HL Deb 28 January 1986 vol 470 cc545-57

3.3 p.m.

Viscount Davidson

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Davidson.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Salmon fishery districts]:

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 24, leave out from ("After") to ("as") and insert ("consulting such persons").

The noble Lord said: I did not propose to speak for very long on this, but I think that I had better expand quite a bit, as far as I possibly can, while the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate is here, as are a few other people who no doubt could say a word or two about salmon.

I hope that we are sending out some people to look for the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, who is in charge of the Bill. It may well be that he has gone up to Scotland, because I gather that we are going to have a Statement later on about (what is it?) paying for local government—a Green Paper. And that Green Paper includes Scotland as well as England and Wales, strangely enough. Indeed, it is so important that they put off a committee of the House of Commons that was due to meet this afternoon to allow the junior Minister to go away up to Scotland to deal with a press conference. I am fascinated as to who is going to deal with that in this Chamber. Of course it may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, has gone away up to bring him back and to take over that important thing himself. This is the Burns season, or it is just over, and he may well still be recovering from toasting the immortal memory of Robbie Burns.

If I come eventually to the first amendment, it is a helpful amendment (as all my amendments usually are) and such are the complexities of Clause 1 that I was tempted to put down about six amendments, leaving out each single piece, one after the other, to allow the Government to explain to us simple people exactly what the whole thing means. He comes! I see that the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, is now here. Now we can get down to the amendment.

The amendment is as follows: Page 2, line 24, leave out from ("After") to ("as") and insert ("consulting such persons"). At the moment it reads: After such consultation as he thinks fit, the Secretary of State may … I suggest that it would be far better put: "After consulting such persons as he considers appropriate, the Secretary of State may". It is purely drafting, but it is in the interests of uniformity, as noble Lords will see if they will cast their eyes on to the next page and to lines 35 and 36, which read: The Secretary of State shall have power, after consulting such persons as he considers appropriate, to make regulations".

Why the change in the formula? There is no real point in it. So, being helpful to the Government, I thought that we should make it the same. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, has been having long consultations with his officials, whoever they may be, about the merits of this particular amendment, and I am sure that he has come to the conclusion that the Government should accept it. I beg to move.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Gray of Contin)

I am not convinced that the proposed amendment will have any practical effect. The clause as it stands will enable my right honourable friend to consult as widely or as narrowly as he sees fit in any particular case. However, I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has said, and since he is so anxious to be of help to the Government and since I am always willing to reciprocate in such actions of goodwill, I am prepared to accept his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I must give fulsome thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, for that. There must be something wrong with it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Burton

I have to rise to lodge an objection to this. This has caused some confusion, I gather, to my noble friends; but it does tie up with Amendment No. 1B. What I have put down is the suggestion that Clause 1 and Clause 2 should be deleted and replaced.

Amendment No. 1B, on Clause 2, reads:

Page 3, line 1, leave out subsections (2) to (7) and insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State shall have power not later than three years after this Act has come into force and after consulting such persons as he considers appropriate to review and make regulations with regard to the formation and constitution of salmon fishery districts to cover the whole of Scotland.").

I know there is a good deal of concern in Scotland that Clauses 1 and 2 are not really capable of being re-drafted or amended, and in many ways they are rather deficient. The Bill as drafted, particularly in these clauses, leaves large areas of Scotland not covered by salmon boards or districts, and the Hunter Committee, quite rightly, laid down as one of its keystones that the whole of Scotland should be covered. Even if some of us feel that the boards proposed by Lord Hunter were rather inadequate in number—we think there should be a few more—the current establishment means that the bigger and more productive areas such as the Tweed, the Tay, the Dee, the Don, the Spey and so on, can support comparatively efficient fishery protection. The smaller rivers, however, cannot do so and even large catchment areas such as the Ness district board are not efficient owing to the lack of finance in comparison to the area covered. Even the river Beauly which flows into the same firth as the river Ness has no board at all and they are benefiting from the Ness board and from other boards further down. It is really quite wrong that they should not have protection or be properly covered.

