HL Deb 28 January 1986 vol 470 cc568-614

4.35 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 2.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Provisions as respects the making of designation orders]:

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 4: Page 27, line 12, after ("number") insert ("of")

The noble Lord said: This amendment, to make sense, should obviously be discussed with Amendment No. 5. Amendment No. 5: Page 27, line 12, leave out ("persons") and insert ("anglers"). The wording that the Secretary of State, may make a designation order only on the application to him is the voluntary principle. The Secretary of State does not act on his own; he must be prodded by a district salmon fishery board, or, where there is no such board, two proprietors of salmon fisheries in a salmon fishery district, or any number of combination of such boards or persons in the area. I want anglers to be able to invite the Secretary of State to introduce a designation order. That is the purpose of the two amendments. The schedule, if amended, will refer to, any number of or combination of such boards or anglers in the area which would be affected by the proposed order". This is self-explanatory. The word "persons" is removed and "anglers" inserted. I am sure that the Minister will tell me that "persons" could include anglers. I want the matter to be specific. With all the changes that are taking place in relation to the balance of fishing, the people who are unrepresented and who probably pay most in respect of angling and the management of rivers are the anglers. I beg to move.

Viscount Thurso

I should like to be able to support the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, but I feel that Amendment No. 5 is deficient. I go along with him in specifying anglers. The noble Lord knows very well that I wish anglers to get their fair share in the administration of fishing and of salmon rivers, but it is a pity that he should specify anglers and leave out tenant netsmen. The whole principle of the Bill, as I see it, is to keep the balance even, so that the two sides involved in exploiting the resource should consider the resource as paramount and not that one side or another side should have all the resource. I feel that "persons" in this instance is an adequate description because it should include tenant netsmen just as much as anglers.

The Earl of Perth

I wonder whether the noble Lord can help me. I am a little worried about the use of the word "persons" unless it covers various bodies as well as individuals. I am all the more worried because the Committee accepted the first amendment of the day moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, to insert the words "consulting such persons". I assumed that "persons" covered institutions as well as individuals. I should like to know that I am right about that. I want to be sure that when, under Amendment No. 1, we talk about "consulting such persons", that phrase covers a body as such which may have individuals in it but which is a representative group, and not a person as an individual. I am seeking the definition of the word "person".

Lord Gray of Contin

Without hesitation—and I hope that what I have to say will not be too much for the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock—I am happy to accept the first amendment and I am grateful to noble Lords for their suggestion. With regard to the second amendment, while I agree fully with the proposition that it is not only salmon fishery proprietors and through them district salmon fishery boards who have an interest in salmon fishing, it is the proprietors who will have to meet directly the consequences of amalgamations of districts. I have not found any convincing reasons for giving anglers a right to apply for a designation order. Such a right should in my view be the prerogative of boards, or failing a board, proprietors—given the financial input of the latter.

Anglers and tenant netsmen will of course have a say in such matters through co-option to boards. Consideration of this amendment has, however, drawn my attention to the reference to "persons" in paragraph 1(c) of the schedule. There is no intention that persons other than proprietors should be concerned in this procedure and I propose that this be corrected on Report.

I think that the point which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has been answered by what I have said. However, perhaps I may reiterate to the noble Earl that the answer to his question is: yes, "persons" includes bodies corporate or unincorporate. Therefore, I cannot accept the noble Lord's second amendment. However, as I indicated, I am happy to accept his first amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Lord accepts my English but not my good sense. I pondered for quite a long time over the first amendment. I am disappointed. I do not think that the noble Lord is doing justice to anglers and anglers' associations. From what the noble Lord has said, they are to be considered on the basis of co-option with all its limitations, unless certain amendments are accepted. It is disappointing that it is to be left entirely to the fishery boards or proprietors.

Having heard the noble Lord's sense, I feel that I can now proceed to put forward an amendment which would make better sense of what he intends than what we have here. He ought to have included the word "proprietors" if proprietors is what he means.

He should not leave it to the more general term "persons". However, I accept gratefully the fact that he accepts my first amendment. I shall not move the second amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 6: Page 27, line 26, leave out head (d).

The noble Lord said: I should like to know the effect of leaving out this sub-paragraph. The provision refers to the people applying for a designation order. It is mandatory. It says: An application under paragraph 1 above shall be accompanied by the applicant's written proposals which shall state", and there is then set out paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d).

Paragraph (d) refers to the very important matter of annual close time and says: The proposed dates of the annual close time and the periods within which it shall be permitted to fish for and take salmon by rod and line in the proposed district". If that provision is omitted, what will be the effect? We must remember of course that under Clause 2(2) it says: A designation order shall provide for the application to the district so designated of such regulations". Moreover, under subsection (3) it says: a designation order shall specify for the district so designated the annual close time and the periods within that time when it is permitted to fish for and take salmon by rod and line; and the order may make different provision for different parts of the district".

4.45 p.m.

In other words, if he does not get this information, if this provision were not included, it would be for the Secretary of State to do it on his own. He would do it on his own on the basis of consultations—consultations which I am perfectly sure would not be limited purely to proprietors and boards but which would take in all the other appropriate people as well. That is the simple reason why it is there.

The Secretary of State should know that there is considerable perturbation in certain angling and other fishery circles about the manipulation of the annual close time and the periods within which it will be permitted to fish for and take salmon by rod and line. This is a very important point and one upon which people are very touchy. People tend to rely more than ever upon the good sense of the Secretary of State. I do not want to see them pushed by certain interests.

We must remember that it may be that the only people who will be pushing this forward will be two proprietors of salmon fisheries in the area and they may be non-representative of the upper and lower tiers. I know of one river where, in the case of proprietors, there is only one on the lower side. It may well be that you will get two very unrepresentative proprietors putting forward an idea in relation to what should be the annual close time which would offend and appal other people. I want to know the merits and whether the Secretary of State, before he takes action, will further consult with other interests beyond those who have made the application. Why should it be mandatory? It gives an importance to this which creates a certain amount of suspicion in people's minds. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I was by no means clear why, of all the information to be supplied to my right honourable friend in relation to the making of a designation order, the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, should feel that proposals about the annual close times are undesirable or unnecessary. The annual close time and the period within which it will be permitted to fish by rod and line will still have to be prescribed under Clause 2(3). It seems to me unreasonable to seek to so deprive him of such information, objections and representations about such important matters regarding the management of salmon fisheries. I do not think that there is anything between us here. The noble Lord has himself recognised the importance of this matter and he indicated that he was probing for information. I have tried to explain why we think it is necessary and advantageous to have the annual close times made known. It seems to me rather strange that, in view of the other information which has to be made available, this information should be excluded, which is what would happen if the amendment were carried.

Lord Ross of Marnock

They have to be made known anyway. The Secretary of State has an overall responsibility as regards all the salmon fishery districts in respect of the annual close times. He should know that. What we are asking for under this amendment is for particular people to put forward their proposals. That does not mean to say that those proposals will be the proposals eventually within the order. So far as I can see, leaving this out does not make any difference at all. The Secretary of State still has to decide what will be the annual close time and the extension or otherwise in respect of rod and line fishing in the district.

I still so not know why the proposals are there. They are not the Secretary of State's proposals. They are the proposals of those who are asking for the designation order to be made. They would be consulted anyway, I presume, by the Secretary fo State before he puts this in. He has to put it in. One of the things laid down in Clause 2 is that he has to put his idea, his proposal, into the designation order for what should be the annual close time, but not necessarily those proposals which are first put forward by the two proprietors or by the district salmon fishery board.

Lord Gray of Contin

The noble Lord himself explained that the effect of this amendment would be to relieve those applying for a designation order of the need to state for the proposed district the proposed dates of the annual close time, and the period within which it would be permitted to fish for and take salmon by rod and line. This would leave the Secretary of State to decide those matters under Clause 2(3) without such information as he would require being supplied by the applicants. It would leave those who might wish to object to, or make representations about, the proposed dates completely in the dark. If I may give the noble Lord one additional reason why the Secretary of State requires suggestions, it is that on amalgamations there might be two different close times in the area to be covered by the proposed new district. Therefore for that reason it would be helpful to have this information as well.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It is not information. It is a proposal.

Lord Campbell of Croy

May I raise a connected point on this? I note that the part of the schedule being discussed speaks about proposed dates of the annual close time in the singular. If there is more than one river within the district, surely the rivers could have separate dates. The rivers with which I am connected in northern Scotland have separate dates. Under the present legislation, proposals are put forward which go to the Secretary of State, and he considers them. Two years ago quite a number of anglers on a river proposed that the close season should be altered. This was put forward to the Secretary of State and he considered it. If there is more than one river, I hope that there will be provision in this Bill for different close periods of the year for individual rivers, as there is now.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to my noble friend. He is absolutely right. There could be different close times for two different rivers. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, perhaps I may once more try to explain why the proposals for annual close times have to be included. They are included as part of a comprehensive procedure for designating a new district, and Schedule 1 allows the opportunity for representations, and/or objections, by local interests. In view of that explanation, which I think has been fairly full, perhaps the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I hate to see the Minister so disappointed and tearful about this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1, as amended, shall be agreed to?

Lord Burton

In view of the discussion we have had previously I do not want to oppose the schedule, but I should like to ask my noble friend two questions. First, who is a proprietor? This was something raised on Second Reading on which there does not appear to have been any answer provided. Secondly, are there not single proprietor districts? In line 9, sub-paragraph 1(b), there is reference to "two proprietors". My impression was that you could have a single proprietor district. I am not sure why "two" should be in.

Lord Ross of Marnock

There is just one point. The last item, paragraph 9, says: The power to make a designation order shall be exercisable by statutory instrument. However, if the Secretary of State wants to vary the schedule, which could include the whole matter of the designation order, he has to do it by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. Can the noble Lord justify the separate treatment of the variation of the schedule, which deals with the designation order, and the fact that the designation order itself is made by simple statutory instrument without reference to either House?

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Burton for raising this matter, because it gives me an opportunity to clearly define "proprietor". This came up at Second Reading when we were talking about the question of time-share part-owners. "Proprietor" is defined in the Bill as meaning: any person, partnership, company or corporation which is the proprietor of a salmon fishery or which receives or is entitled to receive the rents of such fishery on its own account or as trustee, guardian or factor for any person, company or corporation". I am advised that this definition is drafted in such a way as to exclude time-share owners and part-owners from its compass.

However, in the light of the interesting comments and suggestions made in your Lordships' Committee today, I shall undertake to look again at the provision. It is not our intention that the time-sharers and part-owners should participate in an individual sense in the procedures for formation of, and election to, district boards. I shall, if necessary, ensure that this intention is reflected in the drafting. With reference to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, raised about the designation order power, that power is local. Therefore it is not appropriate for this to be subject to parliamentary procedure variation order.

Lord Burton

On Second Reading I asked a question about the sub-division of fishings, such as in a large loch. Although the noble Lord answered the question of time-sharing, I do not think that that answers the question of what is to stop someone going on dividing up fishings more or less ad infinitum at somewhere like Loch Ness where there is a 25-mile length to be fished. Perhaps the noble Lord does not have the answer, but it is something which, before we let the Bill go, should be looked at.

Lord Gray of Contin

I do not have at hand the necessary information for the noble Lord. I give him the undertaking that I shall have a further look at that. If there is any further amendment needed, then I can consider it for Report stage.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Regulations]:

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 6A: Page 3, line 35, at end insert ("the district salmon fishery board and").

The noble Lord said: If I may, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 6B. It is consequential. Amendment No. 6B: Page 3, line 36, after ("such") insert ("other").

The first thing I noticed when I got to this was that it was wrongly drafted. I am sorry. The principle is the same. When it refers to "the district salmon fishery board" it probably ought to refer to "the salmon fishery district committee". Anyway, the principle is that the Secretary of State should consult the bodies looking after the fishings, which I think will be the salmon fishery district committee, as well as such other "persons as he considers appropriate". I beg to move.

Viscount Thurso

I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, will tell us that the district salmon fishery boards are obviously the appropriate persons whom the Secretary of State will consult. But as the Bill is intended to emphasise the importance of boards and their role in the management of salmon fisheries, I think it is important that this be emphasised at this point. Their status should be emphasised at this point, and therefore I support the noble Lord, Lord Burton.

