HL Deb 28 April 1987 vol 486 cc1360-1

3.7 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Second Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will ensure that the Crown Commissioners' Office, Edinburgh, in licensing salmon farms on the sea lochs of the western Highlands takes into account the suitability of sites of applicants or the existing netting rights.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the Crown Estate Commissioners already take account of these questions. Under arrangements introduced last October the commissioners advertise all applications and consult directly with relevant interests before deciding whether to issue site leases.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which I had already guessed. Does he agree that it would save a lot of time in such hearings if the Crown Commissioners initiated research into the areas in which they give licences for sea cages? Does he further agree that they should carry out research into where salmon feed and the salmon routes into sea lochs, where they come in to spawn in the rivers? They should also carry out research into whether the foreshore has suitable places for jetties and sheds where such salmon farms can be serviced. The most important point—

Noble Lords


Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

—is pollution, which will spread disease. Where there are several thousand salmon in fish cages which are being fed several tonnes of food daily, pollution and disease will result.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, since last October the commissioners have consulted on each application. As well as consulting local people and depositing notices in local post offices, they have also consulted the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, the Department of Transport, local authorities, the Crofters Commission, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and Crown tenants who may be affected. I am sure that the points which my noble friend has made will be taken into account.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, will the Minister make some assessment of the value of this industry to the Scottish economy? Will he keep in mind that it is bringing the consumption of salmon within the reach of many more people than could previously afford to buy it?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. This type of business is of immense value to the Scottish economy, with an expected production of 16,000 tonnes this year, going up to 25,000 tonnes next year, with values of £60 million and £100 million respectively. In addition, it provides direct jobs for over 1,100 people. That does not include jobs in the service industries such as processing and feedstuffs, which are ancillary. It is very important to the Scottish economy.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, will my noble friend clarify whether those figures related totally to fish farm salmon or did they relate to wild salmon as well?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the figures related to salmon farming.

Lord Burton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, although the various bodies which he has mentioned must be consulted, they have very little power and there is much apprehension among fishery boards and pollution boards, as well as among other people, at the proliferation of salmon farming?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, since October 1986, 100 applications have been received. By 9th April 1987, 30 applications had been approved or partly approved, 20 applications were unsuccessful and 14 had been withdrawn. I therefore think that the point which my noble friend has made is being taken into consideration.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether the Crown Commissioners when granting these licences take into account for research purposes whether old established salmon rights in the sea are lost?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the right to fish for salmon is a separate heritable right under Scottish law. The right of the Crown as owner of the sea bed exists concurrently with the right to fish for salmon in the waters above. I hope that that answers my noble friend's point.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, have the salmon not had a good run by now?