HC Deb 13 February 1951 vol 484 cc331-41

(1) The justices of the peace for any county may, at any session held for that purpose, or for the purpose of granting licences to deal in game, grant to any person a licence to deal in salmon and trout at premises specified in the licence and situated within the county; and any such licence shall be in such form as the Secretary of State may by order provide, and there shall be payable to the clerk of the peace in respect of any such licence a fee of five shillings:

Provided that any person aggrieved by the refusal of the justices to grant him such licence may appeal to the sheriff, who on any such appeal may confirm the refusal or grant the licence, or make such other order as he shall think fit.

In this subsection the expression "county" includes a county of a city.

(2) Every licence to deal in salmon and trout shall (unless revoked in pursuance of subsection (7) of this section) continue in force until the expiration of one year from the date on which it was granted.

(3) Every holder of a licence to deal in salmon and trout shall have his name exhibited over the door of the premises in respect of which the licence is granted in legible letters together with the words "licensed to deal in salmon and trout."

(4) After the expiry of twelve months from the commencement of this Act no person shall sell, expose for sale or have in his possession for sale at any place any salmon or trout (other than salted, pickled, dried or smoked salmon, or salmon or trout preserved in tins or other containers, or salmon or trout prepared for consumption at a meal), unless he holds a licence granted under this Act to deal in salmon or trout at such place; and no person other than the holder of a licence to deal in salmon and trout so granted shall purchase salmon or trout except from a person so licensed;

Provided that this subsection shall not apply to the sale or exposure or possession for sale by any person of salmon or trout lawfully taken by him or his servants to any person licensed under this Act to deal in salmon and trout.

(5) The holder of a licence to deal in salmon and trout shall not knowingly buy or otherwise acquire salmon or trout from any person who has unlawfully taken such salmon or trout, or who has not a legal right to the possession of such salmon or trout.

(6) Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any of the foregoing provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.

(7) If any person licensed under this Act to deal in salmon and trout shall during the period of such licence be convicted of any offence against this Act the court may order that such licence shall be revoked, and that such person shall be disqualified from holding or obtaining any such licence for such period not exceeding five years as the court may think fit.—[Mr. J. Stuart.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Stuart

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Clause deals with licences to deal in salmon and trout. I do not want to repeat myself, because this matter was referred to during the Second Reading debate, when it was pointed out that the Maconochie Committee paid great attention to it in paragraphs 35 and 70 of their Report. The Clause, which is rather long, explains our suggestions clearly. It is a version of a Clause to deal with precisely the same point in the 1938 Bill, which never reached the Statute Book. I hope that the Government will agree to accept the Clause, because the Secretary of State himself admitted on Second Reading that he was attracted by this suggestion. At that time he ruled it out on grounds of administrative difficulty, but in reply to that I mention that I am informed on very good authority that a similar system is operated, perfectly effectively and without difficulty, so far as I am aware, in Northern Ireland.

It would, therefore, seem that there is precedent for taking such action and that there is no particular or strong grounds for refusing to accept the recommendation of Sheriff Maconachie's Committee. If further precedents are wanted, it is in line with the system already operating in connection with the game laws. Dealers in game are licensed, and the Clause proposes that dealers in salmon should be licensed in precisely the same way.

The fact that as soon as the illegally-caught salmon or sea trout—that is, poached salmon—reaches the hands of the retailer it is impossible for the fish to be traced, seems to us to be a serious weakness in the Bill. Our object is to make the Bill an effective Measure, and the Clause, to which I and my hon. Friends attach considerable importance, would make it more effective. I could continue speaking, but will not do so because I do not wish to repeat the case. I know that it is perfectly clear to the Government, who studied the Maconachie Report, and I hope that they will agree to accept, if not this Clause, then a Clause on similar lines.

