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Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Foyle Fisheries) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1951.

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Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down 12:00 am, 3rd December 1951

It has been said by several speakers in the debate that this Bill has the agreement of the whole of Ireland. I am not at all sure about that because it seems to me that the Bill is directed against one of the last great artists of society, against the salmon poacher. It is a monstrous thing that these two great machines of Government, both north and south. should get together to try and crush between the upper and nether millstones this last survival of true Tory private enterprise. It would not be fitting to let the Bill go through Second Reading casually like this without saying a brief word on behalf of the poacher.

I must admit I came here with some intention of speaking against the Bill and possibly even of opposing it in the Lobby because of its possible effect on the poachers. But I have been reflecting on the whole business of poaching. I am quite sure a number of hon. Members have experience of it. I am sure the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) knows something about the thrill of going along the river in the gloaming, as I think they call it in Scotland, with one eye looking round the corner for the bailiff and the other eye looking for the swirl of fish in the water and the glint of a tail under a ledge of rock, the taking of the gaff out of the pocket and the struggle with a great fish as it leaps in the air.

Surely there are two elements in poaching. One is the element of danger—the fact that there is a bailiff round the corner, that one has to go home with a fish down the back of one's coat, with another coat over it, and one has to get past the local policeman and, with a bland air of innocence as one goes by, wish him a good night.

The other element is that it is necessary that there should be fish. Therefore, on sober reflection it is in the interest of the poacher that we should give this Bill a Second Reading. We must preserve the fish for him. We cannot allow lorry-loads of spivs to come across the Border or even across the sea from Scotland to take the fish out of the river. We must also preserve the element of danger, because if the business of poaching completely breaks down and anybody can get a fish it is not a sport any longer. In the hope that the Commission which it is proposed to be set up will be tolerant and reasonable in their attitude towards this last great artist of society, I am prepared on behalf of the poachers to give this Bill a Second Reading.