HL Deb 30 March 1976 vol 369 cc1027-47

Second Reading debate resumed.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, having made four, five or even six false starts, I should like to direct your Lordships' attention back to the subject of fishing. First, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, because owing to the fact that I missed my train I am afraid I did not hear his opening speech. I shall of course read it with interest.

I have an interest to declare, in that I am the proprietor of salmon and sea trout fishing and also brown trout fishing, but the latter are rather conspicuous by their absence. Therefore I welcome this Bill in relation to brown trout. The law in Scotland on brown trout has always been a mystery to me, because as I interpret it, any member of the public can fish for brown trout on a proprietor's waters but in order to do that he in fact commits a trespass by crossing one's land. Although no landowner ever prosecutes an angler for trespass, because he would have to prove damage, in fact if the angler had to abide within the law it seems to me that he would have to acquire a helicopter and a rubber dinghy, fly over your loch, drop the dinghy in the water and fish from there. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to regulate the law in Scotland regarding brown trout fishing.

In one respect brown trout fishing has encouraged a great deal of poaching, especially with sea trout. One has people fishing for brown trout on the river or the loch but with the same tackle they can catch sea trout, and also salmon if they use the right lure. From that angle I welcome the Bill with regard to regulation of the law in Scotland in relation to brown trout fishing.

I should also like to relate the experience in New Zealand, which adds weight to the Bill. As your Lordships know, New Zealand has a very small population: I believe it is barely 2 million, in a geographical area the size of the British Isles. In that country anyone was able to fish anywhere but eventually the Government had to introduce a system of permits because there was soon a scarcity of fish. To a similar extent I think this applies to Scotland in regard to brown trout.

I should now like to turn to Clause 1 of the Bill. I am worried about subsection (3)(b) with reference to making a protection order, where it says that the Secretary of State, has consulted a body which in his opinion is representative of persons wishing to fish for freshwater fish in inland waters in Scotland… We do not know how the Secretary of State will set up this consultative body, but in my opinion the majority of members on such a body should be representatives of angling clubs with long leases and riparian owners—in other words, people who are responsible for stocking and managing fishings. This clause seems to me to be rather overloaded in favour of people who only want to fish, whether for a day or a week.

The other paragraph of Clause 1 to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister is paragraph (g) of subsection (5). If the Secretary of State issues too many day tickets or weekly tickets there will be a danger of over-fishing. I have mentioned the experience in New Zealand. I hope that this will not occur here, because we should then be going from the frying pan into the fire. Another paragraph in subsection (5) to which I should like to refer is paragraph (b), concerning the permitted methods of fishing or tackle. Subsection (5) says that: …the Secretary of State may have regard to the circumstances in which fishing is made available in any waters other than those to which the proposals relate… Here again, would it not be better if the riparian owner or lessee angling club concerned laid down what method of fishing he required? Surely, the angling club which has a long lease of the fishings, or the proprietor, should have the first word—and indeed the last word—in deciding what type of fishing the anglers are to be engaged in, whether by spoon or minnow, or by the fly, or even by worms.

Another point concerns the powers of the wardens. In many of these cases the wardens, who will come under this Bill, and the water bailiffs, who come under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act 1951, will surely be one and the same person, because where there are brown trout in salmon waters it seems rather an unnecessary expense to have a water bailiff as well as a warden for the brown trout fishing. However, the wardens for brown trout fishing would appear not to have sufficient power. They certainly do not have the same power as the water bailiffs under the 1951 Act, but I see no reason why they should not be given the same power. If they had that power it would obviate the employment of two people on a water, by the water bailiff having powers over the brown trout fishing.

A further point concerns Schedule 2 on page 11, where it refers to Section 23 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868, dealing with penalties. I am not sure whether this point has yet been raised. It says: Failing to remove boats, nets, etc., in close season". I should like to know what the "et cetera" covers, because all sorts of gear, such as wooden tripods for drying nets, are really permanent fixtures. You might have a shed and various other permanent fixtures. Surely it is not necessary to remove these every close season. I quite agree that the boats and the nets ought to be removed, but I cannot see that the fixed equipment should be removed.

