HL Deb 14 March 1977 vol 380 cc1259-60

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 in view of widespread and repeated protests against the granting of a licence to import 20,000 Coho salmon ova from the Pacific coast of North America to the West of Scotland with possible danger to stocks of Salmo Salar in British rivers, this licence will be reviewed forthwith not only with regard to the danger of disease but also on ecological grounds.


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be reviewing the granting of this licence on disease grounds when he has fully considered the views of those who have been consulted. As I explained in my Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, on 22nd February, the licence was granted in terms of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937. That Act relates only to the prevention of the spreading of disease among salmon and freshwater fish. While I appreciate the noble Lord's anxieties from an ecological standpoint, there is no statutory basis for reviewing the licence on those grounds. My right honourable friend is, however, looking further at the statutory provisions.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for that reply, which I take to be encouraging. Will he bear in mind that, arising out of it, there is a tremendous weight of responsible opinion who regard this experiment as a very real risk? Surely our own Salmo Salar is such a precious asset that we are not entitled to take a risk at all.


My Lords, I should stress to your Lordships' House that only a provisional licence has been granted. The fish are disease-free and under very strict conditions of quarantine.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of, and will he bear in mind, the dangers which have arisen from introducing foreign species into other countries; for instance, the introduction of the rabbit into Australia, the rat into New Zealand and the terrible depridations which the mink has made in this country? Another example is the grey squirrel. Will the noble Lord impress on his colleagues the dangers that could arise from the introduction of a voracious feeder such as the Coho salmon into the Scottish waters?


My Lords, no firm conclusion has been reached in this regard, but my right honourable friend's scientific advisers are giving active consideration to the Coho salmon in its natural habitat at this moment.


My Lords, will the noble Lord make sure that no risks are run in this matter, for the following reasons: first, because of the great amount of legislation that exists to protect salmon in Scotland which would be undermined if there were real risk; and, secondly, because of the enormous amount that the salmon contribute to local government finance through ratings?


My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's concern. I can assure him that the quarantine premises are, as I have indicated, part of a research establishment, and all effluent is being chemically sterilised. In addition, my right honourable friend's scientific advisers are free to move in for examination at any time.

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