Scottish Anglers' Trust

– in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 11th April 1984.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West 4:15 pm, 11th April 1984

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to set up a Scottish Anglers' Trust to administer freshwater fishing rights in Scotland; and for connected purposes. This is my second attempt to introduce such a Bill. Angling is the most popular sport in Scotland. The Scottish Sports Council estimates that more than 500,000 people take part in it, yet it is perhaps unique as a sport in that if one breaks some of the regulations governing it that can constitute a criminal offence.

Under the terms of the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1976 there are four protection orders in Scotland covering the rivers Tweed and Eye, the upper Spey, the Tummel and the Lunan. The declared aim of the 1976 legislation was to increase access for anglers, in return for statutory protection for the owners of fishing rights. It was hoped that that would lead to increased opportunities for ordinary people to participate in their favourite sport. Unfortunately, in many cases the opposite seems to have occurred.

The common law with regard to angling in Scotland has caused some confusion, and to clarify the position I should like to quote from a letter written to me in April 1981 by the Lord Advocate. He said: The common law position in relation to both salmon and trout is that they are not the property of anyone until they are caught. Thus, brown trout in waters not protected by an order under the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1976 do not belong to anyone whilst they are in the water but become the property of the fisherman or person who catches and lands them whether or not that person owns the fishing rights and whether or not permission has been given. That has led in Scotland to the common belief that there is a right to fish for brown trout anywhere in running water. There is nothing in statute to support such a belief, but, nevertheless, it appears to have been the custom and tradition in many parts of Scotland, and the protection orders which have been granted in recent years are seen as an attack on that right.

Blanket protection has been given over an area covering the major river and its tributaries, in the case of the four protection orders which are already in force. There is only partial or limited access in return for that blanket protection. In some parts of the stretches of water involved there is no access; in others there is a ban on night fishing, weekend fishing, visiting bus parties of fishermen, bait fishing and spinning. There are allegations of disproportionate price increases resulting from the granting of protection orders.

The ownership of fishing rights in Scotland is related closely to the history of land tenure. Very often, the riparian land owner is also the owner of the fishing rights. When I introduced my previous Bill I gave the names of some of the applicants for the Tweed and Eye protection order. Among the applicants were some of Scotland's biggest landowners, especially in the Borders. They included the Duke of Buccleuch, who is a former Tory Member of Parliament, the Marquess of Lothian, whose son and heir has infiltrated the ministerial corridors of power at the Scottish Office, the Duke of of Roxburghe, Viscount Devonport, Earl Haig, the Duke of Sutherland, and Lord Home of the Hirsel, the former Tory Prime Minister. As I said at the time, it is almost like reading a Division list from the other place.

It may be no coincidence that the Minister appointed to be in charge of freshwater fisheries in Scotland is a former Tory Member of Parliament who was rejected at the general election but was rewarded with a seat in the House of Lords. Lord Gray has been put along there to look after the interests of the big landowners, who are also in the other place.

There are no responsible Ministers on the Front Bench just now, perhaps because there is no one in the House of Commons with ministerial responsibility for freshwater fishing rights in Scotland.

The last time that I tried to introduce my Bill I was opposed by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettric k and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), the leader of the once geat, radical Liberal party, who rose to defend the interests of the big landowners in Scotland. He used the illiberal and parochial argument that some fishing clubs in his area were getting a wee bit of privilege from the big landowners. The right hon. Gentleman did not want people going from my constituency or other constituencies in the industrial belt of central Scotland to the Borders and enjoying the same access to local fishing waters. I hope that the leader of the Liberal party will adopt a more liberal attitude this afternoon.

Three more protection orders have been granted by the Secretary of State since my previous attempt to introduce a Bill. There is fear of a growing trend of syndicates and rich business men snapping up fishing rights for their exclusive use. Therefore, there is a strong case for new legislation to shift the balance away from the big landowners and exclusive use towards increased access for ordinary anglers.

Under my Bill it would be open to any angler to join an angling club, and it would be open to any bona fide angling club to affiliate to the Scottish Anglers' Trust and to appoint delegates, who would elect the members of the trust. The members would in turn decide the policy and regulations in consulation with local clubs and their members. No responsible anglers want a free-for-all. Most responsible anglers want democratic control of their own sport. The Scottish Anglers' Trust would determine prices, times, places of access, permitted tackle and policy on stocking and restocking. It is high time that Scotland's most popular sport was run by those who take part in it, instead of working-class people being expected at times to crawl on their knees to get permission to fish from the local laird, who often imposes feudal restrictions.

I therefore appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and even in the Liberal party, to support my Bill if they believe in freedom to fish and an extension of the right to fish.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Do I understand that the right hon. Member wishes to oppose the Bill?

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.]

I rise to oppose the Bill in my capacity——

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

The right hon. Gentleman has risen to the bait.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

I was provoked by the references by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). I rise to speak as the Member of Parliament for the constituency that was the subject of the first protection order.