If one looks at the West Coast and the islands, there are few boards there to be found at all. It is fundamental to good fishery protection that all salmon rivers must be covered, and covered efficiently. No doubt my noble friend will reply that the Bill gives powers for amalgamation and for improvement of the present unsatisfactory position; but he will be merely perpetuating the situation where those who are fortunate enough to have efficient boards will want to retain them, and, with the proposed membership of the new districts, very few of the neighbouring rivers will want to join forces as this would deplete the membership of the river currently covered or else it would mean that the new neighbour joining would have no representation.

My amendment is intended to leave the current position in existence for up to three years, during which time an attempt can be made, it is hoped with general agreement, to reorganise fishery control in Scotland, possibly leaving some areas as they are but establishing others where currently they are either ineffective or do not exist at all.

I hope that the Government will agree to this but, if not, I must pose the following questions to my noble friend. Does he approve of and wish to perpetuate the situation where substantial salmon fisheries have no governing or controlling body of their own? Secondly, does he not consider it necessary for those fisheries which have no fishery board or fishery district to have one? Does he not consider it necessary? If he does not, why is it necessary to have them in the other areas? It is clearly necessary that the whole of Scotland should be covered.

Thirdly, as the establishment of good fishery control depends upon finance, does he approve of the current system whereby a very large proportion of the revenue from salmon fishing is siphoned off for public expenditure in the form of rates, thereby removing the money from conservation? I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am in some difficulty over this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, had indicated that he wished to oppose the Question that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill. In moving his Amendment No. 1B, is he still wishing to oppose Clause 1 standing part of the Bill? If he is, I really feel I must reply to him setting out just why I think he is not following the best course by pursuing this matter and why I think that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. Would my noble friend clarify the position for me?

Lord Burton

The position is that if my proposal were adopted that the Secretary of State should be given three years in which to set up boards for the whole area, then both Clauses 1 and 2 would not really be relevant.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to my noble friend. In that case, I must confess to being disappointed, to say the least of it, at the attitude which he has taken. As I said in both my speeches on Second Reading, I am aware that the Bill does not do everything about salmon. I make no real apology for this. As I have explained, parliamentary time is a very scarce commodity and I have been under pressure for a number of years to substitute action for words as regards salmon legislation affecting Scotland. From this we concluded that the most practicable course was to produce a Bill which concentrated on the main issues, and I think that the general reception in the Chamber and outside has confirmed that this approach has been welcomed. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Burton was the only Member of the House to speak who wholly condemned the Bill then; and I think that the response from others is indicative that it really has been welcomed substantially by most people.

All of this progress which we are making and hope to make would be put at real risk, and more, if Clause 1 and Schedule 1 were not approved. The clause defines fisheries districts, provides for amalgamations, and so on, and is at the very heart of the salmon management structure in Scotland. Without the clause we would lose the advantages of the new, more flexible approach in relation to districts and their amalgamation and would have to fall back on the existing 19th century arrangements which, effective though they have been, are undoubtedly inflexible and some way from being adequate for changing circumstances.

I do not think that I am exaggerating the significance of Clause 1 in relation to the rest of the Bill. From this clause we move to the district boards themselves, and the drafting of the relevant provisions flows deliberately from the approach adopted in Clause 1. One could not therefore simply delete Clause 1 and expect the rest of Part I of the Bill to stand up.

My remarks about a need for Clause 1 apply to the schedule inasmuch as the schedule provides the administrative mechanism for the clause, and both stand or fall together. The idea of the Bill being taken away and worked on, further consultations being carried out and the end result being brought back to your Lordships' House next year is, to my mind, simply not a starter in practical terms. As your Lordships will know, consultation and documentation on Scottish salmon fisheries has not been lacking over the years, and I am quite sure that if we were to start on another round there would be yet a further passage of years with of course no guarantee that overall consensus would be reached on what was required, far less an assurance that there would indeed be parliamentary time for the end product. We would, in short, have lost the momentum developed over the past few months.

I hope that my regret at such a loss of momentum would be shared generally, and, for this reason, I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, will see fit to withdraw his objection to Clause 1 and Schedule 1 standing part of the Bill. Failing that, I must ask the Committee to support the Question.