Lord Gray of Contin

I fully understand why the noble Lord, Lord Burton has tabled these amendments but I think they are unnecessary and restrictive. Clause 3(2) gives my right honourable and learned friend discretion as to whom he should consult before making regulations. He could, I am sure, consult district salmon fishery boards on a purely local matter, but where the matter is one of general application it might be more appropriate for him to consult the Association of District Salmon Fishery Boards rather than each individual board. The noble Lord's amendments would request him to consult each board individually. I cannot accept that proposition. Therefore, in view of what I have said, I wonder whether my noble friend will withdraw his amendments.

Lord Burton

I am a little surprised at that answer, because subsection (a) reads: the due observance of the weekly close time". This surely is not a matter for the association but for the individual district. However, in view of what my noble friend has said, I am happy to withdraw the amendment at this juncture.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6B not moved.]

5 p.m.

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 6C: Page 3, line 42, at end insert ("and the screening of off-takes to prohibit access to smolts").

The noble Lord said: This is quite simple. If they are to be given these various powers it is obviously necessary that we should also restrict the access of smolts into offtakes of any sort. I suggest that this wording might be added to Clause 3(2)(c). I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I concede the principle of this amendment. It is indeed appropriate that smolts be protected from being drawn into water-works, fish farms etc. In the 1860s this was provided for at mills, indirectly, by requiring that the mill lades be drained periodically to let the smolts back to the river. That is obviously not sensible these days, nor is it workable in relation to other sorts of abstraction.

The amendment may, however, not fully cover what the noble Lord has in mind and I hope that, having conceded the principle and undertaken, as I do, to consider how it could be covered in the Bill, he might be prepared to withdraw and await an equivalent Government amendment at a later stage.

Lord Burton

I am very grateful to the noble Lord and with that undertaking I am very happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 6D: Page 4, line 1, leave out ("and").

The noble Lord said: This is consequential on Amendment No. 6E if I may speak to the two together. Amendment No. 6E: Page 4, line 1, after ("dimensions") insert ("and methods of operation)".

Here there is a problem of how one operates nets as opposed to the type of tackle used. Clearly if a boat is sitting about in the middle of a river instead of keeping moving this would not be properly covered as the Bill is drafted. The amendment is probably quite clear, and therefore I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Burton, for his suggestion in this amendment. I have myself been concerned in relation to the lack of definition of lawful methods of operation of nets, and, indeed, this point was made by several noble Lords at Second Reading. To remedy this, I have tabled a new clause which allows my right honourable and learned friend to define permitted fishing methods by order. If acceptable to your Lordships this new power would be included, appropriately, I am advised, in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1951. The amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Burton would therefore be unnecessary and could be seen as giving less comprehensive powers. Having seen the proposed Government amendment, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Burton, will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Thurso

I have to support the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin. I am delighted to see the new clause which he is proposing, as I think it is a much more positive way of dealing with this problem than by using this amendment.

Lord Burton

On that undertaking, I am very happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 6E not moved.]

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 4, line 4, at end insert— ("(f) the use of adequate lures or bait in rod fishing.").

The noble Viscount said: The amendment seeks to deal with a point raised on Second Reading, that is to give power to adjust from time to time the methods of fishing by rod and line as well as those by net. This merely seeks to give to the Secretary of State, and through him to the district boards, the power to adjust the times at which different kinds of lures may be used on rivers or may not be used. I beg to move.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

I wonder whether I may ask the noble Viscount to explain the word "adequate"?

Viscount Thurso

Yes, as a matter of fact I was quite surprised at the word "adequate". The word was suggested to me by the Public Bill Office. It may be that it is an inadequate word. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, will tell me if he considers it inadequate. If he considers it inadequate but accepts the principle I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment. What is obviously intended is "suitable for the occasion".

We are talking about the possibility that one might have fly-only at certain periods, as is done on some rivers, or that one might make it a by-law for a river that it be a fly-only river. Somebody has to have some powers to be able to do this, other than its being merely the whim of individual proprietors. I await with interest the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, on my phraseology. No doubt he will tell me that "adequate" is inadequate and that he can do better.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

Would not an appropriate word be "sporting"?

The Earl of Onslow

Does this not also come under the new clause put in later by the noble Lord, Lord Gray, on permitted fishing? Secondly, should it not be extended to English waters as well as Scottish waters? As your Lordships may or may not have noticed, I have a similar and probably much clearer, but I am sure legally less correct, amendment on the same point later in the Bill. There should be a method of catching fish which is allowed and no other method, rather than a method which is disallowed. That would be a fairer way of doing it. I should have hoped that the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, could be brought in to the later amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gray.

Lord Gray of Contin

Perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, will agree that in answering this I deal also with Amendment No. 12 which is in his name and is directly related. Amendment No. 12: Page 4, line 20, at end insert ("and (f)"). I have listened very carefully to the arguments put in favour of these amendments. I must say that I have myself given some thought to this matter in the light of the comments made by your Lordships at Second Reading. I can say that, in principle, I am in favour of a power being taken to regulate the types of lure that might be used.

I have, however, some difficulty with the terms of the first part of the amendment, in that the word "adequate", which my noble friend has asked about, may not be exactly what is wanted here. I also have some hesitation about providing for different methods for different districts in the context of the procedures in Clause 3. Apart from the confusion this might cause where anglers fish in several districts, it could lead to a large number of orders having to be laid.

I should, therefore, like to give further consideration to this matter and I hope that the noble Viscount, with the permission of the House, would be prepared to withdraw on the understanding that I am sympathetic to what he has in mind and I am considering whether a Government amendment could be moved at a later stage.

Viscount Thurso

I am happy to accede to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Gray. I was aware that perhaps this was not the best drafted amendment that we were going to consider today. I am glad to see that he accepts in principle that there might need to be some regulation of rod fishing methods. However, I urge on him, when he is looking at this problem, to consider that this is the kind of matter which will, in its very nature, require to be varied from river to river, because there are some rivers which are appropriately dealt with in one way and some which are appropriately dealt with in another. I beg him to look at that point. With the leave of the Committee, I beg to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 7A:

Page 4, line 4, at end insert— ("( ) the placing of cages to hold fish in any river, loch or estuary;").

The noble Viscount said: It was brought to my notice that there may be a gap in the powers which the Secretary of State has to control the placing of cages, net or fixed, containing salmon, trout, or indeed any fish, within areas of a river. It may be that there is sufficient cover to allow proper consideration of whether it is a good thing to place a cage in a loch in the upper waters of a river, by the fact that planning permission has to be sought by fish farms. However, planning permission does not extend beyond the mean high water mark or ordinary spring tides and the placing of a net cage in an estuary is clearly subject to no restriction whatever.

The noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, will be well aware that there are considerable dangers to a water that could accrue from the ill-advised siting of a cage. There are such matters as the possibility of build-up of disease and the possibility of the build-up of other pollutants and so on. If a cage is not properly sited and there is insufficient scouring below it, there can be a great build-up of a kind of midden underneath the cage. It is only comparatively recently that it has become common practice to place cages in lochs for the holding of farmed fish or for other purposes.

I feel that this is a matter over which the Secretary of State at least should have powers. I do not think that river purification boards have powers; I do not think that district hoards have powers and, in certain instances, I do not think that even planning authorities have powers to control this matter.

I readily admit that this matter came to my notice only quite recently. In fact, it was brought to my attention by a river purification authority. It may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, will wish to consider this matter further, before we take it further. If so, I shall be glad to regard this as a probing amendment and withdraw it, if necessary, so that he can consider the matter and maybe we can return to it at Report. However, I think it is an important matter. It is one which may very well have escaped the noble Lord's notice, just as it escaped my notice until quite recently.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I have to declare a slight interest here, as I have an interest in a salmon fish farm. What I want to know is whether the word "loch" means sea loch. Of course, I am all against the planting of any cages in any form of water to trap wild salmon. However, I should like to know the position.

I understood the noble Viscount to say that one can obtain planning permission if one wants to put one's cages in an estuary. I understand that the position in this fish farm in which I have an interest, which is quite a large fish farm on my estate, is that when the salmon become smolts they must then go into salt water. We put a few in the river but of course the vast majority go into cages. The problem is that one must have one's cages in extremely calm water. It depends on the legal definition of an estuary, but they have to be in very enclosed waters and perhaps quite near the mouth of a river, coming into the estuary. Thus I should like to know how one defines an estuary where one can put hand-reared salmon into cages without breaking the law.

5.15 p.m.

Viscount Thurso

Perhaps I can help the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. First of all, I am referring not only to salmon but also to trout. People are putting trout into cages in hill lochs, or in lochs in the upper waters of rivers, where obviously there is a considerable build-up of detritus and so forth below the cages and where there could be interference with water quality. This is one of the problems which I envisage. On the question of estuaries, estuaries are all defined in the salmon Acts. If the noble Viscount wants to know where an estuary is, the estuary limits are all defined and he can look them all up.

I am concerned about sea lochs, particularly if they constitute part of an estuary, because here again without proper siting, where there would be scouring tides to keep the place clean, there could be an undesirable build-up. This, in the long run, would not be good for the fish farmer because it would spoil the water for him, but in the meantime it may have spoilt the water for other people as well. Thus I feel that this power should be available to deal with this situation.

Lord Biddulph

I think that is an important point because quite a lot of these cages are situated in estuaries in places where they are subject to storm damage. The cages may be smashed and there may be the release of salmon and rainbow trout into the estuary, which immediately head for the nearest river. These escaped fish are not indigenous to the river, particularly the rainbow trout, and I think this may cause complications. Thus I bring up this point of storm damage and the escaping of salmon from these cages.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

The noble Lord says that storm damage could occur to these cages and the fish might escape. That is quite true. However, one of the reasons why they have to be in a very enclosed place is that there must not be any wave more than two feet high. However, the point is that if the cages are in the estuary into which the river flows, where the salmon are reared, and the cages are damaged, the smolts, the salmon, or grilse—I think they are nearly always grilse when they are killed—will go back to the river from which the water came that was in the tanks in which they were reared. They will go back to the river from which they came, from where the water came.

Viscount Thurso

I have to tell the noble Viscount that this is not so. We have caught fish in the Thurso River, which were farm bred, which were identified by scale reading as having come from a fish farm and the nearest fish farm was somewhere round the West coast of Scotland. Thus, storm damage does take place, fish do escape and get into other rivers.

Lord Gisborough

As this is a moderately new innovation, will the noble Lord, not now but at some stage, look into the matter to see whether under English water boards legislation they have the powers to contain and to organise these cages?

The Earl of Onslow

I believe the law on fish farming is, to put it mildly, fairly obscure. It seems to me extremely important that there should be some regulations as suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. However, must it be the Secretary of State who makes the regulations, or should it not be the water authorities, or district fishery boards, or the river boards themselves? Surely they know, at their level, where something should go. The fact that regulations as to whether a net should be put here, there or anywhere, should have to go to the Scottish Secretary of State or the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London seems to me to take the regulation-making power much too far back. It is really an essentially local decision which should be made by the local boards who know their local river, local tides or local lochs. That is where there should be some decision-making power.

Lord Burton

I too should like to support the noble Viscount's amendment. My noble friend who has just spoken has made a very valid point. I know that our fishery boards are particularly worried about the proliferation of fish farms. It happens to be rather a success story of the Highland Development Board, which has been developing fish farms, perhaps excessively but certainly extensively, over recent years. I also know that the Highland River Purification Board is very worried about this; so I hope my noble friend will look at it very carefully.

Lord Gray of Contin

Before I answer the points that have been raised in the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, perhaps I may apologise to my noble friend Lord Onslow for omitting to give him an answer to the question he asked me when we were discussing the last amendment. He asked whether Amendment No. 7 would not be covered by the new clause that I have tabled. Very briefly, the answer is, no. This is because the new clause will relate to the methods of fishing, but not rod and line.

Perhaps I may now deal with the amendment that the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has tabled. Similar suggestions have been made in the past, usually to give district boards a measure of control over fish farmers' activities. This has not proved acceptable, largely because those activities are already subject to planning procedures. I do not think that it would be desirable to subject fish farmers to further control by my right honourable and learned friend.