I do not want to say any more about the Bill, except to wish it a speedy passage through this House. I hope that when it becomes law it will bring joy to the hearts of many anglers. Of course, it is difficult for many tourists to get fishing when they come to Scotland because, as I said earlier, much of the brown trout fishing is fished out, and there are great numbers of lochs where there are now no fish at all. With the encouragement of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, I am sure that this will be rectified. One point which my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy made, and which I must make, regards salmon fishing and sea trout. If thousands of brown trout are poured into salmon rivers, they will not necessarily stay where they are poured in, where they are stocked. As my noble friend said, brown trout eat salmon spawn and also the larger brown trout will eat the fry or parr. This point must be borne in mind. With that reservation, I should like to give a welcome to the Bill.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, as this useful Bill arrives from another place it is certainly a better Bill than the original one proposed by Her Majesty's Government. My hope is that by the time the Bill leaves your Lordships' House it will be still better. I wish for a few moments in my brief remarks to concentrate on one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. To me the great blemish in the Bill is that when put into operation it may provoke a confrontation between not only trout fishermen and salmon fishermen, but nets-men and the salmon industry which, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, employs some 2,000 men in netting alone, and plays an important part in tourism for Scotland. The one thing we wish to avoid is such a confrontation.

The Bill does not mention salmon conservation. It limits its purpose to freshwater fish, and of course a salmon does not come within the definition of a freshwater fish. I have no objection at all to the limitation of protection as defined in the Bill, but I would ask the Minister to admit two facts on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. First, would he admit the national value to Scotland and to the whole of the United Kingdom of the conservation of salmon species? Secondly, would he admit to me that it is not possible to manage a river for the exclusive benefit of trout without harm to salmon conservation?

River management must cover all the fish in the river. As drafted, the Bill would allow a host of trout fishermen flogging a stretch of a river over the spawning beds of salmon. This is but one danger to salmon conservation and the interests of salmon, if we allow uncontrolled trout fishing in protection areas. There are other dangers to salmon conservation which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, mentioned: unless watched over serious damage to smolt stocks during the migration period; damage to stocks of parr on their feeding grounds in nursery areas of rivers; uncontrolled stocking of trout (which is allowed under the protection proposals) and particularly rainbow trout, in headwaters of rivers and in lochs, will mean competition with parr for the limited amount of food available. If rainbow trout are stocked into a loch which has an access to the sea, very soon the species will spread right through the river system, with tremendous harm to the conservation of salmon. We must remember that trout are predatory so far as salmon are concerned. So if we are to enjoy the greater trouting of the Bill, and still preserve salmon, fishing must be co-ordinated and not done in isolation.

During the proceedings in another place there were added to the Bill the words at the top of page 2. The subsection reads: The Secretary of State shall not make a protection order unless—… (b) he has consulted a body which in his opinion is representative of persons wishing to fish for freshwater fish in inland waters in Scotland; If the Government will consent to widen that to persons interested in management and conservation of fishing in Scotland, the Secretary of State will then have the benefit of the advice of those who know much about the conservation of salmon. In due course, I shall propose a simple Amendment to widen this subsection which was inserted in another place. My hope is that first the Government, and secondly your Lordships' House, will support that Amendment because, by doing so, a Bill which is too narrow in scope will become one of benefit to all the river fish and not only to selected trout. The nets, rods, the employment interests, and tourist interests, will be reassured that they are not forgotten when we pass legislation for trout.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support most strongly what my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye has just said. To omit consideration of the salmon in this whole business of the brown trout is to make a biological nonsense of the problem. What my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy has pointed out about the relative monetary value to the country of salmon as compared to trout must be given every consideration. I welcome the Bill, but wish it had gone further, and I take note of the assurance given by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, that there may be another Bill in what I hope will be the not too distant future.

