HL Deb 15 July 1958 vol 210 cc1057-81

4.3 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 7 [Rateable value of industrial and freight transport lands and heritages]:

VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, after subsection (1) to insert: (2) For the year beginning on the sixteenth day of May, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, and subsequent years the rights of salmon fishing to which this subsection applies shall, subject to the following provisions of this section, be deemed for the purpose of making up any valuation roll to be agricultural lands and heritages: Provided that nothing in this section shall affect any right of a district fishery board to require the assessor to value and enter such rights of salmon fishing in the valuation roll for the purposes of fishery assessments only. (3) The last foregoing subsection—

  1. (a) applies to rights of salmon fishing which are exercised by net or cruive and are so exercised regularly throughout the periods during which that method of fishing is allowed by law, and in respect of which no revenue is derived by the owner or occupier thereof from any other method of fishing during any part of those periods and
  2. (b) does not apply to any dwelling-houses, bothies, net stores, drying greens or other corporeal lands and heritages, whether occupied or used in connection with rights of salmon fishing to which the last foregoing subsection applies or not.
(4) Any dwelling-houses, bothies, net stores, drying greens or other corporeal lands and heritages occupied or used in connection with rights of salmon fishing to which subsection (2) of this section applies shall, for the purpose of making up the valuation roll for the year beginning on the sixteenth day of May, nineteen hundred and fifty-nine and any subsequent year, be treated as lands and heritages Which are neither industrial nor agricultural.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is in substance the same Amendment which I put down on the Committee stage of this Bill, which was so unfortunately defeated. I must explain, first of all, that it refers only to net fishing of salmon by means of fixed nets in estuaries and rivers and on the open coast of the sea, and has nothing whatever to do with rod fishing. I must also explain that for the purposes of rating salmon fishings of this sort are divided into two halves: first of all, the right to fish in the river; and secondly, the dry land appurtenances of fishing, such as net- drying greens and storehouses and occasionally a cottage.

At present the right to fish in the river is rated at 25 per cent. of its gross value. The dry land appurtenances are rated at 100 per cent. The effect of my Amendment is to de-rate the right to fish in the river altogether, and to put it into the same category as the fields on a farm, while at the same time, retaining 100 per cent. rating on the dry land stores, drying greens and buildings. There is at the beginning of the Amendment a proviso which has the effect that where it is necessary under the Salmon Fisheries Acts of the middle of the last century for a salmon fishery to be assessed for the purpose of district fishing boards' payments by owners, this value may be put on the valuation rolls. But it is only for the purposes of these assessments, into which I will go later.

At the same time, I must here draw attention to subsection (4) of the Amendment, which is an interim measure to provide for the period between now and 1961, because the 1956 Rating Act froze the valuation rolls until that date and it will be necessary, if my Amendment is carried, that the new valuation as under this section shall be put in the rolls instead of the one that is at present upon them. For this purpose, the rolls will have to be unfrozen. This is the same as would happen in the case of industry, and it will apply only until 1961. Salmon fisheries are at present an industry, and if the Bill goes through as it stands they will have their rates doubled; in fact, as I said on Committee stage, the effect will be that they will be trebled as compared with what they were before 1956.

The history of this matter is somewhat curious. When the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, was before your Lordships' House, the father of the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, moved an Amendment, which was carried on a Division, which de-rated salmon fishings to the same degree as industries. This was necessary because, while agriculture was being derated to 87½ per cent., and industries to 75 per cent., nothing was being done about salmon fishings at all; and the noble Lord at the time moved, and carried, an Amendment which made salmon fishing industry for this purpose. But I think there was a confusion which arose in that Act and which is the source of the whole trouble at this present time. In that Act there was a distinction between agriculture and industry, and the noble Lord throughout his speech pointed to the comparison between salmon fisheries and agriculture. But he finished off in moving his Amendment to make salmon fishings industry with the somewhat remarkable statement: This salmon fishing is purely industry and is as industrial as agriculture. I think your Lordships would agree that this may have been a valid confusion, and it is time that this confusion was put right; and I am glad that the present noble Lord, Lord Lovat, is here to help in doing this.

I will try to put as quickly and clearly as I can the reasons why this must be done. In the first place, no one will deny that salmon fishing has great similarity to agriculture. They employ very much the same men at different times of the year, and the definition of agricultural lands and heritages adopted in the 1929 Act included a large number of rural occupations, such as poultry farming, market gardens, allotments and orchards, though, curiously, it did not include salmon fishing. I can think of no other rural occupation except salmon fishing which is not included in that definition of agricultural lands and heritages, and I think that is a good reason why it should be so included now. In addition to that, in comparison with white fisheries, salmon fisheries are in a very bad position. The white fisheries have no rights, and therefore pay no rates. They do, however, pay rates on their land premises. Salmon fisheries, however, which have a much more hazardous occupation and lead a great deal more hazardous existence—they lose their nets in gales because they are fixed, whereas the white fisheries take their nets up again at the end of each catch—are rated at present on their right in the river as well as on dry land.