However, a number of points have been raised, and I shall try to deal with them. With respect to my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard, I do not propose to become involved in his arguments and exchanges with the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, because I think that they have finished about all square. What I should like to do is give one or two answers to the points that were raised. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is quite correct with regard to estuaries; but, so far as estuaries are concerned, the Crown Estate Commissioners have to give permission. I think that point is covered. The second point was raised when I was asked what "loch" means in this amendment. "Loch" is not defined or explained. If this amendment were accepted, it could be interpreted both as an inland loch and as a sea loch.

There is an element of difficulty arising from what the noble Viscount seeks to do here. I can understand what his intention was, but I do not think he has hit upon the solution. I think that we should be creating very great difficulties for the fish-farming industry if we were to go along this line. My noble friend Lord Gisborough asked me whether I could find out if the English water boards had managed to find a definition here. Of course I shall do my utmost to try to find out what method they use to overcome the problem. Having said that, I do not think that I can accept the noble Viscount's amendment for the reasons I have explained. I think that the difficulties which we would be creating here are too great. In view of what I have said, I wonder whether the noble Viscount would consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he draw attention to the other fact that any of these regulations about these intimate things that we heard about have to come before Parliament, because the regulations are subject to the negative procedure. Much as I like waiting up at night, especially in your Lordships' Chamber (apart from my regard for it in another place) to deal with a matter of the negative procedure, I hardly think that it is the right thing. If it is necessary to give the power to someone, it should not be done under this particular clause and in this way.

Lord Burton

May I raise one point in reference to what my noble friend said? He referred to the Crown Estate Commissioners having to give permission for use; but large parts of the sea bed are not owned by the Crown Estate Commissioners, so I do not see why they have any authority in the matter.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am afraid that I can only answer my noble friend by saying that my advisers assure me that in fact the Crown Estate Commissioners have to give permission where estuaries are concerned.

The Earl of Perth

As a sometime first Crown Estate Commissioner, perhaps I can help the Committee. The fact is that in some estuaries the Crown estate has total ownership but in others, under charters given many centuries ago, there are individuals who have the right for the sea bed in an area; so it is only partially correct to refer to the Crown estate.

The Earl of Onslow

Perhaps I can give a little more help to my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. It seems that these regulations are going to be indescribably detailed about one pool here and one pool there or one coracle doing this or one rod doing that. It seems to me that this is so detailed it should not come to Parliament. It should be delegated to somebody else. In other words, it should go down the way either to the water authorities in England or to the fisheries board or whatever it may be. Otherwise, if there is somebody whose attention to detail is as fine as that of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, we shall be here for much longer than we are likely to be already.

Lord Gray of Contin

I have noted the point the noble Earl has made, and I shall think about this matter.

Viscount Thurso

Perhaps I too may ask the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, if he will think about this whole matter. I am perfectly prepared to admit that this amendment may be in the wrong place and that it may be in the wrong form. I admit that I had to put it before your Lordships rather hurriedly because the full extent of the problem came to my notice only a comparatively short time ago. After all, we have not had very long in any case since Second Reading.

The various letters of plea and entreaty to take up various amendments and so forth in this Bill are fluttering in through our mailboxes the whole time; so it has been difficult to prepare amendments and consider them as thoroughly as one would wish. But I think there is an important point here. For instance, I was aware that the Crown Estate Commissioners do not have the ownership of the estuary of the Thurso River, and I am sure that there are other such rivers. It is important that this matter be considered, and therefore I ask the noble Lord once again whether he will think about it. I am not going to press it at this point but I ask him whether he will think about it.

Lord Gray of Contin

If I may directly return to the amendment about the delegation to the fisheries boards, boards do not cover all of Scotland, so it would not be appropriate to give them such power over fish-farming developments. As I indicated at the outset, this is my main concern. We have here a fish-farming industry which is very important to Scotland and in which a great deal of money has been invested, both privately and publicly. In this Bill, I should not like to see us include a provision which would make life very difficult for the fish-farming industry.

Viscount Thurso

With respect to the noble Lord, I think he has got it wrong. First of all, what I am talking about is net cages within the normal fishing areas of a river. The use of those and the placing of net cages in such places as lochs in the upper waters, deep parts of rivers and in estuaries, is a comparatively new thing. I am not talking about fish farms in the normally accepted sense or about anchorages off the coast; I am talking about people setting up trout farms in lochs where it is doubtful whether anybody will really look at it from the point of view of planning. It is not something which would move the planning authority enormously and nobody is enjoined to look at this practice, which is growing. It is not a fish farm being created in the normal sense; it is not somebody making stewponds and setting up a fish farm as we understand the term: it is a kind of semi-ranching in lochs.

5.30 p.m.

I feel that the control of this sort of thing should be in the hands of the Secretary of State. I am not asking him to give it to district boards; I am proposing that he should have it. If he thinks fit he will have the power, or somebody will, to control it. I have pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Gray, that there are areas where at the moment nobody will have the power really to control it, if somebody owns it. For instance, I could place a cage in the estuary of the Thurso, so far as I know, without let or hindrance and without asking the Crown Estate Commissioners, the planning authority, the Secretary of State for Scotland or the river purification board. I believe that could be done.

I may be wrong, but I do feel that the power should lie somewhere to prevent my doing that or to prevent me from doing it if I am doing a stupid thing. I think the power should be there to prevent anybody else doing a stupid thing, for instance, if it is going to pollute the water or endanger the fish that use the water. All I am really asking at this stage is that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, should look at this between now and Report stage. If he can say that he will do that, I will happily beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Gray of Contin

The noble Viscount is asking me to do something I am not at all happy about doing, because I think sufficient laws are already available. The planning procedures are there and fish farmers are subject to the planning procedures. If I really thought I could come back with an amendment which would satisfy the noble Viscount I would willingly take this away, but I doubt very much whether that is possible. Therefore, if I were to take it away it would be purely a case of doing that and looking at it, but I could almost give a guarantee now that I would be coming back with the same answer. I do not think that is a particularly good thing to do.

I think it would be better if I were to say to the noble Viscount that perhaps he might care to take it away and give it further consideration. If he were to bring back another amendment at Report stage we could consider that in the light of his further researches, but at the moment I do not think I could justify taking this away and bringing it back at Report stage.

Lord Burton

I cannot understand why my noble friend is so much under the influence of the fish farming community. The same thing happened on tagging. They seem to have a very influential lobby. If, as the noble Viscount suggests, powers are given to the Secretary of State, perhaps he could use the purification boards to look at these matters. At the moment they cannot look at the disease. They have their waters polluted by a fish farm and apparently have no come-back whatsoever under the present setup. It seems totally unsatisfactory. There are large cages erected just at the top of the fish-pass at the end of the Inverness-shire Loch Garry and, so far as I know, although planning permission may have been given, the planners are not the people who know about disease or pollution. It must be either the fishery board, if there is one, or else the purification board.

The Earl of Onslow

Can my noble friend clear up one point about which I am certainly not clear? Can the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, put a large cage in the Thurso estuary without let or hindrance? If he can, with the greatest of respect to him—unless he can be paid not to do it, as was the case with all those lovely trees in Scotland—something ought to be done to stop him doing it. I say that with affection rather than with malice.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

There are extremely strict regulations to be satisfied before one is allowed to have salmon fish farms and there is really no danger of disease. For instance, the water that goes through the fish tanks where the parr and the smolts are is not allowed to be put back into the river.

The Marquess of Landsdowne

I do not want to prolong this discussion but I think the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is an important one. It would be a great pity for it to be just brushed aside. One point I should like to be a little clearer about is this. Who would complain, or who would acquaint the Secretary of State with what was going on? Somebody would have to have that responsibility. For example, if the noble Viscount planted a cage, who is going to sneak, as it were, to the Secretary of State about it?

Viscount Thurso

I should have thought the district board would be the people who would complain, or it might be the river purification board; but in either case they would have their interests interfered with if a cage were put there without their having been consulted and without having been able to make the proper representations.

I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, is not willing to look at this himself. I would far rather he had looked at it. I am convinced there is a gap in the powers here to deal with the situation. I am also perfectly prepared to admit—does the noble Lord wish to intervene?

Lord Gray of Contin

What I was going to say to the noble Viscount was that I do not want him to carry on too long because, if it is the feeling of the Committee that I am being unreasonable, of course I will take it back and look at it again. I must make is absolutely clear that I do not envisage a possibility of my being able to come forward with a suitable amendment, but I give the Committee an assurance that I will take it away, study it carefully and discuss it with my advisers to see whether I can possibly meet what the noble Viscount seeks.

Viscount Thurso

I find that immensely satisfactory and, if other noble Lords feel the same, I would be happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

The Earl of Perth

Clearly a new problem has arisen in connection with these cages. There is no clear authority as to who is to handle them. It may be that this Bill is not the right place for dealing with that at all, but if the noble Lord will examine the problem and advise us that this is a problem which is recognised and which has to be solved in some other way, then I would be entirely content.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I have listened to all the discussion and I would wish only to reinforce the warning given by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, that whatever solution is decided upon by the Secretary of State these matters should not come to Parliament.

Viscount Thurso

As I say, with all these caveats I am perfectly content. I recognise that I may have chosen the wrong point at which to put forward the amendment, but with the assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, will look at this, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 9, at end insert ("; provided always that such regulations shall not shorten the periods specified in the said section 13.").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 8 standing in my name and I do so, if I may borrow the wording of Amendment No. 9. in the interests of conserving the stock of salmon". Section 13 of the 1951 Scotland Act says, among other things, that no person may fish on a Sunday, which I hope is a matter sacred even to this Government still. It says, secondly, that no person shall fish during the weekly close time, except by rod and line, on a Saturday or a Monday. The weekly close time is further defined in that Act quite definitely as from 12 noon on Saturday to 6 a.m. on the Monday—a period of 42 hours.

This power the Secretary of State is being granted—and he is being given a great many powers under this clause—is a very important one indeed. I think it is very valuable and entirely correct that he should have the power to alter or amend the weekly close time, because many people believe that the amount of weekly close time, which allows fish to enter rivers, is a very important conservation measure which should be watched most carefully. There are those who think that 42 hours is not long enough, and there are those who think that is too short a time, but I would say that on a river like the Tay, with an estuary of 40 miles, 42 hours is very definitely not always enough. It means the fish travelling at rather more than 1 mph for 42 hours, and they do not do that. I would also tell your Lordships, without wishing to anticipate the debate that we shall have on drift netting on the English coast,that the weekly close time for drift netting is already 60 hours.

So, although it is very important that the Secretary of State should have this power to amend the close time, if his advisers and those he has consulted think it is important, because the stocks need conservation, it is equally a very damaging, dangerous and a retrograde step to give the Secretary of State—if I have read this Bill aright—the power to reduce this close time below 42 hours. The Bill would give him that power, whether or not he has agreed with those in the consultations or they have agreed with him, and that would be a dangerous mistake. For that reason, I should like to spell out quite clearly that he does not have the power to reduce the 42 hours, which I think has proved a universally accepted and satisfactory minimum close time every week since 1951. I beg to move.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

As a netsman myself, I should like wholeheartedly to support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley.

Lord Gray of Contin

I can understand the reasoning behind the amendment and I have noted that its effect on the weekly close time could be similar to that of the restriction in Clause 6(1) on the alteration of the annual close time. I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendment and I am advised that it is technically acceptable. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for bringing this matter to the attention of your Lordships and I am happy to accept his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think I should also congratulate the noble Viscount and the Minister. I was about to rise and say that I defer to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley. It is a far better amendment than mine and much more explicit.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 10:

Page 4, line 9, at end insert— ("( ) The Secretary of State may, after consulting such persons as he considers appropriate, prohibit all netting operations in a river if the flow falls below an agreed level, certified by the River Purification Board.")

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 10, I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee and certainly will save time if we deal with Amendments Nos. 11, 25, 26 and 27: Amendment No. 11: Line 4, at end insert, ("In England and Wales the Minister for Agriculture and the Secretary of State respectively may exercise the same power, if requested to do so by the appropriate water authority.")

Amendment No. 25: Clause 15, page 15, line 2, at end insert— ("( ) A district salmon fishery board may, with the approval of the Secretary of State, prohibit all netting operations in a river if the flow falls below an agreed level, certified by the River Purification Board.")

Amendment No. 26: Line 4, at end insert ("In England and Wales the Minister for Agriculture and the Secretary of State respectively may exercise the same power, if requested to do so by the appropriate water authority.")