The grounds—or should I say the waters—of this Bill have been so well covered by previous speakers that I am not going to say very much. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, seems to me to have a point in noting the omission from the Bill of an organisation to implement any scheme approved by the Secretary of State. Also I would most strongly support the noble Lord in his plea for the reinforcement of the freshwater fishings research station at Faskally. I have visited this establishment. It has tremendous potential and has knowledge which can be of the very greatest help to those concerned in the conservation of the fish stocks in the rivers of Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, spoke of the diseases of the fish. Work on these is going on, but it needs a little more encouragement than it is getting at the present time. It is going forward at the Government station at Torry in Aberdeen as well as at Faskally. Perhaps the most intriguing work is that being done at Stirling University at the department of aquatic pathobiology, which is being done without any Government grant whatsoever at the present time. It is working on these diseases of the salmon. The grant from Nuffield on which it is working and by which it is financed now comes to an end in a matter of about 18 months.

I would particularly commend Clause 7 of this Bill, which enables fish farmers to go about their business without fear of prosecution under laws designed for quite a different set of circumstances. It has been wisely and widely drawn and the drafting of subsection (4), which deals with the use of a boat, appears to me to be both ingenious and encouraging for those who have got themselves embarked on this adventure of increasing the nation's food resources.

There is, however, impending one development which eventually will require legislation. Last week at a symposium on fish farming conducted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the chairman, Lord Cameron—the Cameron of the Cameron Report of, I think, 1970—elicited that some cultivated salmon released down the loch had returned to their place of origin. The hazards of their journey across the Atlantic are considerable, not least of which is their capture by fishermen, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy said; their worst predators are the fishermen from Denmark. The proportion of salmon which returned is small, somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent., but when it is remembered that it is the feeding and the husbandry of the farmed salmon that is the costly part, it can be appreciated that such a relatively small percentage can be balanced by the release of more young stock, which is not so costly. With some degree of protection from netting in Scottish waters, the proportion of salmon returning might be very much greater. My Lords, can you get a better example from the text: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days"— with emphasis on "many".

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I also must declare an interest. I am not sure that I can rival the interests of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, but I have rights in three potential trout lochs, I let a small section of the upper Spey to a club, and I am a director of a commercial salmon fisheries company. Your Lordships will note that I said "potential" trout lochs. None of these lochs has good spawning, and they need money to be spent on them for restocking and also for improving the spawning areas. Neither myself nor my neighbours have been prepared to spend this money as the law stands at present, as these lochs have been so poached that they are now not worth fishing. Let me give a small example. There is a pond—one can scarcely call it a loch—which we stocked with 100 yearling trout, largely as an amusement for my 12-year-old son and some of his friends who are the sons of employees on the farm. These boys had enormous fun and came back with a two-pounder one day. However, one night last summer one of the poaching fraternity from Inverness took out 22 of these fish by spinning. A few nights later he came back with a friend and took out 28. How do I know this? The reason is that he talked too much in the pub, and my "information service" around Inverness is fairly good. In two nights they had taken out half the fish I had put in. Your Lordships will see, therefore, that there is no point in improving fishing in Scotland with the present law.

First, let me congratulate the Government on attempting legislation on this subject. It is a highly prickly problem, because a considerable number of people have been getting something for nothing up till now, something to which they were not entitled. "Free for all" soon means "nothing for anyone", as my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard illustrated by what has occurred in New Zealand. The Government, in attempting to improve things, failed to grasp the nettle securely, and I am afraid have got truly "prickled" as a result. Now we are left with a Bill which may be better than nothing but is sadly deficient and questionably operable. I found the proceedings in the other place made sad reading. Instead of trying to produce an Act which would have improved the fishing for everyone in Scotland, certain Members—mostly those who admitted that they knew nothing about fishing—tried to play politics with the Government's Bill. I would like at this juncture to give credit to the Liberals in the other place. The honourable Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles had been briefed by a very large number of fishermen in the Borders, and he was consistently constructive throughout the passage of the Bill, as indeed his noble friend Lord Thurso has been this afternoon. I hope that that constructive attitude for the general improvement of Scottish fisheries will prevail in your Lordships' House. I join with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy in hoping that we can help the Government to improve the Bill.

