HL Deb 28 January 1986 vol 470 cc627-61

8.30 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 15 [General powers and duties of district salmon fishery boards]:

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)

In calling Amendment No. 23, I should point out that there is a mistake on the Marshalled List. This amendment should be shown to be in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 23: Page 14, line 40, after ("of") insert ("all").

The noble Viscount said: I am sorry that during the passage of the incest Bill I seem to have changed my name! I hope that this very short amendment will be taken in the spirit that is intended. The amendment is very simple. Clause 15(1) states that: A district salmon fishery board may do such acts… for— (a) the protection or improvement or

and the amendment would add the word "all"— the fisheries within their district".

It is simply a statement of intent: that a fishery board should not be seen to do anything for one conflicting interest or another. It is a small drafting amendment. I hope that it is self-explanatory and acceptable. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I deal also with Amendments Nos. 25, 29 and 32 in the name of my noble friend Lord Ridley.

Amendment No. 25:

[Printed earlier: col. 586] Amendment No. 29: Page 15, line 12, leave out ("by agreement"). Amendment No. 32: Page 15, line 19, leave out from first ("or) to end of line 21 and insert ("the Secretary of State").

I am unable to accept any of these amendments but I shall deal with each in turn. It has been suggested that acceptance of Amendment No. 23 could prevent a board from using its powers for the protection or improvement of individual fisheries rather than for the benefit of the whole district. Inclusion of the word "all" could, on the other hand, restrict substantially the operations of district boards, in that it could require them to demonstrate in the event of challenge that any action they took to protect or improve fisheries applied to all the fisheries in their district. That is simply not a reasonable requirement for a district board.

With regard to Amendment No. 25—

Viscount Ridley

If my noble friend will forgive me, I thought that we had dealt with Amendment No. 25 on the matter of drought.

Lord Gray of Contin

We have in fact spoken to Amendment No. 25 already. Perhaps I may deal briefly with Amendment No. 29. As I explained on Second Reading, this wording is in the same form as a similar provision in the 1868 Act. The words "by agreement" are included now to underline the fact that boards do not have compulsory purchase powers. The removal of those words could have little effect on the interpretation of the clause since boards would not be enabled to carry out compulsory purchase without specific powers to do so.

Amendment No. 32 comes into the same category as Amendment No. 25, and I believe that we dealt with that amendment at an earlier stage.

Viscount Ridley

I am sorry to intervene again but I do not think that Amendments Nos. 29 and 32 have anything to do with Amendment No. 23. I accept that Amendment No. 25 has been dealt with, and I was not going to move it. However, Amendment No. 29 deals with a quite different point, on which I have a long speech to make, and Amendment No. 32 is also different and has to do with Amendment No. 31, in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl, and indeed with my noble friend's Amendment No. 24. I am very sorry if I am wrong but I believe that Amendment No. 23 stands on its own according to the list of groupings that I was given. Having moved Amendment No. 23, I shall be very happy to withdraw it to save time, but I do not believe that Amendment No. 23 is related to the other amendments.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am of course prepared to accept my noble friend's wishes on this matter. Obviously he and I have been given a different form of groupings. I understand that my noble friend wishes to withdraw Amendment No. 23. Amendment No. 25 has been dealt with, and when we reach Amendments Nos. 29 and 32 we can of course deal with them separately.

Viscount Ridley

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 24: Page 15, line 2, at end insert ("but heritable property shall not be acquired for the purpose of the board except with the consent of proprietors of fisheries which together amount to four fifths of the total value of fisheries in the district as entered in the valuation roll.").

The noble Lord said: This is a small, essentially technical amendment to make clear that the qualification regarding the acquisition by a board of heritable property relates to the general powers of the board as set out in subsection (1) and is not linked to the specific provisions in subsection (4), which give powers to boards to purchase individual structures for the purpose of removal only or to remove obstructions. I understand that some salmon interests felt that the Bill as drafted was not clear on that aspect, and I am happy to put this amendment forward to clarify the position. I beg to move.

The Duke of Atholl

I should like to say a few words about Amendment No. 31. Amendment No. 31: Page 15, line 19, leave out from ("board") to first ("or) in line 20 and insert ("if objections to the acquisition are lodged with the clerk to the district salmon fishery board by proprietors of fisheries which together amount to one-fifth"). If Amendment No. 24 is carried then presumably my noble friend's Amendment No. 30 will also be carried, because it is consequential. That would mean that I should not be able to move Amendment No. 31. I believe it would be extremely difficult for any fishery board to secure an 80 per cent. majority. I am sure that most of your Lordships well know the difficulty of getting people to answer letters. To ensure that four-fifths of the electorate, or whatever one likes to call them, would reply could be extremely difficult. I therefore suggest that the whole clause should be cast the other way around and that the board should be able to purchase heritable property if it wants, unless one-fifth of the proprietors object.

Viscount Ridley

Perhaps I may speak against Amendment No. 24, because my Amendment No. 32 would go a good deal further than the amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl but would have much the same effect. The drafting that we have makes it almost impossible for the board to take the action that it might think necessary. This clause gives the hoard lots of powers, but then we restrict it by the criterion of four-fifths of the total value of fisheries. The possibility of four-fifths of the people ever getting together and agreeing on something like this—including, for instance, the purchase of a cottage for a bailiff or of a small piece of land for a hatchery, or anything of that kind—would be so drastically to restrict the board's activities as to make a nonsense of it. I therefore believe that my noble friend the Duke of Atholl is absolutely right and that the board should be allowed to go ahead and acquire property unless one-fifth of the proprietors object. The board cannot do its job without acquiring a certain amount of property.

I know that this raises the question of whether or not a board should be enabled to buy out the netting operation, which it might want to do, and that that could be a very valuable conservation measure in certain circumstances. However, to impose the restriction that the proprietors of four-fifths of the value of fisheries must agree seems to totally nullify the whole object of the Bill to give powers to boards to take action in the interests of salmon conservation. I shall not speak to Amendment No. 32 but I strongly support Amendment No. 31 in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl. I believe that my noble friend Lord Gray managed to dodge the issue by moving Amendment No. 24 in a different place from where it was to be moved, and that may have caught some of us on the hop. However, if I am right in thinking what I do think, it is the same amendment. It is the same clause of the Bill shifted around and we still wish to amend it. I should therefore like to support Amendment No. 31, which is in effect an amendment to Amendment No. 24.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

May I raise with the Minister a point that is not connected with the substance of the amendments but merely relates to their order? I do not blame anyone because it is a complicated Bill with a very large number of amendments, some of which were tabled very late, but the selection list was late in coming through today. I was told, even when I received it a few minutes before half past two, that it had not been finally agreed with the department. The reason I raise this matter is that the Minister suggested that his list is different from the list that the rest of us have. Is that so? It is obviously leading to some confusion. I heard the Minister read out a list of amendments to which he wished to speak and it is certainly not on my selection list. Perhaps for Thursday the Minister will make a point of getting the list out in good time.

Lord Gray of Contin

I shall certainly try to be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael. The plain fact is that a great many of the amendments were tabled so late that my department had the greatest difficulty in being able to prepare for the debate this afternoon. The noble Lord was not guilty in that respect, but a great many amendments were tabled late and we also had manuscript amendments which were tabled at a late stage. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for my advisers always to be able to get matters co-ordinated as they would wish.

As regards the points made by my noble friend the Duke of Atholl, I am perfectly happy to answer Amendment No. 31 now. Although we have not yet dealt with Amendment No. 24, I can see the difficulty which exists. If it is in order I will answer Amendment No. 31, to which my noble friend the Duke of Atholl has already spoken.

The amendment, although apparently of little consequence, could have a very significant effect if carried. It would give a board the power to purchase heritable property if proprietors owning 20 per cent. of the total valuation of the fisheries in a district do not actively object. The noble Duke's amendment makes no provision for the publication of proposals to purchase heritable property and some of those who do not object may be unaware of the proposal to buy. They may still have to make a financial contribution to a purchase of which they had no prior knowledge.

Given the possible legal and financial implications of the purchase of property, I think that the positive approach prescribed in the Bill is to be preferred and that the four-fifths formula should not be removed. In view of what I have said, I hope that the noble Duke will now feel able not to move his amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

If that is the only objection to the amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Atholl it seems to me that it can be sorted out by putting in, at Report stage, provisions for information and advice, and so on. I think there is a great deal to be said for not just having the dead hand of getting consent, as opposed to making sure people actively do not want something to be done provided, as the noble Lord rightly says, there is provision for making certain that people are properly informed and advised of what is likely to happen.

Lord Burton

May I add to that? It is important that one should be able to acquire a house for, say, a superintendent or some of one's bailiffs. It would possibly be extremely difficult to get the four-fifths. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have any experience of trying to circulate people but an awful lot of these letters probably would not be answered. It would be extremely difficult in an important matter like buying a house to get the four-fifths majority. I wholeheartedly support my noble friend the Duke of Atholl. I think that it is very important that even if we do not go to the extreme of one-fifth then there is at least a change.

8.45 p.m.

The Duke of Atholl

Although I have not moved the amendment, I felt, because I shall have the opportunity so to do, that it was worth raising the issue at this particular moment. I feel that my noble friend can have no idea of the difficulty of getting people to answer letters. My noble friend the Marquess of Lansdowne, as chairman of our local fisheries board, sent out a circular not long ago and he was delighted because he received about a 60 per cent. Response; but it was a fairly easy form to be completed and a stamped and addressed envelope was provided for its return. Therefore I think the chances of anyone actually getting four-fifths are remote.