Amendment No. 27: Page 15, line 2, at end insert— ("( ) A district salmon fishery board may restrict or prohibit all netting operations if the flow falls below a level at which salmon, grilse or sea trout will not normally run the river.") These amendments all deal with roughly the same point, which is the question of low river flows, and I should like to ask my noble friend whether it is acceptable to him to group these five amendments in one debate.

Lord Gray of Contin

Yes, I am very happy to take these amendments as the noble Viscount suggests.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Ridley

These amendments deal with the principle of stopping net catches in times of drought or low water, and I move Amendment No. 10 with the spirit of Amendment No. 9 behind me in the interests of conservation of salmon stocks. The problem of this matter of reducing catches in times of drought or low water was mentioned by several of your Lordships in the Second Reading debate and I believe it was said that it was something which was desirable.

I would remind your Lordships that there is very much of a precedent for this sort of legislation, in that the Secretary of State for the Environment in England and Wales and the Secretary of State for Scotland have power to stop the shooting of certain species of wild fowl in times of very cold weather. To do this, they have to consult the Nature Conservancy Council and the advice can be given quickly and effectively. I believe that it is a widely accepted power which has done a great deal to conserve those species which can suffer in very cold weather and is accepted by those who enjoy the sport of wildfowling and shooting. It is a valuable power which we now seek to extend to the field of salmon fishing.

When my noble friend Lord Gray replied to the debate on Second Reading, I am afraid that I thought his answers to this problem were, to say the least, slightly unsatisfactory. The first argument he deployed was that there was no means of defining a drought and therefore the clause could not be valid. There is more difficulty in defining a frost, but we have overcome that problem in the case of wildfowling. So I do not accept that that need necessarily be a total bar to action. There was a definition of drought up until 1976, which was that 15 consecutive days without rain constituted a drought. As your Lordships will remember, in 1976 we had about three months without rain and the definition had to be abandoned as being too narrow. It was concurrent with the appointment of a Minister for Drought, who, alas!, is not here to defend my amendment.

I do not think it is beyond the wit of man and of our legislators to define the sort of drought that we are talking about. It is obviously not possible to say that you stop all fishing after 15 consecutive days without rain; it is much too narrow a definition. But I think it is possible to define it by reference to the amount of river flow. I believe, although I have no personal experience, that Scotland is covered by a series of river purification boards. These have, as a matter of statute, to define the height of a river, to measure it constantly and to monitor the flow of the river, and I think they have means of doing so. If they were approached, I am quite sure that they would be able to set some standard of river flow which was a dangerous level at which salmon were very much at risk. These purification boards do not extend to England and Wales, but amendments in the names of other noble Lords will, I think, cover that problem.

My noble friend then went on to say that there were difficulties because some areas of Scotland were not covered by fishery boards and, therefore, it was not possible to do this, because one fishery board might want this but another area could not have it because it had no board. That seems to me not only a very weak reason, but it is making the best the enemy of the good, which should never be done by us in legislation. I liken that to the argument that, because certain places do not have banks, they cannot be allowed to have bank holidays. The place from which my noble friend Lord Gray takes his title, Contin, does not, I think, have a bank. Therefore, Contin should not be allowed to have a bank holiday under that argument.

I should prefer to see that each fishery district board had this power itself. As your Lordships are well aware, it is obvious that it can be raining very hard in the west of Scotland, with the fish running, but in the east of Scotland the rivers can be at a very low level. So it seems to me quite wrong that this legislation should be in force for the whole country at any one time. Each board should have the power to trigger off an application to the Secretary of State, who acts very much as a safeguard, to ask that the restrictions on fishing should be brought into effect. In the same way, Amendment No. 19 suggests that the Secretary of State can himself do this, if he thinks fit. So there are many safeguards built into this and it is the principle which we are raising tonight.

I am aware that in some estuaries fish do not enter and are not at risk. They remain well out to sea until they smell the fresh water and then they enter the run-up. But there are other estuaries—and many people will tell your Lordships that this happens on the Tweed and the Tay—where they go up and down on the tide, hoping to find that the river has risen, and they are particularly vulnerable if they are unable to enter the river. Therefore, it is in the interests not only of the conservation of stocks but also of the people who should be profiting by making good catches of these fish, and in the interests of the whole purpose of this Bill that these powers should be taken under this opportunity, to be used in a drought or similar emergency for the benefit of all.

I would, finally, say that it is obviously not fair that this restriction should be totally forced upon the net fishing part of the industry. I have no doubt that if it is possible—we have already debated what is adequate tackle and perhaps we could tie in that previous debate—there should be some method whereby rod fishing could be curtailed in such periods. The difficulty is that it is much harder to enforce this. But it is quite clear that the whole object of any such operations is to see that in times of drought the fish are protected until the river is rising again and they can enter it and fulfill their natural cycle. I beg to move.

Lord Moran moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 10, Amendment No. 11:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, has put the case for Amendment No. 10 very cogently. But I believe that exactly the same need arises in England and Wales; droughts, sadly, are not confined to Scotland. The Welsh Water Authority, for example, have said: It should be possible to bring in short-term immediate restrictions on fishing during droughts when low water flow concentrates the fish in estuaries and pools without enough fresh water coming down rivers to encourage them to move upstream. This can lead to serious over-cropping with damage to future stocks".

I think it is very desirable that these provisions, if we introduce them, should be applied throughout Great Britain. As this is the first amendment I have put down designed to extend some provisions in this Bill to England and Wales—others are Amendments Nos. 26, 34 and 35—I should like to stress two points. First, that, in my view, we should never forget that we ought to try to move towards a national salmon management policy; and secondly, that salmon stocks in England and Wales are, by and large, less plentiful and more vulnerable than they are in Scotland. They are under greater pressure from water extraction, pollution and other things. Therefore, there is a need for more—not less—protection for them in this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Croy

I should like to support the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Ridley, and I certainly would not oppose the extension of the principle to England and Wales, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Moran. My noble friend has pointed out that there are periods when salmon can be taken exceedingly easily by nets at river mouths and in the firths and that there ought to be some control of that. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to say that there are no problems about judging a certain height of the river at a crucial point, and that it will be possible in each river to reach an agreement and to measure a point at which this provision should come into force.

He referred to the similar situation covering wildfowl. The Secretary of State for Scotland has exercised that power within the past two or three years during extremely hard winters and he has done it successfully and without opposition. I understand that the Secretary of State for the Environment also has exercised it in recent memory as regards England. I am not sure what the position is in regard to Wales.

I also agree with my noble friend that to consider a period of drought as the correct measure for a river does not take into account Scottish conditions, because the height of a river can very much depend upon melting snow. Certainly snow coming from heights of over 2,000 or 3,000 feet can still be affecting a river in Scotland well into the summer. So it is a much fairer measure to be able, if it is possible—and I hope it is—to make a judgment in accordance with an agreed level of each river, which, of course, has to be certified by the river purification board.

The noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, did not move his amendment to this clause on the same point. but it has been referred to and I think we all agree that, in principle, we are all aiming for what he has drafted, which is in the interests of conserving the stock of salmon. But I would go further than that. To those who are following our debates, or reading accounts of them, and look at the text of this Bill when it is enacted, I would say that in some of the rivers today it is not a question of conserving stocks of salmon; it is a question of increasing stocks of salmon, because the stocks are already much too low for various reasons, some of which I shall give.

First, disease in the past 15 or 20 years has affected the numbers of fish. Secondly, uncontrolled drift-netting at sea, to which we shall be coming later, has, I am absolutely certain, decimated stocks in various areas. Finally, and not least, there is the highly organised slaughter of fish by gangs of poachers. Here, again, the Bill is trying to put that right. I do not believe that in supporting this amendment, my noble friend and I are trying to attack the netsmen in the firth and river mouth. It is in their interest, as much as in anyone else's concerned with salmon, that the stocks should be increased and conserved. But there must be some system which will enable salmon to run up the rivers at times when they are most vulnerable and this provision would add, I think most usefully, to this conservation measure.

Lord Biddulph

Perhaps I may get on to the question of drought conditions. They vary from river to river. But might I suggest that the question of temperature and oxygen content might come into this as well. It is quite clear to me that in certain rivers salmon do not run if the water temperature rises above 70 degrees or the oxygen content has dropped. It does not matter whether there has been a month-long drought in these rivers because the salmon will still run. But if the oxygen content should drop or the water temperature should rise above a certain level, they will not. So it might help to define this question of drought if these other factors are taken into consideration.

6 p.m.

Baroness White

I rise to support Amendment No 11—admirably proposed by Lord Moran. It refers to one of three particular aspects of this Bill to which attention was drawn in the press release last week of the Welsh Water Authority. They are much concerned that the only provisions in this Bill which refer to England and Wales are included in one substantive clause, Clause 26, which, in the view of the Welsh Water Authority, as it now stands is not adequately enforceable; and the penalties clause, clause 27, which the Water Authorities Association of England and Wales has asked the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, and one or two other noble Lords entirely to revamp. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that it is a very frustrating situation when one has two clauses inserted into what is a Scottish Bill. We have just as serious problems over salmon management and salmon fisheries in the Principality as there are in Scotland. I am not sure whether noble Lords in all parts of the House fully realise that we have up to 50 rivers in Wales which can be fished for salmon or sea trout—we call them sewin—and that our recorded salmon catch is equal to that of England. Our unrecorded salmon catch might possibly be even greater. We feel strongly that proper provision should be made in the Principality for dealing with the serious situation of low water in drought conditions.

At Second Reading the noble Lord the Minister said that, so far as he was aware, there was no generally accepted standard for defining drought. The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, have drawn attention to a comparable provision for dealing with the shooting of wildfowl. I took the trouble to look at the Drought Act 1976. Admittedly this Act does not apply to Scotland—only to England and Wales—so one can understand if the noble Lord, Lord Gray, is not entirely familiar with it. But it also indicates that our droughts are worse than yours. Section 1(1) of the Act states: If the Secretary of State is satisfied that, by reason of an exceptional shortage of rain, a serious deficiency of supplies of water in any area exists or is threatened then … he may by order make such provision authorised by this section as appears to him to be expedient". Section 1(2) states that: the power to make an order under this section … shall only be exercisable where an application is made to the Secretary of State by a water authority or statutory water company". That of course applies to England and Wales. It admittedly leaves the matter open to a very wide discretion but at least it gets over the problem of when a drought is really threatening the fish stocks.

I would not presume to suggest that this is necessarily a better way of dealing with the matter than by having agreed levels for every river, but I am not at all sure that an agreement between the Secretary of State and the appropriate water authority, at any rate so far as Wales is concerned, would not be by far the most sensible way of dealing with the matter. Incidentally, under the Drought Act, the Secretary of State could vary or revoke any such order without having to wait for the initiative of the water authority. He has very considerable discretion under this particular enactment.

This should be considered again very seriously. It is already quite plain that many of us in the Committee are concerned that this matter should be dealt with.

Lord Chelwood

A very strong case has been made for the principle contained in these amendments. It is well known to the Committee that the balance between netsmen and rodsmen has been very heavily weighted in favour of the former for a long time—perhaps for all time. Netting in drought conditions and very low water is surely from a conservation point of view a self-defeating exercise, bearing in mind the awful hazards the salmon has to run both on the high seas and in trying to get up the rivers. It of course results in quite a substantial reduction in the breeding stock of the salmon.

I make no attack on the netsman, who do only what they are allowed to do by law but it is a fact—this may have been mentioned at Second Reading—that, over the past 20 years or so, roughly six to eight times the weight or numbers of fish, whichever way one likes to put it, have been taken by netsmen compared with rodsmen in our rivers. Yet at the same time there has been a steady decline in net catches. Admittedly there have been small increases in rod catches, which some people find curious, though that of course is affected by many variable factors. But the significant thing to me and I think to your Lordships will be that netsmen have seen their catch roughly halved since 1973. If that is not proof of the fact that the number of fish trying to get up our rivers has greatly decreased, I do not know what is. I think that is a very significant fact.

I believe that the principles contained in these amendments—the amendments may not be perfectly drafted, and indeed I do not think they are—are quite excellent. If they make good sense in Scotland, surely they make equally good sense in England and Wales.

The Duke of Atholl

I should like to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ridley, but before doing so perhaps I should declare an interest, in that I own some rather indifferent salmon fishing in Scotland.