It may be said that if the rates are going up they can be passed on to the consumer. But this is not the case with the salmon industry. At present, Scottish salmon is in competition in the English market both with Irish salmon, in very large quantities, and, to some degree, with Scandinavian salmon, while hanging over its head all the time is the threat of imports of salmon from other parts of the world. It is interesting to have a rough figure of the Irish imports of salmon compared with the Scottish figure. This is an unofficial figure, but it says that the Irish salmon imports in 1957 came to 8,678 boxes at Billingsgate, whereas the figure for Scottish salmon was only 8,350. It is easy to see why the price of Scottish salmon cannot be put up. In fact, the increase would have to be borne inside the industry, and that means one thing and one thing only; the closing of unprofitable stations.

In addition, salmon fishing is an export industry. There are exports which go out to a considerable number of places in the world, such as Australia, the East Coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Singapore and South America. In fact, it is not uncommon to send consignments of one ton of smoked salmon abroad, and if your Lordships will consider the value of such a consignment you will see that it is quite considerable. Further, when you look at the comparison between the rent that a salmon fishery pays as against the number of men it employs, you will see that there is a startling difference compared to both farms and industries. For instance, if you take a factory which employs six men, the odds are that it will pay about £50 rent per year, whereas the farm employing six men will probably pay about £150 per year in rent. But a salmon fishery will pay £1,200 a year in rent. There is a reason for this difference, and it is quite an important reason. The right to fish in the river is the raw material of the salmon fishery in exactly the same way as the fields are the raw material of agriculture. The rent of the right to fish in the river is the price that is paid for the raw material. What other industry is rated on the price which it pays for its raw material?

These salmon fisheries take place in rural and in the Highland areas of Scotland. For instance, on the coast of North Angus and Kincardineshire there are several of these stations, several of which are marginal and which may have to close down if the rates go up. This particular area is a pocket of bad unemployment. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, told us that the national level of unemployment was about 2 per cent. In the area of which I am speaking it is between 4 and 5 per cent., and the closing of the stations will increase it. Not only so, but it will increase it in taking the jobs away from people in small villages, where the loss of a few jobs is much more important than it is in a big town.

It might be said that other methods could be used or other measures made about the salmon fisheries. Last time this matter came before your Lordships' House the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, suggested that rents could be reduced. I do not think this is so. Most of the fisheries are let on long-term leases, as it is. But, in addition, the owner of the fishery has to pay the fisheries assessment on this fishery out of the rent which he receives, and on the Forth, for instance, this assessment is 30s. in the £ on the valuation of the fishing, and the national average throughout Scotland is 4s. 6d. And, of course, it goes up with the increasing costs, like everything else. The assessment is paid, and it is levied under statutory authority to protect salmon fishing from poaching and statutory offences, and also to care for the young fish, the hatcheries and the stocking of the river. It would not be possible to do this properly if the owners did not have sufficient rents. In addition, the owners often have to pay for the upkeep of the land establishments of the salmon fishings, the bothies, and the net drying greens and sheds.

It will also be said that my Amendment will mean a loss of rates, and I am afraid that this is to some degree true. But in this case the increase is subject to the law of diminishing returns, because an increase in rates will definitely mean the closing of stations. Therefore, it is unlikely that the local authorities will receive much more in the way of rates than they do at present. On the other hand, this measure, if it goes through un-amended, will mean an increase in unemployment in these local authority areas, and I do not think that any local authority is anxious to have that occurring.

This is a rural problem, and it applies to the Highlands and rural Scotland. I should like to conclude by reading a short paragraph from the Crofters Commission Report, 1957. It says: The crofting population never did live by agriculture alone. A typical crofter always had a second or third ancillary occupation. The loss of it is largely responsible for Highland depopulation. My Amendment is intended to save this second and third ancillary occupation both for the crofters and for the other inhabitants of the other coastal areas of rural Scotland. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 32, at end insert the said new subsections—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, could he give us some particulars? He is asking for our votes. Could he relate in any way the cost of these rates to the cost of the produce produced—in other words, pence per pound, or give us some idea of the cost?


My Lords, at the present moment on the open market the average price of salmon, salmon trout, grilse and trout—of course, there is a large difference in the price of these particular fish—is 4s. 10d. per pound. An increase in rates will mean that this price will go up to 5s. per pound. That is only the wholesale price, and has no or little connection with the price charged in the shops.