It will mean, of course, that the fishery boards will not be able to provide cottages for any of their bailiffs. They will not be able to buy a small piece of land for a hatchery, or anything like that. I ask my noble friend to look at this again. I am sure we can reach a satisfactory way of publicising the fact that the board proposes to do something and that one-fifth of the people, if they object, must reply fairly quickly. That seems to me to be much the best way to do it. It would be much better to get the people who object, who usually are the people who feel strongly and, therefore, might be prepared to put pen to paper, than to get those who approve, but who probably do not feel particularly strongly, to send a letter of approval.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I entirely support the noble Duke on this. He is perfectly right. I have had this experience myself and I hope that the Minister will take note of what has been said.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

As the noble Duke mentioned my name, I can assure your Lordships that this is an experience which I have often suffered. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend Lord Gray will give it his very careful attention.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am sure that the pressure being placed on the Minister must put him into some difficulty, bearing in mind the support which the same members of the Committee gave him on another matter.

In this case they refer to the purchase of a piece of property. It is suggested that a formula of one-fifth objecting should be applied, simply because it would be very difficult to get four-fifths to agree. Let us suppose that a board does decide to buy the property on the basis of one-fifth. I hope that the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, realises that the chances are, depending on the property, that they will require to borrow money. The power to borrow money comes under the previous clause. When we argued about that and I suggested that it was unfair to the one-fifth for that to be done, we were told, no. Not one noble Lord proclaimed the virtues of the one-fifth and how easy it would be to get four-fifths.

I withdrew my amendment because no one supported me. My amendment suggested that the Secretary of State should be brought in to give his consent. Therefore, whether we like it or not the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, if he wants to borrow money for property—and it will depend on the amount—will have to rely on getting the approval of the four-fifths. No one can deny it. It is on page 14, line 23: such higher sum as is approved by the proprietors of fisheries which together amount to four-fifths". They have to get the four-fifths together to borrow the money.

Lord Burton

May I interrupt the noble Lord?

Lord Ross of Marnock


Lord Burton

Surely he must read subsection (8)(a) with this: an amount not exceeding twice the amount of the fishery assessment". There cannot be very many boards which do not have half the value of a house.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Well, I must get into the Burton area of Scotland and find out that houses are very much cheaper there than in any other part of Scotland. Perhaps the situation may vary from one place to another in relation to the cost of buying a house or a small property. There is no limit to this. I could more readily understand this being done if there were a limit put to the amount of money which was to be spent on this heritable property, but there is no limit. The chances are that those concerned may have to borrow money whether they like it or not. Suppose the Government accepted the amendment of the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, willy-nilly because of what has already been done—unless he puts down another amendment at the next stage to correct his omission in this case. They still have to rely on obtaining their four-fifths to agree to the borrowing of a sum of money if it is over twice the amount of the fishery assessment collected in the year. I shall now gladly give way to the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl.

The Duke of Atholl

First, perhaps I could point out that there are many fishery boards where undoubtedly one can buy several houses for twice the amount of the assessment collected by that particular board each year. Secondly, if one is buying heritable property, on the whole one has security for it, whereas borrowing under the previous section, Clause 14(8)(a), one might be borrowing for other purposes and there would be no security for one's borrowing.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am beginning to get rather confused about the financial position of these fishery districts now. The whole basis of the arguments of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is the poverty of these areas. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, is saying that there is no finance in this, and they cannot do this or they cannot do that because they do not have the money. Now the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, belatedly comes along and says that they can buy several houses if they want to; they have the money.

Let them appreciate that there are clauses coming along in which money is mentioned. I am not the kind of fellow who forgets arguments which are used which conflict with arguments that were going to be brought out at a later stage. No wonder the noble Lord, Lord Burton, is smiling, because he knows quite well that he has already used this financial argument today. I am on the side of the angels on this occasion. It might lend some weight to the chances of victory for the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, that I will support the Minister of State on this occasion simply because of what was already done in respect of the previous clause that mentioned the one-fifth.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

If I may perhaps intervene, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ross, may be a little confused here. The question of finance was about finance lacking in those areas where there are no district boards.

Viscount Thurso

I think the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has his finger on a sore point. I think it might be wise for the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, to give another thought to this particular amendment. Heritable property could be a garage in which to keep one's waders. Will you tell me that you cannot buy a garage in which to keep your waders unless four-fifths of the heritable proprietors in the Tay district agree? It really is a bit silly.

I think that the point which the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has put his finger on is that it really all depends on how much heritable property you are buying. There is a tremendous difference between a potting shed or a garage and, say, a row of council houses. If one is intending to house all one's bailiffs it could amount to thousands of pounds, but if all that is wanted is somewhere to garage a jeep and keep waders and night glasses and so forth, then it should be possible to do it without asking four-fifths of the heritable proprietors. I think a little thinking again all round would be rather a good idea at this point.

Lord Gray of Contin

I think that it is a very good idea and I do not see any reason at all why we should not have another think all round. My noble friend the Duke of Atholl has not moved his amendment so there is ample scope for a little bit of thought. I have listened very carefully to what has been said during the debate and of course I shall bear in mind all the points that have been made, but since my noble friend has not moved his amendment there is no need to deliberate further upon it.

Lord Ross of Marnock

But surely it would not be fair if the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, is precluded from moving his amendment because it might cause some difficulty?

Are we not pre judging the matter by accepting the Government's amendment, which is the very opposite? I think we should ask the Minister to say that, in view of the fact that there is this divergence of opinion and feeling, we should benefit from a think all round and, meantime, he will not move his amendment.

Lord Gray of Contin

I already have, in effect, moved Amendment No. 30.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I have been moving amendments all afternoon. He can withdraw it.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is, Whether the said amendment (No. 24) shall be agreed to?

As many as are of that opinion, will say, "Content"? … To the contrary, "Not-Content … Clear the Bar.

Tellers for the Not-Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 51. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the Contents have it.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

Accordingly, Amendment No. 26 does not arise.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

9 p.m.

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 28: Page 15, line 5, leave out ("co-opt") and insert ("appoint")

The noble Viscount said: It may be as well if with this I speak also to Amendments Nos. 37, 40 to 45. 49 to 54 and 56 to 59. Amendment No. 37: Clause 16, page 16, line 2, leave out from first ("vote") to end of line 6. Amendment No. 40: Schedule 2, page 30, line 17, leave out subparagraph (1). Amendment No. 41: Page 31, line 5, leave out sub-paragraph (3). Amendment No. 42: Page 31, line 13, leave out ("co-opting") and insert ("appointing"). Amendment No. 43: Page 31, line 15, after ("exceed") insert ("one fewer than"). Amendment No. 44: Page 31, line 17, after ("exceed") insert ("one fewer than"). Amendment No. 45: Page 31, line 18, at end insert ("and the number of representatives of salmon anglers so appointed shall not exceed the number of tenant netsmen so appointed."). Amendment No. 49: Page 31, line 44, leave out from ("of ') to ("not") in line I on page 32. Amendment No. 50: Page 32, line 7, leave out ("the chairman and"). Amendment No. 51: Page 32, line 9, leave out ("co-opt") and insert ("appoint"). Amendment No. 52: Page 32, line 10, at end insert— ("( ) The chairman and elected representatives of qualified proprietors shall give notice at least once in each of two successive weeks by advertisements in a newspaper circulating in the district

  1. (a) indicating their intention to hold elections for the appointment of representatives of salmon anglers and tenant netsmen;
  2. (b) indicating arrangements for the nomination of candidates;
  3. (c) appointing a time and place for the holding of elections; and
  4. (d) including provision for voting by post.")
Amendment No. 53: Page 32, line 13, leave out ("three co-opted") and insert ("two appointed"). Amendment No. 54: Page 32, line 15, leave out ("three co-opted") and insert ("two appointed"). Amendment No. 56: Page 32, line 19, leave out ("co-opted") and insert ("appointed"). Amendment No. 57: Page 32, line 20, leave out ("co-opt such persons") and insert ("hold elections"). Amendment No. 58: Page 32, line 21, leave out ("co-opted") and insert ("appointed") Amendment No. 59: Page 32, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) The members of a district salmon fishery board shall elect from amongst their number a person to be chairman of the said board.").

Amendment No. 28 opens up a subject which is covered by the amendments grouped with it and they all deal with the same concept. What I am trying to suggest to the Committee is that the elective principle should be used for the appointment of the angling and tenant netsmen members of district boards. In the Bill as drafted by the Government the suggestion is that they should just be co-opted—in other words, that the nomination, election and appointment of people to represent anglers and tenant netsmen should be carried out by the elected upper and lower proprietors. But I feel strongly—and in this I know that I am supported by many organisations, including the Association of District Salmon Fishery Boards—that the elective principle which decides who shall represent the upper and lower proprietors should also decide who shall represent the anglers and tenant netsmen.

I have never felt that there was a real difficulty about setting up a method of electing such people, deciding how elections shall be carried out or anything of that sort. In fact, I am certain that on most rivers it can easily be done. In this series of amendments I have tried to suggest at least one way in which that can be done. At the end of the day the amendments would place upon the members elected to the new district boards, committees or whatever else they are called as representatives of the upper and lower proprietors, an obligation to set out the method of election which they will offer the anglers and tenant netsmen. They would be asked to set out to the Secretary of State how they propose to conduct elections of anglers and netsmen.