Possibly some of the hostility to the original Bill arose from the failure of the Government to understand that there are two types of angling club. There are the clubs, some of which own fishings but most of which rent them, who do their best to look after these fishings. It would be invidious to name any of them, but almost without exception their members and visitors get fishing at very reasonable rates, and I am sure most people interested in fishing would have no objection to representatives of these clubs being given a major say in the management of their catchment areas.

There are, however, angling clubs with no waters of their own, who tour around at the weekend, with the boots of the buses frequently loaded with alcohol on the outward journey. They descend upon waters which they have no right to fish, and they more often than not fish by illegal means, such as fixed lines with perhaps two or three rods per person, and through sheer weight of numbers and the inadequacy of the existing law make it impossible for action to be taken against them. They have ruined many excellent trout lochs and do nothing to improve or maintain the fishing in Scotland. There is, therefore, no grounds nor justification for allowing these clubs—perhaps one might called them "cormorants"—any say in the management of fishings in Scotland. I fear, however, that it was some of these people who influenced the Government at that infamous meeting at the Golden Lion which was held recently.

I should like to touch just briefly on some of the failures of the Bill. Perhaps the greatest danger—I hope a non-political one—is that trout and other freshwater fisheries are being treated separately from salmon and sea trout. There is a grave risk of a clash of interests, as several noble Lords have already said. If one is fishing for one species one will inevitably catch another. If one stocks the upper waters with trout, they will eat the salmon fry. Will fishery boards, where they exist—and remember, existing boards cover only a small proportion of the existing rivers—have over-riding control? I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, about Area Boards because I feel that this is important and could well be the answer to the problem. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy asked: Is the wording "significant" an improvement? This is worrying, as the existing well-managed fisheries are probably already at their capacity and it would seem wrong that they should not get the same protection in like manner as fisheries which are capable of improvement.

Then there is the problem of esturial fishing; and many of the good angling clubs to which I referred have their fishings at the mouths of rivers. I do not see why they should not get the same protection as fishermen upstream. Someone fishing for brown trout—and brown trout go into brackish water—is far more likely to catch a sea-trout, and it seems wrong to give the right of automatic free fishing in tidal waters. Some Members in another place expressed surprise that fishing for salmon in Scotland is already illegal on a Sunday. The position has now become such that it has been impossible to enforce this law, as those caught maintain that they are fishing for trout. On this aspect there is little doubt that trout fishing should be brought into line with salmon fishing; I see no reason why the water bailiffs and wardens should not have at least one day of respite.

Then we have the non-co-operative owner of fishing. In another place this was looked at from the point of view of rivers, but the position is even more significant in lochs with several owners. I have a particular interest in Loch Ness, where there are many owners, and unless there is some compulsion I feel that things will be very difficult. The Government have recently proposed legislation of a similar nature where they are permitting compulsion for recalcitrant crofters on common grazings, and there seems to be no real reason why the non-co-operative owner should benefit under this Bill.

A small but significant point was raised by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard; it was also raised in another place, but unfortunately received no action. I refer to the unsatisfactory state of Section 23 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868. This Act, now out of date, relates to failure to remove all gear from netting stations. I believe that in the other place it was said that this was not a suitable Bill in which to include this matter. I suggest that we should not increase the penalties under this provision because it does not seem right that while we should not be able to amend the measure we should be able to increase the penalties.

There is, then, the complication where trout fishing may vest in two or more owners on the same piece of water. There could be the riparian owner on each bank and the owner of the salmon fishings. Indeed, it is terrifying how complicated these matters can become. It would have been much easier if the Government could have seen their way to have brought brown trout and other freshwater fish into line on salmon fishing. Good protection exists in England and this seems to be a case where Scotland could take a leaf out of England's book.

