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Clause 25

Volume 895: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1975

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Licences To Fish

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

This is a very different and difficult point. Clause 25 deals with the grant by a water authority of licences to fish. In subsection (7) there is repeated a provision which occurred in the 1923 Act, which was repealed and reenacted by the 1972 Act. We find it here again.

But, very strangely, the Chancery Division in the case of Mills and the Avon and Dorset River Board, quoted in 1955 Chancery, page 341, came to the conclusion that there were circumstances in which a river authority—then called a river board—could not refuse to grant a general licence to people who have an exclusive right of fishing, in other words, riparian owners who have claimed the right themselves. It seemed to me—and I have been given advice about it—that, bearing in mind the decision of the court, which said, in effect, that even though the word "may" was used in the statute the court was going to interpret it as meaning "shall", the word "may" was therefore obsolete or largely obsolete, and that "shall" would have been more appropriate.

I was further advised by those who advise the Chair—and I accept their advice—that I would be on dangerous ground if I tabled an amendment and sought to have it selected. I did table an amendment the day before yesterday, and received a courteous note from the Public Bill Office saying—and this points to the procedural difficulty—that until the Bill received a Second Reading my amendment could not be tabled. In other words, it could not appear on the Order Paper yesterday or today. If the amendment had been in order I should now, somewhere between the stirrup and the ground, be handing a manuscript amendment to you, Mr. Thomas, asking you to rule that it was in order. However, I am saved from wasting your time because I am told that you would not be able so to rule. Therefore I am thrown back on asking the Government to consider this point for the future, bearing in mind the decision of Mr. Justice Vaisey in the case of Mills and the Avon and Dorset River Board, not subject to appeal and therefore a binding precedent on all courts except the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

That is the kind of point which one would have hoped might be backed by a more flexible consolidation procedure than the one usually used. I hope that one day we shall have a slightly more flexible consolidation procedure.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his usual courtesy, discussed this with me earlier, and the advice I received about the fact that it could not be discussed, as it was a point of substance, was received from the same source as that from which he received the same advice. I can, however, assure him that the point which he made will not be lost. I shall pass on his observations to my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, who will, I am sure, read with great interest the authority which has been quoted, in order to see once again whether it may be borne in mind in any possible future legislation.

Presumably, if it is a matter which is of substance but is said in terms of the consolidation procedure to be obsolete, it is a matter which it would be in order to discuss—otherwise presumably almost anything could be rendered obsolete and we should have no opportunity to object to it.

Will the hon. Gentleman be kind enough to let me think about that and rule on another occasion? It is an important point.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 26 to 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 to 5 agreed to.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No 56 ( Third Reading) and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.