Those representatives of anglers and tenant netsmen, having been elected by their peers, would then be appointed to the board. They would be appointed by the board that has been elected in the normal course of events rather than merely co-opted to that board. In so far as they are thereby being given full membership of the board, it is suggested that the number might be two of each category instead of three. In many cases that would be easier to handle, because in some districts it may indeed be hard to find the three tenant netsmen to appoint, co-opt, elect or whatever to the board.

One principle which I think that all of us would agree is vitally important is to keep that even balance between the upper and lower interests. It is important not to let anybody feel that one interest in the exploitation of the salmon is having the whiphand over all others.

In moving the amendment, I invite the Committee to look at the whole series of amendments which are all designed to do the same thing. Amendment No. 28 says: leave out ('co-opt') and insert ('appoint')". It is put that way because at the end of the day the people to be appointed are the people who will be elected. It would pave the way for the elections. I hope that we shall insert that principle into the Bill to make the anglers and tenant netsmen fully elected and fully enfranchised. I beg to move.

Lord Burton

I am afraid that I am not, as previously today, in wholehearted agreement with the noble Viscount. There is a difficulty with this proposal. There may well be three netsman tenants, but at least one may not be a suitable person to serve on a fishery board. He may be of doubtful character. Regrettably, the Crown Commissioners are inclined to let to the highest bidder when letting their nets. They are not terribly particular as to whom they appoint as their tenants. In many areas, the people who have to be watched—the fisheries board are watching them—are some of the netsmen who fish illegally. It would be extremely difficult if they were members of the board. Much of this problem could be solved—I not not know whether the noble Viscount agrees—if we changed the words "shall co-opt" to "may co-opt" members. I am all for having the tenants, rodsmen and netsmen, but where there is difficulty, with a small board, in finding the right people, it is not advisable that we should be made to co-opt them automatically.

Viscount Thurso

With respect, may I make this point? We are not discussing the word "shall" at all. We are discussing the word "co-opt". I am not changing the word "shall". I am changing the word "co-opt" to "appoint".

Lord Burton

The noble Viscount did suggest that the numbers were reduced to two. I am suggesting that they remain at three but with an option open to the remaining members of the board.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

I should like to support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. One of the difficulties, as I saw it, of co-opting was that the co-opted people would be the creatures of the elected members of the board. This is a perpetuation of rotten boroughs. Those worked very well once upon a time but it would not be a good plan to have them again. I hope very much that the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, will be accepted. It is a little confusing. The tenant netsmen and the anglers elect themselves. They are then accepted by the board. They become fully enfranchised. This is a very important point which I mentioned at Second Reading.

I dislike very much the idea of having second class membership. That would be a great mistake. I endorse the idea of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that the number should be two rather than three. There is something to be said for the riparian owners, who have a lasting interest in the river, having a slight advantage over those who are only tenants. Having said that, I want the tenant netsmen and the tenant anglers to have full voting rights and to elect themselves. I hope that the noble Lord in charge of the Bill will feel able to accept the amendment.

Viscount Ridley

I should like to ask the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, whether Amendment No. 55 is swept up in this. The list of groupings that we received on arrival today has omitted Amendment No. 55. That is either a compliment or an insult to me. I am not sure which. Amendment No. 55: Schedule 2, page 32, line 16, at end insert ("(provided that the co-opted representatives of salmon anglers and tenant netsmen shall be equal in number)").

Viscount Thurso

I did not feel that I ought to sweep up the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, in my series but, if he so wishes, it would obviously be possible to discuss Amendment No. 55 along with all the others. I should be delighted were we to do so.

Viscount Ridley

If so, I should like, speaking to Amendment No. 55, to endorse a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, that co-opted representatives or appointed representatives, as the case may be, of netsmen should be equal in number. It is crucial to the working of the Bill that there should not be a majority of one interest or another. If you appoint two or three, there should be two or three different interests. That is the only point that I want to make. I hope that I shall save time by making it now.

Viscount Thurso

I should like to point out one matter to the noble Viscount. I have already provided for this in Amendment No. 45, which states: and the number of representatives of salmon anglers so appointed shall not exceed the number of tenant netsmen so appointed But his wording may be preferable to mine.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

We have been at a disadvantage throughout the progress of this Bill. We took the Second Reading the day after we came back from a Recess. Most of us were not inclined to spend all Christmas and New Year looking over it. And today we are faced with the Committee stage. We were unable to get in touch with all the people concerned. Like others, I have received a daily welter of paper that could not be sorted out and put in the right order. Now, very belatedly, today, we are faced with a grouping of amendments. I do not know whether it is good or bad. I want to know whether my Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 are included, because they contain the very same words. Of course they fall under Schedule 2 to the Bill and should really come under our discussions of the schedule, which lays out all that one has to do. Therefore, we are discussing it in a very disjointed way. I suppose that the Government are a lot to blame for that as regards the way in which they have drafted the Bill.

I wish to speak on the first amendment, which concerns the co-option nominations. The noble Lord, Lord Burton, was quite wrong. There is no change. The Government have included the word "shall", but if the noble Lord cares to change that to "may" we shall look forward to seeing it at the next stage of the Bill. In the meantime, the important principle—and it was dealt with during Second Reading—is the question of whether or not we should have co-opted members of the board from among the anglers and the tenant netsmen. I think it came down to the phrase used by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne: we do not want second-class members in the sense that, once they are there, there are only certain things which they can talk about.

I do not know to what extent we are going over the whole matter, but I wish purely to concentrate on the business of co-option. What was said was quite right. If they are co-opted by elected members then they will be the creatures of the people who elect them. If their face fits they will be co-opted and then, of course, there will be further restrictions placed on them. It may be said, "We cannot have officials of angling associations" or something like that. It is quite wrong. I do not think that the Government have properly thought it through from the point of view of the feelings of the people in the areas and the people in the business whether they be netsmen or whether they be rod and line men, upper or lower proprietors. I certainly hope that the first amendment will be accepted and that we can go on from there to see about the other matters.

I do not want to discuss Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 and the other amendments in relation to other aspects of the matter. I do not think that they are even grouped. I do not know why they should not be so grouped, because one of them is virtually the same as that of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, which shows how badly the grouping has been done and how confusing it is from the point of view of anyone who tried to make sense of it. However, I certainly support the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, as regards this particular amendment.

Lord Gray of Contin

In answering this short debate, I should like to make sure that I am answering all the amendments which we are including. Perhaps I may just read them out: Amendment No. 28 is the amendment which has been moved, together with which we are considering Amendment No. 55 (Viscount Ridley's amendment), Amendments Nos. 40, 41, 49, 50 and 59 (in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso) and also Lord Thurso's Amendments Nos. 42, 43, 44, 45, 51. 52, 53, 54, 56, 57 and 58.

Viscount Thurso

Also Amendment No. 37.

Lord Gray of Contin

Yes, Amendment No. 37. Amendment No. 28 appears on the surface to be of little apparent consequence as there is unlikely to be much, if any, difference in practice between co-option by the board and appointment to a board. The amendment, however, is one of several tabled by the noble Viscount with the intention of altering the whole way in which representatives of anglers and tenant netsmen will obtain membership of a board. As I have explained already, the arrangement proposed in the Bill—co-option by the Board—is the best approach and I regret that I am unable to accept Amendment No. 28.

As regards Amendment No. 55, it is our intention that boards should co-opt an equal number of representatives of salmon anglers and tenant netsmen, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, is suggesting in the amendment. I am advised the sub-paragraph (4) of paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 does not achieve this and that further consideration is needed. For example, if the tenant netsmen were entitled to have three representatives but were only offered two, the anglers would not be prevented from having three co-optees, thus giving rise to a difference in numbers between the two categories of co-optees.

If I give the noble Viscount an assurance that I accept in principle what his amendment seeks to achieve and will myself consider how an appropriate amendment may be introduced at a later stage in the proceedings, I hope that he may feel able in due course to withdraw his amendment.

As regards the larger grouping of amendments to Schedule 2—Amendments 40, 41, 49, 50 and 59 in the name of the noble Viscount—I point out that the Bill as drafted provides for the chairman to be elected by the votes of all the proprietors who attend the meeting, with multiple voting according to rateable value as specified in paragraph 3(1) and 3(3) of Schedule 2. If we accepted the noble Viscount's amendment we should be creating a situation in which it would be almost inevitable that the chairman would be chosen virtually on the toss of a coin or a draw of cards given that boards normally will consist of equal numbers of upper and lower proprietors. The existing position, which is continued in terms of the Bill, is that including the chairman there will normally be seven representatives of proprietors. I cannot accept the arrangement proposed by the noble Viscount, and I note that there was support for the system as proposed in the Bill at Second Reading. It is a democratic arrangement which I commend to your Lordships. I therefore hope that the noble Viscount might consider withdrawing this particular amendment.

On the large grouping of amendments, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 57 and 58, the noble Viscount is to be congratulated on the thought he has clearly devoted to the question of co-option, and for the alternative procedure of nomination, election and appointment that he has presented for recruiting representatives of salmon anglers and tenant netsmen to district salmon fishery boards. My congratulations, however, are tempered by my clear conclusion that this is an over-complicated solution.

It will not surprise your Lordships when I say that I much prefer the arrangements for which the Bill provides. These are less complicated and provide for, so far as possible, equality between elected members and co-opted members. The noble Viscount's proposals provide for a built-in majority for proprietorial interests. I am not clear as to how this will work when a board consists of only one upper and one lower proprietor. Presumably there would in these circumstances be no possibility of appointing a representative of anglers.

