HC Deb 29 June 1915 vol 72 cc1647-50W

asked the Chief Secretary whether the terms of purchase agreed upon directly between the Marquess of Conyngham and the tenants on the Glenties portion of his estate, securing all fishing and game rights on the Owenea to the tenants, will be adhered to by the Congested Districts Board; whether it is for the corresponding rights on the portion of the river below Glenties and on the estuary the £2,276 has been paid; whether he is aware that the purchase agreements offered by the Board for signature of tenants whose farms abut on the river and estuary comprise a clause surrendering unconditionally the entire fishing and game rights which they have hitherto enjoyed; whether he is aware that the Board has appropriated those rights and offered them to owners on other estates who never enjoyed those rights and who purchased their holdings ten years ago without any such rights from landlords who had no rights on the river or estuary at the time of sale; seeing that the Board's refusal to carry out the resale is a growing loss to those tenants, will he specify the statutory authority under which the Board withholds from tenants willing to buy at cost price their holdings with the appurtenant rights previously held and enjoyed by them; whether compensation for malicious injury to the Board's property on one side of the estuary has been levied off tenants on the other side on the evidence of a local official, in whose shop in Ardara fish stolen from the Board's boat are for sale; whether the place where the property was injured is the same in which Mr. Inspector Brown and the police found that the Board's fishermen had buried a bag of fish; will he say why no prosecution ensued on that discovery; will he state the total expenditure by the Board on the fishing and guarding, the net profit, if any, and the amount levied as compensation; what reason there is for the present wasteful management, hostile to the tenants, in view of the tenants' offer to submit the whole matter to arbitration and to help gratuitously in protecting the fish; and whether he will relieve the deadlock by granting a public sworn inquiry into the entire dispute?


I am informed that in the abortive negotiations which took place between the Marquess of Conyngham and his tenants, the fishing rights below the bridge and mill of Glenties were reserved from sale. The Congested Districts Board, on the other hand, who have purchased the entire rights of the Marquess of Conyngham over all the Owenea river and estuary with the bed of the river for the price named, are prepared to discuss any reasonable proposal for the transfer of the entire right and not merely of those on the upper waters. The tenants whose holdings abut on the river and estuary were not asked to surrender any fishing rights, inasmuch as so far as the Board are aware they did not enjoy them, and the position is that a small number of these tenants have declined to sign agreements for the purchase of their holdings unless these rights are conveyed to them. The Board have not appropriated the rights, but have purchased them from the owner, and some two years ago they outlined a scheme under which all the riparian tenant purchasers on the Conyngham and some smaller estates along all the river and estuary would be granted equal rights through local trustees and become beneficial owners of the whole fishery. This scheme was not even discussed owing to the opposition of objecting tenants on the Conyngham estate. As the Board are of opinion that no rights of fishing were appurtenant to the tenants' holdings under the Marquess of Conyngham, and as they are willing to sell these rights to the tenants if they sign the necessary purchase agreements, they do not agree with the interpretation placed on their attitude in the fifth part of the question.

The order in respect of compensation for malicious injury to the Board's boat and net was made by the County Court judge after hearing evidence. The Board, who are unaware of the names of the persons who committed these injuries, cannot state upon which side of the river or estuary they reside, and they have no knowledge of the sale of stolen fish referred to. A bag containing salmon was found, but there was not sufficient evidence to prove by whom the bag was put where it was found, and no prosecution was accordingly instituted. The Board cannot at present state the amount of their expenditure on the fishery, but they will be prepared, when a settlement has been arrived at, to give particulars there of and of their receipts. The sum ordered to be levied as compensation for malicious injury was £13 and costs. The question is not one for arbitration or for a public sworn inquiry under an Act of Parliament. The issue raised by the objecting tenants is as to their rights or property in the Owenea Fishery, and this question could be decided only in a Court of Law. The attitude of the Board throughout has been, as I have already stated, that they are willing to meet the tenants in any reasonable proposal in which their rights, for which they have paid a substantial sum, are not prejudiced.