I am personally convinced that it is a useful amendment because last summer, as the Committee may remember, we in Scotland suffered from almost incessant rain. There were undoubtedly many more fish in my particular part of the river and, I believe, in the whole of the rest of the Tay system than there had been in the previous year, which was the most glorious summer for the holidaymaker but not so good for the fisherman.

The noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, said that he would think of bringing in something that would stop rodsmen from fishing in really dry weather. I do not think this is necessary. You seldom have much success as a rodsman fishing in dry weather unless you use means which are already made illegal by other enactments. I cannot believe that the noble Viscount really meant to ban methods which are already banned. I think that we will spare him that chore and say that he need not try bringing in anything to stop rods from fishing away quite happily in dry weather. On the other hand, I do think that nets take an enormous number of fish when there is a real drought and that it would be very advantageous if a provision such as this could be included in the Bill.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I wholeheartedly support the object of both these amendments, though I have certain reservations about them because I think this is something that should be done by the district salmon fishery boards. If the Secretary of State is to do it, or if he has to be consulted, it will take far too long—at least I think it will—because when the river falls below an agreed level you must be able to act at once. The district salmon fishery board can do this because it is local. It knows the conditions and can be flexible. I do not know how long it would take the Secretary of State to act or how long it would take to consult him but I suspect that it would be a matter of a week or a fortnight or something rather like that. Perhaps I am wrong but if not I do not think that will do a great deal of good. In that time, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, conditions may have changed, rain or melting snow in the hills may well have raised the river level considerably and so you may be in a position to allow netting again. Again in that case you would not want to waste a week or a fortnight chasing after the Secretary of State. This is very much a matter of day to day management.

Perhaps I may also say a word about the level of water at which fish run a river. It would not be difficult for district fishery boards to establish the level at which salmon will normally run a particular river, as has been shown by a study on the Aberdeenshire Dee. If catch statistics are analysed against river flows and also by checking the levels at which salmon bearing tide-lice or sea-lice are caught it is quite apparent, and this should not be a costly exercise. Sea-lice fall off a fish a maximum of 72 hours after the fish has entered fresh water, so a fish with sea-lice on it cannot have been in the river for more than 72 hours and a fish without sea-lice must have been in the river for more than 72 hours. If you examine fish you can see whether they have newly come in or have been there for some time.

Lord Kimball

I find myself in somewhat of a minority here. I hope that my noble friend Lord Ridley will not have the same success with this amendment as he had with his previous amendment. Although I sympathise with the spirit behind the amendment, I must tell your Lordships that in practical terms it simply will not work. The theory that because you have a drought in your watershed your fish will remain in your estuary, washing in and out on the tide hoping that in a couple of weeks' time they will eventually be able to run the river, just is not true. In actual fact what happens is that they try the river of their origin the first time round and if there is a drought there they push off round the coast, basically going off round to the east coast and down the east coast, turning round at Northumberland and coming round again up the coast of Scotland, hoping to get up a river.

Noble Lords may be interested to know that we undertook a practical experiment in which I stopped my own sweep net on the north coast of Scotland. I am of course only talking about a small river and not about a large one such as the Tay or the Tweed. Before we stopped the sweep net I had the salmon research people up from Faskally and we tagged the last 40 fish that we took in our sweep net. We then put our sweep net away.

Within 10 days, we had 36 of those 40 tags returned—six from the west coast and the balance from the east coast. I believe that some of them came from the river of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. Those fish went on. I cannot imagine being in a worse position—not being allowed to net my river but having the noble Viscount net all my fish! I think that would be very unfair. The principle has much to commend it but I must tell your Lordships that in fact it would not achieve the object that my noble friend Lord Ridley intends.

Lord Chelwood

May I say to my noble friend in the most friendly way possible that he refers to the salmon in the Naver, which I know so well, as being his fish. Are they not our fish?

Viscount Trenchard

I must disagree with my noble friend and support the two amendments to which we have been speaking, Amendments Nos. 10 and 11. I know that my noble friend Lord Kimball is familiar with every inch of the Naver and the north coast of Scotland but I am interested to learn that he has swum all round the coast, following underwater the normal route of fish that have not been tagged. There is evidence that the tagging and handling of fish alters their running habits. There is also enormous evidence that the vast majority of fish almost insist on returning to their own river and to the tributary of it.

I ask my noble friend Lord Kimball to consider the phrase used by my noble friend Lord Ridley, which is that the Secretary of State in Scotland would act only after consulting such persons as he considers appropriate". I cannot imagine that in the instance of the river Naver my noble friend Lord Kimball would not be consulted. I do not believe therefore that inappropriate action would be taken in his particular river.

As far as concerns a river that I know very well—and I have fished my noble friend's river but I am speaking now of the other end of the kingdom, in South-West England—the Tamar has a long estuary, and there is no doubt whatsoever that fish go up and down it. They go up it just ahead of the tide and down it again if there is an inadequate flow. They die in large numbers from pollution when the water level falls very low. They have been assessed as dead fish and have been removed by the South West Water Authority, which I believe estimated in the last drought year well over 2,000 dead fish.

In those conditions, legal netting stations up and down the estuary take the remainder of fish that have not died. I therefore say to my noble friend Lord Kimball that he will be consulted. I have absolutely no doubt that his netting will not be stopped unless he stops it himself, because he knows so much about that river. I ask him not to destroy what appears to be a totally unanimous view for Great Britain, that there should be some such power in the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Gray is probably going to ask, "How is the level, in the terms of Amendment No. 11, going to be agreed?" My noble friend Lord Ridley uses the word "agreed". In England and Wales, perhaps it should be that the onus should be placed on the water authorities to recommend a level below which they will consider prohibition.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Gibson-Watt

If I may comment very briefly, without entering into the argument between the east and the west coast of Scotland, I support very much what has been said by various noble Lords and by the noble Baroness, Lady White, about Amendment No. 11. The noble Baroness speaks with a great deal of experience because of her position in the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology. That is very important.

I wish to make two points. The first is that the amendment here applies in other parts of the Bill, and I support that as well. Secondly, as I see it, the issue is that if one establishes water authorities, which were set up in 1972, then one ought to give those authorities as much reasonable responsibility as possible. I say to your Lordships that the reaction of the Welsh Water Authority to this Bill is one of great disappointment.

I am very much encouraged by the fact that my noble friend Lord Belstead is sitting on the Front Bench at the moment. Indeed, that is greatly to his credit. I hope that he will convey to his right honourable friend that those of us who do not live north of the Border had hoped to have a little more in the Bill to help both English and Welsh fisheries. What has been said about conservation applies countrywide and not just to Scotland. I shall not say more because there are others wishing to speak.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I must take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, on two counts. The first is that rivers are different and what obtains for the Naver does not, necessarily obtain for other rivers and certainly does not obtain for the Dee, where this practice has been tried and where the results have been helpful. Secondly, if the fish do go away—which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, observed, they do not necessarily do, because tagged fish behave in a strange way—in, say, July of one year, when there is drought in the Naver area, but possibly not in another area, then so what? The following year the position may be completely reversed.

The Earl of Onslow

I should like to produce some personalised evidence of the hammering that low-water fishing can have on a river. I am very privileged to be asked to fish the Helmsdale, which I suppose is one of the greatest of all the Scottish sea rivers. In 1984, as your Lordships are well aware, there was an enormous amount of drought and no rain at all. The Helmsdale has a dam that they normally try to manage. This year there was much too much water and it could not be let out; but that is a different story.

In 1984, all the dam water was used and everybody wanted to go on the bottom beat of the private rod stretch. In August, almost from first light until eight o'clock, one could have caught one's limit on that bottom beat because all the fish were concentrated there. Consequently, that bottom beat received a hammering, which perhaps it should not have suffered. Not all those fish were necessarily taken in the mouth, because the place was so crammed with fish that one could not get up-river. Some of them had hooked not a million miles away from other parts of their body, if I may put it like that.

There is evidence to support my noble friend Lord Ridley when he says that there should be efforts made, even in rod fishing, to control the situation. We must never lose sight of the fact that the tonnage of salmon has fallen from the 10,000 tonnes caught 10 years ago to 5,000 tonnes caught last year. That is too big a fall to be anything like comfortable. Having said that once already, and again now, I come to the logic of continuing onto the English rivers and not giving my noble friend Lord Kimball the benefit of the doubt. He may be right, but the evidence is that he is wrong; and with that catastrophic fall in salmon catches we cannot afford to take the risk of not making the maximum amount of conservation effort that we can.

Viscount Thurso

I fear that the thought lying behind these amendments is totally illusory. I support the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, in that, and I will produce figures. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is wrong in believing that it was a disaster that there was a hammering on the lower beat of which he spoke. In fact, it probably saved some of the fish from death by other causes.

On the Thurso—I forget exactly what year it was, but in the 1960s—we had extremely low conditions for a long period. However, there were regular little spates that raised the water level from time to time. This kept the salmon coming into the estuary, and, as a result, by mid-July the netsmen at the mouth of the river had caught very nearly a record catch. At that point I said to them, "Look, chaps, you have done very well. You are on full bonus. You have made as much as you possibly can. From now on it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who gets all the benefit. Shall we give a chance to the rod fishermen and to the river in general? Shall we take off the net from 1st August?" They agreed. They were satisfied to sit back and let the fish run the river.

There came a little rise of four inches at the marker at Halkirk and the fish ran solidly into the river. Unfortunately, that was all the rise there was. Throughout the rest of the month of August and the month of September we had to employ a man to bury the dead fish which were on the bottom three beats of the river. The fish were so crowded in those bottom three beats that they were dying of suffocation. They were so crowded together that the cocks were actually letting go their milk because they thought they were spawning. After that rise in the water the rods caught no fish until the end of the season. Therefore, in my view, it is a totally illusory amendment.

The fact is that all salmon behave more or less the same way. It does not matter whether they are east coast fish, west coast fish or Icelandic fish, as long as they are Atlantic salmon they behave in roughly the same way. When they come back to their coast they search it. They go up and down trying the rivers for taste. If they find their own river there is a tendency for them to stay off the mouth of it. They will go into it and go up with the tide to the high tide mark and back down again. At very low levels they will run the river.

I remember on one occasion there was a digger working in the mouth of the Thurso. I was standing on a rock in the middle of the Thurso talking to someone who was on a rock not far away. I heard a flapping noise at my feet. There was a fish coming up through about six inches of water. It was at my feet and running into the river—a fresh run grilse.

Viscount Trenchard

May I—

Viscount Thurso

I will give way in a moment, but please let me finish. What happens is that the fish come in and explore the estuary and go out again. If there is prolonged, definable drought the fish will go off the estuary and the netsmen at the mouth of the river will be longing for a rise of water to bring the fish back. In our case they also long for a south wind to take the taste of the fresh water out to bring the fish in. However, what they long for more than anything else is a small rise of water to define that a drought is not taking place. At that moment the fish will return once more to run the river.

Therefore, the conditions in which you catch most fish with an estuary net are those conditions where, generally speaking, the levels are low so that there is not a big pool of fresh water running out into the sea to bring the fish in and where there is not continual high water to tempt them every day to run up the river. There should be a little flow the whole time, but not a drought.

Viscount Trenchard

While I—

Viscount Thurso

I do not have to give way. I am trying to give an explanation of how all fish run a river. They will come in as long as there is a pool of water. They will try to run up the river and if they do not like it they will fall back and stay around. Full drought conditions are self-limiting and the idea that letting a lot of fish into the river in semi-drought conditions will do the river good is a totally illusory one.

Viscount Trenchard

May I just say to the noble Viscount that I respect entirely his great knowledge of his particular area and of fish generally. However, some of us are talking of estuaries which are 14 miles long with brackish water and tides that move up and down where there is no question whatever but that fish stay in that 14 miles and move up and down.

I say to the noble Viscount as I said to my noble friend Lord Kimball that under the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ridley he will be consulted. Nobody could possibly introduce something in Thurso over the head of the proprietor and the netting organisation. If his river runs straight into the sea and the fish behave exactly as the noble Viscount describes, then he will be unaffected. However, there are a great many other rivers in Scotland and in England where the experience of the noble Viscount and my noble friend does not, with respect, hold water.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Moran—or perhaps the Minister can help on this—whether, if his amendment is passed, it would mean altering the Long Title of the Bill? I think when we come to a later stage on the licensing of dealers in England it would be necessary that we should do so at the appropriate time. Indeed, he has an amendment to do this. I want to make it clear now that if it is necessary to do this we would do so in this House as I think it cannot be done in another place.