I agree with the principle of the noble Viscount's amendment, which is apparently aimed at achieving balance on boards between salmon anglers and netsmen, but I do not think that he has quite achieved that. It appears that it would be possible for the number of representatives of salmon anglers to be fewer than it might be if the full quota of tenant netsmen was not in fact co-opted or appointed.

I shall be looking closely at Schedule 2 to ensure that the quality we are seeking will be achieved, and, as necessary, bring forward an amendment at a later stage. I hope that in the light of my comments the noble Viscount will be prepared to withdraw his amendments.

Viscount Thurso

My heart is softened by the kind reply of the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin. If he really has taken aboard the idea that we should in some way try to achieve some sort of an election, some sort of way in which it is not a rotten borough, then I should be happy to go along with him. We are now talking about an amendment which simply leads us into a whole series of amendments, and I accept that it is a complicated area. I accept that it has not been easy to draft it out and that it is not easy to accept it in a lump, as it were, and that we want to think about this. However, if we can discuss the principle of it at this stage, what I feel is important is that we should not give built-in majorities to any section in the district boards.

In some rivers, as things are, there may well be built-in majorities to the nets; in other rivers there may well be built-in majorities to the anglers if we decide everything at the stage when people are present with their valuation-weighted voting power. If we simply ask, as happens now, the upper proprietors to elect their representatives and the lower proprietors to elect their representatives, and then the six representatives so elected meet as a board to decide among them who of their number shall be the chairman, I am not fearful of that. I do not think that when six reasonable, chosen people meet who have to decide among themselves who is to be chairman there will be all that much difficulty in finding a chairman. There may be some difficulty in certain instances, but eventually I am sure a chairman will be found.

With these six people one has an equally balanced board with the chosen one able to exercise the casting vote. One then could run elections to find the chosen ones of the angling nominees and the chosen ones of the tenant netsmen nominees and one stands a chance of having a board truly representing all the interests, where everybody has a fair, democratic say in how people have got on to the board and where reasonable people working together have a chance of producing a reasonable job of work. I am confident that this can be done.

I recognise that this is difficult to do in drafting at this stage. Having set out the aim with which I started to draft these amendments, if the noble Lord, Lord Gray, will give me an assurance that we can have a discussion about this, I should be happy to withdraw the whole lot.

Lord Gray of Contin

I must make the point clear to the noble Viscount. I have not conceded the point about election rather than co-option. I made that clear when I said that I could not accept Amendment No. 28. I am absolutely prepared to consider the balance between co-optees, anglers and netsmen. I am also prepared to have discussions, or to arrange for my advisers to have discussions, with the noble Viscount on any of the other points which he wishes to discuss. I explained earlier on Amendment No. 55 in the name of my noble friend Lord Ridley that I was prepared to consider it again if my noble friend would withdraw his amendment. I make that quite clear. I am not prepared to concede on the principle of election rather than co-option which we discussed earlier. But on the other points I am happy to negotiate with the noble Viscount.

Viscount Thurso

The noble Lord, Lord Gray, will realise that I am not conceding anything either. I am merely agreeing to talk to him. I am agreeing, at this stage, to withdraw my amendments, then to talk, and we shall see what will come out of it. If that is the basis on which we are agreed, I am happy to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Ridley moved Amendment No. 29:

[Printed earlier: col. 627.]

The noble Viscount said: This is a totally different point. My noble friend has already let the cat out of the bag in saying that he could not accept it when he was speaking to something else. I shall have to redouble my efforts to persuade him otherwise.

This amendment quite simply provides that a fishery board—I remind your Lordships that we are trying to give powers to fishery boards for the conservation of salmon—may remove obstacles to the passage of salmon up to spawn. There are two points to be made. First, it is obvious that we wish to increase the stock of salmon and that every obstacle in their progress should be removed. Secondly, riparian owners who possess water just below an obstacle have a different interest because the fish are held up by the obstacle and thus more are available to be caught on rod and line. There is a conflict of interests, but the balance is that no one riparian owner who refuses the agreement—the word I wish to delete—should be able to stop the removal of natural or artificial obstacles to the passage of fish.

This must be in the interests of all in the long run. I do not know it myself, but I am informed that there is a river in County Rossshire—or what used to be called that—where some 14 miles of absolutely splendid spawning water is totally forbidden to salmon because of a natural waterfall and someone would not allow this to be removed, which would not be difficult to do. Of course, there are other precedents for doing this.

The Committee is no doubt intimately aware of the Tweed Fisheries Act 1857, which gave the Tweed commissioners total power to remove all obstacles to salmon passage throughout the length of the Tweed River and its tributaries. I think that is an example of what should be followed throughout the rest of the British Isles. If the Tweed commissioners have such power to remove obstacles, I can see no reason why other fishery boards in Scotland, in the interests of conservation and the increase of salmon stocks, should not also have such powers.

9.30 p.m.

I readily admit that in 1857 the hydro-electric board did not exist and perhaps its presence in other rivers in Scotland may alter the situation. However, I believe it is protected from the undoubted obstacles it has placed in the path of ascending salmon by special Acts. Even so, it should be possible by agreement, or, if necessary, without agreement, to put in proper fish passes to any hydro-electic waterfall or obstacle; there are many waterfalls, many clams constructed by the hydroelectric boards, which do not allow the fish to pass above them.

In this instance, all I am trying to do is to see that the fishery boards, where necessary, can proceed without agreement. We have already discussed the fact that they should have powers to acquire, for this purpose, land and so forth. They should have powers to remove obstacles to the passage of fish and, if necessary, they should be able to do this without the agreement of everybody concerned. I beg to move Amendment No. 29.

The Duke of Atholl

I am afraid that I must disagree with my noble friend Lord Ridley on this subject. The Committee may not be aware but there is a very nice river called the Inver, which flows into the Tay opposite Dunkeld Cathedral, and about a quarter of a mile up the Inver is a lovely beauty spot which belongs to the National Trust for Scotland called the Hermitage or Ossian's Hall. From the Hermitage, one views the most magnificent waterfall and, if one is really lucky, one can see a whole lot of salmon trying to jump up it and always failing.

The Tay board came to the National Trust for Scotland about two or three years ago and asked if it would not be a good idea if they constructed a way round so that the salmon could get up this waterfall. Incidentally, there is another waterfall higher up the river which it is thought may also stop salmon ascending, but after that there is some quite good spawning ground. The National Trust for Scotland said no; that they thought it was a rotten idea; that the Hermitage, Ossian's Hall, had been given to them to protect and to keep as a beautiful waterfall, a beautiful monument, and they felt they really could not agree as it was inalienable land.

I think it would be disastrous if the words "by agreement" were taken out of this Bill, although I agree that in that case it would still require an Act of Parliament to get agreement from the National Trust for Scotland. I think that in most cases reasonable landlords would agree if the fishery board came to them and said they thought it would be a good idea if an obstacle was removed. However, I think there certainly must be other cases in Scotland where it would not be a good idea and where the words "by agreement" are very important. I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will resist this amendment.

Lord Gisborough

Can my noble friend the Minister say whether he would give the fishery board permission to blow up a hydro-electric dam?

Lord Gray of Contin

As I explained at Second Reading, this wording is in the same form as a similar provision in the 1868 Act. The words "by agreement" are included now to underline the fact that boards do not have compulsory purchase powers. The removal of these words would have little effect on the interpretation of this clause, since boards would not be enabled to carry out compulsory purchases without specific powers to do so.

I have listened carefully to what my noble friend Lord Ridley has said. I have also listened to what my noble friend the Duke of Atholl has said and I find myself in agreement with the noble Duke. I am afraid that I simply cannot accept this amendment. I hope that in view of what I have said my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw it.

Viscount Ridley

Now I know why the noble Duke's ancestor built a fishing lodge on the Inver at that very point. Of course I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Earl Cathcart)

In calling Amendment No. 30, I should tell the Committee that if this amendment is agreed I cannot call Amendments Nos. 31 and 32.

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 30: Page 15, leave out lines 18 to 21.

The noble Lord said: This is a small, essentially technical amendment. I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 24 earlier in the proceedings. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I cannot call Amendments Nos. 31 and 32.

[Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 not moved.]

Lord Burton moved Amendment No. 32A:

Page 15, line 21, at end insert— ("( ) Where a bailiff of a district salmon fishery board finds salmon dead or abandoned in or adjoining any water within his district and which are not likely to be the subject of a prosecution under the Salmon Fishery Act such salmon shall be deemed to be the property of that district salmon fishery board which may then sell or otherwise dispose of them").

The noble Lord said: The situation here is that much of the poaching is done at night. Very often, if the poachers are alarmed, they will take off and next morning when you come down you may well find hidden nearby a bag or quantity of fish. And this is not necessarily so only at night. If fish are found—and they are found—the problem then arises: to whom do these fish belong? At the moment there appears to be no ownership. The suggestion here is that if they are found by a bailiff they should belong to the fishery district. I see in the amendment the words: the property of that district salmon fishery board".

I think it ought to be "salmon fishery committee", but the principle is the same.

Lord Gray of Contin

I can fully understand the thoughts and the intention behind this amendment. There is, however, already an efficient mechanism for dealing with salmon found in the circumstances that the noble Lord describes. It is provided under Part IV of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and allows for the finding of such property to be reported to one of a number of persons, including the police, and permits the chief constable to make such arrangements as he sees fit for disposal of the fish.