I would finish my remarks at that point, and perhaps when we come to the next amendments, when I understand we are likely to discuss Amendments Nos. 1A and 1B together, I will then try to answer the points raised by the noble Lord.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not entirely agree with everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Burton; but I must say that this clause is a very, very difficult one to understand. One of the difficulties is that people expected and thought that the changes in relation to the salmon industry and all the aspects of fishing merited a complete new organisation for the management of fishing (and we are still building up on the 1860 Acts and so on). This is not quite good enough. It leads us into all sorts of difficulties in trying to read and understand this matter.

What I was hoping to get for the benefit of the Committee was a simple explanation of Clause 1 telling us exactly how to work out this business. For instance, it reads: A salmon fishery district shall be the area", and so on. It continues: but excluding any area designated as a salmon fishery district by an order". Then you read this designation of an area as an order; you come to subsection (3), with not just salmon fishery districts but districts. There is this jumping from the word "districts" to "salmon fishery districts". So there is a lack of clarity in the whole of what the Government are proceeding to do. You will have a salmon fishery district, but within that salmon fishery district you will have the designated salmon fishery district. I do not know what it all means.

Then you come to the district within the meaning of the 1862 to 1868 Acts which shall cease to exist and so on, which could have been better done. All I ask for is an explanation of what the Government are doing and saying in Clause 1. It might have been better if I suggested leaving out subsection (1), subsection (2) and the rest of it. The noble Lord suggests that everyone is going overboard about this Bill, but outside there will be very considerable disappointment that his Government of 1970, having waited so long, produced a White Paper as to what they were going to do in 1971, yet there is nothing like it in this Bill.

The question is still begged whether this management structure which they hope to build up will cover the whole of Scotland as the noble Lord wants. It will depend entirely on the Secretary of State, and to a certain extent on certain individuals with an interest as to whether they can invite the Secretary of State to produce an order. It is not a very satisfactory way of dealing with an industry that is of such importance to Scotland and has been of growing importance, certainly with little relation in its present state, to 1862 and what was thought fit then, and the tinkering that is going on with the district boards which we shall talk about when we come to them. But I should like an explanation of the whole matter.

The Earl of Perth

I very well understand the request of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. I too should like to try and understand a little more of the meaning. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, said you get the rivers Beauly and the Ness which are not in any board or district at the present time, as I understand it. Is it open to them to apply to the Secretary of State and say, "We want to be included"? Is it open to some smaller area of salmon fishing, a small river, a small loch, which wants to have the protection and to be a part of all this, to ask? If so, who asks?

Viscount Thurso

I think that I should be a little kinder to the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, over his Bill than he was to me over my Bill. I must say at this point that I think I understand what he is doing. I think I can see why he is doing it. I do not entirely applaud what he is doing, because I would rather he was doing what I tried to do before. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, suggests that the modernisation of salmon districts should be compulsory. I suggested a form of halfway measure in my Bill; that there should be a moment of compulsion but that the actual weddings between rivers should take place by mutual attraction. In this Bill the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, is suggesting that there should be no compulsion, but that a situation should be created where rivers can get together to their mutual advantage, should seek to form themselves into viable boards and from there should create structures which are able to administer salmon fisheries in Scotland.

I certainly would be prepared to try and make the method of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, work. I do not think that a compulsory method will work unless somebody is prepared to put up some money, and this is the missing magic ingredient. At Second Reading, I drew this to the attention of the noble Lord. Lord Gray. I suggested to him that he might go and seek some money from the EC. He did not seem to think that his was a likely source of funds for him, but without money being made available in some shape or form the idea of compulsory district boards, particularly for some of the smaller rivers, would just not be feasible, would be very unfair or would produce unworkable boards which had little or no meaning. I think there is a danger that this solution may fall between two stools but it certainly will leave us with a situation which would be easier to adjust at a later date if amalgamations, and so forth, had been made possible with legislation.

It may be a little easier to take another bite at this cherry, but unless money is to be available I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and hope for a compulsory formation of district boards in areas where there is none at present.

Lord Stodart of Leaston

I am one of those people who have had no experience at all of fishing salmon. The last occasion which I recall answering a question about salmon fisheries was 22 years ago, when in response, I think, to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, I said that the Government of the day were giving the most urgent consideration to the Hunter Report. It has taken a certain amount of time for that consideration to mature. All I would say, as one who has admitted that he knows absolutely nothing about it, is that I suspect that one would be told that Lord Burton's amendment is defective in its drafting. I expect that that may well be so, but I profoundly wish that Clause 1 as it stands was as lucid as Lord Burton's, and I beg my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin, with his usual lucidity, to tell us exactly what it means.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to clarify Clause 1 for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. I equally hope—because my reading of these clauses is that they will not solve the problem of management—that they will enable the river and the district boards to improve on the present situation a good deal. In a year or two's time after experience we may be able to improve on that and I hope my noble friend will not press his Motion on this clause. I hope equally the Minister will help the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, to understand it.