As regards the amendment, my noble friend Lord Gray will see that it is slightly more complicated than it perhaps looks from the wording. I am inclined to agree with the amendments. I think that on the whole they are desirable. However, if the Secretary of State is to have this power it must be on the recommendation of the river board. Conditions vary too much throughout the United Kingdom to give the Secretary of State this power without any local recommendations.

May I say to my noble friend Lord Ridley that, of course, this deals with nets only. He rather hinted that some comparable action might be taken in relation to rods. It would be extremely complex to design such a scheme. Riparian owners these days have to let their fishings months ahead. Not only do they let them to people in this country but often to foreigners. To be suddenly faced with an order from the Secretary of State that all rod fishing should cease at a certain height of water would be difficult and extremely complicated.

Viscount Ridley

I did not say "cease".

Lord Home of the Hirsel

If we were to consider any sort of control of rod fishing at low water to compensate, so to speak, for any control put on the net fishing I would much rather see it done by regulating the lure or the bait. After all, the fellow is skilful who catches a fish at all with a fly.

Viscount Ridley

I did not say that it should cease. I said exactly what my noble friend Lord Home suggests. The Tweed is an example where the nets are all fixed fly only; and a very good rule that is.

Lord Burton

I should dearly love to support this amendment but I regret that I cannot support Amendment No. 10. I think the application is probably inoperable, certainly in most rivers. As my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel said, the whole set-up is extremely complex.

As a member of a purification board may I say that, first of all, we would require an enormous increase in staff, and there is no money provision in the Bill. The Highland River Purification Board covers the whole of the North of Scotland. We have three inspectors so it would be inoperable for them to be watching the mouths of the various rivers.

How are the various netting stations to be notified quickly? If it is done by advertisements in the paper it would almost certainly have rained by the time they see it. However, even before the official finds the gauge is below the level agreed—provided there is agreement—rain may already have fallen in the hills feeding the tributaries of the rivers concerned. A few minutes after the reading of the gauge the situation could have changed completely. It is not really like a hard weather situation where the birds are suffering. The change is much quicker than that. Indeed, there only needs to be a hot day to melt the snow and it would bring extra water into a number of rivers.

Again, a good many of our highland rivers are affected by hydro schemes which put the water level up and down not once but several times a day. The operation of the Caledonian Canal affects the nets very materially; the River Oich affects them even more so. So I find that there are various factors which regrettably make this amendment inoperable.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin

I wonder whether my noble friend Viscount Ridley realised just how much interest he would arouse in the amendment No. 10 that he tabled. In fact, the interest is such that at this time we are dealing with Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 25, 26, 27, 34 and 35, and at some time during the last 47 minutes all those amendments have been touched upon by one or other of your Lordships.

I find myself in the difficult and perhaps somewhat unusual position of sitting on the Front Bench feeling almost like an arbiter might feel in such a situation. We had a complete across-the-Floor exchange of views, with opinions not in any way being expressed along party lines but exchanged purely among Members of your Lordships' House who have a tremendous knowledge of this very important sport and, indeed, industry.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, who raised a very important point, as he does so often, regarding the Long Title of the Bill. I have been advised that it would be necessary to change the Long Title of the Bill were this amendment to be accepted. I must state straightaway that it is not possible for me to accept this amendment and in due course I shall give your Lordships some reasons why I cannot. Indeed, it is not possible for me to accept any of the amendments, but I take the unusual step of giving my conclusion before I deal with the various points which have been raised.

There has been such interest taken in this amendment and so many points have been raised on it that I should prefer my advisers to have the opportunity of reading Hansard tomorrow and studying the deliberations which have taken place, so that we can come to a conclusion a little later. I do this without any commitment because, as the noble Lord, Lord Burton, the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, and the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, very properly pointed out, the difficulties which are involved in formulating any amendment that would cover the points which many noble Lords have raised this afternoon would be great indeed. I shall take the amendment away and, without giving any commitment, I shall study it carefully and make sure that all the points which have been raised are carefully considered.

I think we all appreciate the concern of the noble Viscount to restrict netting effort in drought conditions in order to conserve stocks. However, I need hardly remind your Lordships that drought is not a common phenomenon in Scotland. Moreover, if we take the nets off in low water conditions it might easily be argued that, in fairness, we ought to dispense with the weekly close time arrangements in high water conditions. I believe that this measure is unnecessary and that there are better and less potentially acrimonious ways of conserving stocks and maintaining a reasonable balance between rods and nets under the provisions of this Bill.

I may say that I am advised that the proposed amendment is defective in a number of respects. For example, it is not at all clear how prohibitions would be effected and enforced. It is not clear whether it is envisaged that the proposed consultation will take place initially in order to determine the agreed level or whether it will be undertaken on every occasion on which the Secretary of State intends to prohibit netting. It would be necessary to provide a method of imposition of the prohibitions and for offences and penalties, if a prohibition of this nature is to be effectively enforced. However, my objections are on the principle of what is proposed and not just on the defective drafting.

The noble Lord, Lord Moran, my noble friend Lord Chelwood and the noble Baroness, Lady White, all spoke to Amendments Nos. 11 and 26. I should point out that, following the drought of 1984, the Government are reviewing the operation of drought procedures in England and Wales and we should not anticipate the outcome of that drought review. So far as Amendments Nos. 11 and 26 are concerned, I could not accept them in any event because I feel that it would be wrong for us to pre-empt what might be revealed in the review.

Regarding Amendment No. 25—

The Earl of Onslow

I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend Lord Gray on this point but I should like some clarification. Is he saying that during this drought review which the Government are undertaking, if they consider it necessary, and it can be shown to be necessary, to introduce regulations of this sort on English salmon waters, they will do so; or is he just saying, "We are looking at the drought review and I do not have to address myself to the problem raised by my noble friend Lord Trenchard of the fish in the Tamar"?

Lord Gray of Contin

No, that is not quite what I am saying. I shall try to explain to my noble friend. What I said was that I thought it would be wrong for us at this stage and in this legislation to pre-empt the conclusions of the drought review, but of course if at some future time legislation is required then it will be up to the respective departments concerned to decide whether or not such legislation should be introduced. I am not suggesting for one moment that the conclusions of the review will necessarily have to be implemented in this way. I am merely saying that it would be wrong for us to pre-empt those conclusions.

Lord Moran

I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord the Minister, but may I ask whether the officials who are conducting the drought review are under instructions to consider the fisheries aspect, and particularly the aspect of the threat to salmon and sea trout when they are entering rivers in drought conditions?

Lord Gray of Contin

Yes, I am advised that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have an input into the review and have every right to make their views known to those who are considering the matter.

I am afraid that Amendment No. 25 has similar defects to the earlier amendment. In addition to those which I have already mentioned, there is no procedure for a board to impose a ban. In any case, for the reasons I gave in regard to the earlier proposal, I consider that this would be undesirable in principle.

Regarding Amendment No. 27 which was spoken to by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, I suggest that the amendment is inappropriate, since its reference to "all netting operations" is too widely drawn and consequently open to various interpretations. Furthermore, there is no indication given as to how the restriction or prohibition which is contained in the amendment would be imposed and enforced. I am afraid that in those circumstances I am not able to accept her amendment—certainly not in the form in which it has been tabled. However, it is useful to note that all the amendments aim at the same conclusion. Because of the wide interest expressed, I shall look carefully at what has been said.

Let me now touch on Amendments Nos. 34 and 35. In England and Wales it is already an offence under Section 30 of the Salmon and Fresh Water Fisheries Act 1975 to introduce fish or spawn into inland waters without the consent of the relevant water authority. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, would merely duplicate those powers.

A number of other points were raised. The difficulties that we face have been highlighted by the variety of ideas put forward for handling low water conditions. For example, my noble friend Lord Biddulph mentioned the question of oxygen. That is a matter which is vitally important and would have to be considered. But that suggestion and the speech of my noble friend Lord Kimball highlight the difficulties of tackling the problem.

Bird shooting restriction was mentioned, but that is not an entirely apt comparison. Bird shooting prohibitions concern recreational shooting. The salmon fishing proposal is directed at commercial netting operations. I suggest to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy that the frost provisions relating to bird shooting (in Section 2(6) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act) are in marked contrast. Winters are measured by a widespread phenomenon—days of frost. River levels will differ according to the river, the time and the place, and the levels would have to be set individually for each separate river. Weighting in favour of netsmen was also suggested. I cannot agree with that. They are more severely restricted than the angler, and rightly so, because they use a much more efficient method of catching fish.

I realise that this is another area of great concern to the Committee. I do not expect that I shall be able to resolve the matter easily or at all; but I give the Committee the assurance that in view of the strong opinions expressed on both sides of the argument I shall consider the matter carefully before we reach the next stage of the Bill.

Viscount Ridley

I thank my noble friend for his considered reply. I should just like to take my noble friend Lord Kimball to task—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

Before we come to Amendment No. 10, we have to dispose of Amendment No. 11. Does the noble Lord wish to say anything further or to withdraw his amendment?

Lord Moran

In the light of what the Minister has said, which I understand to be an assurance that the officials considering the drought review will take account of fisheries, and specifically of salmon, problems both in England and Wales, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Viscount Ridley

I shall not press Amendment No. 10 in view of what has been said, but I should like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in what has been a most valuable debate. From the many speeches that we have had there can be no doubt that there is a strong feeling in the Committee that something has to be done about this sooner or later. Some such powers are needed, although I am the first to admit that my drafting is far from perfect; in fact it is probably totally imperfect. But whatever we do should cover the whole of Great Britain and if possible all of the United Kingdom, and we must consider seriously how to do it.

I just wanted to take my noble friend Lord Kimball to task, as others have done. I fear that he is making the great mistake of talking about the Naver, which is one river that has almost no estuary. Will your Lordships consider this position? If, for instance, you were going upstairs to bed and half-way up the stairs you were caught by my noble friend, taken out of the water and a tag put in your ear, I think that you would try another staircase the next time that you wanted to go to bed! As to the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, I have never seen the Thurso river so I make no comment, but in view of the rather nasty sexual habits of his fish I am not sure that I want to. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 12 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 3, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Burton

Subsections (6)(a) and (b) refer to districts. Perhaps I may suggest that the Minister looks to see whether the phrase should not be added, "or parts of districts". I do not want to answer now.

Earl Haig

With the leave of the Committee, I should like to raise one or two points on which I should have put down an amendment but unfortunately the amendments that I posted by express post from Scotland failed to materialise here. As I shall not be able to be here at the Report stage, I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, to raise these two points which concern the powers of the Secretary of State to control the extraction of sand and gravel and the powers of the Secretary of State to control the extraction of water.

Like pollution, sand and gravel can upset the habitat of the salmon and affect their race. Digging can also affect fishing. Fishermen may suddenly find a day's fishing completely ruined by the sudden arrival of sand and other materials in the river which put off a day's sport to which they have been looking forward. There should be an opportunity for all interested parties to consult with the Secretary of State before bulldozers begin disturbing the river bed or the land near the river. As a result of consultations, plans can be made to arrange the timing and dating of operations to minimise damage to fishing and to fish. In order to preserve fish and promote fishing there should be some control. That is a view which I think is accepted by river and fishery boards in many parts of Scotland.

With regard to the other problem of water extraction, which of course is very much linked with the subject that we have been debating for the past hour—when low water conditions prevail —unnecessary and ill-timed extraction can adversely affect the river, particularly when the water is low, and warm water can promote algae and weed growth, with the maximum stress to the fish. Less water means less dilution of pollution, and water extractors may even add to the pollution by putting back water which is polluted.

The Secretary of State should, in consultation with river boards which have measuring equipment that is most efficient these days, be able to control extraction in the same way as he controls pollution. At present there are no controls in Scotland as there are in England and Wales, because the 1963 Act affected England and Wales only. It was assumed that the Scottish weather made us different. But recent summers, I believe, have destroyed that theory. In any case, the weather in Wales is very similar to that in Scotland.

