HL Deb 06 April 1978 vol 390 cc249-53

3.42 p.m.

Viscount THURSO

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Thurso.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clause I agreed to.

Clause 2 [Compensation]:

On Question, Wheter Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Viscount THURSO

I put this Bill before your Lordships not in order to prohibit any particular import of fish but in order to empower the Secretary of State to regulate the import and the keeping of fish in a manner which he is not at present empowered to do. When this Bill was first drafted and put before your Lordships' House- when, indeed, it found favour with your Lordships and was passed- an import of coho salmon had been made under licence into Scotland. It was quite clear to me and indeed to all noble Lords that suddenly to ban these fish and to order their destruction would be unfair to those who, in good faith, had imported them into the country. Therefore, I was persuaded that it would be a good idea to include a clause providing compensation, should the Secretary of State consider it desirable and advisable to order the fish to be destroyed or to ban the keeping of these fish.

A year has passed since your Lordships considered this Bill and the fish have grown. They have done well and any time now they will be mature. Even if your Lordships were to pass this Bill and it were to pass through another place, and even if it were to get on to the Statute Book, these fish would have grown to the point at which they would be commercially saleable; they would have grown to the point at which they would have proved the experiment for which they were imported into this country. Therefore, the case for compensation would be very small indeed; in fact, it is doubtful whether there would be any case for compensation at all.

It is also doubtful whether at this late date the Secretary of State would indeed consider it necessary to institute an order to ban the fish at all, because they would very nearly have reached the end of their natural existence. Pacific salmon are different from Atlantic salmon in that they have a very proscribed lifetime, and we cannot look for an extended lifespan from them; they are liable to reach the end of their lifespan and to die. In fact, a curious thing about Pacific salmon is that no Pacific salmon has ever seen its parents; nor have the parents of such a salmon ever seen their offspring. Therefore, I do not think that a case for compensation is likely to arise.

I would recommend to your Lordships that it would be wise to remove this clause from the Bill because it is one of the clauses which makes it difficult for the Bill to go much further. It would require Government time and Government money in order for the Bill to go any further. I beg to move that we delete this clause from the Bill, and thus remove the necessity for compensation and therefore, with it, the necessity for money from the Secretary of State—from the Government —to provide for compensation.


When the noble Viscount's Bill was considered by the House last year the Government supported the inclusion of compensation provisions in the Bill. We did so in fairness to importers who, in good faith, had imported stock before the date of the Government announcement of support for the introduction of statutory controls on imports on ecological grounds, and who might suffer loss thereby. However, the Government are now satisfied that no demands for retention of the clause have been made on grounds which we would find it necessary to support. Therefore, I commend the omission of Clause 2 to the Committee, as suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso.

Clause 2 disagreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Offences etc.]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 3, line 31, leave out ("on behalf of the Secretary of State").
The noble Lord said

On behalf of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, I should like to apologise to the Committee for his absence due to other important work which he is at present undertaking. This Amendment is very little more than a drafting Amendment. This part of Clause 4 requires the authority of the Secretary of State before acting for some scientific or research purpose. Surely it cannot be necessary to restrict this to operations carried out only on behalf of the Secretary of State. This would appear to confine such activity to the Government, or an agency of the Government. Private persons and companies should, in our opinion, be enabled to undertake this task provided they are authorised by the Secretary of State. I beg to move.

Viscount THURSO

I agree that this is a drafting Amendment. It is one which I would go along with, in that it makes it clear that private persons can also undertake scientific experiments. I also take it that the Secretary of State may undertake scientific experiments, as indeed I hope he will. I am quite happy to accept this drafting Amendment.


The effect of the Amendment would be to widen the scope of the proposed immunity from prosecution by allowing persons other than those acting on behalf of the Secretary of State to be authorised to carry out scientific or research work on prohibited alien species. Since the giving of an authorisation would remain with the Secretary of State, I think that this is sensible, and as a consequence I would support the Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 [Expenses]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?

Viscount THURSO

As we have dropped the need for expenses, I suggest that it would be wise to drop a clause that allows expenses to be incurred by the Secretary of State. I therefore move that we leave out this clause, which is consequential on the deletion of Clause 2.


I am assured that with Clause 2 removed from the Bill the expenses under Clause 1 of the Secretary of State, which would normally be described as insignificant, do not require the retention of Clause 5. Therefore, I concur in the noble Viscounts' Amendment.

Clause 5 disagreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.