The Earl of Onslow

While we are discussing this clause, perhaps we may bear in mind one extremely important fact. The catch of Atlantic salmon has fallen from 10,000 tonnes about 12 years ago to 5,000 odd tonnes now. That is a pretty catastrophic fall, considering that the catch at the turn of the century was much larger. Surely therefore we should regard the necessity of creating river boards in Scotland for the small rivers almost solely under those criteria. Salmon is such a vitally important part not only of the glories of nature, but also of the economy of Scotland and, to a lesser extent, of the tourism in some of the more underprivileged parts of England and Wales. We should look at the whole of this Bill under those lights.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, for what he has said, and also to my noble friend Lord Home for his comments at this stage. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that certainly I had no intention to do other than praise him and his Bill at Second Reading. It was perhaps when he went a little beyond Second Reading that we were not thinking quite along the same lines. But I am grateful to him for his support of this clause at this stage. However, I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, that despite his criticism of this clause there was only one amendment tabled to it and we accepted that amendment. So I should have thought that the clause was now, with the aid of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, in a perfectly acceptable state.

I should also like to give some further explanation for the benefit of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who has asked me about the question of amalgamation with which I shall deal in explaining this clause in rather more detail. Clause 1 defines salmon fishery districts which are based on the existing districts within the meaning of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Acts 1862 to 1868. Scotland is already divided into 108 salmon fishery districts, about half of which have boards in place. The districts are described by reference to points on the coast and by reference to the main river or rivers flowing into the sea between those points. However, minor rivers which also flow into the sea between those points are not statutorily within the district, with the result that, for example, regulations applying to the main river or rivers may not apply to the minor rivers which flow into the sea between the coastal limits of the district.

The difficulties which we have tried to overcome in this legislation were highlighted by my noble friend Lord Stodart of Leaston, when he recalled for the benefit of your Lordships that some 20 years ago he answered a question by saying that the Government were carefully studying the situation and hoping to take some action soon. This action which we are taking is long overdue and I hope that it will be acceptable to your Lordships.

Subsection (2) will enable the Secretary of State to designate any area of Scotland as a salmon fishery district in accordance with Clause 2 and with the procedures set out in Schedule 1. Any new district so designated may include all or part of a district established by subsection (1), or by an earlier designation order made after the commencement date. Subsection (3) provides that on commencement existing districts which do not include minor rivers shall cease to exist and that references to a district in earlier legislation shall be construed as a reference to the salmon fishery district established by subsection (1).

Subsection (4) enables the Secretary of State, by means of an order made by statutory instrument not subject to parliamentary procedure, to effect minor changes to the boundaries of salmon fishery districts where it is not clear, or becomes unclear, whether a particular location is within a certain salmon fishery district, or where a reference describing a salmon fishery district has lessened in suitability or has ceased to be relevant.

Subsection (5) provides that the River Tweed shall not be a salmon fishery district, except as otherwise provided for particular purposes. This means, for example, that the River Tweed cannot be amalgamated with any other salmon fishery district, nor can the boundaries of its district be changed. Subsection (6) maintains the present position that in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act 1951, and in any enactment amended by that Act, references to district shall include the River Tweed. This is necessary in view of the provision in subsection (5), which would otherwise cast doubt on the status of the River Tweed in existing legislation.

Perhaps I may remind the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the whole of the measures that we are taking here are based on the voluntary principle. To deviate from that and to create an element of compulsion, without at the same time, as the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has rightly pointed out, providing the wherewithal in terms of financial support, would in our view be a mistake. I hope that I have been able to help by explaining some of those provisions which are contained in Clause 1, and that your Lordships might now consider including Clause 1 as part of the Bill.