There is nothing in the Act to prevent a chief constable arranging that abandoned salmon go to a district fishery board if it is found by a water bailiff. Indeed, I think the usual procedure is that the property if not claimed is passed to the finder. I know that in some districts the police have come to arrangements with the district fishery boards about disposal of found salmon. The amendment is, anyway, defective. There is no salmon fishery Act. I hope that with these explanations the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Burton

As far as the drafting is concerned, I am very happy to ask leave to withdraw it. But I think this is not altogether satisfactory. The finder could well be an employee of the fishery district, and when it is handed to the chief constable to decide who should have it, if he hands it back to the finder then it goes back to that individual. Clearly it does not belong to the individual because he is merely an employee of the board or committee concerned. I would ask my noble friend to have a further look at this because I know that problems have arisen and it is something which needs to be cleared up. With that, I would ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think that is fairly good advice to give to the Minister, bearing in mind all the complications that are going to come in relation to fish that are found, because the question then arises: were they legally fished? Also, is the person who receives them from the police (because he is the finder) then in legal possession or is he in legal possession of illegally-fished salmon? I hope the Minister appreciates that he will need to look at this again from the point of view of what we are going to do about the licensing of salmon in relation to the police taking control of these things that are lost.

If I remember rightly, there is no mention in the civic government Act of salmon, fish or anything else: it is just things that are lost. I think this is something which is very, very specialised now. In fact, remembering the arguments that we had over that civic government Act and the time the police would keep lost goods before they handed them over to the finder or to somebody else, they gave rise to rather fantastic thoughts in my mind about policemen insisting that they have cold stores attached to their police stations for the keeping of salmon that had been found—it does not say where.

Poor salmon! They have an awful time of it. They can be wild and they can swim as much as they like. They do not belong to anybody until they are caught, and then when this person catches them and puts them down on a bank somwhere, they still do not belong to anyone, because there is no guarantee, although I suppose the riparian owner has a bigger claim on them than anyone else and he would have an absolute claim if it were in England.

I was fascinated by the reference that was made to the civic government Act and to the police keeping salmon and then deciding what they would do with them and to whom they would give them back. I think we have to look at this question again. We shall have to look at it anyway in respect of what we are going to do later on about salmon owned in suspicious circumstances and illegally caught. It is going to be very difficult in this situation, where the police are themselves dealing with illegally-caught salmon and handing them over to somebody. They could hand the salmon to a person and then arrest him for having them, judging from some of the interpretations I have already seen of this particular Bill.

I do not know what we are going to do about this one. I think it would be far better if the Government would say they were going to look at the implications of the matter that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burton, in terms, first, of the actual problem and, secondly, of the greater problems there will be when we come on to the actual licensing of salmon.

Lord Burton

With the leave of the Committee I beg leave at this juncture to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

Viscount Thurso moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 15, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) Any person intending to release into waters (not being a fish farm) within the area of a district salmon fishery board any fish or live eggs of salmon or non-indigenous salmonids or other fresh water fishes shall first obtain the consent of the said board. Failure to obtain such consent shall constitute an offence under this Act and any person guilty of such an offence shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. ( ) Reference in the above subsection to a district salmon fishery board shall include reference to the Secretary of State in any district where no district salmon fishery board is in existence.")

The noble Viscount said: Your Lordships will no doubt remember that some years ago, when Unilever imported Cohoe salmon into Scotland, it was found that there were no powers under which the Secretary of State could in any way prevent those fish being released into Scottish waters on grounds of race or species. It was found necessary then to introduce a Bill which eventually got through your Lordships' House, through another place and finally became an Act. There is now an Act which prevents imported fish from being implanted in the waters of Scotland. This was then followed by a similar Bill for England. It is really following along these lines that this amendment is drafted.

I think we can now recognise that there are dangers in releasing even indigenous fish into waters which previously did not carry them. One could, for instance, take pike from Perthshire and introduce them into the waters of north-west Sutherland and have disastrous effects upon the native stocks of salmon and trout and so forth.

Indeed, nowadays there is even a fair amount of consensus that the race of salmon within rivers has been adjusted by nature to suit the rivers concerned, and that the careless introduction of salmon, although of the same species but from rivers of a totally different sort, could have a harmful effect on the race which inhabits the rivers in question.

Then there is the possibility that enthusiastic people, thinking to increase the amount of fish they can catch, and the value of the fish they can catch, would introduce non-native salmon; in other words, fish like the rainbow trout, which would come out of Scottish waters, out of Scottish fish farms perhaps. They might introduce them into waters where they would damage the native fish by competition, predation and disease. I feel that it is necessary, while we are examining the protection of the species and the conservation of salmon, to give the Secretary of State powers to deal with this sort of thing. This amendment is designed to make it an offence to put into waters species of fish which are not native to those waters, without permission from the district board or, in the absence of a district board, the Secretary of State for Scotland. I beg to move.

Lord Moran had given notice of his intention to move Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 as amendments to Amendment No. 33: Line 2, after ("board") insert (", or in the case of England and Wales a water authority,") Line 4, after ("board") insert ("or authority")

The noble Lord said: The Minister was good enough to explain earlier on that the water authorities in England and Wales already have powers to prevent introductions. I apologise for not having been aware of this when I put down these amendments. I warmly support the amendment put down by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso. The Atlantic Salmon Trust recently distributed a booklet written by a distinguished scientist, Professor Wilkins, who said that, salmon stocks of different rivers are genetically distinct and therefore, each stock should be treated as a separate unit for management purposes. The introduction of salmon from other rivers may alter genetic compositions of stock and reduce homing precision".

It was because, in the first place, I thought it was important that this provision should apply throughout Great Britain that I put down this amendment. But also I knew that the owners' association on the Wye were introducing ova from the Shin in Scotland, which seemed to be ill-advised in the light of Professor Wilkins' view. But I am very glad to know that the water authorities have power to control this; I only hope they will exercise it. Because the matter is already covered, I shall not move Amendments Nos. 34 and 35.

[Amendments Nos. 34 and 35 not moved.]

The Earl of Onslow

It seems to me there is a perfect example of the damage that can be done by importing a species. That is the importation of the American crayfish into English waters, which has absolutely slaughtered the English and European crayfish. So I hope that there is the maximum amount of support for the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso.

Lord Burton

I also should like to support the noble Viscount. At Second Reading, I referred to pike being introduced into the headwater of the Inverness-shire Garry, which was a ridiculous state of affairs. There are also a certain amount of rainbow trout put into Loch Ness every year by one of the Sunday papers—I think the Sunday Post. They are tagged and there is a reward if you catch one of them. Things of this sort ought to come under the control of the local committees and I very much hope that my noble friend will support this amendment.

Lord Tryon

While I too support this amendment, I should not like the impression to go out that the introduction of salmon into rivers which are very short of them is necessarily a bad thing. There are not great numbers of salmon in the Thames but there are some, and if this were carried to too great an extreme, and if it was generally appreciated that salmon should not be moved from one river to another, there would be no salmon in the Thames. There are a lot of rivers that will have to be stocked from other rivers because they are very short of fish at the moment.

Lord Gray of Contin

I have great sympathy with what the noble Viscount is seeking to achieve and I can see that unregulated stocking could do considerable harm. However, I believe that this amendment goes too far. For example, it seems to me to be unreasonable to require angling clubs which regularly stock with brown trout or rainbow trout to seek the consent of a salmon board, and I am not attracted to the idea of the Secretary of State's role where no board exists. If the noble Viscount will be prepared to withdraw his amendment, I am prepared to look further into this and to bring forward an amendment at a later stage which I think will go a long way towards meeting the objectives mentioned by noble Lords this evening.

The Earl of Onslow

Before the noble Viscount replies to my noble friend, I wonder whether my noble friend can answer my point about no boards. To take the case of the American crayfish, appalling damage has been done to crayfish in other waters because of a disease whose Latin name I cannot remember. How will it be controlled in the non-boarded rivers?

Lord Gray of Contin

I simply cannot answer my noble friend on that point. Of course, we will take everything into account when we are considering the matter and I am offering to take it back and look at it. Surely that is reasonable.

Lord Burton

I was rather concerned about the reference to the stocking of waters by angling clubs. This could well be very damaging to the salmon industry. If you put a lot of trout where salmon fry are hatching out, the trout can be gobbling them up as quickly as they are hatching. It is a case where salmon boards must take priority over trout fishing.

Viscount Thurso

I feel very inclined to accept the kind offer of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, to discuss this matter. I understand all the points which have been raised. It was not easy to draft this amendment. I do not share the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, about difficulties arising from genuine efforts to stock waters with fish in a traditional manner, and I shall put that point to him when we discuss. But I think at this stage it would be best if I were to withdraw this amendment, on the promise of discussions and an amendment to deal with the matter later on.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 16 [Proceedings of district salmon fishery boards]:

Lord Gray of Contin moved Amendment No. 36: Page 15, line 36, leave out ("deliberate") and insert ("deliberative").

The noble Lord said: This is a very minor amendment to correct an error in the Bill. No issue of substance is involved. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 37 not moved.]

Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Election and co-option of members of district salmon fishery boards]:

[Amendments Nos. 40 to 45 not moved.]

Lord Ross of Marnock had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 46: Page 31, line 20, leave out from ("person") to ("persons") in line 21 and insert ("nominated by").

The noble Lord said: These amendments, again, were overtaken by that long list of co-option and nomination, and so Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 will not be moved.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

The Duke of Atholl moved Amendment No. 48: Page 31, line 29, leave out first ("an") and insert ("a paid").