Given proper protection, there is substantial—not even "significant"—room for improvement. Given this improvement, which would involve many new waters becoming available, there should be no fear of greatly enhanced charges for the right to fish, as this would be controlled by the law of supply and demand. There appears to be a risk of heavier pressure from illegal fishing on those waters which do not get a protection order. I hope that the Government will examine this because it could be very significant. I hope, however, that the Government will take firm action against those who have been spoiling Scottish fisheries by taking something for nothing, and will ensure that the conservationists have a controlling interest.

4.45 p.m.

Lord HOY

My Lords, I do not apologise for entering the debate at this rather late hour, having listened to every word of it, because for a long time I was connected with this particular problem. What surpries me is the number of people who always want action to be taken, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, quoted a White Paper which he said he produced in 1970—


It was in 1971, my Lords.

Lord HOY

My Lords, I was about to say that the noble Lord produced the White Paper in 1970 or 1971.


My Lord, lest anybody reading Hansard is misled, it was in November 1971.

Lord HOY

I said 1970 or 1971, my Lords. In any event, the White Paper having been produced, nothing flowed from it. I am not complaining about that, except that when a White Paper is produced, that is normally done for a purpose, but it was left to certain of my right honourable and honourable friends to do something about it, and we did. I am a little surprised when noble Lords opposite complain even about salmon fisheries. I remember the row we were in over salmon fisheries, but it was a Labour Government who made great changes in the rules applying to these fisheries. I am sure that there are noble Lords in the House this afternoon, including two former Secretaries of State for Scotland, who will remember that we changed the law for Scotland in this respect and allowed convictions to be made on the evidence of one witness. Up to that time it could not be done without two witnesses. I must say that I did not altogether support the changes that were being made, but that was done by the Government I supported and those matters comprised the two great debates which took place on this issue; the change in the law of Scotland and our attempt to find a definition for "legal poachers", which we found somewhat difficult to do. Thus, the record of this side of the House is much better on fishing legislation than that of any other Party.

I am rather disturbed when I listen, for example, to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, urging that we must bring in some other organisation—that we must have somebody to supervise this—and this request was reinforced by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. One of the great difficulties in life is that whenever we start to do something, it is thought that any Government—I am not here talking about a Government of any political complexion—must superimpose another organisation to get it done. I always feel that when that happens the job is not done as successfully as it might have been if it were done directly, and of course it is much more costly. I am the only noble Lord who is a non-riparian owner to take part in this debate; I think that every speaker so far has been a riparian owner. I therefore speak from the section who indulge in fishing.

I am simply saying that it is not good enough simply to come here and make the sort of complaints that have been made to a Government who have done more by way of legislation than any of their predecessors. Indeed, I resent it somewhat when I hear the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, say, "I want a personal assurance" as if he had some commanding height over every other noble Lord. If legislation is to be transacted, it must be transacted not only for this House but for the country, and we are here dealing with an industry, in my view a very valuable one. Despite what happened in another place, this Bill is a considerable improvement legislatively on anything we have achieved so far. If any noble Lord thinks differently I will gladly give way to him so that he can get up and say so.


My Lords, is the noble Lord comparing this with any other legislation put forward by this Government, or is he referring only to the sphere of freshwater fisheries?

Lord HOY

My Lords, I thought the noble Lord understood what we were discussing this afternoon. Is he not aware that we are discussing freshwater fisheries?


Of course I am, my Lords.

