§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (12.0.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
This Bill passed a Second Reading unanimously last year, though afterwards its progress was interrupted by hon. Members who represented the views of some owners of Irish fisheries who believed their interests were threatened. I have communicated with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helen's (Mr. Seton-Karr), and he on the part of fishery owners has consented to the Second Reading, provided that the Bill is afterwards referred to a Select Committee. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will consent to this course being adopted. The questions which are raised are somewhat technical and important enough to have the consideration of a Committee upstairs when the owners of fisheries claim they have a right to have their case heard. I believe the objections they urge are of such a technical nature that they could not, with advantage, be debated in the House. It is morally certain that Debate would simpiy take the form of statements on one side and contradiction on the other. I think a Select Committee, with evidence before them, will arrive at a just and fair conclusion on a matter of considerable importance both to the fishery owners and the milling industries throughout Ireland. Mill-owners have substantial reasons 802 for complaint, and the first clause is designed to remedy a grievance imposed by the Act of 1879. When that Act was passed it was said that the only object was to transfer jurisdiction from the Commissioners of Fisheries; but beyond that the Act takes away from mill-owners in Ireland a protection mill-owners in this country enjoy. This is one of the grievances the Bill is intended to remove, and which mill-owners are prepared to submit with the claims of the fishery owners to the judgment of a Select Committee. The remaining clauses of the Bill are taken from the English Salmon Fisheries Act, and simply confer on mill-owners in Ireland the same protection mill-owners in England enjoy. If it can be proved in evidence before the Committee that this protection is excessive, then those I represent are quite ready to abide by the decision. I have said this matter is of great importance to the milling industries in Ireland. There is in Antrim one tributary of the Bann upon which there are no less than 25 mills, all affected by the action of the Conservators of Fisheries on the Bann. I trust the House will, on the understanding that it shall be sent to a Select Committee, give the Bill a Second Reading.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Macartney.)
§ (12.5.) MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
Last Session I was one of those who were successful in the attempt to prevent the passing of the Bill in the small hours of the morning; and I may say now that I am entirely at issue with my hon. Friend on all the facts and the merits of the Bill. I represent a strong opposition to the Bill, not only in Lancashire, but in the West of Ireland, from fishing interests there. I have had a consultation with my hon. Friend, and those whom I represent desire that the facts upon which we are at issue with the promoters of the Bill should be most carefully examined before a Select Committee. I quite agree that 803 the issue being upon facts, a Select Committee is the best tribunal for threshing out the merits of the Bill. We are, as a matter of fact, prepared to show that the Bill is not required to meet the justice of the case, and I trust the Government may see their way to consent to the appointment of the Committee, and perhaps I may be permitted to say at this stage that in the composition of the Committee the Unionist Party should not be too strongly represented. We are prepared to prove that evidence of the Inspectors of Fisheries is entirely against the Bill in its present form, and I trust that the Second Reading if taken will be only on the understanding that the Bill shall go before a Select Committee.
(12.8.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JACKSON, Leeds, N.)
I am bound to say I have made inquiries from the Inspectors of Fisheries and it is right to say that they see great objections to the Bill as it stands at present. They inform me that a question arising as to one river is the cause of the Bill. (Mr. MCCARTHY: No, no.) I should be sorry to assist in passing a Bill which would do anything to diminish the value of salmon fishing in Ireland, upon which great expenditure has been incurred in the past. At the same time I quite understand it is possible there may be cases in the North of Ireland where manufacturing interests, also important, require that arrangements should be made, which, while preserving the salmon fishing, and providing that it shall be in no way injured, may secure to mill-owners those rights of water which are so valuable to their industry. I feel constrained to offer no opposition to the Second Reading now, on the distinct understanding that the inquiry before a Select Committee shall be very complete, and where it will be the duty of Inspectors of Fisheries to state their case.
§ (12.11.) MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
It is proposed to refer the Bill to a 804 Select Committee, but the terms of reference have not been put down. It is a mere reference without a statement as to sending for persons, papers, and records.
§ (12.11.) MR. M. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
Before we submit this mischievous and uncalled for Bill to a Select Committee, it is well we should know how this Committee is constituted. A fair arrangement should be made for the nominations. I think it is premature to take the Second Reading to-night, and I would advise the hon. Member in charge of the Bill to first look about and see what arrangements he can make through the Whips of the respective Parties. Unless this is done, I must object to progress being made with the Bill. I do not intend to discuss the merits of the Bill at this hour, but I am convinced that its proposals are most mischievous from many points of view. It will really be of no benefit to mill-owners, some of whom are most anxious for the Bill, indeed, it will do some of them more injury than good. I shall, so far as I can, oppose the Bill throughout.
§ (12.14.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I must protest against a pernicious habit which is growing up of moving a Second Reading of a Bill, and saying who supports and who opposes but nothing upon the merits of the Bill itself. Now, I have rapidly read through the Bill, and I can tell the House more about it than the hon. Member has told us in moving the Second Reading. It provides for gratings being fixed to prevent salmon being drawn up by mill wheels—I should think a proper provision—and it controls the action of conservators in stopping up streams for the benefit of the salmon. Now, the conservators of rivers in Ireland are a ridiculous body. Anybody who pays £1 or £2 can be a conservator, and never 805 do anything unless there is an appointment to be made. A few Boards of Conservators are better; but, generally speaking, you might, in half an hour, collect in the Strand a body of men who would do the work as well as these conservators. I think the hon. Member might have given us some explanation of his Bill; but, however, if it is sent to a Select Committee probably some good will result.
§ (12.16.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
I sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend in the desire to know something of a Bill we are asked to read a second time; but it should be said that last Session we did have a full exposition of the provisions of the Bill from the hon. Member opposite. But I rise to make an appeal to my hon. Friend (Mr. Kenny) to allow the Bill to go forward. I have received a number of representations which induces me to think there is every reason why the Bill should be threshed out before a Committee. If I have any influence with my hon. Friend I would appeal to him to allow the Bill to be read a second time.
§ (12.17.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that I have followed the ordinary course, and I am quite ready to adopt the usual course for securing on the Committee the representation of all sections in the House.
§ (12.17.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I may explain to the hon. Member that it is impossible to nominate a Committee until a Bill is read a second time. If the Second Reading is taken now, the hon. Member will be equally master of the situation, because the Motion for the appointment of Members of the Committee if opposed cannot come on after midnight.
§ MR. M. KENNY
Under the circumstances I withdraw my objection.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.