Dáil Éireann - Volume 377 - 02 February, 1988

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fishing Rod Licences.

4. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Marine if he will reverse his decision to impose a licence fee on all anglers.

6. Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for the Marine if he will postpone the new fishing rod licences indefinitely.

14. Mr. Cullen asked the Minister for the Marine if he has any plans to reassess the imposition of rod licence fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. P. Gallagher: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4, 6 and 14 together.

Revised angling licensing arrangements which included the introduction of licences for trout and coarse fish angling, came into effect on 1 January 1988 in [644] accordance with the provisions of the Fisheries (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1987. The licence fees will go directly to the fisheries boards for the conservation, protection and development of fisheries. In these circumstances I have no proposal to amend this law at this time.

Mr. Deasy: In view of the tremendous resistance to these charges, would the Minister reconsider his decision? It is obvious that, because of the ill will which this licensing has generated, the cost of collecting will exceed the amount collected and no money will be gained as a result. We will have a tremendous ill will among fishermen, and besides, the tourism, will industry, particularly inland tourism, will suffer grievously. In view of the present circumstances I ask the Minister to reduce his decision. Will he consider that?

Mr. P. Gallagher: The Deputy referred to the cost, and I am quite satisfied there will be no additional cost in the administration of these licences and that at this time there is no intention on the part of the Department to rescind or, indeed, bring further legislation before the House. This was enacted and it was not supported only by the Government party. Second Stage in this House was opposed by the Labour Party but the Committee and Final Stages were unanimously agreed by this House.

Mr. Molloy: Would the Minister give recognition to the fact that this Bill was guillotined through the Dáil at a time of year when we should have been having an Adjournment Debate rather than rushing legislation in through the back door? Will the Minister accept that the imposition of a rod licence as proposed will alienate those who have, up to now, led the way in investing in developing the inland fisheries? Will he accept that the imposition of a rod licence is, in effect, charging angling club members to fish for fish they themselves have bred and put into these fishery waters? We are now charging fishermen for fishing for coarse [645] fish while up to now State funds have been spent on killing off——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is making a statement rather than asking a supplementary question. This is not good enough.

Mr. Molloy: I am asking the Minister if he agrees that this is an anomaly and ridiculous law to be charging people now to fish for coarse fish when the Inland Fisheries Trust and the Central Fisheries Board have spent State funds in killing off these coarse fish.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is continuing to make a statement.

Mr. P. Gallagher: I remind the Deputy that in 1980 the commission recommended that there should be licences and it was decided at that time that it might be better to consider a voluntary system of licences. That was agreed on, and out of the 135,000 who could contribute on a voluntary basis there was a contribution from some 4,000. Yes, there are difficulties and there will be more difficulties if Deputies like Deputy Molloy continue to tell the people down the country, particularly in the west, that they do not agree with this. I would like to put on record here that the leader of his party agreed in this House prior to Christmas with the legislation and did not oppose it.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: I want order. I want to call now Deputy Martin Cullen who has a question tabled in respect of this matter.

Mr. Cullen: Will the Minister not agree that it is ridiculous to suggest that the money he collects is going to go back to the fisheries boards and can be used in the manner he is suggesting when last year the fisheries boards had not got enough funds to carry out their job and this year the Estimate has been reduced by over £750,000? I presume he feels that [646] in some magic way this money is going to make up the difference and that the administration costs of this will, as Deputy Deasy rightly said, exceed the cost of what is going to be netted for the Government. The idea behind this scheme is completely erroneous and I would like to state for the record that this motion was guillotined in the Dáil before Christmas and that we set down these reservations when Deputy O'Malley outlined in his speech that we were not able——

An Ceann Comhairle: Ceist, le do thoil.

Mr. P. Gallagher: The motion was not guillotined.

Mr. Molloy: It was guillotined.

Mr. P. Gallagher: The records of those who were interested in this motion are available for those who want to see them. There were reservations from a number of individuals at that time and the records will show who was in the House and what spokespersons from the various parties were in the House at that time and who showed an interest in it.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. P. Gallagher: The leader of Deputy Molloy's party tried to do the same thing when we put the motion before the House. I might be here only a few years but I have every right to complete my contribution.

Mr. Molloy: What is wrong with you?

Mr. Cullen: A Ceann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: I want to call Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick. The Minister has not concluded his remarks.

Mr. P. Gallagher: So far as we in the Department are concerned there will be [647] no additional administrative costs, as suggested by Deputy Cullen.

Mr. Deasy: We have heard that before.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick.

Mr. Cullen: On a point of order, a Cheann Comhairle, I would like to give an explanation to the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry Deputy that is not a point of order.

Mr. Cullen: He made a slight on my character about being absent from this House when he knows well that I was in hospital undergoing an operation. That is an appalling——

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy.

Mr. Cullen: It is disgraceful carry on. If that is the only defensive action they have against this legislation it is a poor look out for the Government.

Mr. D. Gallagher: The Deputy's party could have voted against it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Order.

Mr. T. Fitzpatrick: Does the Minister agree that it was foolish to rush this Bill through the House in less than two hours on the last day of the last session without adequate debate and does he think it is fair to say there was no opposition? I specifically put down an amendment to the Bill seeking to exclude coarse fishing and would the Minister, in view of the national call, now consider rescinding this measure?

Mr. P. Gallagher: I appreciate that Deputy Fitzpatrick was one of the few Members who did contribute to the debate and who tabled an amendment but I would like to re-emphasise that the money collected by the introduction of licences in respect of trout and coarse fishing — and let us remember that there [648] are licences for salmon fishing since the middle of the last century——

Mr. Deasy: Chalk and cheese.