Low water conditions on the Tweed in summer are presenting increasing problems. Abstraction takes place for the central belt water supply, for fish farms and for arable farming. The Tweed Purification Board minimises the problem by the introduction of fresh supplies from reservoirs. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State should have power to restrict water abstraction at certain times so that available water is wisely used for the benefit of all consumers. I ask my noble friend the Minister to think about the point that I have made. It is a matter that will possibly be raised at Report stage by someone in my name.

Lord Gray of Contin

My noble friend tabled a manuscript amendment which I have not had a great deal of time to consider. I would, however, say to him that the powers to make regulations under Clause 3 of the Bill are already extended to the whole of the river Tweed district, including that part in England, by Clause 9 as it stands. Indeed, the amendment proposed by my noble friend would restrict that application because, in describing the Tweed in the amendment, he omits to include that part which was added by by-law under the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868. Given this explanation and the fact that his amendment would not achieve what he seeks, he may perhaps consider withdrawing it.

Earl Haig

I was not actually moving any amendment. I was simply airing my views in the hope that these might be considered in St. Andrew's House before Report stage.

Lord Gray of Contin

I apologise to my noble friend. The mistake is mine. My noble friend was of course speaking on the Question that the clause stand part. I take note of what he says. We shall look forward to hearing from him at at a later stage.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Annual close time]:

Lord Ross of Marnock had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 13: Page 6, line 29, leave out subsections (4), (5) and (6).

The noble Lord said: The principle that I sought to debate in Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 has already been covered in the debate on Amendment No. 6. That being so, I do not propose to move either this amendment or Amendment No. 14.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Clause 7 [Estuary limits]:

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 15: Page 8, line 9, after ("Act") insert ("or in section 36 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868").

The noble Lord said: The effect of this amendment is to exclude the provisions of Section 36 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868 from Section 7(7). Section 36 provides that nothing in that Act or any by-law shall make any method of fishing legal if it would have been illegal at the passing of that Act. If the limits of the estuary of a river change by, for example, the mouth of the river moving along the coast, and this amendment was not made, the usual coastal methods of fishing could not be lawful in the area vacated by the estuary. This is not our intention in providing extra flexibility. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Application of regulations and annual close time orders to the River Tweed]:

Earl Haig moved manuscript Amendment No. 15A: Page 8, line 29, leave out from ("Tweed") to end of line 32 and insert ("including so much of the River Tweed as is situated outwith Scotland and the mouth or entrance of the River Tweed as defined in section 4 of the Tweed Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1859.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment refers to the desirability of enabling netting stations at the mouth of the Tweed to operate under the terms of the Bill. My amendment, which I shall read out, is at line 29 to leave out from "Tweed" to the end of line 32 and to insert: including so much of the River Tweed as is situated outwith Scotland and the mouth or entrance of the River Tweed as defined in section 4 of the Tweed Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1859". As I said in my speech at Second Reading, the Bill would not cover the netting stations at the mouth of the river which are in England. This amendment would bring those netting stations within the law. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I dealt with part of this amendment when I spoke after the noble Earl had spoken on the Question that Clause 3 stand part. I can perhaps reiterate the relevant parts, which are that the powers to make regulations under Clause 3 of the Bill are already extended to the whole of the river Tweed district, including that part in England, by Clause 9 as it stands. In view of what I have said and in view of the fact that the amendment proposed by my noble friend restricts that application, since it does not include that part which was added by by-law under the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1863, my noble friend will perhaps consider withdrawing the amendment.

Earl Haig

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Qualified proprietors and upper and lower proprietors]:

The Marquess of Lansdowne moved manuscript Amendment No. 15B:

Page 9, line 28, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 29 and insert ("the proprietors from time to time of—

  1. (a) a salmon fishery separately entered in the valuation roll as at 31st March 1985; and
  2. (b) a salmon fishery treated as having been separately entered in the said valuation roll under subsection (2) below.").

The noble Marquess said: I must apologise for this somewhat convoluted amendment which I have put in manuscript form. I tried to give my noble friend Lord Gray of Contin some notice of it. The object of the amendment—the noble Lord the Deputy Chairman of Committees has not read out the whole of it, for there is a great deal more—is to try to have a better definition of a qualified proprietor.

The definition in subsection (1) seems to be unsatisfactory in two respects. First, as noble Lords will be aware, it is becoming increasingly common for fisheries to be owned by a multiplicity of proprietors in pro indiviso shares, particularly in connection with time-share schemes. Each of those proprietors is entitled to be described as a person who owns a salmon fishery entered in the valuation roll, but in my opinion it is unreasonable that one fishery should support more than one voter. Secondly, there is a danger that proprietors may deliberately subdivide their fisheries into small units simply in order to create new fisheries and thus additional voters in fishery board elections. The amendments which I have tabled are designed to overcome those two possible abuses.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Gray, touched on the question of time-share schemes earlier in the debate. When I arrived from Scotland yesterday I went through all the amendments with great care and I thought that pretty well everything had been thought of. However, it seemed to me that perhaps here there is a gap and that is why I have taken the liberty of tabling the manuscript amendment. I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Gray, to give me a substantive reply, but I hope that he will consider the amendment I have put down and see whether it is helpful in overcoming the difficulties to which I have referred. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

As the noble Marquess explained, he tabled this amendment not very long before we started our deliberations. I have not had time to consider it and nor have my advisers had time to give me the appropriate advice. Therefore, I shall willingly take it away. I shall carefully read what my noble friend has said and I shall consider it before we reach the next stage of the Bill.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I must re-emphasise that only part of my amendment has been read out, but I take it that the noble Lord will consider the whole of it. With those comments, I am very pleased to beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I am most grateful to the noble Lord.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 16: Page 9, line 28, leave out ("person who owns") and insert ("proprietor of").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 16, and it may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. Amendment No. 17: Page 10, line 32, leave out from ("the") to end of line 33 and insert ("normal tidal limit"). Amendment No. 18: Page 10, line 39, leave out ("rolls") and insert ("a roll").

As regards Amendment No. 16, the term "proprietor" has been defined in Clause 28(1) and it is considered desirable to use this term in Clause 10(1) rather than to include a reference to "a person who owns". It is thought that the contrast with the definition might suggest that "person" could be interpreted to mean something different from "proprietor", as so defined. The amendment will ensure that only a proprietor, as defined in Clause 28(1) can be qualified for election to a district board. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Marquess of Lansdowne had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 16A:

Page 9, line 30, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) Without prejudice to subsections (9) and (10) below where

  1. (a) any salmon fishery separately owned at 31st March 1985 has been inadvertently omitted from the said valuation roll, the proprietor of that salmon fishery; or
  2. (b) the ownership of a material part of a salmon fishery separately owned at 31st March 1985 has been transferred, the transferee,
may apply to the district salmon fishery board, or where there is no district salmon fishery board to the sheriff, to be treated as if his fishery had been separately entered in the valuation roll as at 31st March 1985. (2A) Where more than one person owns a salmon fishery the proprietors of that fishery shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as a single qualified proprietor only.").

The noble Marquess said: As I understand that the noble Lord will be considering this matter, I do not wish to move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 16A not moved.]

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 17:

[Printed above.]

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment, I beg to move.

Lord Burton

I should like to ask a question. As the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said earlier, papers have been dropping through our letterboxes by almost every post. It is unfortunate that the time has been so short. However, this morning I received a letter from the Law Society of Scotland and I know that there are difficulties about the question of the mean high tide water mark or any tide mark. They have suggested—and it is only a suggestion; I do not know whether there is anything in it—that the wording concerning mean high tide mark should read: the base line referred to in Section 1(1) of the Fishery Limits Act 1976".

Lord Gray of Contin

Perhaps it may be easier if I actually explain the amendment so that everyone can appreciate the wording. It has been drawn to our attention by the District Boards Association that the words: mean high water mark of ordinary spring tides", are not the most appropriate in this context because the high water mark in a tidal river is not a point, nor a line across the river, but two separate lines, roughly parallel to the course of the river, one on each bank. The words used by the ordnance survey to describe the up-river end of the tidal flow are "normal tidal limit", and those should be used here. I beg to move.

Lord Burton

I am sure that my noble friend will look at the Law Society's definition about drawing a line. There are difficulties, as my noble friend has explained.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 18:

[Printed above.]

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 18ZA and 18ZB not moved.]

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [District salmon fishery boards]:

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 18A: Page 12, line 42, at end insert ("in proportion to the value of their fisheries in the valuation roll").

The noble Lord said: I think that this amendment is self-explanatory. The amendment concerns the question of what happens to the assets when a district is wound up. There may be cars or even houses. It seems reasonable, therefore, that when they are divided between the proprietors concerned they should be divided in proportion to the value of the fisheries in the valuation roll. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

As my noble friend Lord Burton has pointed out, this amendment seeks to ensure that members of the association of proprietors who inherit the liabilities and assets of a defunct district board, share in such liabilities and assets in the same proportion in which they contribute to the fishery assessment. This seems in principle an attractive suggestion and I am grateful to my noble friend for moving it. I am willing to undertake to give the proposal detailed consideration and I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment on that assurance.

Lord Burton

I have great pleasure in begging leave to withdraw the amendment on the basis of that assurance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 19: Page 13, line 13, leave out subsection (9).

The noble Lord said: I hesitate to describe this as a simple amendment after the discussion which we had on what I naïvely thought was a simple amendment; namely, Amendment No. 10. On Second Reading I said that I was looking forward to the Committee stage, during which I was sure I should learn a great deal. I assure your Lordships that I have learnt a great deal, particularly about the difference between rivers which seem to me to be in the far north of Scotland and the rivers in the rest of Scotland.

The purpose of the amendment is to ask the Minister why subsection (9) is necessary at all. It seems to me to be cluttering up the legislation to have a subsection which says: There may be a district salmon fishery board for a district whether or not there are salmon in the waters of that district".

It seems rather superfluous to me. However, we had a little over an hour's debate on Amendment No. 10, and I should not be surprised if this one took us up to the time when we break for dinner. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

It may seem strange to some to make provision for a salmon fishery board for a district which has no salmon in its waters. This provision is simply a re-enactment of part of Section 3 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868 which is being repealed by this Bill. More importantly, however, I think it would be imprudent not to allow a board to be formed in anticipation of salmon being introduced into inland waters or returning there.

It would also be imprudent for a board to have to be wound up if, following some disaster, salmon stocks in a particular district were killed off, which of course is one of the implications of the amendment. It may be in such circumstances, for example, that the proprietors would wish to retain the board to help towards regeneration of stocks. I hope in view of what I have said that the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, will agree to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think that the second point made by the Minister is quite reasonable. There had been a board; there had been fish, and the hope is that there might be fish again. But if there had never been fish how do we get the board? Remember it is only to be created on the basis of two qualified proprietors. That takes you back to the presence of fish.

There may be some who perhaps go down to wherever the noble Lord, Lord Burton, is and buy a couple of fish and put them in and say, "Here you are. I am a qualified proprietor of a salmon fishery area". But it beats me as to how you get the board. I can understand the situation where you have a board and the fish have disappeared, but where you have no fish how do you get the board? If you do not get a board, how on earth does this apply?

Lord Campbell of Croy

While my noble friend the Minister is considering an answer to that point, whatever his answer to that may be may I ask him whether the Bill will provide for a situation where there are at present no salmon in a river but where it is proposed to introduce some? If the Bill is not drafted to provide this at the moment, I suggest that it should be drafted so that it would be possible to bring a board into existence on the serious proposal to introduce salmon into a river.

I know that this extends to England. About seven years ago the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, introduced small salmon into the River Thames, and I understand that some have been caught since then. No doubt he will be able to tell us later. This particular clause deals with Scotland, but if there are no salmon and they can be introduced and the conditions are favourable for their introduction, then it would be a pity if there were no provision for a board to be set up in order to be able to cater for the situation once the salmon have been introduced.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to my noble friend because he has really answered the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, for me. This is a re-enactment. It would seem to us to be imprudent not to allow a board to be formed in anticipation of salmon being introduced into inland waters, or returning there. As my noble friend suggested, it could be that restocking would be going to take place, and it might be desirable that a board be created. It seems to us that it is not unreasonable to have this re-enactment for the purposes I have suggested.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Can we settle it fairly quickly? We have had it since 1868. How many times has the provision been used? If it has not been used, let us forget it. If it has been used, tell us—or write a letter to the Solicitor-General, or someone or other.