Lord HOY

Well, my Lords, that is the only point I am making. I am simply saying that no other Government have done as much as we have in this matter. I do not claim that we have gone as far as we might have gone, and certainly when I was responsible for it I should have liked to go much further, but Lord Campbell knows that there are limitations not only on what Ministers can do but in terms of the time that is available. All I want to say in conclusion is that, despite the limitations, this is a considerable step forward. There is no noble Lord here this afternoon who has wanted to sneak differently about the Bill. If they have a criticism, it is that they would have liked to take two steps forward rather than one, but if we have taken even one step forward with this very difficult problem, we have made great progress. I simply want to congratulate my noble friend Lord Kirkhill on introducing the Bill and on the fact that, at a time of great economic difficulty, the Government have found time to introduce this measure to improve something which can be a great tourist attraction in Scotland and which will give great pleasure to the people who reside in our country.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, may I remind the noble Lord that it was he and his Government who suggested the method of Area Boards? It was not I. I was merely suggesting that his original thought was better than his present one.

Lord HOY

My Lords, I would not dissent from that at all, but nor would I make up my mind this afternoon which suggestion is best. It can become very silly to stick to opinions formed 10 years ago. It may be that, after 10 years, we want to make a change. I should not like to think that the Liberal Party would lag behind me in this respect.


My Lords, before the noble Lord finally sits down, may I say to him that he said he had listened to the full debate? I listened to it and I thought that almost every speaker who got up congratulated the Government.

Lord HOY

My Lords, I do not want to continue the debate for too long, but I did not say that they did anything other than that. I said that the great trouble was that, having given congratulations for one step, they complained that a second step had not been taken.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hoy for his congratulations to the Government on taking this fist step. At the risk of some reiteration, may I simply say that we on this side of the House must emphasise that this is a first step? We do not consider the Bill as being full of perfection. Ideally, we should have wished to go somewhat further, but we are constrained by the schedule of the Parliamentary timetable on the one hand and, on the other hand, are conscious of the fact that, at a time of some economic crisis, it is a general view that there are more pressing matters which properly come before the Houses of Parliament.

I must, of course, thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for his generous welcome to the principle underlying the Bill and, indeed, for his emphasis—an emphasis which was also expressed by my noble friend Lord Hoy—on the beneficial aspects for tourism which are certainly, at least by implication, built into the Bill as it will become part of Statute. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, asked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, whether there must be a significant increase in access before protection may be given. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that encouragement is given not just to improve the quality of the sport but to make it more widely available. There were many complaints from the Government's supporters in another place that the Bill could be of greater benefit to landlords seeking protection than to anglers looking for more waters in which to fish. It was to ensure that this would not be the case that the provision, against which the complaint in question is directed, was inserted.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord so soon, but I feel that this is an important matter of interpretation. We entirely agree with the principle, but the expression, a significant increase in access to fishing", cannot apply to a person who already allows the entire public access to his waters all the time. He cannot increase the access any further.


My Lords, I accept the point which the noble Lord makes. It might, depending on the individual construction put upon this section, be seen as somewhat unfair. In fact, one might almost say that it outrages the laws of equity. But I have to assert that we are not engaged in an exchange of quids for quos here. There is a clear bias in the Bill in favour of more access for trout fishing. I cannot really add to that point at this stage.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, if no more access can be given than is already being given, can the noble Lord tell us what he intends? In other words, what will be the position if maximum access is already being given?


My Lords, the point I am attempting to make is that, where an almost total access is being given, the owner of such access stands, as against other future owners who may be offered protection, in a disadvantaged situation as he would see it. But that is not how we construct our interpretation of the Bill.


My Lords, surely the main purpose of the Bill is to have more fish for the angler to catch. Does that not override the desire to have more access?


My Lords, I believe that the main purpose of the Bill is to protect the brown trout, and, as a consequence of that protection, to increase its availability to a growing number of people who may wish to fish for brown trout.

I was also asked by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, whether some proprietors will receive protection without offering access. The point was made that they were not sure whether or not this would work essentially on a whole river basis. In reply, I say that we can be flexible and that we are prepared to consider large tributary systems or complexes of lochs, as I indicated in opening.