I have not heard of a case in which a working-class constituent has crawled through the grass to beg for permission to fish in any river. The hon. Gentleman talks nonsense. The fact that it is entertaining nonsense is beside the point. He has just delivered a vicious attack on the Labour Government's legislation, which was perfectly sound and works well. [Interruption.]

The protection orders, which the hon. Gentleman inaccurately described, have provided secure fishing for many people in protected waters. They prevent the anarchy, which the hon. Gentleman seems anxious to encourage, of bus parties from his constituency descending to fish in the rivers which my constituents have tended and stocked. It would be remiss of me were I not to provide the House with an opportunity to defeat this nonsense yet again.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have noticed that we hear many arguments from the leader of the Liberal-Social Democratic party alliance about not being allowed to speak, especially in important debates. When Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means draw up lists of those who have given notice that they wish to speak and consider which of the Social Democratic or Liberal speakers should take part in important debates, it should be borne in mind that the leader of the Social Democratic party often rises to speak on important matters of state, but the leader of the Liberal party is reduced to speaking on fowl pest and salmon fishing.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):——

The House divided: Ayes 122, Noes 93.

Division No. 244][4.27 pm
Abse, LeoCook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Corbett, Robin
Anderson, DonaldCorbyn, Jeremy
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCraigen, J. M.
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Cunliffe, Lawrence
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Cunningham, Dr John
Beckett, Mrs MargaretDalyell, Tam
Benn, TonyDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bermingham, GeraldDeakins, Eric
Bidwell, SydneyDewar, Donald
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDixon, Donald
Boyes, RolandDobson, Frank
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Dormand, Jack
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Douglas, Dick
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Dubs, Alfred
Buchan, NormanDuffy, A. E. P.
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Eastham, Ken
Campbell-Savours, DaleEdwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Canavan, DennisEwing, Harry
Carter-Jones, LewisFatchett, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Clarke, ThomasForrester, John
Clay, RobertFoster, Derek
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)Foulkes, George
Cohen, HarryFraser, J. (Norwood)
Coleman, DonaldFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Hamilton, James (M'well N)O'Brien, William
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)O'Neill, Martin
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterParry, Robert
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyPatchett, Terry
Haynes, FrankPike, Peter
Heffer, Eric S.Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Redmond, M.
Hoyle, DouglasRichardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Robertson, George
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRooker, J. W.
Kennedy, CharlesRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Kilroy-Silk, RobertSedgemore, Brian
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilSheerman, Barry
Leadbitter, TedSheldon, Rt Hon R.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Litherland, RobertSkinner, Dennis
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Lofthouse, GeoffreySmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
McCartney, HughSoley, Clive
McDonald, Dr OonaghStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Stott, Roger
McKelvey, WilliamStrang, Gavin
McNamara, KevinStraw, Jack
Marek, Dr JohnWareing, Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Weetch, Ken
Martin, MichaelWelsh, Michael
Maynard, Miss JoanWigley, Dafydd
Meacher, MichaelWilliams, Rt Hon A.
Michie, WilliamWinnick, David
Mikardo, Ian
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Tellers for the Ayes :
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Mr. John Maxton and Mr. Kevin Barron.
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Alexander, RichardHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Alton, DavidHampson, Dr Keith
Arnold, TomHayward, Robert
Ashdown, PaddyHeathcoat-Amory, David
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Hind, Kenneth
Baldry, AnthonyHirst, Michael
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHolt, Richard
Beggs, RoyHordern, Peter
Beith, A. J.Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Benyon, WilliamHowells, Geraint
Berry, Sir AnthonyKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnLatham, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Body, RichardMcCurley, Mrs Anna
Bottomley, PeterMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Maginnis, Ken
Braine, Sir BernardMaples, John
Brandon-Bravo, MartinMeadowcroft, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)Merchant, Piers
Bruinvels, PeterMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Budgen, NickMiscampbell, Norman
Burt, AlistairMolyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cartwright, JohnMudd, David
Chapman, SydneyNicholson, J.
Chope, ChristopherOnslow, Cranley
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Page, John (Harrow W)
Cockeram, EricPage, Richard (Herts SW)
Colvin, MichaelParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Conway, DerekPawsey, James
Coombs, SimonPenhaligon, David
Cormack, PatrickPowell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Powley, John
Emery, Sir PeterRathbone, Tim
Eyre, Sir ReginaldRhodes James, Robert
Fairbairn, NicholasRobinson, Mark (N'port W)
Farr, JohnRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Ryder, Richard
Fox, MarcusShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Silvester, Fred
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanSoames, Hon Nicholas
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Steel, Rt Hon David
Ground, PatrickStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thurnham, PeterWood, Timothy
Tracey, Richard
Wainwright, R.Tellers for the Noes:
Walden, GeorgeMr. Malcolm Bruce and Mr. Archy Kirkwood.
Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Wallace, James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Dennis Canavan, Mr. Ernie Ross, Mr. William McKelvey, Mr. Bob McTaggart, Mr. John Maxton, Mr. Gavin Strang, Mr. Dick Douglas, Mr. Ron Brown, Dr. Norman A. Godman, Mr. Tom Clarke, Mr. David Marshall and Mr. George Foulkes.