Lord Burton

If the river is stocked with little fish which it is illegal to take, they will then migrate to the sea and there will be a period before they come back again. Therefore, there may be no fish in the river at the time but there would be a strong expectancy that they will arrive within a period.

I believe that there was a good deal of difficulty over the Clyde. Perhaps noble Lords opposite will know more about it than I do. I believe that they have recently had salmon where they had not previously had them, and I believe that there were no proper controls because they did not exist. No doubt noble Lords opposite will know more about that than I do.

7.15 p.m.

Viscount Thurso

It is important not to delete this. I am thinking in terms of where one is trying to create a proper structure over a length of coast. It may well be that between two district board areas as presently defined there lies an area where there has not been defined a district board simply because the burn, or river, which flows in at that point is too small to support a breeding stock of salmon.

Nevertheless, the coast there will be patrolled by fish, as we have heard described by the noble Lord, Lord Kimball. I am sure that it would be valuable to be able to include this in an area provided that the people in that area—the proprietors of the banks of the burn, or indeed the foreshore, or whatever—were not against it. We should not leave it out if we are hoping to cover the whole of Scotland with a uniform structure.

Lord Gray of Contin

I think I have said all I need say. I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, has just said. I see no reason for deleting this. It is a provision that we should retain.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I asked the Minister whether he could produce any figures, or any information, about how often this provision had been used since 1868. The main reason he gave at first was that it had been there since 1868, and they want to carry it on.

Lord Gray of Contin

Obviously I cannot give the noble Lord the figures he requires. But, in any event, whether it has been used or not is no reason to suspect that it might not be used at some future time. It is not doing anybody any harm, and I see little point in removing it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

It did not quite reach as long as the hour, but it is amazing that such an amendment should have managed to take the time it has. It is still a Catch 22 situation. As my noble friend Lord Ross of Marnock said, if it was salmon leaving the river obviously there would already have been boards there and they would be entitled to stay in the hope that the salmon would come back. But the problem is how you set up a board under the terms of the Bill as it stands when assessment is necessary. Who becomes the chairman, what is the proportion of voting, and all the rest of it when there is no assessment possible, because assessment is based on the fish in the river and there are none? Therefore it seems impossible to me.

However, we have had a fair discussion. It might be interesting if the Minister or the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate could look back through the archives and see whether anything has ever happened and whether this section has ever been used. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kimball moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 13, line 14, at end insert— ("(9A) Where there is no district salmon fishery board or transitional district board for a district and application has not been made to the sheriff by qualified proprietors in the district in pursuance of paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to this Act the Secretary of State may on application being made to him by the district salmon fishery board of an adjoining district by order authorise that district salmon fishery board to exercise the powers of a district salmon fishery board in such adjoining district in all respects as if such adjoining district formed part of their own district. (9B) The provisions of subsections (2) and (3) of this section and of Schedule 2 to this Act shall, with any necessary modifications, apply to an order made under subsection (9A) above.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 20 on the Marshalled List. The effect of this amendment is to deal with the problem that at the present time district salmon fishery boards exist for fewer than half the rivers in Scotland. If the boards are to be restructured and revitalised in accordance with the provisions made in this Bill, it is logical for the provisions to be applied to as many boards as possible.

Ideally there should be a board in each district. Although it may not be practical to achieve this ideal, this amendment seeks to provide a means whereby a number of districts for which there are no boards can be controlled by the board of an adjoining district. Accordingly, where there are no district salmon fisheries boards or transitional district boards for a district and where the qualified proprietors have not applied to the sheriff for a board to be formed this amendment provides for a board to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to exercise control over that adjacent district. The Secretary of State may grant such permission by order.

I am certain that the drafting is in no way adequate and I have put the amendment down because I felt it was important to have a discussion on this point. The problem is that we are looking for a carrot to persuade people to form boards: we are looking for a carrot to persuade the 60 per cent. of the boards that exist, that are on the map of Scotland but are not active, to become active either by amalgamation or by some further provision. I have written to my noble friend Lord Gray about the possibility of some kind of guidance payment being paid to district boards where they are inactive and not operating at the moment to cover them for their first three years of operation, to pay the clerk, to go through the necessary legal formalities of making the triennial return to the sheriff. This is a probing amendment and I move it in that spirit to hear the reply of my noble friend Lord Gray.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I should like to support this amendment. I understand that it is a probing amendment. The trouble is that large areas of Scotland especially on the west coast have no salmon district boards, as my noble friend says. If there are no boards one cannot have any bailiffs. As I said on Second Reading, I should like the whole of Scotland to have district salmon boards which would be a great help for preventing poaching. That would also help the tourist industry and the hotels. If this amendment were accepted how much better we could prevent poaching for the rod and line fishermen.

It might interest the Committee to know—as I am sure your Lordships who fish on the Tweed, the Tay, the Dee and the Spey already know—that I understand that in the financial year 1982–83 from those four great salmon rivers the income in rates was £293,000 to the various local authorities. That shows the great amount of money that local authorities receive from salmon. Therefore I do not see why they cannot be a little more generous with the district salmon boards especially as finance is the great barrier that holds back the formation of so many district boards.

As I said on Second Reading, the Highlands and Islands Development Board supports tourism, but it does not support it regarding salmon fishing. I think that the board ought to subscribe some financial help to the district boards, especially if that will mean more salmon district boards, as I sincerely hope one day it will.

Lord Gray of Contin

The purpose of this amendment is to enable the Secretary of State to authorise a district salmon fishery board to exercise the powers of a board in an adjoining district if no board has been formed for that district or no application has been made to the sheriff to form a board for that adjoining district.

I fully understand the motives of my noble friends in tabling this amendment. I too should like more coverage of Scotland with boards but I consider that the amendment goes too far in seeking to achieve this. It would allow a take-over and seems in effect to provide for taxation without representation. It could force proprietors to form a board if they wish to avoid that happening. This would be totally against the voluntary concept on which the procedures for forming a board are based and I am afraid that for those reasons I am not able to accept it. I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Kimball would consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Kimball

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Financial powers and duties of district salmon fishery boards]:

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 20A: Page 14, line 1, after ("assessment") insert ("including interest thereon").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is self-explanatory. If someone is in arrears and there are powers to collect it seems not unreasonable that we should also collect any interest due on the money as well. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

District boards will have power to impose a fishery assessment under Clause 14(3). It is therefore wholly appropriate that they should have the powers to recover arrears such as are provided in Clause 14(6). Whether the power to recover arrears of fishery assessment may be extended to include arrears of interest without boards first being given a specific power to charge interest is a question I should like to consider further. In the circumstances, I should be grateful if my noble friend would consider withdrawing his amendment so that I can give it further consideration.

Lord Burton

I am happy to do so. I very much hope, however, that they will be given these powers. But I appreciate that this amendment comes before the powers are given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Ross of Marnock moved Amendment No. 21: Page 14, line 23, at beginning insert ("with the approval of the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: This is a very important amendment indeed. It concerns the power of the board to borrow money. I know the facility has been there since 1832 but here it is re-stated. I do not object to the fact that a board can borrow: an amount not exceeding twice the amount of the fishery assessment collected within the twelve month period immediately prior to the date". But power is also given to borrow: such higher sum"— there is no limitation on that higher sum, anything above that: as is approved by the proprietors of fisheries which together amount to four fifths of the total value of fisheries in the district as entered in the valuation roll". In other words, there could be one-fifth in valuation and in numbers of the people who do not want this amount to be borrowed. So the small man could be dictated to as to the burden of debt that he eventually takes upon himself. We dealt with the question earlier of what happens when a board disappears, has left debts and who has to pay.

Since we shall not be putting a limit on this higher sum, we could say that it was worthwhile to do this with the approval of the Secretary of State. This is simple. It is a check on some people going overboard and using the power of the majority holding in the board to do it. They might be easy on the matter, but those who constitute the one-fifth, who may have disagreed with this action, should be protected to some extent by putting in the words: "with the approval of the Secretary of State." That would do it. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin

We are dealing with district salmon fishery boards, which are essentially voluntary bodies with elected members. It is right that those boards should be able to borrow for the purpose of carrying out their functions, and that the proprietors of the fishings in the district who will have to pay off those borrowings should have a decisive say when the amount of the borrowings will exceed a certain amount—namely, twice the amount of the fishing assessment collected in the previous 12 months. The Bill provides for this and I see no reason at all for superimposing my right honourable friend's consent in this day and age. I hope that noble Lords will agree to withdraw their amendment in view of what I have said.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am very grateful to the Minister of State for making a speech lasting fully half a minute and not even mentioning the purpose of the amendment. He mentioned the right to borrow, with which I fully agreed—that is to say, the right to borrow an amount not exceeding twice the amount of the fishery assessment collected. That is something agreed. It is a power given by the Secretary of State in the Bill.

It is when they want to borrow more than that. It might be 10 times more than that. It might be a very considerable project upon which they were going to embark. Then the question of unanimity does not arise: it is a question of such higher sum as is approved by the proprietors of fisheries which together amount to four fifths of the total value". In other words they do not need to worry about the proprietors whose valuations make up the one-fifth. So long as it is no more than that, or less, then the borrowing can go ahead on the basis of the financial power. It is to that that I refer: the use of financial muscle. I do not say that they should not do it but I say that for a certain measure of protection they could ask for the Secretary of State's approval for the higher sum. My goodness!—you do it with local authorities. Everybody in the local authority agrees with it. However, here this power, which obviously may not be approved by certain people on the board, is being used.

Can the Minister of State please give me an answer to the arguments I have used and not get up and say that paragraph (a) is something with which no one would disagree? I had not disagreed with that. It is paragraph (b) that we are dealing with. Can the noble Lord either do that or tell the people who are advising him to get the matters right?

Lord Gray of Contin

No, I shall not do that. I shall give the noble Lord the answer. It is not the answer he wants. It would be most unlikely that I should be able to do that. The answer that I give him is that in our view the four-fifths arrangement should be an adequate safeguard. In any event, there is no guarantee at all that the Secretary of State would be able to safeguard the small man, which was the example that the noble Lord gave. Therefore, we consider that his amendment is unnecessary. We consider that there is adequate protection with the four-fifths arrangement. I am sorry that on this occasion I cannot be as generous to the noble Lord as I was earlier this afternoon to the noble Lord, but perhaps he will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Well, at least the noble Lord mentioned the amendment this time; perhaps I read the right page. I still think it is not. The purpose of bringing in the Secretary of State is that he will see whether or not it is reasonable in the circumstances to do this. Some people may go well ahead of what is wanted to be done and entirely neglect the financial burden that they may eventually be putting on the smaller man. It may be a group of smaller men. I know at least one board where there is only one lower proprietor and about 40 upper ones. However, when it comes to financial muscle the man who has the financial muscle is the one lower proprietor and, if he wants something done, there you are, of course. It could be done in this particular way and not be desired by anyone else. I wish it worked the other way, that one could have the minority man with the good idea getting something done that he wanted done, despite the financial muscle in that way. This is one of the difficulties with the reconstitution of boards with exactly the same kind of financial powers and muscle, based upon that and nothing else. I think it is hoped that we shall get better management out of this. I doubt very much whether we shall, because I think we are still tied far too much to the past.

I think it is probably about time we went to have some salmon and chips, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 22: Page 14, line 36, at end insert ("but travelling expenses and a subsistence allowance may be paid at the discretion of the board.").

The noble Viscount said: I think this can be dealt with very briefly. I think it is important that boards should be able to reimburse out of pocket expenses to members. It may be unnecessary but I thought it was as well to put down an amendment to make quite sure that this is possible. The distances in Scotland are enormous and I hope that this is an acceptable amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

The unrestricted power in Clause 15(1) would not prevent a board from paying travelling expenses or a subsistence allowance where they were satisfied that they were necessarily for the purposes expressed in that clause. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

In contrast, I should draw the Committee's attention to Clause 14(10), which specifically excludes a board from paying a member a salary or a fee. Persons elected to serve on a board do so at present on an entirely voluntary basis and the Bill will retain this arrangement in future. I hope that in view of that explanation, the noble Viscount will withdraw this amendment.

Viscount Ridley

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Viscount Davidson

I think this is probably a convenient moment to break for dinner and I suggest that we do not resume the Committee before 8.30. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.