represents the Ministry of Agriculture. One is that he seemed to me to be touching upon perilous ground when he took great credit for the fact that there was power in this Bill to destroy pike at any season of the year.


Where they are doing harm.


Where they are doing harm. All that my Amendment does is to suggest that the same power should be given to the fishery boards in public waters as in private waters. What is good for private waters ought to be equally good for public waters. I would make only this further remark, that I am sorry that in this matter when we are setting up these new boards with representatives of so many different interests, the noble Earl should be so unwilling to trust them in this matter as he seems to be on this occasion. I cannot think that this Amendment would do anything to harm the fisheries in districts from which the request comes—a request conveyed to me, and by me to your Lordships' House, in terms of which I am sorry that the noble Earl is not more ready to recognise the force. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 60:

Rules for making, confirming, and publishing by-laws.

60.—(1) By-laws made by a fishery board under this Act shall be made, confirmed, and published in accordance with the following rules:—

(4) The Minister, if he considers that the revocation of a by-law is necessary or desirable for the maintenance or improvement of the fisheries in any district, may, after giving notice to the fishery board and considering any objections raised by that board, revoke the by-law.

EARL BEAUCHAMP moved, in sub-section (4), after "board," where that word secondly occurs, to insert "and if so required by that board, holding a local public inquiry." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this touches a point upon which the noble Earl was good enough to say that he would consider the Amendment which I moved in Committee. The noble Earl pointed to the difficulty which the Ministry often found when they made these orders and received no answer from the local boards. In the absence of any answer, such as was suggested in my original Amendment, which to that extent failed to meet the case, it was difficult for them to act. My Amendment provides that any order made by the board under this clause shall go through unless the local board ask meanwhile that there may be some inquiry into the subject.

Amendment moved— Page 45, line 29, after (" board ") insert (" and if so required by that board, holding a local public inquiry ").—(Earl Beauchamp.)


I have looked further into this matter and I am prepared to accept the Amendment which the noble Earl has moved.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 84:

Special provisions as to the Solway Firth.

(3) An Order made under this section—

  1. (a) shall not authorise the imposition by the Solway District Board of contributions assessed on several fisheries;
  2. (b) shall not enable the Solway District Board to erect fixed engines; and
  3. (c) shall not prejudice or affect any existing private right of fishing or any existing right or title of an owner of salmon fishings or the exercise of such right in any way whether by haaf net, poke net, stake net, fixed engine or otherwise which would have been lawful if the Order had not been made, and shall contain such prohibition or restriction of fishing within a prescribed distance of any such stake net or fixed engine as may be reasonably necessary for the protection of the interests of the persons entitled to use such nets or engines.

(4) So much of Part VII of this Act as requires or authorises a fishery board to grant licences shall not apply to the Solway District Board.

Licences granted by a fishery board or district board of any fishery district abutting on the Solway district for use in its district shall be available for use in the Solway district, but not so as to confer any right to fish in any place or at any time in or at which the licensee is not otherwise entitled to fish or any right to fish within the Solway district in any manner or with any instrument in or with which it is not otherwise lawful to fish therein.

(6) The expenditure incurred by the Solway District Board shall be defrayed out of contributions to be paid by the fishery boards or district boards of the fishery districts abutting on the Solway district in such proportions and with such remedies for enforcement thereof as may be prescribed by Order made under this section.

VISCOUNT ULLSWATER moved to omit paragraph (b) of subsection (3). The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I brought this matter forward on the Committee stage last week but I withdrew my Amendment on that occasion. I have since been in communication with persons in Cumberland who are well qualified to give an opinion upon this matter and they represented to me very strongly that it would be desirable to leave with this new Solway Board the power, if necessary, of setting up stake nets on the Cumberland side of the Solway. By this Bill, in paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of Clause 38, we have already given to all fishery boards throughout the country the power if they so choose, subject, of course, to the supervision of the Ministry, to set up these stake nets. Why, I ask, in the particular case of the Solway Board are we by Statute to say that they are not to erect any fixed engines? There seems to me to be no reason for this particular distinction. There is no reason why the Solway Board should not be put in exactly the same position as other fishery boards in this respect. After all, the Board would be enabled only to propose the erection of these stake nets, and if it were thought, upon investigation by the Ministry, that for any reason stake nets were undesirable the Ministry would not confirm the order enabling the stake nets to be erected.