The noble Lords, Lord Campbell, Lord Balfour and Lord Balerno, whose general welcome to the Bill is, of course, appreciated, asked whether it would be wrong for a river to be stocked with trout in the part where salmon spawn and where small salmon fry live. I believe that a good measure of co-ordination will be needed. Certainly co-operation will be essential. There is no doubt about that. I am prepared to say that I appreciate the qualms raised in the minds of noble Lords by the picture which has been presented of the depredations on salmon fry by large numbers of rainbow and brown trout. Both those species were mentioned. Certainly, those trout might be introduced as an effect of the present Bill. That is admitted. However, we must take care not to attach too much importance to this.

Before I explain how my right honourable friend is empowered to deal with such a situation, I remind your Lordships that, in a great many cases, the riparian rights to the waters in question will belong to the same salmon proprietors who will be anxious not to endanger their much more valuable salmon stocks. However, even accepting that there may be cases where riparian owners with no salmon interests may be encouraged by the provisions of the Bill to attempt to develop their trout fishings—this is certainly what the Bill has in mind—I see no need for district salmon fishery boards and individual salmon proprietors to fear unduly for the safety of the salmon stocks. It is not only anglers who are entitled to object to the proposals for access submitted to my right honourable friend with a view to obtaining protection for trout waters; it is equally open to salmon proprietors and to the district boards to question such proposals. If no information is given in the original proposal as to plans for developing and restocking waters, those interested in the possibility of overstocking may ask my right honourable friend to require such information to be provided by the proposer. Then, if the facts warrant it, those interested can object to the restocking proposals, and their objections will be fully taken into account by my right honourable friend.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, also asked whether an angling club constitutes the public in terms of the Bill. The answer is, No. Its members, through the club, can occupy fishings. To qualify a club would have to offer permits to non-members. The noble Lord also asked whether the Government would continue their ban on drift netting in Scottish waters. I can reply that the Government intend to continue this ban under existing legislation. The present prohibition orders do not expire until 1983, as the noble Lord probably knows, and this will give the Government time to consider alternative primary legislation.

The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, suggested that there should be area boards to administer the Bill rather than leave it to the Scottish Office. I think that that was the phrase he used. This would have entailed the setting-up of the whole area board structure now, and this is one of our problems. We accept that this should be the ultimate objective, but I have been attempting to explain that there are obvious economic difficulties in proceeding to that point at the moment. In the view of the Government, the present measure is meant to meet a demand for more trout angling in the simplest possible way at this time. I am not able usefully to add to that at this stage.

The noble Viscount also asked whether funds would be available for advisory work by the freshwater fishery laboratory at Faskally. I should like it to be appreciated that the prime function of the Government's fishery laboratory is to research and to advise the Government. It is true that the scientists are able to give advice to private persons from time to time, but it would be wrong of them to allow this to encroach upon their prime function. The noble Viscount also posed a question as to the definition of reasonable terms and conditions, and asked whether these should be allowed to work against the good of the fishing, for example, by too much spinning, which I think he mentioned. It will be up to the proprietors to say which methods of fishing each will allow on his water. Protection orders do not lay down conditions of fishing. They only make it illegal to fish without permission.

The noble Viscount also asked whether there was anything in the Bill to control the activities of wardens: at least he used a phrase of that kind. I can tell him that wardens are given only minimal powers under the Bill. They are not authorised to do anything other than ask anglers for their permits, and they can seize tackle if, and only if, they suspect a contravention of the relevant protection order.

I appreciate the general welcome for the Bill given by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who posed a number of questions. He asked whether I thought that if the Secretary of State issued too many tickets this might result in overfishing. The position will be that landlords will say how many tickets they are prepared to issue. This will not be a question for the Secretary of State. The noble Viscount also asked what type of offence is covered in Schedule 2 in relation to Section 23 of the 1868 Act, concerning: Failing to remove boats, nets, etc. in close season. This point was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. The purpose of the provision is to impose a penalty for a first offence of £100, and a penalty for a second offence, and subsequent offence, of £200. Section 23 of the 1868 Act requires proprietors and occupiers of fisheries to remove all boats, nets, et cetera during the close season, to prevent these being used in fishing until the end of the close season.

