§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of the Sea Fisheries (Compensation) (Scotland) Bill. As your Lordships will perceive, it is a very short Bill and accordingly needs only a brief explanation. Its purpose is to right an injustice of long standing. For a good many years it has been apparent to us that we have to conserve our sea fishery resources and, to that end, various laws have been enacted, of which two of the principal ones are referred to in Clause 1 of this Bill.
As the law now stands, if a prosecution is levied against the master of a vessel, his gear is impounded as an exhibit in the case. If no conviction follows, the gear is returned to him, and if it has deteriorated in the meantime, he can claim compensation for that deterioration. This applies to the master of a ship like a deep-sea trawler but, by some extraordinary omission, it does not apply to small vessels that fish with seine nets. The omission was not on purpose; it was merely an oversight—and it is to put right that wrong that I present this Bill to your Lordships to-day.
I will be perfectly frank with your Lordships. Very few people will be actually affected by this Bill—only nine would have been affected in the year 1951 and only perhaps two or three in each of the intervening years. But though the number may not be impressive, the hardship that falls on the men in this case is very great. Men who are operating small vessels, with a very short purse, cannot stand any very high expenses. If, at the moment, the master of a seine-net vessel is brought to prosecution, without conviction, and his gear is impounded, his nets will almost certainly not deteriorate. But the ropes (or warps, as they call them), which are nearly two miles long, will inevitably deteriorate, saddling him with a 393 grievous expenditure arising out of the case in which he has been acquitted. Because more and more people are now taking part in the seine-net fishing industry, I feel that this unjust and long-standing anomaly should be righted and I would ask your Lordships' House to give this Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Tweedsmuir.)
§ LORD MATHERS
My Lords, on behalf of the noble Lords who sit on these Benches I should like to raise my voice in support of this small Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, who has introduced it, has made the position quite clear and I need not enlarge upon it. It seems to me that although this is a small Bill, covering only a comparatively small number of people, that is no reason for leaving this anomaly, this injustice, unremedied, and I have the greatest possible pleasure in associating myself with the Bill and in asking for it an unopposed progress to the Statute Book.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I, too, should like to rise for just one moment to support the Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir has brought in. For a number of years, I was closely connected with a fishing community on the East Coast of Scotland. and I am sure that the passage of this Bill will give great pleasure to the people involved. Therefore I should like to encourage its progress to the Statute Book as fast as I can.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything to the very clear explanation of the Bill which has been given by my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland would be glad to see the removal of the small anomaly with which the 13111 deals, and which was raised not long ago in another place by a noble Lady with whom the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, is acquainted. The Government are glad to support the Bill.
§ On Question. Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.