My Lords, if your Lordships will allow me to speak in support, following my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross—who I think made an admirable speech which leaves little for me to say—I should like to speak on this subject for the Highlands, where salmon netting plays an important part in our rural life. The impression that has been formed on both sides of the House, by treating this matter as an industrial subject, to be rated as such, is that the salmon are almost shouldering each other out of the sea on their way up the various rivers where they are caught in large numbers commercially. That is what the new rate would imply. In the words of the North American salmon fishing station, "You catch what you can, and can what you can't." That, of course, is a wholly wrong impression.

Anybody who knows the salmon fishing industry will agree with me that the only river in Scotland which has a sufficiently narrow entrance to give the coast net fishermen the very real chance of taking heavy toll on the runs of salmon is the river Tweed, which divides our countries. On the coast, however, nets or stake nets which are fixtures have to be set in such a way as to catch the fish on the tide and on shoals and sandbars where the salmon run with no let or hindrance; and this fishing is entirely subject to weather conditions, the state of the moon and the height of the water. In the area I know best, which is the sea triangle between the Kyles of Sutherland to the north and Spey Bay to the south and east, and the River Beauly and the estuary of the river where I live to the west, there is thirty-five miles of open water in which the fish can swim in suitable conditions, where they never touch the coast until they run up their parent river; and, as your Lordships know, they always return to the river in which they are spawned. In that area 300 men are employed in various stations of different sizes.

As I have told your Lordships before, and I apologise for doing it again, in the Moray Firth Fisheries, of which I am a director, we paid out £25,000 in wages last year and showed a loss. As the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said, the rents we pay for these fishings are very considerable. They actually amounted to £8,300 on a wage bill of £25,000, and we lost money on the deal. I can assure your Lordships that it is not the fishermen who catch the fish who make the money; it is the fishmonger and the undertaking which provides transport at the prohibitive rate which a paternal Government charges those unfortunate enough to live in the far north of Scotland. I say that with feeling, because I have just paid £18 4s. 0d. in order to come and address your Lordships' House. The same sort of iniquitous levy applies in the problems of salmon fishermen.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was kind enough to say on two previous occasions that if we could give him further information of a concrete nature on the subject he would give it his due consideration. I should like to tell him this: I can produce a piece of paper (though the netting stations concerned, whose names are on it, do not wish to make it public) to show him that certain stations will close down anyway, while a great many more have asked for an immediate break in their leases in view of this threat hanging over them. Those stations in the Beauly Estuary, which covers a twelve-mile stretch of shore, with which I have something to do myself will have to close down; there is absolutely no alternative, so precarious is the difference between profit and loss at the present stage. The cost of raw materials and labour has been going up ever since the war. The weather, on this exposed coast, 600 miles North of London, is so severe that we lose in a single night in gear alone as much as the year's catch. Surely that can hardly be called a safe industrial undertaking.

I also have a piece of information which was held up, I think, possibly due to the celebrations now going on in British Columbia. The message comes from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Vancouver. It is simply this—and it emphasises the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross: that the salmon fisheries should be treated as agriculture. After all, it is a crop. The fish are grown there five years before being caught, and in this country it has been found necessary to produce salmon artificially with the help of hatcheries, so severe are the losses of the fish we hope to catch when they reach maturity. A point in regard to agriculture which does not apply to salmon fisheries is that agriculture is subsidised whereas salmon fisheries have nothing.

Moreover, salmon fisheries have to contend with pollution, hydro-electric schemes, and all the dangers to which salmon are subject including poaching by vermin and human beings. Many of your Lordships have heard that there are people still living who remember salmon running up to the Broomielaw, through Glasgow and the Clyde. South of the Border the same thing applies to rivers like the Tees and Tyne. Coming North again, in my lifetime, which is not very long, we have found that in the Forth, which runs into the Firth of Forth, the Teith, which runs past Stirling, the fish suffer in large numbers from pollution. It is quite possible that before any of us is much older, the salmon will disappear altogether from the Forth. It is a falling industry, and what the Government are now proposing to do will only speed the loss of something which I think all of us, whether from the point of view of sport or profit, would regret. It would mean that a great many people who need to be employed seasonally, will suffer severely if we penalise this industry further.

The information which I should like the noble Earl, Lord Strathclyde, to have about the Pacific salmon fishings of British Columbia—and, I might add, Alaska—is that on that coast £53 million worth of salmon is caught and sold annually as opposed to £1¼ million worth of salmon in this country. The difference is vast—£53 million as opposed to £1¼ million. And yet the policy of the Federal and Provincial Governments, whose primary concern is conservation, is that the whole thing is rigidly managed on a sustained yield basis: it is treated in the same way as an agricultural crop.