At present a person who contravenes the provision is liable to forfeit the gear which he fails to remove, and for every day that he so neglects he is liable to a penalty of £10. The Bill substitutes penalties for for first and subsequent offences, and is in line with current policy of specifying, where possible, a specific penalty in relation to a specific offence, and not a daily rate of penalty in relation to a daily and recurring offence.

The noble Viscount, and the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, suggested that the consultative body should be made up of angling club representatives and those responsible for fishings. The purpose of the consultative body is to ensure that the Secretary of State is advised on the part of anglers—that is, those wishing to fish—as to the value of the proposals. Therefore, the consultative body should be composed of anglers. They could be individuals, or they might be representatives from clubs. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, asked for a definition on Clause 1(3)(b), raising the question of whether or not the Secretary of State should consult a body representative of the fishing position. I believe that I have dealt with this in my reply to the noble Viscount.


My Lords, the point I was trying to make was that I did not want to confine the consultative body to freshwater fish, but to cover those interested in fishing which would enlarge the whole scope and make inclusive all the fish in a river.


My Lords, at the moment we are of the view that it should be a question of individuals and those who are members of clubs, or perhaps representatives of clubs. But we could certainly look at this point. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, also asked whether the Government would admit the national value of conservation of salmon species. I would reply to him, Yes; the Government are constantly on guard to preserve salmon stocks, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree. But this Bill is a small first step to try to get only one thing; namely, more access to trout fishing. The noble Lord asserted that is is not possible to manage a river for trout only without damaging salmon interests. My view on this was contained in the point I made earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, when I responded to a similar question which he raised, and I do not think I can add to that at this stage.

With regard to the risk of rainbow trout entering from other rivers, there is no scientific evidence of any rainbow trout stocks in Britain having entered the river from the sea, and in only two rivers, in Derbyshire, have rainbow trout proved able to reproduce from season to season and become established. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, suggested that to admit salmon is to admit to a biological nonsense. I can only say that salmon already are fully protected, and I reiterate that all this Bill does is to provide some protection for brown trout in return for improved access to trout fishings.

The noble Lord, Lord Burton, asked whether estuarial fishing should have protection. I can reply to him that there is no private right to fish for brown trout in tidal waters. It is not the aim of this Bill to extend private fishing rights: just to give protection to existing rights is the aim of this Bill, in the hope that this will improve areas of access offered for trout fishing. Finally, the noble Lord also asked whether district salmon fishery boards will have overriding control. I would reply to that: No; these are concerned only with salmon. The Government accept there should ultimately be area boards to have overall control of all fishing, salmon and trout, but this must await legislative time. This is indeed the point I made earlier when I replied to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. My Lords, I commend this Bill to the House.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question on that? He said that fishery boards were concerned only with salmon, but at the present time they take out brown trout from the salmon spawning areas. How is this going to be reconciled? Because it could well be that someone is putting them in and the fishery board is coming round and taking them out.


My Lords, I myself, as an individual, have no personal knowledge of these rather esoteric fishing matters, and if the point which the noble Lord makes is one of considerable substance I can of course look at it at a later stage, in Committee, certainly.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would give way—and I am grateful to him for doing so—because I pointed out that fishery boards electrically stun predators, which include brown trout, but that then the brown trout, live, can be taken to another place for trout fishing. What is therefore needed is co-ordination, and there need not be a conflict. But I am sure that this is a point which we ought to go into at a later stage of the Bill, at the Committee stage or the Report stage.


Yes, my Lords. I emphasised to your Lordships earlier that the question of co-ordination will be very important, as indeed will be the question of co-operation between a number of proprietors. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, highlighted the possibility, indeed, that three different proprietors might well be involved in a particular stretch of water. Still the Government consider this Bill to be a major step forward—a first step, not a huge step, but a major step. The Government feel that they can take credit for taking the initiative in this instance—something which previous Administrations have baulked at. In those terms, and in the light of the remarks which I have just made, I commend this Bill to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.