Mr. P. Gallagher: ——will contribute towards the development and protection of trout and coarse fisheries and I believe a contribution should be made towards the costs of this development and protection.

Mr. Cullen: May I ask a final supplementary?

An Ceann Comhairle: There are a number of Deputies offering. I shall try to facilitate the Deputies offering if they will be very brief. There is a big element of repetition involved in the supplementaries and I cannot permit that to go on. There is no useful purpose served by that.

Mr. M. Higgins: As a Deputy who spoke on this legislation, and whose party voted against it on Second Stage, I want to ask the Minister a very brief supplementary. In view of the deteriorating relationship which is likely to occur between fisheries' officers and anglers and the public, can the Minister say if he would consider receiving a delegation from the angling interests and community interests involved so as to discuss possible alternatives to the imposition of the licence in question?

Mr. P. Gallagher: We have never refused to receive a deputation from any quarter but if the Deputy wishes to contact me directly I will inform him if I will be in a position to meet him.

Mrs. Doyle: Would the Minister agree that all forms of angling are in a serious state of decline at present? When I, as spokesperson for Fine Gael, accepted the principle of the Bill, I think that all parties on this side of the House had difficulty on Committee Stage because of the fact that a guillotine had been agreed on the Bill just prior to the Christmas recess and also because the Bill was published on a [649] Friday and we discussed it on the Tuesday or Wednesday and perhaps we did not give it the thorough study it deserved. Notwithstanding all of that, and accepting the principle that any moneys collected will go back into the industry, would the Minister now agree that the timing of the introduction of licences, apart altogether from the principle of the introduction of licences, was appalling with the decline in angling, with the serious pollution and poaching problems, with the decrease in Government spending proposed for 1988 and the uncertainty about the fisheries' boards?

An Ceann Comhairle: I had hoped for brief questions.

Mr. P. Gallagher: The Deputy is really making a case for me by saying that if there is a difficulty with protection and development and if finance is required to ensure that we continue the development and protection of our inland fisheries, the object of the new licences is to provide a more equitable way by which funds for the further development and protection of the inland fisheries will be available. I want to refer — and they have not been referred to yet — to the licensing fees. A 21 day ordinary licence for coarse fish will cost 24p per day and if it is over the year, it will cost 3p per day. A trout licence will cost 48p per day over 21 days and over the year it will cost 4p per day.

Mr. Deasy: You cannot fish most days.

Mr. P. Gallagher: A salmon licence will cost £1 per day and over the year, 7p per day.

Mrs. Doyle: What about the composite licences?

Mr. P. Gallagher: A composite licence will cost 11p per day or £40 over the year. This covers the whole country. I would like to put it on the record of the House that these are not for any regions or districts; they cover the whole country.

[650] Mrs. Doyle: The Minister will remember that I put down amendments about the level of licences in many cases and, in particular, in relation to the composite licences. I still feel that £40 for a composite fresh water angling licence is way beyond the reach of the average person who is interested in angling. I would urge him to look again at that and to consider reintroducing district licences because for the ordinary person with his bicycle and his rod an increase from £7 to £21 or £25 is out of his reach given the economic situation in this country. We want to encourage people and we want to encourage the angling industry——

An Ceann Comhairle: I have given a lot of latitude on this question. We must deal with other questions also.

Mr. P. Gallagher: I found it very heartening that on Committee Stage, apart from Second Stage to which Deputy M. Higgins referred, there was unanimity in the House.

Mrs. Doyle: These amendments were not cleared.

An Ceann Comhairle: Let me dissuade Members from seeking to debate the matter now. The debate on this question is over.

Mrs. Doyle: These amendments were not cleared.

Mr. P. Gallagher: It is important to reflect on the views of those directly involved, the regional fisheries boards, the Trout Anglers' Federation and the Coarse Fish Anglers Federation, who all agreed with the prinicple of the licence——

Mr. Molloy: The Trout Anglers Federation never consulted with our members.

Mr. P. Gallagher: ——as part of a plan to increase funding for inland fisheries. There are a number of individual anglers and angling clubs who opposed the [651] arrangements but the main body of anglers support the new arrangements and I think they do so because the money whether it is £500,000 or £1 million — and I have stated this categorically both here and in the Seanad — will go directly towards the protection and development of inland fisheries. Any Member of this House who disagrees with that would be suggesting that I am telling untruths in the House. It is wrong for Deputies to say at any public meetings, whether it is popular or not, that this money is going into the Exchequer for other purposes. I want to state once more that this money is going directly to the fisheries boards for the development and protection of fisheries.

An Ceann Comhairle: I will allow Deputy Cullen a very brief question. I must ask Deputies to desist because I am going on to another question. There has to be finality about this at some stage and it will be after Deputy Cullen's question.

Mr. Cullen: Has the Minister's Department had any discussions with the Department of Tourism and Transport as that Department encouraged people to develop fisheries as a tourist attraction and encouraged people to put a lot of money into promoting and marketing fishing as a tourist attraction? Now that all the money has been spent or has been committed, this situation has arisen.

Mr. P. Gallagher: The case that was made——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. P. Gallagher: The case made by Deputy Fitzpatrick who was here for the debate was that there were discussions. While this was not in any brochure, indications were given by Bord Fáilte over the last number of years that there might be an introduction of a——

(Interruptions.)

[652] An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling the next question. Question No. 5.

Mr. Molloy: The Minister should read from column 2613 of the Official Report where Deputy O'Malley said——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. P. Gallagher: I saw the time when Deputy O'Malley did not defend Deputy Molloy, and vice versa.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputies I have called the next question.