I will not detain your Lordships any longer. I was delighted that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, in his reconnaissance in force last week, forced a dead-heat, in the absence of a great many Scottish Peers who were doing their duty in Edinburgh. I am glad to see that many of our heavy tanks are here to-day, lying in a hull-down position, in the persons of the noble Earl. Lord Dundee, and the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield; while the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Orr, on the cross Benches, can no doubt speak on the nutritional value of salmon. I hope that this matter will be threshed out and, if necessary, forced to a second Division.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that I was unavoidably prevented from being in your Lordships' House on July 1 to support the Amendment moved in Committee by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. Since then I have studied carefully the arguments which were used on the debate on the Amendment, and it seems to me that the only argument against the Amendment is that in 1929 the salmon net fishing industry was glad to accept the status of an industrial undertaking. Of course it was—because until then it had been paying 100 per cent. rates. It was not offered the option between 87½ per cent. agricultural de-rating and 75 per cent. industrial de-rating. It was offered the option between 75 per cent. industrial de-rating and nothing, so naturally it preferred to be classified as an industry.

But in fact net salmon fishing is a food-producing occupation which is in every respect integrated with, and ancillary to, agriculture. It is a very precarious branch indeed of the food-producing industry. As your Lordships know, the rates have to be paid whether you make a profit or a loss. If a small salmon business is rated on an assessment of £1,000 a year, first of all it has to pay the Fisheries Board dues—sometimes 50 or 60 per cent.—and then it has to pay rates. If it makes a profit in a lucky year of £2,000 it pays income tax on £2,000 and rates on £1,000. If it makes a loss of £2,000, which it sometimes does, it escapes income tax but still pays rates on £1,000. So that its rates are a direct tax on employment; and, very largely, on the employment of a class of people whom we are particularly trying to preserve in Scotland. That is the crofters, who depend so much on seasonal employment in salmon fishing. This applies not only in the Highlands. The crofters come from the Highlands; but their employment is not all in the Highlands; in the East Lowlands, on the Tay Estuary our seasonal labour with net fishing is largely recruited from the North of Scotland and from the Western Isles, from the crofting population who depend on this seasonal employment for the continuance of their independent economic status, which is sometimes a very difficult thing for them to maintain.

I would ask your Lordships to remember that this Amendment is not put forward in the interests of the big people; it is being put forward in the interests of the little men, who depend so much on salmon fishing, either as small industrialists themselves, or as seasonal workers in this industry who must get their employment if their present way of life is going to go on. That is a thing the Government have taken so much trouble about, in such measures as the Crofters Bill, and one of the worst things the Government could do to upset the status of these crofters, and many other small people would be to refuse to accept this Amendment. I know that things are not always done at the right time. Of course this Amendment ought to have been made and accepted in 1929. But it was not. At that time the difference was one of only 12½ per cent. between 87½ per cent. agricultural de-rating in Scotland and 75 per cent. industrial derating; and the matter was not pressed. Now it is a difference between 50 per cent. and nil, which is a very different thing. I would ask the Government not to take their stand on the fact that the right thing was not done in 1929. I would ask the Government to agree to do the right thing now.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, once more I should like to support my noble friend who has introduced this Amendment so clearly. During the Second Reading of this Bill I said that if this clause went through unamended it would mean that another depopulation nail would have been driven into the coffin of the Highlands and the remote areas of Scotland. I still hold to that view, and since then I have managed to unearth a few more facts, which I hope may strengthen this case, concerning stations closing down and others that may possibly have to close down. Recently in Scotland, three stations have closed down altogether—one in Kincardineshire, one in Morayshire and one in Ross-shire. In addition, last season there were no fewer than eleven Crown stations in Scotland, seven of them in the North of Scotland, that were un-let: no tenant could be found for them at all.

I should also like to give an example of why it is quite possible that in the future other stations may be forced to close down for financial reasons. There is a small Crown station in Kincardineshire, employing at present twelve men. Last year its profit was £179—this after paying rates of £96. On the basis that the rates are doubled it would mean that this station would have shown a profit of only £83. Surely that cannot be considered a sound financial proposition. There is also the danger of aggravating the unemployment situation that already exists in some of these areas. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has also referred—


Does the noble Lord happen to know what the rent was in that particular case?


Perhaps I could give the noble Lord an answer later.


And the output?


Perhaps I could also answer the noble Lord later.


I do not want to know the exact amount. What I was wonder- ing was the sort of figure, in comparison with the amounts we are talking about.


My Lords, I have the figures for this. I am not sure that I want to give them exactly, but I will give them approximately. The rent paid was in the nature of £470, and the rates, as my noble friend said, were £96. The wages were £3,500, and the total produce came to something in the nature of £6,000.


And the assessment?


The assessment is on the rent, so that the assessment was £450-odd. In addition to that, £1,500 of gear was lost on that station last year.


My Lords, as I was saying, there is the danger that the already existing unemployment situation in certain parts of Scotland may be aggravated. I should like to give an instance in South Kincardineshire, where there are five small villages which at present provide sixty men for salmon net fishing. If any of those stations is closed down, those men from the little villages will become unemployed. Already the unemployment figure there is 4.1 per cent. I am sure your Lordships will all agree that to add to that figure would be nothing less than deplorable.