Lord Burton

I should like to thank all your Lordships who have spoken and have made comments on this amendment. I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, who confirmed my concern for this clause and for the next one. Indeed, I think that most of your Lordships who have spoken expressed some degree of apprehension about this clause. I only wish that I had the same confidence in these clauses as has my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel. I fear that little or no improvement will follow from these two clauses and from reorganisation and that we will remain with the current unsatisfactory state of affairs. I am quite certain that large areas will remain uncovered even after this legislation.

The noble Earl said that there is no board on the Ness. There is a board on the Ness and it covers most of the estuary, whereas the Beauly has no board and flows into the same estuary but pays nothing towards its conservation. Under this legislation, they certainly will not set up a board on that river either. However, the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, are the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is money, and unless we have money we shall never have satisfactory conservation of our salmon stocks in Scotland. I agree that my drafting is probably wrong, but if the Secretary of State and his advisers are unable to get this right—and a number of us are not happy that it is right—how are we to get it right? But I am happy to withdraw my objections to the clause.

Lord Ross of Marnock

We are grateful to the noble Lord for his helpful elucidation. As I understand the position now, the existing districts will remain, but they are redefined and power is given to the Secretary of State to designate—the same term, "salmon fishery districts", is used again—and within these fishery districts something will happen. The Secretary of State can only designate them, according to the schedule, if particular people ask for them to be designated. If they do not ask for designation, then they just remain as they are today, with the unsatisfactory position about which the noble Lord, Lord Burton, and to a certain extent the noble Earl, Lord Perth, are concerned.

It was certainly the aim of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, to bring these in by amalgamation and in other ways, so that certain potential assets in Scotland are properly managed. But that is really it. There will be the salmon fishery districts and in addition—this may or may not include some of them—there will be designated salmon fishery districts. Am I right? It would be helpful to know whether that is correct. That is my understanding of what the position will be after we get this legislation.

Lord Gray of Contin

As we proceed through the Bill, the points which the noble Lord has been raising about the Secretary of State and so on can be discussed.

Lord Ross of Marnock

With all due respect, they are in Clause 1.

Lord Gray of Contin

There are more.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Yes, I know that there are more. There is a whole schedule in respect of Clause 2, with the designated districts. But I want to know what the whole position will be. We are getting rid of some of these ancient Acts and are retaining sections of others. I just want to know what the position will be before we start on these designated salmon fishery districts.

Lord Gray of Contin

I have already explained to the noble Lord that on the voluntary principle there will be scope for amalgamation of existing boards or the creation of new boards.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am not talking about boards.

Viscount Thurso

Am I right in understanding that as a result of Clause 1 all district boards will change into the new kind of district board? Thereafter they may or may not go the next stage, but the status of a district board that does not at the outset change its nature and amalgamate is not impaired by not changing. It can at a later stage change if it so wishes. That is how I understand it.

Lord Gray of Contin

This clause deals with the areas of districts. They will be abolished when they are replaced by a district designated by the Secretary of State.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Designation orders]:

(Amendments Nos. 1A and 1B not moved.)

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 2: Page 3, line 21, at end insert ("and in relation to a district designated in accordance with section 1 of this Act, may by order vary the provisions of Schedule 2 to this Act.").

The noble Viscount said: This amendment relates to a problem which I saw after the time of Second Reading and therefore I did not have an opportunity to speak to it at Second Reading. It occurs to me that, in an area where a new board or whatever is being formed, there could well be certain large rivers with large valuations and certain small rivers with small valuations. With the structure of boards as laid down in the Bill, it seems to me that there would be a built-in near certainty that only the large rivers would get to be represented on the board. It seemed to me that it might be desirable to give to the Secretary of State sufficient flexibility to vary the structure of the new district boards in the case of amalgamations so that if he thought fit, and if he thought it was desirable or necessary, he could build into the constitution of a new board some protection for the smaller rivers.

Let me give a hypothetical example. Let us imagine that the rivers of Caithness and North Sutherland decided to amalgamate into one big district. Let us suppose that the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, and I were able to get on sufficiently well to join into a large district board covering the Naver round to the Helmsdale. It would then transpire that you would have three fairly large rivers—the Naver, the Thurso and the Helmsdale—which would have enough voting power between them to carve up the board. They would be able always to be represented on the board and the smaller rivers like the Halladale, the Forse, the Langwell, the Berriedale, the Wick, the Wester and so on, would be unable to get an oar in because their valuations even when added together would not be big enough to outvote the three large rivers. It might seem appropriate to the Secretary of State in such circumstances either to designate that one of the seats must represent the smaller rivers or that four would be a fairer representation of upper proprietors and lower proprietors.