The Lord Advocate

The Clause seeks only to institute a system of licensing. It does not seek to institute a system of keeping records. For the reasons which we discussed fully during Second Reading, it was deemed undesirable to introduce a system of keeping records, because the obligation of doing so would require to extend to many quarters in order to be effective. We felt that the administrative difficulties and the burden imposed upon hotel-keepers, restaurateurs, owners of catering establishments, and the like, would be out of all proportion to any benefit that might accrue from the proposal as a result of getting evidence against those who were indulging in black market activities in this particular sphere. For that reason we rejected the suggestion of the keeping of records, which, to be effective—

Mr. Gage

On a point of order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now talking about the keeping of records, which is dealt with in a later Clause—(register of purchase, sale, etc.)—which I hope to move. The present Clause does not deal with that, and I ask for your Ruling, Sir Charles. Are we to discuss the present Clause and the later Clause together, or are we to discuss only this Clause?

10.15 p.m.

The Lord Advocate

I should explain, that having given what I regarded as the general objection to keeping of records, I was going on to say that the licensing itself without the keeping of records would be an ineffective method of dealing with the problem.

Mr. Gage

Would it be convenient to discuss the two Clauses together?

Mr. Stuart

I think it might complicate the issue if we did that. I do not wish to put a stumbling block in the way of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage), but we would rather keep the two apart.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think the Clauses had better be discussed separately.

The Lord Advocate

We feel that the introduction of a licensing system itself would not be effective. In the first place, as the Clause stands the provision would only apply to Scotland. So far as our information goes a great deal of the fish which is caught in Scotland, particularly on a large scale, finds its way South of the Border and, accordingly, this isolated licensing system in Scotland would not have the result of stopping the trade from that point of view.

Moreover, the mere fact that the person could only sell or deal in salmon if he were a licence holder would not in our view stop black market transactions because, if a person were found with salmon in his possession and asked by the authorities where he got the salmon, under our law in Scotland he would be entitled to say to the investigator, "Mind your own business." Therefore, we would not be any further forward.

The third difficulty is that it would not take us anywhere towards getting a conviction in the case where a person said, "I bought it from a licensed dealer" and when it was followed up the licensed dealer said, "I got it from John Smith." According to the proposed Clause we would say, "Yes, but John Smith has not a legal right to the possession of such salmon or trout." As I explained earlier, when the fish is in the river it does not belong to anybody and, accordingly, the person who has taken it out is in possession of fish which does not belong to anybody. Although he has taken it out illegally in the sense that he had no permission to take it out, that does not attract what we call in Scotland a vitium reale which is normally attracted to cases of stolen property. That being our common law, it would not be applicable to the salmon poached out of a river.

These are some of the technical difficulties which would render this ineffective as a method of stopping black marketeering. We are satisfied that the best way of doing it is to pursue the effective remedies we are taking elsewhere in the Bill against the actual perpetrators of poaching. We feel that the best method of doing it. In the first case one very elaborate system is over-weighted and burdensome on a lot of people who would not be involved at all and the system of licensing and only of licensing would not be effective. For these reasons, we cannot accept the proposed Clause.

Captain Duncan: I was disappointed with the reply of the Lord Advocate. It was certainly a brilliant legal point but it does not meet the point raised by my right hon. Friend. This arises on a recommendation of the Maconochie Committee. I would remind the Lord Advocate that Mr. Maconochie was a sheriff and a K.C. and he must have known something about the law when he made this recommendation in his report. He said: We recommend the introduction of licences to deal in salmon and trout as we regard this to be essential"— and that is the word I wish to stress— if the trade in poached fish is to be kept in check. This Committee composed of legal gentlemen and other experts, regarded this idea of licensing as essential and it seems to me that we must have a much stronger argument to oppose such a strong recommendation than the argument used by the Lord Advocate.

The Lord Advocate

But does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman realise that the recommendation in favour of licensing was linked up with the recommendation in favour of keeping records; and as I submitted, the one is really ineffective without the other, and the other, for reasons I have explained was not desirable?

Captain Duncan

If I were allowed to discuss the question of records—I cannot do that now but I may be able to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Gage)—I would be in favour of records because I think, as the Maconochie Committee said, the two go together, and both are desirable.

