HL Deb 17 November 1959 vol 219 cc603-4

2.59 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they recognise that the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Acts of 1862 and 1868 are not working satisfactorily, and whether they are prepared to celebrate the centenary of the older of these Acts by repealing it and substituting something more applicable to the twentieth century.]


My Lords, the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Acts of 1862 and 1868 have, on the whole, stood the test of time. Your Lordships will be aware that the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act, 1951, introduced new provisions for the protection of the salmon fisheries, which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, are working reasonably well. Since then the operation of the close time provisions of the Act have been investigated, and my right honourable friend hopes in due course to announce his conclusions on the report of the investigations, which was laid before Parliament in July.

In the meantime, the Government are considering whether there is a case for examining the present law in the light of modern conditions by means of a general review of the Scottish Salmon Acts, in which the views of all the interests concerned could be taken into account.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the last part of his answer, at least, and to ask him, in particular, whether the Government are satisfied with the provision of these Acts whereby the Chairman of the Fishing Board is automatically the biggest ratepayer on the river.


My Lords, that is a question which I think would properly be taken into account in any general review, if that were held.


My Lords, may I ask a further question? What is the nature of this review? Is it to be by a departmental committee, and will it be possible for witnesses to be heard?


My Lords, the matter is a contentious one, and I think that it should be an entirely independent review.


My Lords, as the Government are aware, under the Act of 1951 the number of fish caught by those owning netting rights cannot be disclosed. I would ask the noble Lord this supplementary question. When considering the matter, as they say they will, could the Government consider amending the Acts so as to require this information to be disclosed, since without this information it is not possible to determine the cause of the diminution of fish in the rivers?


My Lords, as I think the noble Lord realises, the position is that my right honourable friend is precluded, in the terms of the 1951 Act, from publishing statistics (and I quote): in such form as to disclose the actual numbers of salmon caught in any one fishery within the period of ten years preceding such publication". That was enacted in 1951. I think that it would be proper, if my right honourable friend decided that a review should be held, to consider this matter, but I do not think that I could commit those who would be making the review on what the final view of the Government should be.