Skip to main content

'Salmon And Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 (C51)

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3A.—(1) In section 28 of the Salmon and Freshwater

Fisheries Act 1975 (general powers and duties of water authorities in relation to fisheries) after subsection (2) there is inserted the following subsection—

"(2A) A water authority may pay to any member of an advisory committee established by it in accordance with paragraph (b) of subsection (1) above such allowances as may be determined by the Minister with the consent of the Treasury.".
(2) In section 41 of that Act (interpretation) after subsection (2) there is inserted the following subsection—
"(2A) In section 28(2A) above, the reference to the Minister shall be construed in relation to the Welsh Water Authority, as a reference to the Secretary of State.".'.

With this, it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 28.

This amendment preserves a power for water authorities to pay allowances to members of their fishery advisory committees and their land drainage committees. At present, the power to pay allowances to members of water authorities' committees derives from section 177(1)(a) of the Local Government Act 1972. That section will be repealed by this Bill because, in future, Ministers will have the power under paragraph 4 of schedule 1 to determine the pay and allowances that water authorities make to their members. However, we must preserve the power to pay allowances to members of the statutory fishery advisory committees and land drainage committees, and that is the purpose of the amendments.

Amendment No. 26 enables water authorities to pay members of advisory committees appointed under section 28(1)(b) of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. That section places a duty on water authorities

"to establish advisory committees of persons who appear to them to be interested in any such fisheries in that area and consult them as to the manner in which the authority are to discharge their duty under paragraph (a) above."
As the Under-Secretary of State said, at present payments are made under local government legislation. But who is paying? The ratepayers, in the environmental service charges paid to the water authorities, are now paying those bills. I question whether ratepayers, through water rate services charges, should be held responsible for the payments. They are funding a service to support the stretches of water that contain salmon that, in my county, are mainly owned by a select group. Riparian owners of salmon stretches do very well under the current arrangements. The only way to measure how well they do is either to inspect their revenue returns, which we cannot do, or to examine the water authority returns that they are required to submit under schedule 3 of the 1975 Act. The schedule states:
"Requiring persons fishing for salmon, trout or freshwater fish to send to the water authority returns, in such form, giving such particulars and at such times as may be specified in the bye laws, of any such fish which they have taken, or a statement that they have taken no such fish."
However, those returns can often be falsified. I have evidence from my constituency of alleged inaccuracies in returns. I choose my words carefully. Those allegations are supported by a sworn affidavit, which is in my possession. Falsification or inaccuracy in returns means that the revenue returns to the Inland Revenue may also be inaccurate. Falsification or inaccuracy mean that water authorities cannot assess accurately the possibility for increased riparian revenues. Furthermore, they cannot possibly assess the increased hatchery costs that they must pay, which equally, although they are no part of this amendment, should not fall entirely to the environmental service charges paid to water authorities.

I recently wrote to the North-West water authority about the charges that we are discussing in this amendment, in so far as they are charges that water authorities will have to pay out of the environmental service charges that they levy on all ratepayers. In the reply I received from the North-West water authority, it thanked me for my letter about charges paid to the authority by riparian owners. It added:
"Fishing rights are not subject to water supply and sewerage charges. However, because they have a rateable value, their rateable occupiers must pay the environmental services charge to the Authority.
This annual charge is small (currently 0·5p per £ of rateable value) and as we do not issue bills for less than £1 only 33 bills totalling £69·16p were issued this year in respect of fishing rights on rivers in our Northern Division. A further 172 bills for under £1 and totalling £65·59p were not sent. Some £0·4 million of the total estimated expenditure of £1·4 on fisheries this year (including £0·5 for enforcement and protection) will be met from charges. The balance is made up from the environmental services charge which also funds water quality, pollution prevention and recreation and amenity services.
Most of the income from fisheries charges is obtained from licence fees. Other sources, i.e. rents, sales of fish and sales of fishing guides total only £13,000 per annum."
The letter then goes on to say that the authority cannot apportion licence income to individual rivers.

A substantial deficit is being picked up by the public purse. This amendment seeks further to increase that deficit. I think it is of importance to the House that we consider that matter. If we consider the real figures as they affect West Cumbria we find that they include to some extent—allowing for the fact that current local government legislation already provides for some payment and this is simply a switch from one legislative arrangement to another—the current charges to the water authority in my constituency, are now £223,165 for the year 1982ߝ1983.

The latest figure for revenue from fishermen and from riparian owners in that same area was for the year 1981. It was only £14,390, including rod licences and fixed engine licence payments to the water authority. Expenditure exceeds receipts by 15 times, and yet this Government are still seeking to insert in the form of this amendment what some may say is an additional charge on the water authority.

My case is simple. With that level of deficit, and with that type of multiplier in terms of costs to the water authorities arising from receipts from the riparian owners and other sources of moneys, the Government should increasingly ensure that riparian owners pay a far greater share of the costs of water authorities. I would have thought that such a suggestion would have appealed to the Government, in as much as it would provide for a reduction in public expenditure and a reduction in the environmental service charges paid by constituents throughout the North-West region.

However, in looking at this matter, the Government have a duty to ensure that the returns made to the North-West water authority by riparian rights owners within that area are accurate.

The hon. Gentleman clearly understands that the situation varies between different water authority regions. He has referred specifically to the north-western area. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be looking into his allegation.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this amendment does not impose any additional charge. It simply makes it clear that the determination of allowances is to be by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in respect of English water authorities and the Secretary of State for Wales in respect of the Welsh water authority.

I can also add that in determining licence fees the costs involved with fisheries and so on are taken into account.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 27, in page 16, line 8 after 'regional', insert 'and'.

No. 28, in page 16, line 27 at end insert—

'(2A) A water authority may pay to any person who, not being a member of the authority, is a member of their regional land drainage committee or of one of their local land drainage committees such allowances as may be determined by the appropriate Minister with the consent of the Treasury.'.

No. 29, in page 17, line 42, at end insert—

'8. The amendment of Schedule 5 to the Local Government Act 1974 made by section 1(2) of this Act shall not affect the operation of that Act in relation to any complaint entertained by a Local Commissioner before the commencement of section 1(2).'.

No. 30, in page 17, line 42, at end insert—

'9. In any case where—
  • (a) the Treasury have given a guarantee under paragraph 36(1) of Schedule 3 to the principal Act in respect of any sum borrowed by the Council; and
  • (b) any liability of the Council relating to repayment of the principal of, or payment of interest on, the sum so borrowed (or any part of that sum) has become a liability of one or more water authorities whether by virtue of an order under section 3(4) of this Act or otherwise;
  • paragraph 36(1) of Schedule 3 shall have effect as if it empowered the Treasury to give a new guarantee in respect of that liability.'.—[Mr. Wyn Roberts.]