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Diseases Of Fish Bill Lords

Volume 319: debated on Tuesday 2 February 1937

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Order for Second Reading read.

11.26 p.m.

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

This Bill has come down to us from another place. It is comparatively short and almost, although not quite, non-contentious. Its main object is to control the disease called furunculosis, which particularly affects salmon and trout. The disease was first recognised in this country about 30 years ago, and was almost certainly imported from the Continent. It is a horrible disease, and in recent years has spread very rapidly through many of the salmon and trout rivers of England, Wales and Scotland, and has caused very heavy mortality among fish. In 1934, a Bill came down to this House from another place very similar to this Bill, but differing in certain details which excited some opposition, and although it received a Second Reading, there was not time to pass it through this House. Since that time, the provisions of the 1934 Bill have been carefully discussed with all the interested parties who objected to certain of its details, and the Bill now before the House, though substantially the same Measure as the 1934 Bill, has been purged of those details which aroused opposition at that time. The objections of the parties interested have been met, and there is now a general consensus of opinion in favour of the Bill.

I would like to say one or two words about the Clauses of the Bill. Clause provides for (a) complete prohibition in all circumstances of imports of live salmon and trout, and (b) for prohibition, except under licence, of the importation of live fresh-water fish, other than salmon and trout, and of live eggs of salmon and trout and of any kind of fresh-water fish. The object of that is to prevent further introduction of the disease from abroad, and it is welcomed in all quarters as a very necessary measure. Clause 2 empowers the Minister of Agriculture—and in Scotland the Secretary of State—to declare as an infected area any waters found to be infected with furunculosis, and to forbid or control the transportation of fish, eggs or foodstuffs for fish from that area. Clause 5 makes provision for the Minister, on the demand of any fishery board or occupier (which includes a fish farmer) to cause his fishing waters to be examined in order to discover whether they are or are not infected, and to furnish a report to him. Clause 4 deals with the precautions to be imposed when infection is suspected. In the case of fish farmers, the inspector may make a standstill order and no fish, eggs of fish or foodstuffs for fish may be transported from the farm without the Minister's permission until the lapse of 16 days, unless a decision has been reached earlier. Clause 6 provides for certain powers of inspection to be given to inspectors and other authorised persons, and the other Clauses are mainly machinery Clauses.

I hope the House will realise that the immediate aim of this Bill is the control, and, if possible, the eradication, of a disease already prevalent in our inland fisheries, a disease which has done a great deal of harm, which is a serious menace to their prosperity, and which, I think, the House would wish to take all steps to eradicate.

11.29 p.m.

Hon. Members on this side of the House approve of the principle of this Bill and approve of it being read a Second time, but we do so on the understanding that the Government are prepared to agree that the Financial Resolution shall stand over for more leisurely consideration. On that undertaking, we agree to the Second Reading. We are anxious that this very serious disease shall be tackled, because we have seen rivers in which the fish have been devastated, and the sight is a very gruesome one indeed. It is very bad for the countryside that there should be this destruction of the fish life in our rivers. I do not consider that in the Bill as it stands the financial provision made for dealing with the evil is adequate, but I do not propose to go into that question at the present stage, and with that comment I invite my hon. Friends to support the Second Reading.

11.31 p.m.

I, also, support the Bill, and I wish to thank the Minister for having introduced it. When a previous Bill dealing with this subject was before the House, a good many of us saw faults in it and pointed them out to the Minister in charge, and our criticisms have all been met as far as the present Bill is concerned. This is, in my judgment, a better Bill than the previous Measure, and it will, I believe, do the work for which it is intended. The disease of furunculosis among fish is so infectious that fish coming from the sea into fresh water may be infected within a few hours and the trouble is difficult to eradicate on account of the fact that so many fish may be carriers of the disease. There are one or two points on which I intend to say something in Committee, if I have the privilege of being a member of the Committee which deals with the Bill, but I support the Bill generally, and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.

Question put, and agreed to,

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Consolidated Fund (No 1) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Thursday.