The noble Duke said: This is very much a probing amendment. My object in putting it down is to find out exactly what is meant by "an official of an angling association" which is itself an upper proprietor in that district. I imagine that an official is probably the chairman, the deputy chairman, the treasurer or the secretary. I entirely agree with the Bill as drafted that if these people are paid they should not be eligible for co-option as representatives of salmon anglers. But in very many cases these officials—if I have the meaning of the word "official" right I shall be more than pleased—will be the keenest and most enthusiastic members of the angling association. It would seem a pity that such people could not be co-opted as representatives of salmon anglers in that particular district.

Therefore I should like to ask my noble friend whether I am right in thinking that an official is usually one of those four people, and if so whether I am right in thinking that they ought only to be disqualified if they are paid. I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

The amendment would provide that only a paid official of such an association would be barred. I concede the principle of this amendment but in fact I have decided to go further. I intend to table at a later stage an amendment which will wholly remove the bar on officials of angling associations, whether paid or not. This picks up a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, at Second Reading. In view of this assurance, I hope that the noble Duke will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

The Duke of Atholl

On the strength of that assurance, I am very pleased to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 49 to 59 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Schedule 2 shall be agreed to?

Lord Ross of Marnock

I think it would be a good thing to look at this important schedule. I want to ask the Minister of State which matters within this schedule he has promised to look at, so that when I am looking at it from the point of view of the next stage of the Bill I shall know where I can expect government amendments and be able to anticipate them. There is now a question mark over promises that have been given by the Government that they are going to look at it again.


Lord Gray of Contin

I can answer the noble Lord immediately so far as that point is concerned. I have given a number of undertakings and perhaps it would be for the convenience of the noble Lord if I were to write to him tomorrow and set out the points that I have undertaken to look at again.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am grateful for that but I believe that the noble Lord's letter should go beyond myself, because there are others interested in this important schedule. The noble Lord's reply rather inhibits me because I intended to ask a number of questions about the schedule, as to what could be and should be done. So I am left rather without a speech.

For instance, there is the matter of Schedule 2 where it states in paragraph 3(4): A proprietor of a salmon fishery in the district which has been neither entered nor entered separately in the valuation roll shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, have one vote at the meeting and shall be eligible for election". But the whole qualification is that one has to be a qualified proprietor based on entry in the valuation roll. That is just one point that the Minister has not so far promised to look at. I should like to be clear about it before we go much farther.

Lord Gray of Contin

I shall cover that point when I write to the noble Lord. I have given an assurance that I will outline the points that I intend to consider again, and I shall include that one.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Surely that is a simple point. I do not want to rush through the Bill in any way. This is the point at which one asks for information, and one expects the Government to be briefed to give such information. This is an important paragraph relating to the election of members. We have heard all sorts of talk about co-option and nomination in relation to anglers and to tenant netsmen. Here is a provision about the proprietors that seems to run counter to everything that has been said before about how a proprietor becomes qualified. I just want to know how that can be achieved.

Schedule 2 states in paragraph 3(4): A proprietor of a salmon fishery in the district which has been neither entered nor entered separately in the valuation roll shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, have one vote at the meeting and shall be eligible for election". He could even become the chairman. That seems to run counter to the obligations and qualifications of a proprietor.

That is only one point. Am Ito be told that if I raise any other points in relation to this important schedule then they will all be dealt with in writing in a letter to me? That is not fair. It will become a Cabinet secret and I shall not be able to divulge it to the noble Lord, Lord Home. Think of the penalties that might be involved for myself, not to mention what might happen to the Minister. That is not the way to conduct legislation. The Government must surely be in a position to give answers to all those points.

That is why I wanted the Government to clear up now that, where there are matters the Minister has already dealt with, we do not need to discuss them in respect of the schedule. It is a very important schedule. It runs to nearly four pages. There must be many Members who have questions in respect of Schedule 2. They may not be extremely important questions but the Government should be prepared to answer them and not race the Bill through. I do not know who is handling this Bill for the Government, from the point of timing and all the rest of it, but I can assure him that he is not being helpful to the Bill by adopting such a procedure.

Lord Gray of Contin

I think I have already indicated to the noble Lord and to the Committee, but I shall confirm it by letter to the noble Lord, that I shall be looking carefully at the question of equal co-option of numbers of anglers and tenant netsmen. I shall be looking at the question of officials of angling associations not being barred from co-option.

The noble Lord referred to paragraph 3(4) of Schedule 2. This is covered by the definition of "proprietor". A person can still be a proprietor for the purposes of entry in the valuation roll, even though he is not permanently in that area.

There are various other points on which I have given assurances and, as I said to the noble Lord, of course it is not essential that all these be spelt out in a letter. However, the noble Lord is anxious to know and he always meticulously looks at points raised so that he can table amendments at the next stage of the Bill. I merely thought that it would be helpful to the noble Lord if I did him the courtesy of writing and setting out these matters for him. I know just how finicky he is. After all, he has never lost his schoolmaster tendencies. I am sure that he goes over my letters with a red pencil and marks them with ticks and crosses here and there where he agrees or does not agree. I am sure there are more crosses than ticks. Nevertheless, I can assure the noble Lord that I shall write to him and spell out the various points on which I have given assurances.

Viscount Thurso

If the Minister is writing to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, will he kindly send a copy to those of us who have taken part, at least on the debate on this schedule, so that we are all informed?

Lord Gray of Contin

I shall do better than that. I shall put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I ask the Minister not to rest there. After writing to me he can put a copy in the Library. I am getting to be an old man now. I cannot trot up and down to the Library and then get someone to make a copy. He must be careful in this spot of seeming generosity that he is not doing us any good at all. I look forward to receiving that letter. Incidentally, I do not use a red pencil—usually it is a blue pencil that I use for his letters. The simple fact is that we all want to know. There are many important parts where there is no point in going over it because the Government have said that they will make a change and we do not know to what extent.

The Minister is doing his best. He is trying to catch up on the time he lost at the start and is doing not too badly. Certainly with the number of matters he said he will consider on this Bill so far—and we have not progressed all that far—he is going to have a very busy time with that particular department in the Scottish Office before we reach the next stage of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Additional powers in respect of licensing and regulation of salmon dealing]:

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy moved Amendment No. 60: Page 17, line 28, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lady said: Some Ministers appear to hold that "shall" is stronger than "may" and others that "may" is stronger than "shall". This is our old friend "may" and "shall" again. In my understanding of the English language "shall" is mandatory but "may" is merely permissive. As this very welcome clause is extremely important it seems to me that "shall" would possibly be more appropriate than "may". I should be very interested to hear the noble Lord's views on this. Can he tell us whether he would be prepared to change the wording to "shall"; and if not, what his reasons are? I beg to move.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to my noble friend for her explanation of this amendment, but I hope that I can convince her that it is not necessary. I consider that the use of the word "may" in this clause is preferable and necessary, since it allows a necessary flexibility in the order and it may not in practice be felt necessary or desirable to provide for all elements set out in the clause. Despite what the noble Lady has said, I see no advantage in her pressing this amendment and I hope that she will be prepared to withdraw it.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove moved Amendment No. 61: Page 18, line 20, after ("and") insert ("other").

The noble Lord said: I thought when I put this amendment down that it would carry on the argument which I was trying to make on Second Reading about the power of bailiffs, when I asked that the Secretary of State be given control over the appointment of bailiffs. Saying "water bailiffs and other persons" may not be the most felicitous way to do it, but I was trying to include the powers of the Secretary of State in those of the water bailiffs and other persons who are appointed by the Secretary of State.

I raised this point at the Second Reading debate, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, very correctly explained to me that a great deal of time and money was spent on the training and selection of water bailiffs. I have no doubt at all that, owing to his interests and knowledge of salmon and fishing generally, the noble Marquess is correct in this, but I still believe that giving power of such a nature to people who, after all, are civilians is really asking too much. They are given, for example, power of entry.

I made a reference during the Second Reading of this Bill to a story I had heard about someone who had appointed a totally unsuitable person as a bailiff. I have since had correspondence giving the facts of the case. I am sure that those people who are interested in fishing, and much more involved in it than I am, will know of the case in the island of Lewis in which two estates quarrelled, and whether it was from pique or to show how wrong was the existing legislation, one of the estates nominated an unsuitable person and sent his name to the clerk to the river board. The name was accepted solely on the strength of having been sent by the estate. It was discovered later that it was a spoof and that the man was quite unsuitable; in actual fact he was an inmate of a prison in Inverness.

I was worried about the whole question of a civilian being given such great power. If such a thing can happen in even one case it is doubly worrying that such power should be given. Although this particular amendment may be the wrong place to raise the matter, I hope that the Minister will accept the fact that I feel very deeply about it, and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate must be worried that power such as this should be given so lightly to someone merely on the word of an estate.

Perhaps I may make one slight correction here. In trying to find an amendment suitable for putting this point across, when reading what I said on the 14th January at the Second Reading, I discovered in the fourth paragraph of col. 998 of the Official Report that the transcript reads "the state" instead of "the estate". That is quite different. The estate, and not "the state", sent someone's name to the board, and that name was accepted.

The amendment covers an important point. If this is not the right place in the Bill to raise it, perhaps the Minister will say how he feels about this. I shall be happy to put it at a more suitable point at the Report stage. I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Gray of Contin

This amendment appears to start from a false premise; namely, that the Secretary of State appoints all water bailiffs. In fact water bailiffs are appointed by district boards, although under Section 10(5) of the 1951 Act the Secretary of State has powers to appoint persons for enforcement purposes to cover areas where there are no boards in existence.

