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The Earl of Balfour: I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, as I have not had time to study those amendments which were only laid when we resumed in October. However, I wish to raise one or two points that concern me. Section 141 of the Water Act 1989 extended the powers of the National Rivers Authority into Scotland up to the source of the River Esk in Scotland. Had that Act not extended the National Rivers Authority's functions north of the Border right into Scotland I would have complained in 1989 that the National Rivers Authority called itself "national" when it applied then only to England and Wales. That was obviously done with an eye to the catchment area for domestic water, the water we drink. There is also, of course, the matter of sewerage. While I have no objection to the Government's amendments, I am somewhat doubtful as to the actual boundary of the south-west Scotland water and sewerage authority in respect of Scotland and whether the English authority's boundary does not cross the Border in certain cases. I ask the Government to consider that.
While I admit that our wonderful river purification boards in Scotland have disappeared, we still have our Scottish environmental protection agency. I ask the Government to consider between now and Report whether there is an overlap here in respect of some of its boundaries. On the other side of Scotland almost the whole of the River Tweed is covered in particular by Chapter LXX of the 1859 River Tweed Amendment Act. I do not wish to waste the time of the Committee but I think that in addition to the fisheries aspect we need to consider the sewerage and water catchment aspects at this stage. That is rather a technical point. I shall leave it at that.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that this seems quite the most unromantic, but possibly practical, provision in the Bill. I do not want to delay matters now and I shall take the opportunity to read her remarks. However, it has long been a fascinating part of the relationship between England and Scotland that the River Esk, as it winds its way through the Solway sands, from time to time changes its course. Consequently, the question arises as to whether the particular machines used for fishing are lawful according to the law of Scotland or the law of England. There are fascinating complications in regard to whether charters were granted by James I of England or James VI of Scotland. If I understand the noble Baroness's remarks, there is to be a boring resolution of this matter, and money going to penniless advocates in Edinburgh might be reduced. As I understand it, what might follow is a set of arrangements whereby there would be a fixed line through the Solway sands that would determine who had jurisdiction in such circumstances. The noble Baroness nods so I take that to be her meaning. I still wonder whether that is an entirely practical solution. Since the River Esk shifts its course
Lord Renton: Following my noble and learned friend's point, I ought first to confess that the only place where I foul-hooked a trout was the lower reaches of the River Solway. It was on the Scottish side of the river. I am surprised that the expression "Border rivers" should be confined to the Rivers Tweed and Esk, because the Solway is a Border river for a few miles.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: After 10 days, we now come to a matter of real importance. After many hours of what I would call high-level law we come to a matter that I understand--fishing. Like my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie I have to say that understanding the law of fishing on the Solway boundaries is not easy. I shall turn to that presently.
When the Bill first appeared, I tabled a probing amendment. It is fair to say that the amendments moved today by the noble Baroness go a long way to satisfy the people who are interested and involved in matters concerning the Esk and the Solway in general.
Salmon and sea trout legislation north and south of the Border is very different. The organisations governing the river systems in both countries are different. As my noble friend Lord Balfour mentioned, the Tweed is catered for by special legislation. It covers the whole of the Tweed. Tweed fishing is not governed by Scottish legislation or English legislation; it is governed by its own legislation. However, that is not true of the rivers on the other side of the country which flow into the Solway. Sometimes they are in England; sometimes they are in Scotland; and sometimes one bank is in one country and the other bank is in the other. The Esk is the classic example.
That causes problems. For example, in Scotland fishing for salmon and sea trout on a Sunday is illegal, but that is not so in England. Looking at the river as a whole, the question therefore arises: can I fish it on a Sunday or not? Personally, I should never consider fishing a river on a Sunday for salmon or sea trout. But the question is: would someone be able to? Equally, in Scotland there are no rod licences, whereas there are in England. What would be the position in regard to rod licences on the Esk? Would it be considered to be English so far as rod licences are concerned and would one need a rod licence? These are difficult matters and I do not intend to probe too much. So far as I understand matters from my contacts, those who are involved in that part of the world, the amendments that are now proposed by the Government very much meet their approval. Indeed, I received a letter from my noble
My noble friend Lord Monro of Langholm has unfortunately had to travel north for an appointment tomorrow morning. He has long had an interest in this matter since his previous constituency bordered, and included in some places, the River Esk. He, too, wonders about the question of rod licences. My noble friend fought off various attempts to impose rod licences on the whole of the River Esk. Having left the field of battle in the other place, I think he hopes that rod licences will not be imposed on the River Esk. Perhaps the noble Baroness can help me on this point, either now or by letter.
There is a problem with the Solway itself. As the noble Baroness said--and my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie amplified the point--the problem in the Solway is that the boundary can change as the river changes between the sandbanks. Ownership may not change. Therefore, an owner living in England may well find himself owning land, or rather sandbanks, which has moved into Scotland. Fishery legislation being different on either side of the Border, there is a huge problem in relation to the half-net fishery on one side and the ordinary fishery on the other. If you are caught on the wrong side, you just say, "Please, guv, I was fishing on the other side of the boundary. I wasn't fishing on the Scottish (or English) side", depending on which side you are fishing legally and where you are trying to fish illegally. It is a well-known fact that, so long as you have a permit somewhere to fish for salmon or sea trout you can move freely around and then plead that that is where you caught the salmon or sea trout if you are challenged when you come ashore. I assure your Lordships that the Solway is open to that.
If I heard the noble Baroness aright and she believes that all these matters can be resolved easily, I agree with my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. I am prepared to take bets on the fact that it will not be resolved easily. Indeed, it may never be resolved, because there are some people who think it is quite a good thing to have that rather moveable feast in the middle of the Solway.
Those who are interested in this matter will study the noble Baroness's words carefully. I assure her that, on the face of the amendments, those who are involved in the Esk fishery feel that the amendments meet their original concerns. I thank the noble Baroness for that.
Viscount Thurso: We on these Benches welcome the amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, made the case for them. I recall that at Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Nickson, who was chairman of the Scottish Salmon Strategy Task Force, thanked the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for having included
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: I thank the noble Viscount for welcoming the amendments. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and I have discussed the Tweed and the Esk previously during the Bill's passage. I undertake to write to the noble Earl about the important issues he raised in relation to sewerage and other matters.
I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, found my presentation of the subject unromantic. I should certainly not like to be thought of as stealing business from the legal fraternity. I am sure, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, said, that will not be the case. There is probably still a great deal of material to provide the wherewithal for their livelihood.
I will write also to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish--whose knowledge of fishing is indubitably much greater than mine, and indeed many Members of this place--about rod licences, and also on the question of the Solway. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his positive remarks about the amendments.