We have always thought in Cumberland that one of the methods by which the unhappy differences which have arisen between the Cumberland fishermen and the Scottish fishermen could be solved is the erection by a legally constituted neutral body of stake nets on the Cumberland side which could be let out to lessees paying so much a year in respect of them. This would form a fund which, in course of time, if the period were sufficiently prolonged, would become sufficient to enable the Board to buy out the stake nets on the Scottish side. It seems to be a pity to deprive the Board at its very beginning of the opportunity of solving the difficulties which have existed in the Solway in regard to this matter for many years. I understand that no objection is raised by the Scotsmen to power of this sort being given to the Board, and, as I have said, it will not be exercised—the Ministry will not confirm or make any Order—if it is strongly objected to either by the Scotsmen or by other fishermen in the Solway. Therefore I venture to think that, it can do no harm to give the Board this power, and it might do good. Certainly no reason has been put forward that I am aware of why a discrimination should be set up against the Solway Board which is not set up against any other board throughout England or Wales. L beg, therefore, to move to omit paragraph (b).


I understand that no notice of this Amendment has been given to the officials. I shall be glad if the noble Viscount will let me know what the Amendment is.


I am very sorry, but I was not aware what the procedure was. I did give notice to the Minister of Agriculture.


I am not saying the Amendment is out of order, but it is inconvenient if no notice is given to the officials.


The Amendment, as I have said, is in Clause 84, page 58, lines 30 and 31, to omit paragraph (b).

Amendment moved— Clause 84, page 58, lines 30 and 31, omit paragraph (b).—(Viscount Ullswater.)


My Lords, as the noble Viscount has stated before, and again to-day, this question of the fishing in the Solway Firth has been a thorny one for many years past, and of course, by this clause we hope that we are doing something towards opening a path by which all those authorities bordering on the Solway Firth may be able to come to an agreement, whereby this difficult problem may be eventually settled. One of the main points of contention between the two parties has been over the question of fixed engines in the Solway, and, as the noble Viscount is fully aware, since the year 1S31 fixed engines on the English side of the Solway have been illegal, and those which were then n existence were taken away, subsequent to the passing of the Act of 1865, after due inquiry had been held by Commissioners specially appointed to inquire into the subject. The Royal Commission of 1895, presided over by Sir Stafford Howard, subsequently recommended that there should be no re-introduction of the stake nets on the English side of the Solway, and, as I have already pointed out, it is solely upon the recommendations of that Commission that this clause has been drafted. The parties concerned expressed their willingness to agree to a clause being based upon those recommendations.

I fully appreciate the arguments which the noble Viscount has urged in support of his Amendment, but to accept it would be to go back upon the understanding which was arrived at with the Scottish fisheries boards, which I am not prepared to do. The noble Viscount is perhaps aware that a conference was held between the representatives of the district boards on the Scottish side of the Solway, representatives of the Eden Board and the. Ministry, and the Scottish Office, at which the representatives of the Scottish district boards urged very strongly that lending the purchase of the existing stake nets on the. Solway nothing should be, done which would in any way injure those interested, and the question of the erection of fixed engines on the English side of the Solway was specifically referred to. In order to meet this objection the paragraph (b) to which the noble Viscount takes exception was inserted, and if that paragraph were now to be omitted the representatives of the net fishermen on the Scottish side of the Solway would not have the protection they demanded and which it was felt should be afforded to them.

The noble Viscount will appreciate that any erection of fixed engines on the English side of the Solway would, or at any rate might, affect considerably the value of the engines on the Scottish side. He will therefore see that to accept the Amendment means inevitably that when this Bill goes back to another place there will be the most vehement opposition raised on behalf of the Scottish interests and for this reason I cannot possibly accept the Amendment. I hope therefore that the noble Viscount will not press it. I feel that an arrangement has been come to between the different district boards, and that should this Amendment be inserted the whole thing will be re-opened, and I am very much afraid that in another place great opposition will be shown and that the whole prospect of arriving at a settlement between the different parties will be seriously jeopardised, if not destroyed altogether.


All I can say is that the Solway Board is being set up, and is not being given any funds. How is it going to buy out the nets on the Scottish side? We have been told over and over again, far many years, that that is what is required to be done. I am aware of the recommendations of Sir Stafford Howard's Commission, but here you are setting up a board and giving them no funds of their own. You are making them dependent upon what they can gather from neighbouring boards. You are giving them no revenue of their own, and at the same time you are tolling them that their proper duty is to use funds which they have not got for the purpose of buying out the nets on the Scottish side. With all respect that seems to me to be a ridiculous arrangement, and I will only add, in conclusion, that again the Scotsman has got the better of the Englishman. That has been so all the way in the Solway. I was hoping that on this occasion we might have arrived at an arrangement by which the parties on either side of the Solway Firth would have been placed in more or less equal positions. It is obvious that it is no use pressing the matter, and I can only say that the decision will be received with great disappointment in Cumberland, with which county I have been so long connected.