I am satisfied that it is for boards, where they exist, to appoint their own bailiffs, as that is a function best carried out at local level where local knowledge exists. The Bill is therefore correctly drafted as it stands, and the amendment is not, I am advised, sufficient to give the Secretary of State powers to appoint bailiffs even if it was thought appropriate that he should do so.

I hope that in view of what I have said the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment, but I am afraid that I simply cannot accept it, even if he is not.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

I thank the Minister for his reply but I think that he is reading the amendment wrongly. I do not blame him. When I looked at it I was conscious of the fact that it should have come earlier in the Bill and in another form. I was endeavouring to include water bailiffs among the people whom the Secretary of State appointed. It is probably a clumsy way to do that.

I realised that the Minister would not expect the argument that I put, and his reply was to a quite different matter altogether. I hope that he will at least consider my simple point. I disagree that the boards are the best organisations to appoint water bailiffs. I gave at least one instance of the appointment of someone totally unsuitable. I do not know how many more there are. In this case it was a non-existent appointment, because the person was unable to get out of prison to take it up.

The Minister says that the boards are the best people to make the appointments, but in this case there was no check at all. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, who is a responsible and thorough individual, would take such appointments seriously, as would many others, but it is too great a power to give to other people when they can go so far wrong.

I hope the Minister will consider this again before he turns it down.

Lord Gray of Contin

Persuasive as the noble Lord is, the Secretary of State simply does not have the necessary local knowledge to appoint bailiffs. It is much better to leave it to the boards which possess the necessary local knowledge and know the people who might be suitable. I am afraid that what the noble Lord says does not convince me, and I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Surely, the Minister of State can accept the point made by my noble friend Lord Carmichael. We are not suggesting that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I do not know that he would even go so far as to say now that it should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. But it should be someone's responsibility to ensure that the right people are selected and appointed and paid as water bailiffs. It may well be that the local police could be contacted. If that had been done in this case, I do not doubt at all that they would have been able to check that the person being put forward was in prison for a very serious offence and that there was no question of the police not knowing that this was the case. If it happens in one case, it could happen in many others. The more rural the situation, and the further removed it is from the urban gangs of poachers that we have heard about, the more can considerable animosity be built up around the figure of the water bailiff. If the wrong one, for one reason or another, is selected, it cannot be to the benefit of the fishery board itself.

Something should be said and some attention paid to the quality of water bailiffs from the point of view of the job they are doing and the powers they are given. One should remember that it is easy to send someone to prison in respect of poaching in Scotland nowadays. I am talking of the person caught in Scotland rather than the person caught down in Kent, as a few people were the other week. The evidence that is expected in other cases in Scotland of collaboration—

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove


Lord Ross of Marnock

I am sorry. Corroboration is not now required. It has not been required since 1951. It is a very serious matter. It was a Labour Government, by the way, that introduced that. I remember the difficulty that arose—it has been referred to by lawyers since—of this breach with Scottish tradition of the absence of corroboration. I believe that in civil cases it was breached again in relation to compensation by judges. The judge was given the discretion to dispense with the need for corroboration. What a row that caused, particularly with a certain Scottish nationalist lawyer whose name I forget at the moment!

This is important. If the Government cannot handle it in this way, cannot they give some advice to those who appoint them and to those whom they think should be appointed? It might be a letter to them to bear in mind the importance of the character of the water bailiffs appointed, in view of the important duties they have to carry out and the effect they can have on local people.

Lord Gray of Contin

I do not think that anyone who has sat through our discussions today could say that I have been anything other than sympathetic towards the amendments that have been moved. I have taken a good many back to look at again. I have accepted a good many. I am bound to say to the noble Lords, Lord Ross of Marnock and Lord Carmichael, that this is one which I cannot take back because I do not see myself being able to come forward with what they seek. There is, of course, no reason why they cannot withdraw the amendment, think about it a little longer, and perhaps come forward with something themselves that might be worthy of consideration at a later stage.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

In view of the point that the Minister has made I think that perhaps we could dig back in the Acts a wee bit more and perhaps get a few more examples that will help the Minister to support anything we are able to bring forward at Report stage. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 19 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Burton

Before we agree this clause I should like to put a question to the Minister. If there is to be licensing and if records are to be kept, who will be empowered to inspect the books and the records? Under the Deer (Scotland) Act the police can do so and also the Red Deer Commission can do so. However, the Red Deer Commission is only allowed to take statistics out and it cannot give you any facts and details.

If this licensing power is to be of any use we should allow fishery boards or fishery committees through their officials to look at the books to see where the fish are going. There may be complications, but there is no point in asking the fishmongers to keep a lot of records if they are never going to be looked at.

Lord Gray of Contin

In answer to my noble friend let me say that officials of local authorities, the police and the water bailiffs all have the power to examine the books.

Lord Ross of Marnock

This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill and it is quite disgraceful that we have reached it at this time of night. If anyone should have been quicker earlier on, it is the Minister of State. The Committee will remember that we started our discussions on the Bill without him because he could not get here on time. I do not know about the languid Lord who has arrived to complain about speeches being made at the early hour of 26 minutes past 10! I do not know how his interest arises in respect of this matter.

However, we are dealing with the new power in respect of poaching and in respect of conservation. It is the Government's idea of a new, helpful provision. The only way in which we can get information about it is through a debate on whether the clause should stand part of the Bill, apart from the drafting of amendments—one from the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and another one.

This duty is to be placed upon the local authority. First, which local authority will have the licensing power? Will it be the district authority or will it be the regional authority? Can we have any indication of how many there will be in any particular local authority area? Will they be virtually existing dealers in fish? Nowadays there is a very considerable variety. We must bear in mind the multi-purpose shops which we have nowadays and not the specialised fish shops. In fact, there are very few fishmonger shops left in many areas. Who will hold the licence? That matter will be very important from the point of view of the person who gets the licence. That person will probably be the only person in a small town who will be licensed to deal in this particular way.

The question arises as to whether the hotels will get their fish from the retailer, or will people who themselves own facilities as upper proprietors, lower proprietors or netsmen hold licences and deal directly with the public? This is the only time that we shall be able to get this information.

There is the question which I mentioned earlier about what the police will do with the lost fish. They have to give it to somebody who is licensed. Or are the police themselves going to have a licence to be able to deal with fish in this connection? I do not think that this is quite as simple as we have been told so far. I expected that at this stage quite a number of noble Lords would draw out all the difficulties that will arise in relation to licensing.

10.30 p.m.

Then there is the question of whether the act is committed by taking, killing or landing that salmon either in Scotland or in England and Wales. Yet the actual dealing in salmon by licence is only going to apply in Scotland and not in England and Wales. That is a point we shall come to later. First we should know what the power is, and who is going to enforce it? If it involves the local authority and the dealers, then obviously enforcement is going to rest with the local police. But that will depend entirely on where the dealers are. Are the dealers going to be in urban areas or are they going to be people who catch the fish? It is a difficult business.

Then there is all the trouble about having fish caught and getting them transported to the dealer. Until they get to the dealer they are not legally-handled fish. He is the person who is legally empowered to handle fish. There is a great deal in this and we should not just let it go through to suit the Government's convenience because it is late at night and they think they have been clever in respect of what they have done hitherto. I am not prepared to let a Government get away with an important power like this unexamined. The people in Scotland would object strongly if we did. They want to know what the new power is; how it is going to be dealt with; how it is going to be enforced; what the penalties are.

Then there is the provision: as to the exercise of powers of entry and search by water bailiffs and persons appointed by the Secretary of State". How does this come into this new licensing power? Can we have a clear explanation by the Minister of State? Please do not suggest that he should write me a letter. I came here hoping to get information today about this. I deliberately did not put down amendments to leave out subsection (1) and (2)(a), (b) and (c)—to have the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate deigning to give the Minister a little help in explaining all these things. It should not be necessary. If we are going to have a proper examination of the position on clause stand part, he can tell us now exactly how it is going to be introduced, who is going to get the licences, which local authorities are concerned, and how they can justify the summary, imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both". Then, conviction on indictment by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years". We cannot let this go by without a word. There are many people concerned that this only applies to Scotland, and they had better know what is being applied in Scotland before they accept the desirability of its being applied in other parts of the country. I should be grateful if we could get some information about this from the Minister of State in respect of this new offence.

Lord Burton

May I say how pleased I am that the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, has raised this matter. It is one that has exercised my mind considerably. On Second Reading it was said that the licensing offence was singularly ineffective. In this case a lot of the poached salmon goes through hotels. A hotel has only to buy one or two fish legally through a fishmonger and no one could ever check up how many illegal fish were going through and then being sold and cooked. There is no check at all. It would be difficult to follow this up. I think I said on Second Reading that, although this licensing was better than nothing, it would be very ineffective.

Lord Gray of Contin

I think that I can deal fairly briefly and fairly fully with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, who made rather a meal of it as usual. I shall try to answer his questions. We are talking about enabling powers. The whole clause extends existing powers under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act to licensing of salmon dealing and gives additional powers. There will be full consultation on the exercise of the power including discussions with COSLA, chief constables and others. A further safeguard is the fact that the order will be subject to parliamentary procedure.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Negative procedure, which means that we shall never see it again.

Lord Gray of Contin

Whether we see it here or not is a matter for the usual channels to decide. The negative procedure is the normal way of proceeding and that is what is selected for the Bill.