All this amendment does is to enable the Secretary of State, should he so wish when he is considering the approach by a new district for a constitution under this Bill (should it become an Act), to give a slightly different shape to the board from that described in the schedule. I offer this to the noble Lord. He knows, because I put it to his department, that this worry was in my mind, and I offer this amendment to him as a possible solution. He may tell me that this is not the right way to do it but that he will have a look at it. If so, I shall be very happy to withdraw the amendment. I do think that the problem of safeguarding minorities within the new boards should be examined so that large rivers do not frighten off smaller rivers from joining in with them. I beg to move.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

I should like very much to support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, because I think that without it, as he so clearly pointed out, there will be quite a considerable degree of unfairness. It does not apply in my own district of the Tay area, but I can see great difficulties elsewhere. I hope very much that even if the noble Lord who is in charge of the Bill is not able to accept this amendment now he will give it very careful consideration.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I do not want to prolong this discussion but I hope indeed that the noble Lord the Minister will look at this amendment and take some time over it. I think there is some feeling, as was certainly evinced during Second Reading, that we could improve matters in this way.

The Earl of Perth

I should also like very much to support the amendment on the basis that it is, after all, giving power; is not obligatory. It should be allowed that if there is a clear unfairness the Secretary of State, as I understand the amendment, has the power to change Schedule 2 as listed here. The small river, the small man, should be given a chance if the Secretary of State thinks that is right.

Lord Burton

I too should like to support the amendment of the noble Viscount. It appears that this would remove part of the objections relating to my first amendment in Schedule 1. Clearly this is something which would, if it is not altered, be an obstruction to the amalgamation of rivers. The Tweed commissioners, who are probably the most efficient organisation for the protection of rivers, have a great many more people on their board even though they cover only one river. It is vital that if a smaller river is taken in it should be allowed some representation. I can give another example. If the Nairn were taken either into the Findhorn, on one side, or into the Ness, on the other side, the Nairn would probably be left without a representative. It is vital that any river joining with another one should be represented. I would give one word of caution. One would still want to retain the balance of power between the rods and the nets.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My noble friend has caused me to rise to my feet at the mention of the River Nairn. I should like to support the principle which the noble Viscount is putting forward, whether or not this amendment is the right way of dealing with it. As this is the first time I have spoken on the Bill I should declare an interest as I own some modest salmon fishing, as a riparian owner, at my home in northern Scotland, though I have not myself done any fishing for either salmon or trout for more than 40 years. Noble Lords will realise that my disabilities make it too difficult for it to be worthwhile. I think that my noble friend Lord Burton has given the very example of the river in my area which might be quite unrepresented unless some part of the Bill made provision for the smaller rivers.

Lord Gray of Contin

Perhaps I could remind the Committee that the Bill already allows for an increase in the number of board members, albeit by co-option of anglers and netsmen. I understand the concern of the noble Viscount but the situation which he describes of some rivers with no direct representation on boards already occurs in some large districts without obvious difficulties. There are many ways of seeking the views of persons interested in the activities of boards, and there is nothing in this Bill to prevent a board from inviting additional representatives to sit in on board meetings—as indeed some boards do at present.

However, I sense the anxiety that exists among those who have contributed on both sides of the Committee. I suggest that I take this matter away and have another careful look at it with my advisers without making any commitment (as I am sure will be appreciated), to see whether there is some way in which we might be able to devise a solution that would be acceptable to your Lordships. I should not like to give a hasty reply and I am therefore prepared to take this question away and have another look at it.

Viscount Thurso

I am very grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for his generous response and for the way in which he has sensed the feelings of your Lordships' Committee. I would have preferred it had the Minister come forward with this amendment, and I think that he knows that. It was only because he was a little unwilling to come forward with such an amendment that I was prompted to be so bold as to put one down. Now that he has agreed to take this matter away and look at it again, I am very happy to beg leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Skelmersdale

I understand that this would be the appropriate moment to take the Statement. I therefore beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.