I should also like to make it quite clear that the majority of these men who take part in salmon net fishing do so only in the summer-time or during the season; for the rest of the time they are crofters. If the salmon net fishing closes down, their crofts will not provide a living for them, so they will have to go towards the towns and cities to seek employment; and once they get to the towns they will not return to the rural areas. I think I can safely say, at least in your Lordships' House, that the clansmen from the Highlands and from the remote areas of Scotland are peaceful, law-abiding people, and it would be a grave mistake to do anything that might encourage them to go towards the cities and towns where crime and vice is to be found.

If Her Majesty's Government will accept this Amendment, not only will it delight all those who take part in this fishing but also those who have an interest in it. Nearly everyone in Scotland will be overjoyed if the Government accept this Amendment, as it will mean that the Government have at last realised that this slow but steady depopulation of the remote parts of Scotland must be halted. Once it is halted, then perhaps we may get some people interested in returning to the rural areas. At present, the population is slowly but steadily drifting away from these remote areas.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, this discussion reminds one of the controversies which raged some thirty years ago when de-rating was introduced at the instance of Sir Winston Churchill and carried through by the late Neville Chamberlain. It was then argued very strenuously that industries were being handicapped by rates and that if they were not de-rated this country would be in a terrible condition. But, of course, all the evidence of experience is that those arguments were entirely fallacious: de-rating made little difference to industry, and it has made little difference to agriculture.

The noble Lord who has just spoken has talked of the depopulation of the Highlands. Agriculture has been de-rated in Scotland to the extent of 87½ per cent. for the last thirty years or more, and the depopulation of the Highlands has continued. It is quite futile to hope to find a solution of the problem upon the lines of the Amendment which has been, moved by the noble Viscount. It rests upon an economic fallacy.

Mention has been made of salmon fisheries which, it is said, are marginal. If they are marginal they ought not to be paying any rent at all, and their annual value would be nil; and in that case they would not be paying any rates, either. But we have just been given an illustration of a case in which the rent is some £450, although this is alleged to be a marginal salmon fishery. If the owner of the fishery wants to continue to receive any rent at all for it, and if it is true that the occupier is in the delicate financial position which has been suggested, the remedy is quite clear: the owner should reduce the rent sufficiently to enable the occupier to continue. If that is not done, despite any change in de- rating, the occupier will give up the fishery and the owner will not get any rent.

In any event, that does not apply in every case. We have been told of cases in which the rent for the fishery is £1,200 a year. If this Amendment is carried, then in those cases in which the rent is very substantial and the fishery is far from being marginal, there will be a total exemption from rates. The owner will be able to require, and obtain, a higher rent for the fishery and the local authority will lose the rates they have been getting.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, may I point out that that is true only so far as that part of the river is concerned. They will still pay 100 per cent. on the premises on dry land.


Yes, that is the Amendment. Had it been framed in the opposite way, for the purpose of exempting the people who are working the fishery from rates upon the capital expenditure which they make in carrying on the fishery, I should have had a great deal more sympathy with it. But the Amendment does exactly the opposite. It proposes that all the capital expenditure in providing accessories for carrying on the fishery shall be rated 100 per cent. but it is proposed that the opportunity—the river itself—is to be de-rated completely.

It has been said this afternoon that everybody in Scotland is in favour of this proposal. That is certainly not quite the case. I understand that the Associa-of County Councils in Scotland are entirely opposed to this proposal, and I am not surprised that they should be. Why should they be required to lose the rates on extremely valuable properties? As to the marginal ones, if they are really marginal the assessments will be small and so will the rates; and if they are reduced somewhat further I do not suppose the local authority will worry about it. But why should they be deprived of rates in respect of properties which are well able to pay? That is no solution at all of this problem. It is not going to help the marginal fishery in the least. It is merely going to help the owner of the fishery which is far from being marginal.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support my noble friend, Lord Colville of Culross, in his most able presentation of the position, ably supported by others of my noble friends, I must, as is rightly the custom in your Lordships' House, make clear my own interest. I am myself an owner of a salmon net fishing and at the same time I actually work a net myself, although those are far above the high water mark and therefore do not come under the heading of fixed engines mentioned by my noble friend, Lord Colville of Culross. But I am not this afternoon going to talk about the interests of the netters in the river.

The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, in a supreme example of mixed thinking, appears to imagine that the only solution necessary is a reduction in the rent. Well, that might have some effect in the rivers, but it is not going to have any effect whatsoever so far as the sea fishings are concerned. If this proposed legislation is going to sting like a midge those who net in the rivers, it is going to sting like a hornet those who work nets in the sea. The landlord of all these small people who work the sea nets is almost without exception the Crown; and we have just heard how a large number of Crown fisheries are even now not occupied simply because those who would like to occupy them feel that they cannot make a reasonable living out of them.