Clause 19 makes supplementary provision where dealing in salmon is designated as an additional activity subject to licensing and regulation by an order made under Section 44 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. It provides for heavier penalties for doing anything for which a licence is required without having one that is generally available under Section 7(1) of the 1982 Act and permits the Secretary of State to regulate the fees imposed by local authorities which would otherwise be at the discretion of the local authorities themselves in terms of paragraph 15(1) of Schedule 1 to the 1982 Act.

Subsection (1) provides that an order designating dealing in salmon may define that activity to include specified acts preparatory to or connected with the activity (for example, before money changes hands) or to exclude a specific class or classes of salmon. This will enable a dealer licensing scheme to be introduced excluding sea trout.

It provides that the offence in dealing with salmon without a licence shall be punishable either on summary conviction or indictment; the maximum penalties on summary conviction being imprisonment for a maximum of three months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (£2,000) or both and on conviction on indictment, imprisonment for a maximum of two years or an unlimited fine or both. Otherwise, the maximum penalty under Section 7(1) of the 1982 Act would be a fine of £1,000 on summary conviction only. It will create an offence where a person who is not a licensed salmon dealer buys salmon from or sells salmon to anyone other than a licensed salmon dealer.

The subsection will except certain acts or omissions from being offences under Section 7(1) of the 1982 Act or under the last paragraph where the possessor of salmon caught the fish lawfully or where farmed salmon were grown by him at his farm.

It will provide that certain classes of dealing in salmon should not need to be licensed. The power could be used to except, for instance, very small businesses. It would also be possible to provide that a licence should not be required for certain classes of salmon, as defined in the Bill; for example, sea trout.

Subsection (1) will provide powers of entry or search for water bailiffs appointed by district salmon fishery boards or by the Secretary of State. Any such powers will be exercisable in addition to the powers in Section 5 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

Subsection (2) excludes from any dealer licensing scheme, live salmon or prepared or processed salmon. Tinned and smoked salmon will be covered, but no salmon which has had anything done to it other than freezing may be included in a dealer licensing scheme.

Subsection (3) gives the Secretary of State power to fix the fees or maximum fees which local authorities may charge for operating the salmon dealer licensing scheme. Subsection (4) requires that any order under subsection (3) fixing fees for a dealer licensing scheme shall be made by statutory instrument subject to negative resolution by either House of Parliament.

I think that covers fairly broadly the points the noble Lord raised. The licensing power, about which the noble Lord specifically asked me, is in district or islands councils. I should reiterate to him that these enabling powers about which we are talking will all be subject to considerable discussion and consultation before an actual dealer licensing scheme is presented.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I am grateful to the Minister for that. He has told me it will be done by districts. He has not given me any indication as to how many there will be in a district. Will it be existing shops, or will it not be shops at all? Will it be some middleman somewhere who will be the actual dealer and if one gets it from that particular person then all is well? I hope he appreciates it will create very considerable problems. The suggestion is that if you go into a hotel and order salmon you want to know whether or not it is legally caught; otherwise you are in trouble—the person who actually eats it. It is not usually the manager who acquires the stock; it is usually the chef and he has his own way of doing it.

Thus we want to know exactly who the dealers are. Cannot he get it direct from someone who actually took the fish out of the water, someone in charge of a fishery? Are the fisheries themselves going to be dealers, be they netsmen or be they rod and line men? Having caught the fish, he has to take it to a dealer. To what kind of dealer will he take it? Or is it some new person who is to be created as a dealer and everyone must go to him? It may well be a fine position. It is going to create new jobs and new positions. Some person we have never heard of before is now going to be a salmon licensed dealer.

I do not think we have any indication yet as to what is to happen, because the Government honestly do not know.

Lord Gray of Contin

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Ross of Marnock

Of course.

Lord Gray of Contin

The noble Lord knows perfectly well that we are talking about enabling powers. We are not talking about the actual dealer licensing scheme. The dealer licensing scheme is still being worked out and of course nobody can tell him at this precise moment the answers to all these nitty points that he is raising. The noble Lord himself knows that he is the prize nit-picker of all time. He is asking lots of little questions to which he knows perfectly well he cannot be given the answer just now, because what we are talking about is the enabling power within this Bill to introduce a dealer licensing scheme at a future date. A dealer licensing scheme is not yet completed so I cannot possibly give him the answers for which he is asking. He knows that as well as I do.

Lord Ross of Marnock

I did an injustice to the Government. I thought that perhaps they would have a fairly general idea of what this scheme was going to be, but now we are told they have no idea of what this scheme will be—none whatever. I do not blame them. When will we see it? It will come in by way of an order. That is not an affirmative order that both Houses have to deal with: it is a negative order. How many times have we dealt with a negative order in this Chamber? This is our only chance to say anything at all about it. No wonder the Government are smiling. If they get this through, it does not matter: they can do whatever they like so far as this Chamber is concerned. In fact, a very good amendment would be to make this by affirmative procedure. Then quite honestly we could rest content with everything the Government say, because it would need to come back to us. Then, we would see it at the end. So we have learned that the Government do not have a clue as to what they are doing. All they know is that they are going to have a scheme. They do not know what the scheme is. They have not yet discussed it with anybody but they are going to discuss it. And, eventually, we will know. But please do not ask us any questions about it!

They know one thing. It is going to be operated by the district. That is all. Beyond that, they know nothing at all and I presume that, so far as we are concerned, if we want to say anything about this scheme we had better say it tonight or say it by means of amendment on Report stage or at some other stage; because otherwise we are going to have no influence at all in the nature of that particular scheme. So, I am sorry if I have got to nitpick; but it becomes rather frustrating with this particular Government.

Lord Gray of Contin

Perhaps the—

10.45 p.m.

Lord Ross of Marnock

No. I have given way enough. I do not care to receive anything flattering from the Minister of State. I remember him. I have seen him grow up. I remember when he first came in. I remember when he was a Whip, when he was limited in the Scottish Grand Committees to saying, "I beg to move that the Question be now put". He was very good at that. I do not know whether he remembers it, but I have a very good caricature—well, a reasonable caricature of him—and four lines of poetry on the subject of Hamish Gray. But I am not going to give him that just now.

Please credit us with some concern and interest. We should like some general information about how this scheme is going to work and who is going to work it. Now we know that it is the district. But, thereafter, what? We know not. I think it is very disappointing indeed for the Government to have this great new power on which they have been telling everyone in Scotland, "Here is the way we are going to solve all the problems of poaching in Scotland". And they cannot give us a single clue as to what they are going to do. I am sorry for those Members who feel that this is so good that it should apply to England, as well.

Quite honestly, all that I can say to them is that I do not know how it is going to apply in Scotland. How can we judge something as to whether it is going to be effective, when we do not know anything very much about it? That is exactly what the Minister has said: we do not know, but we are going to introduce a scheme. They are getting better and better!

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, is being fairly unreasonable. There are strong indications in Clause 19 as to what kind of measures will be taken. My noble friend cannot say exactly what they will be at this moment, but the indications are pretty well there. I would ask the noble Lord not to debunk this clause; because if he is going to move a clause tomorrow, as he has just indicated, that this should apply to England and Wales, he had better be a little bit careful before he devalues it too far.

Lord Ross of Marnock

Do not worry. I have already worked that one out. I have not moved it yet, have I? The noble Lord is the last one who should anticipate what anyone is going to do on his own side, far less on the Opposition side, judging by the kind of things that have been happening in the past few days. I shall be glad to give way.

Lord Home of the Hirsel

I am trying to help the noble Lord tomorrow. He is making it more difficult for me.

Lord Ross of Marnock

The noble Lord wants to help me tomorrow. Well, we shall see. If his initial response is to help me, then he should not be put off by anything that is really by the way. He should stick to his principles. I want to help more than myself tomorrow in respect of what I want to move. I am sorry if the Government representative is getting a bit restive. He is too late in getting restive. What I am concerned about is to find out as much as possible about this so that I shall be able to answer all those questions of people who say, "It's not worth having", because that is what people will say. They will say it is impossible to implement. I have not had the help I expected from the noble Lord. Perhaps he has deliberately gone out of his way to make it appear this way so that it will be much more difficult when I move another clause later in respect of England and Wales. I am sorry for the Government in respect of this. I thought they really had some better idea as to how they were going to see this thing through. I am sorry they have not.

The Earl of Perth

I wonder if it might help if, in connection with the first time this order is made—so that we all have the opportunity to know what it is about—it was made the subject of an affirmative resolution. In that way we would have a chance from the very start to comment on it, whereas otherwise it may, as it were, slip through without our knowing. While in no way wishing to try to press the exact detail of it, I am sure it would help the Committee very much if we knew we would have another chance to comment on this at the time when the Government have made up their minds and are preparing to make the order.

Lord Gray of Contin

I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for his intervention. Indeed, to some extent he has stolen my thunder because I was about to tell the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, that I had been misinformed. I have since been corrected; and indeed it is subject to affirmative resolution. It is nice at least to conclude a hard day's work by giving a happy piece of news to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock. I am sure this will help him to sleep very much better after his long day.

Lord Ross of Marnock

It means, of course, that we really ought not to take "Clause stand part" because we do not want subsection (4) to be there. It definitely says: an order made under subsection (3) above shall be made by statutory instrument"— that only relates to subsection (3), which is concerned with penalties. But we are now told that the whole thing will be subject to affirmative resolution when it comes back here. It makes a very big difference indeed.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Viscount Davidson

This appears to be a convenient point for adjourning the Committee for this evening. I beg to move that the House be resumed.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at seven minutes before eleven o'clock.