I recognise there is one difficulty about our Clause and that is that it is no use licensing dealers in Scotland if the salmon are going to be sent to England. Therefore there may be some ground for refusing our new Clause for that reason alone. But that should not let the Government off introducing certain legislation to cover both England and Scotland. I would make this offer to the Lord Advocate. If he will give Government facilities to one of us on this side of the Committee we will introduce a Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule to amend the 1831 Act—I think it is—dealing with the licensing of game dealers; so that a person who is licensed as a game dealer can also be licensed to deal in salmon. If that could be put through by mutual agreement then the essential point will be covered. Otherwise we must disagree with the Government for taking the line they have over this new Clause.

Brigadier Thorp

Although I support the new Clause strongly I see the one great difficulty which the Lord Advocate has pointed out, that the Clause cannot apply to England at all. Therefore, we should have a position on the River Tweed where we would have one side of the river different from the other. The right hon. Gentleman said we could not have one part of the river different from another, but if we pass this Clause we would have that, because although the Act itself deals with the district of the River Tweed, the district, as I am sure the Lord Advocate will agree, relates to the tributaries and burns of the river and their banks. It does not go further than that.

We could not make a law applying to a village that was, say, 10 miles from the Tweed. Although it might be between two tributaries of the river, Scottish law could not be made to cover this point. I feel that is one difficulty which the Government have before them, but, at the same time, I support the Clause. The Government must put their minds to it and see if they can arrive at a method of getting over this difficulty.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Committee proceeded to a Division

The Deputy-Chairman

Owing to a mistake, we must have this Division again. The Question is, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Sir I. Fraser

On a point of order. Can you explain what the mistake is, Sir Charles?

The Deputy-Chairman

I am not quite sure. I think some hon. Members got through without being counted, because the Tellers left the doors too early.

Sir I. Fraser

On a further point of order—

The Deputy-Chairman

The hon. Gentleman must be seated in raising a point of order during a Division.

Sir I. Fraser

I beg to point out that no Division is proceeding, and therefore I may stand up to address you.

The Deputy-Chairman

A Division is proceeding.

Sir I. Fraser

I beg leave to ask you whether, in view of the fact that the Division was out of order and there is now no Division proceeding. I may address you standing up?

The Deputy-Chairman

The Division has been called again. We are now in the middle of the Division for the second time.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 120; Noes, 140.