The position on the sea is very different from that on the rivers inland, and I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, that the Tay as well as the Tweed has a considerable net industry in its estuary. We simply do not fish in these rivers when they come down in spate. We have very rare losses of nets—at worst usually a couple of pairs. The position on the coast is far otherwise. The people who take fishings there are usually, though not always, small men—one man employing a few others or a little group working cooperatively. They are men of very little capital and very humble background. As a rule they have to pay a considerable lent to the Crown and to provide very expensive gear, whether in the form of stake nets or bag nets; and although I have not and have never had any financial interest in any coast fishery I may say that I am very familiar with the workings of both kinds. I have often taken part in the recovery of salmon from bag nets and still more often from stake nets in Solway, and I am very familiar with all the apparatus and operations.

Whereas we in rivers suffer little damage from storm and spate, those on the coast are liable, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said earlier, to have destruction to the amount of thousands of pounds wreaked among their nets as a result of storm damage or drifting wreckage along the coast. It is virtually impossible to insure against such damage except at prohibitive rates, if they can be got at all. The result is that it has been truly said that they work on an extremely marginal basis. The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, does not appear to understand what "marginal" means. It means, in agriculture or in fishing, that someone is just getting along with his head above water and making a very small living. That living can disappear in any one year as the result of an unexpected storm or of the fish failing to rise. Salmon are very peculiar creatures. There is no accounting for their behaviour; and even with the same, or apparently same, conditions of weather, in one season they may behave entirely differently from the way that they behaved in another season. I have had my own small net in the Tay for five weeks without catching a single fish, when everything was apparently in favour of my doing so.

As the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, said in his speech on the Committee stage, everyone would pay considerable attention if 600 people became unemployed out of 10,000, whereas nobody pays much attention if it is 6 out of 100; but those 6 unemployed out of 100 may have a much greater social and moral effect on the economy of a considerable area of Scotland than would 600 out of 10,000 elsewhere. The east and north-east coast of Scotland is a very inhospitable land, though by no means devoid of beauty. Those who earn or seek to earn their living on it, whether on land or sea, have to face rigorous and arduous conditions which can be compared in few other places in the British Isles. As the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, has truly said, if these men lose their livelihood now, they will have to go to industry, and if in many cases these nets close down it is unlikely that they will ever be opened up again. That is to say, if the Government are not prepared to yield a little on this matter, they are going to be a contributing factor to additional unemployment in an area where it is already high above the national average in unemployment—the national average for Scotland as well as that for Britain. It is for that reason that I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, even now, to reconsider his decision; and if lie will not do so, then I appeal to your Lordships, irrespective of Party, to vote with those of us who are determined to try to do as much as we can to keep this small but by no means unimportant industry in existence.


My Lords, I have a piece of the North Sea, no river at all. The noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, questioned the right of people to charge a rent for fishing. That piece of the North Sea was bought and paid for, or the right to fish in it was bought and paid for, by my great grandfather. My grandfather paid death duties on it, my father paid death duties on it and I paid death duties on it; and not only that, but I also pay the levy to the Dee fisheries. The rent is £35 a year, and it is let on a long lease, which I think is something that might be taken into account when we are considering this matter. We have spoken about rates. The amount of money that a local authority gets depends on the poundage they levy on the assessment; it does not depend on the assessment at all. If they want more money, instead of your paying a rate of 16s. in the £, you pay a rate of 17s. Therefore, the small loss in actual rateable value that might arise from this Amendment could quiet easily be put right by any authority adding less than a farthing, probably, to the poundage rate they levy. So that argument does not stand.

The other point which I want to stress is this. We have been speaking about unemployment. Unemployment is not a dull mathematical symbol. I started work in 1929 in a bridge-yard in Middlesbrough, and I know a little about the matter. I know nothing compared to what noble Lords on the other side know, but I have a very vivid impression of unemployment in terms of human suffering, human courage and, I am afraid, if the proper things are not done, of human degradation. Therefore, I can do nothing but, with the greatest of pleasure, support my noble friend in this Amendment.


My Lords, I feel it my duty to present another aspect of this question: that is, that there are a great number of people who make a living out of catching salmon in the rivers up which nature intended them to go. I own a very small amount of salmon fishing. It is a quite negligible amount, and I am not speaking now with any interest in that. But there are many hotels that live on river fishing and many crofters who take out tourists, and from their point of view I think it is only fair to say that we dislike netting salmon. When the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that his nets had not got anything in them for five weeks, we at the other end were extremely glad to hear it.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, in his opening speech, explained to your Lordships the effect of the Amendments standing in his name; that is, to treat salmon net fishing as agricultural lands and heritages for rating purposes. He also pointed out that acceptance of the Amendments does not mean that after 1961, they will, like agricultural lands, be completely de-rated, since his Amendments provide that dwelling-houses, bothies, net stores, drying greens and any other lands occupied shall be rated on their full value. In speaking to these Amendments, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and other noble Lords who have taken part, again supported the cause which many of them so ably advocated during the course of the Committee stage. At that stage, as your Lordships have been reminded, and earlier during the Second Reading debate, I promised to consider any further information or arguments which might be put forward on behalf of the salmon net fisheries.