Does the noble Viscount withdraw the Amendment?


No, I will not withdraw, but you can negative it.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH moved to add to subsection (3): and (d) any reference in this Act to the Minister shall, in relation to the Solway district except insofar as otherwise provided in the Order, be construed as a reference to the Minister and the Fishery Board for Scotland acting jointly. The noble Duke said: My Lords, this Amendment is somewhat similar to one which I had on the Paper during the Committee stage, and as I understand the Government are going to accept it, I think I need not trouble your Lordships with any explanation.


I am prepared to accept the Amendment if the noble Duke will, at the beginning of his Amendment, insert the words " shall provide that." I am told that those words are needed.

Amendment moved—

Page 58, line 44, at end insert— ("and (d) shall provide that any reference in this Act to the Minister shall, in relation to the Solway district except insofar as otherwise provided in the Order, be construed as a reference to the Minister and the Fishery Board for Scotland acting jointly.")—(The Duke of Buccleuch.)


May I thank my noble friend for accepting this Amendment, with the addition of the words he has suggested? It will give great satisfaction to the two boards who asked me to put the Amendment down.


May I ask what becomes of the agreement which we were told was not to be touched? Here is fresh matter being introduced, which was not before the conference referred to, and the noble Earl was very anxious that the matter should not be re-opened, because he said it had been settled.


This was before the conference.


My Lords, I was not present at the conference, but, as I understood, we were accused of a breach of faith because we had not put these words into the Bill. I have accepted the noble Duke's Amendment, so as to live up as hest we can to the agreement which was reached at that conference, and in order that there should be no question of any breach of faith on our part.


That is the case An Amendment embodying certain words in this agreement was discussed on the Committee stage, but it was not found suitable, and now this Amendment has been brought forward to suit my noble friend.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH moved, in subsection (4), to leave out ' or district board." The noble Duke said: My Lords, this is only a drafting Amendment. The Scottish boards are not able to issue licences, so that the words in the Bill are unnecessary.

Amendment moved— Page 59, line 4 leave out ("or district board").—(The Duke of Buccleuch.)


I accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH moved, after "Solway District Board" in subsection (6), to insert "up to such amount as may be sanctioned by the Minister and the Fishery Board for Scotland acting jointly after consultation with the fishery boards and district boards affected." The noble Duke said: My Lords, this point was before the conference, and in regard to this matter also I put down an Amendment on the Committee stage, the wording of which was not found to be suitable. I believe that my noble friend is prepared to accept these words.

Amendment moved— Page 59, line 23, after (" Board ") insert the said words.—(The Duke of Buccleuch.)

THE EARL OF ANCASTER: I accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 93:


93.—(1) The enactments specified in the Fifth Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed as to England and Wales to the extent specified in the third column of that Schedule.

(2) Nothing in this repeal shall affect any order, warrant, appointment, certificate, notice, by-law, licence or licence duty made, granted, issued, or payable under any enactment repealed by this Act, and in force at the commencement of the Act, but all such orders, warrants, appointments, certificates, notices, by-laws, licences and duties shall have effect as if made, granted, issued, or payable under this Act:

Provided that—

  1. (i) the penalties for breaches of by-laws imposed by this Act shall be substituted for any penalties imposed by such by-laws in respect of breaches thereof; and
  2. (ii) any by-law or scale of licence duties relating to salmon or trout shall be construed as if the expressions salmon or trout in such by-law or scale had the 6ame meaning as in this Act.

THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved, in proviso (1) of subsection (2), to leave out "penalties for breaches of by-laws imposed by," and to insert "maximum penalties for offences against." The noble Earl said: This is an Amendment to put the clause in proper form. The penalties made in the Bill being maximum penalties, it is considered right to insert these words in the Clause. It is a drafting Amendment and there are also two other drafting Amendments, which, with the permission of the House, I will move at the same time. In regard to the second of them, there are certain offences created by Provisional Order Bills which it is necessary to provide for under this clause.

Amendment moved— Page 65, lines 24 and 25, leave out ("penalties for breaches of by-laws imposed by") and insert ("maximum penalties for offences against").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved— Page 65, line 25, after ("any") insert ("maximum") Page 65, line 26, after ("such") insert ("order or").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.