HL Deb 11 May 1965 vol 266 cc56-60

5.10 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Egremont.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Prohibition against using dynamite and noxious substances for destruction of fish]:

LORD EGREMONT moved, in the proposed new Section to replace Section 9 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act, 1923, to leave out all words after "No person shall … use" and to insert instead in or near any waters (including waters adjoining the coast of England and Wales and within the exclusive fishery limits of the British Islands) any explosive substance, any poison or other noxious substance, or any electrical device, with intent thereby to take or destroy fish: Provided that this subsection shall not apply to the use by a person of any substance or device—

  1. (a) for a scientific purpose, or for the purpose of protecting. improving or replacing stocks or fish; and
  2. (b) with the permission in writing of the appropriate authority;
and for this purpose the appropriate authority where the waters in question are in the area of a river authority is that river authority, or where they are in the area of the Conservators of the River Thames or the Lee Conservancy Catchment Board is the said Conservancy or Board as the case may be, or where they are in the London excluded area (within the meaning of section 125 of the Water Resources Act 1963) is the Minister; but as respects the use of any noxious substance such permission shall not be given by a river authority or the said Conservators or Board otherwise than with the approval of the Minister. (2) No person shall unlawfully or maliciously cut through, break down or otherwise destroy any dam, floodgate or sluice with intent thereby to take or destroy fish. (3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) of this section or who, for the purpose of contravening the said subsection (1), has in his possession any explosive or noxious substance or any electrical device, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—
  1. (a) on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding £50, or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction for an offence under this section to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding £100 or both;
  2. (b) on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both;
and section 74(3) of this Act (increased penalty on third or subsequent conviction) shall not apply for the punishment of a person on his conviction of an offence under this section.
(4) The court by which a person is convicted of an offence under this section may order the forfeiture of any fish in respect of which the offence was committed and any instrument or other thing used in the commission thereof, and may order it to be disposed of as the court thinks fit: Provided that the court shall not order the forfeiture of any vessel or vehicle except in the case of a person convicted on indictment. (5) The use of any substance in any waters for a purpose falling within paragraph a) of the proviso to subsection (1) of this section, and with the permission mentioned in paragraph (b) thereof, shall not constitute an offence under any of the following provisions, namely, section 8 of this Act, any byelaw made under section 59(1)(p) of this Act, section 2(1)(a) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1951 and section 22(1)(a) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951.").

The noble Lord said: I do not think I need detain your Lordships very long over this Amendment. Your Lordships will see that, while the Amendment alters the form of the present clause very substantially, the object of the clause remains very much unchanged. The basic explanation of this Amendment, and the way it has come about, is perfectly simple; and I will be perfectly frank with your Lordships about it. This Bill was initially run up with a "do-it-yourself kit", but has since been the subject of much careful consideration.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have given much help in its preparation, and, through the noble Lord, Lord Champion, we should like to thank them. Nevertheless, it has not been possible until now to have the benefit of the advice and experience of the Government's draftsmen. This advice we have now had, and I am grateful. The Amendment is the result of this advice. It is simply a tidying-up Amendment. I am sure the changes that the draftsmen have suggested greatly improve this Bill. All of us who have the objects of this Bill at heart should be most grateful for this help. All I have said applies equally, of course, to the further Amendments I shall be moving in Clause 2. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("use") to end of line 5 on page 3 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Egremont.)


I am glad to say that this Amendment has the full support of the Government. The Amendment involves, as has been said, very considerable rewriting of the clause. I agree with the noble Lord that a "do-it-yourself" kit is not always the best kit with which to approach a Bill, but occasionally one has to do it that way. But if, afterwards, it is possible to get Government draftsmen to help, it can be a tremendous advantage to a Bill going through Parliament. As the noble Lord has said, the Government's draftsmen have been able in this case to feel it right to give the sponsor of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, the benefits of their experience and advice.

The Amendment deals with a number of minor omissions and corrections, and though there are one or two changes of substance it does not alter the main part of the Bill; and fortunately, perhaps, for us and for the noble Lord, the Long Title of the Bill emerges unscathed, but not very much else.

There is only one matter to which I wish to refer; and it is rather a special point. This Amendment, together with the further Amendment which the noble Lord will move, to add the new subsection (3) to Clause 2, secures that the Bill will apply to the Border river known as the Border Esk, which flows partly in England and partly in Scotland, and also that the Cumberland River Authority will be responsible. This continues the present statutory position. It is a long-standing arrangement that the whole of the river is administered under the English fisheries law. It is provided in the Bill that poisons and other substances and devices mentioned in the Bill may be used, under proper authority, for scientific or other purposes. It is a corollary to this that immunity under the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Acts must be provided for this purpose. This is provided for in subsection (5) of the Amendment. In the case of the Scottish Esk the reference is to the Scottish Act of 1951.

I would now make my special point. The Scottish Department responsible have been quite willing to agree to this provision for immunity, provided that proper authority is given in each case; but they have asked that the Cumberland River Authority, before granting individual permission in a case relating to the Scottish Esk, should always consult the Solway River Purification Board. I am able to say—and this is very much the point of my intervention here—that the Cumberland River Authority will be fully prepared to fall in with this arrangement. As I said at the outset, the Government support this Amendment and hopes the Committee will adopt it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Citation]


This Amendment relates to the citation of the new Act, which is provided for in the normal manner. The form of citation proposed, however, while it had a certain old-fashioned charm, was rather cumbrous and not in the terms more usually adopted. The Amendment applies the more modern form. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 7, leave out ("1923 (Amendment) Act").—(Lord Egremont.)


I only wish to say that this Amendment has the full support of the Government.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

5.20 p.m.

LORD EGREMONT moved to add to the clause: (2) In section 67(1)(d) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1923, after "instrument" there shall be inserted "vessel, vehicle or other thing". (3) In section 126(1) of the Water Resources Act 1963, for "1935" there shall be substituted "1965". (4) In Schedule 1 to the Fishery Limits Act 1964, the entry relating to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1923 is hereby repealed. (5) This Act shall come into operation at the expiration of three months from the date of its passing.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment provides four short additional subsections to the present Clause 2 of the Bill. The most important addition, which is in subsection (5), is that relating to the date of coming into operation of the Act. The Bill makes no provision for this, and without this provision the Act would come into operation on Royal Assent. Obviously, this would not be suitable. Acts creating new offences regularly provide an interval between the Royal Assent and the date of coming into operation, in order that all concerned may have some period of notice. The Amendment provides that the Act ought to come into operation three months from the date of its passing. I think it is important that the period of notice should be as short as possible, but this is the normal minimum period.

Subsection (2) of the Amendment provides the powers of seizure which match with the provision relating to forfeiture in Clause 1 of the Bill. Under the Bill there will be power for the court to order forfeiture of fish, equipment, poisons and also, when there is conviction on indictment, of boats or vehicles. The Amendment secures, by a change in Section 67 of the principal Act, that the powers of seizure by water bailiffs match with this provision. Subsection (3) of the Amendment has a rather specialised scope, limited to a Scottish river to which the noble Lord has just referred. Subsection (4) of the Amendment is consequential on the Amendment to Clause 1 which alters the fishery limits to the exclusive fishery limits of the British Isles. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 10, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Egremont.)


This Amendment, too, has the support of the Government. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, for the way in which he has introduced this rather close legal argument and the Amendment itself.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with Amendments.