I have studied with some care what was said on both of these occasions, and I have listened attentively, I hope, to the further details which have been presented by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and other noble Lords during the course of our discussion this afternoon. I have explained on previous occasions that the Government are most anxious not to impair the general principle that industry as a whole should be re-rated to 50 per cent. As your Lordships know, salmon net fisheries were classed as industrial rather than agricultural subjects in 1929, and have remained in that category ever since; though, as the noble Viscount said this afternoon, at that time it was argued that they were comparable with agriculture, since both of them were food-producing industries—a point stressed by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee they were dependent on nature and liable to the effect of weather. A further point which has been much stressed is that they also provided an important source of employment in the Highlands and in other sparsely populated areas. All of these arguments, which were put forward in 1929, have again been stressed forcibly during our debate this afternoon.

I think one can reasonably argue that salmon net fisheries should be classed either as industry or as agriculture, and the question which we have to decide this afternoon is which description is the right one in the circumstances of re-rating. That, I might suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, is really the answer to the point of view which he put forward. From the studies which I have made on the basis of the information which has been provided in our recent discussions, together with the additional information which has been given this afternoon, I have no doubt in my own mind that the burden of rating in relation to turnover is several times greater on salmon net fisheries than on industry as a whole. In fact, I have been provided with information which shows that while the rates paid by industry are, on average, less than 1 per cent. of turnover, in the case of salmon net fisheries the average is 6½ per cent., and I am sure that your Lordships would agree that that is a very substantial burden.

I am also influenced by the fact—which again was referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—that additional on-cost arising from re-rating could not be recouped by the operators increasing their selling price, since, as has been said, the market price concerned is, broadly speaking, ruled by imports from other countries. I would assure your Lordships that the Government are anxious that justice should be done, and in view of the considerations that noble Lords have placed before the House this afternoon, and of others which I have briefly described. I am prepared to accept the noble Viscount's Amendment. In doing so I should like to congratulate him on the masterly contribution which he has made to our debate.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank the noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon and to say that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has throughout said that he has the interests of the Highlands and the rural areas at heart and that Her Majesty's Government wish to do everything that they can to prevent depopulation. I think that Scotland may now believe even more than they did before that this is so, and I thank the noble Lord very much indeed.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 39, after ("shall") insert (" subject to the provisions of this section ").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 40, leave out ("change") and insert ("changes").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 40, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("provisions of this section").(Viscount Colville of Cuirass.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 41, leave out ("change") and insert ("changes").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, this is only an interim Amendment. I should like to ask your Lordships' permission to change the word "assessment" in line 4 of this Amendment to the word "valuation". With that alteration the effect of the Amendment will be to make certain measures possible to put right problems which have arisen from a misunderstanding of Section 46 (2) of the 1929 Act. Under that Act some local valuation officers have counted the salmon rights in the river as being separate from the dry land appurtenances, and others have not. In the cases where these two have been assessed together my Amendment makes it possible until 1961—and only until 1961—for the whole fishery, both the parts on dry land and the parts in the water, to be assessed together as an agricultural land heritage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 6, line 4, at end insert— ("(6) Where any such corporeal lands and heritages as are specified in subsection (4) of this section being lands and heritages occupied or used as so specified, are in any valuation roll in force at the commencement of this Act included in the valuation of the rights of salmon fishing in connection with which they are occupied or used, they shall, notwithstanding anything in this section, be so included in the valuation rolls for the year beginning on the sixteenth day of May nineteen hundred and fifty-nine and the next following year, and subsection (2) of this section shall for the purposes of those years have effect in relation to them as if they were rights of salmon fishing to which that subsection applies.").—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Inspection of minutes of certain authorities]:


My Lords, it might be convenient for the House to take Amendments No. 7, 8 and 9 together. The effect of these Amendments is to give local government electors a right of access to the minutes of any joint committee or joint board for two or more local authorities who are performing their functions regarding health, planning or welfare. The Amendments are designed to make sure that provisions which your Lordships passed when you approved Clause 15 of the Bill, which provided for access to minutes of committees, shall, so far as dealing with those functions, extend also to joint committees. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 17, leave out ("and").—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved—

