§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that the practice of the Fishery Commissioners in not holding inquiries into proposed changes of close season unless the expenses of such inquiries are paid by the applicants, acts hardly on the poorer classes of fishermen; whether it is the case that payment of expenses by such applicants had not been enforced for some 50 years down to August last; and for what reason, and on what grounds are such charges made?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Section 33 of the 5 & 6 Vict., cap. 106, empowers the Inspectors of Fisheries to make inquiries into applications for changes of close seasons, provided that the expenses of such applications and all proceedings consequent thereon shall be defrayed by the applicants. As a matter of fact, however, the costs in these applications have not hitherto been imposed upon the applicants, and in the opinion of the Inspectors, if such a course had been insisted upon, the poorer classes of fishermen would have been precluded from making applications. The non-enforcement of the law over so extended a period has, therefore, really been in the interests and for the benefit of the fishermen. But the hon. Member for East Cork protested against the action of the Inspectors in the course of last Session, and although I explained to him the reasons which actuated the Inspectors, I felt bound to add that their action had been ultra vires, and that any payments out of public funds for such expenses would certainly be liable to be disallowed. Several applications have been made to the Inspectors for the holding of inquiries since the point was raised by the hon. Member for East Cork, but the Inspectors have felt unable to comply with these applications, and I regret to have to add that the practical 1604 result of the intervention of the hon. Member has been to bring about a discontinuance of such inquiries.