Division No. 34. AYES [10.37 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Alport, C. J. M. Gage, C. H. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Arbuthnot, John Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Mellor, Sir J.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W) Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans) Molson, A. H. E.
Bennett, W. G. (Woodside) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, T[...]xteth) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Morrison, Maj. J. G (Salisbury)
Bishop, F. P. Heald, L. F. Nabarro, G.
Black, C. W. Heath, E. R. Nicholls, H.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Oakshott, H. D.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Perkins, W. R. D.
Boyle, Sir Edward Higgs, J. M. C. Peto, Brig. C. H. M
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Pickthorn, K.
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Hill, Dr. C. (Luton) Powell, J. Enoch
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E Howard, G. R. (St. Ives) Raikes, H. V.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Redmayne, M.
Channon, H. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Remnant, Hon. P.
Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Clarke, Brig. T H (Portsmouth, W.) Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Roper, Sir H.
Colegate, A. Hylton-Foster, H. B. Ropner, Col. L
Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Jones, A. (Hall Green) Russell, R. S.
Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Joynson-Hicke, Hon. L. W. Scott, Donald
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E Keeling, E. H. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Crouch, R. F. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)
Darling, Sir W. Y (Edinburgh, S.) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Spans, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Deedes, W. F. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Stanley, Capt. Hon R. (N Fylde)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Drewe, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Duncan, Capt J. A. L. McAdden, S. J. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Dunglass, Lora McCallum, Maj. D. Studholme, H. G
Duthie, W. S. Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Sutcliffe, H.
Fisher, Nigel McKibbin, A Teevan, L. T.
Fort, R. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Foster, J. G. MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Thompson, K P (Walton)
Tilney, John Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylabone) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Touche, G. C Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth) York, C
Turton, R. H. Walkinson, H.
Tweedsmuir, Lady Williams, C. (T[...]rquay) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Vosper, D. F Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge) Major Wheatley and Mr. Digby.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Hargreaves, A. Orbach, M.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Hastings, Dr. Somerville Padley, W. E.
Awbery, S. S. Hayman, F. H. Pearson, A.
Bacon, Miss. A Herbison, Miss M. Poole, Cecil
Bartley, P. Holman, P. Porter, G.
Benn, Hon. A N Wedgwood Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Proctor, W. T.
Bing, G. H. C Houghton, Douglas Pryde, D. J.
Boardman, H. Hoy, J. Rankin, J.
Bowden, H. W Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Rees, Mrs. D.
Bowen, R. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Richards, R.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brookway, A. Fenner Janner, B. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Broughton, Dr A. D. D Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Burton, Miss E. Keenan, W. Royle, C.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney. S.J Kinley, J. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Carmichael, James Lee, F. (Newton) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Champion, A. J. Lever, L. M (Ardwick) Simmons, C- J
Coldrick, W. Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Slater, J
Collick, P. Lindgren, G. S. Snow, J. W.
Collindridge, F. Logan, D. G. Sorensen, R. W
Cook, T. F. Longden, F. (Small Heath) Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir
Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.) McAllister, G. Sparks, J. A.
Cove, W. G. MacColl, J. E. Steele, T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.J Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh) Stross, Dr. B.
Cullen, Mrs. A. McInnes, J. Sylvester, G. O.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
de Freitas, Geoffrey McLeavy, F. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Deer, G MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)
Delargy, H. J McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Donnelly, D. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Timmons, J.
Dye, S. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Vernon, Maj. W. F
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C Mann, Mrs. J. Wade. D. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Manuel, A. C. Wallace, H. W
Fernyhough, E. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Weitzman, D.
Finch, H. J Mellish, R. J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Messer, F. West, D. G
Forman, J. C. Middleton, Mrs. L Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh E)
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mitchison, G. R. Whiteley, Rt. Hon W
Freeman, J. (Watford) Moeran, E. W. Wilkins, W. A.
Gibson, C. W. Moody, A. S. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Gilzean, A. Morley, R. Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Granville, E. (Eye) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Yates, V. F
Greenwood, A. W J (Rossandale) Mort, D. L.
Grenfell, D. R. Moyle, A TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grimond, J. Nally, W. Mr. Hannan and Mr. Popplewell.
Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Meal, H.
Sir I. Fraser

On a point of order, Sir Charles, I should like to point out that you—

Hon. Members


Mr. Stuart

Without wishing to criticise your Ruling, Sir Charles, we on this side of the Committee would be grateful if you would inform us of your reason for stating that the first Division was inoperative; because it would be of interest to hon. Members to know the grounds on which this Division was called off and why it had to be taken again. So far as we were concerned on this side, the Division was perfectly properly conducted.

The Deputy-Chairman

The reason is that the Tellers left the "No" Lobby before all hon. Members were through, and there is precedent for proceeding again to a Division.

Mr. Stuart

With respect, Sir Charles, I do not think the Tellers had left the Lobby. I have had some experience of telling, and believed the Lobby to be clear, and they then left the doors and came to the Table.

Mr. Woodburn

Is it not the case that there is a Teller for each party in each Lobby?

The Deputy-Chairman

I would tell hon. Members that I understand that there are numerous precedents for having a Division over again in this way.

Sir W. Darling

May I ask why is my first vote null and void, and secondly, what would have happened if I had voted in a different Lobby the second time?

The Deputy-Chairman

The answer, quite briefly, is that the hon. Member's first vote is null and void and his second question is quite hypothetical.

Sir I. Fraser

Can you say, Sir Charles, what was the result of the void Division? Was it a Government defeat?

The Deputy-Chairman

I cannot answer; the figures were not given me.