Page 10, line 23, at end insert (" and (c) the proceedings of any joint committee or joint board established for the purpose of performing all or any of the functions of two or more local authorities under any of the Acts mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph,").—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 25, leave out ("authority") and insert (" local authority, or, in the case of a joint committee or joint board, the area of my of the local authorities represented on the joint committee or joint, board,").—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Fifth Schedule [Local government administration]:

LORD GREENHILL moved, after paragraph 7, to insert: 8. In section twenty-one of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1947 (which, relates to the making of proposals by local health authorities for the provision of certain services) the words ' provided that any new proposals submitted by a local health authority under this subsection may be general in character and detailed particulars relative thereto shall not be required but the authority shall if the Secretary of State so requires furnish him with such further particulars as he may specify ' shall be inserted at the end of subsection (4) thereof.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on July 1, when this matter was being debated on the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said that he could not accept the draft Amendment which the Corporation of Glasgow had handed to him for the reasons which he gave in the course of the debate on that day and which I do not think I need repeat. Glasgow has since reconsidered the Amendment then submitted, and very reasonably has now brought forward the present Amendment, which is a very mild Amendment, as can be seen from its wording. It asks not for the repeal of the whole of Section 21 but merely to give local authorities the power to state in general terms the proposals that they are under obligation to submit under Section 21 of the National Health Act, I947.

At that time I was unable to say that any city other than Glasgow was in favour of that proposal, mild as it was, but I have since learned that only last Friday, at a meeting of the Association of Counties of Cities the four cities agreed to support this particular Amendment on the ground that it would save a good deal of unnecessary detail which at the moment they have to provide. I hope, in the circumstances, that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, receptive as he has shown himself this afternoon, will raise no objection to this moderate and very mild Amendment. In the course of the discussion which took place at the Association of Counties of Cities meeting last Friday, it appeared that several authorities had been in the habit of giving their proposals to the Secretary of State in general terms and that the Secretary of State had apparently accepted these general statements instead of the details, whereas Glasgow, as one would expect, being very meticulous in its observance of any section which it is bound to observe, had gone into great detail. All we are asking is that since the Secretary of State no longer has any financial interest in the cost of these services, he will permit this very moderate and mild Amendment to be included in the Bill.

Amendment moved— After paragraph 7 insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Greenhill.)

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord has said, what this Amendment seeks to ensure is that new proposals by local health authorities for carrying out their duties may be in general terms. I would remind the House that Section 21 of the National Health (Scotland) Act, 1947, requires local health authorities to submit proposals for carrying out their duties. There is nothing in the Act which sets out the amount of detail in which these proposals must be submitted. If I remember aright, what was objected to on the previous occasion was the amount of notice which had to be given to voluntary organisations and other bodies. Of course, that does not appear now in the noble Lord's Amendment.

I should tell your Lordships that it has been the practice of the Secretary of State under the existing statutory provisions to require no more detail than is necessary for his purpose, and I can assure the House that this practice will be continued. I think the noble Lord realises that there is no question of the abandonment by the Secretary of State of his power to ensure that local health authorities carry out their statutory functions. That has been done in the past and will be done in the future in partnership. The question is whether the existing provisions provide the best arrangements under which this partnership can operate. We think that they do.

So far as I can see, after studying the Amendment, it might well have the opposite effect from that which is intended. It might suggest to local health authorities that their proposals need be in the most general terms. Of course, there is a limit beyond which the Secretary of State could not possibly go. He must have a clear idea of what authorities intend to do; and if the proposals were over-generalised he would have to ask for further submissions in more detail. Obviously, that would lead to duplication; and for that reason I cannot advise your Lordships to accept the Amendment. While saying that, I wish to make abundantly clear that the Department of Health for Scotland are always anxious to consider any proposals which simplify procedure or make the operation more streamlined than it is.


My Lords, while I thank the noble Lord for the partial concession that he has made, I should like to think that nothing will be placed in the way of the giving by local authorities of general details rather than the particular and special details which apparently Glasgow has had to give. At the same time, I accept what the noble Lord has said as an assurance that the meticulous details which it has been the practice of Glasgow to provide will no longer be demanded and that a reasonable attitude will be adopted towards a fairly general statement of the proposals which local authorities have to make. While I should prefer that the whole of Clause 21, with the exception of subsection (5), to which my noble friend Lord Silkin so adequately referred on the previous occasion, should be omitted, I am prepared to accept this modified concession that the noble Lord has made. I hope that in future local authorities will be able to provide this information without undue detail.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. I would say to him once more that I think the complaint is not really against the detail, as he calls it, which the Secretary of State requires but against other procedures, as he indicated on the previous occasion. I assure him that there is a great relaxation in the information called for at the present time.


My Lords, with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sixth Schedule [Repeals]:


My Lords, this Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 32, line 24, at end insert

("19 & 20 Geo. 5. c. 25. The Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929. In section forty-six, in subsection (2), paragraph (a).")

(Viscount Colville of Culross.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.