Clause 18. — (Prohibition of Excavation etc., of Materials on or Under the Seashore.)

Orders of the Day — COAST PROTECTION BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 October 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton 12:00, 25 October 1949

I beg to move, in page 23, line 22, at the end, to insert: Provided that where, at the time of the passing of this Act, a person is entitled to excavate or remove any materials as aforesaid by reason of any contract, it shall be lawful for such person to continue such excavation or removal until the date of the expiry of such contract. The Clause will make it illegal to remove from the seashore any materials defined in the Bill, with the exception of seaweeds for agricultural purposes. Many businesses are now engaged in quarrying and moving sand, shingle or gravel from the shore, and the result of accepting the Clause in its present form would be to rob people in those businesses of their livelihood, because after the passing of the Bill it will be illegal to remove these things without a licence issued for that purpose by the coast protection authority.

Some of the people engaged in this business are so employed by virtue, perhaps, of contracts with the local authorities or the owners of the land concerned. The passing of the Clause as it now stands would mean the complete frustration of those contracts. The party which at present grants the permission to remove the materials from the shore will be relieved of any obligations it may have under the contract and those carrying on the business of removal will have their businesses taken from them.

I had not overlooked the question of compensation in such an eventuality but I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to move any Amendment to safeguard or to create compensation in such an event because that would be outside the scope of the Financial Resolution. If, however, the rights of those concerned are protected by an Amendment such as that which I propose, no doubt those who wish to affect their contracts would be able to come to satisfactory terms, but at present the party which issues the authority will be relieved of all obligation without payment of any sum whatever. It seems to me very unfair that people who have been carrying on a perfectly legitimate business for years, and for the benefit, probably, of both parties, should have their businesses brought to an end without any kind of compensation being paid to them.

I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary would not wish that result to follow, but nowhere in the Bill is provision made for compensation in the kind of eventuality I have outlined. The Amendment, therefore, is designed to protect contracts of this nature and to ensure that they can be terminated only by the parties concerned coming to terms. Without the Amendment, contracts will be frustrated without the payment of any compensation whatever, a course which would be most unjust.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

This is, apparently, an innocuous and equitable Amendment, but I ask the House to examine it a little more closely. Through the ages rights have been granted to individuals to remove from the foreshore substances which have been used for the development of agriculture, particularly in Cornwall and other places. I think it was envisaged in those days that the amount of sand or shingle to be removed would be that which an ordinary farmer could take away in a donkey cart or harrow. Since those days, however, there have been large-scale removals from the foreshore on a commercial basis, which must act detrimentally to the very objects for which the Bill is presented—namely, coast protection. Although it might seem inequitable to the hon. and learned Member—

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

I hope the hon. Member appreciates that my Amendment does not refer to ancient and prescriptive rights, but to removals at present taking place under contract, and that the amount of material which may be removed is, of course, safeguarded by the terms of the contract.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

That may or may not be so, but it is quite within the jurisdiction of a local authority who can derive a certain amount of profit from selling sand or shingle from the foreshore to grant a contract for this object, without due regard to the effect on coast erosion not only in its own area, but in adjacent areas. Nobody can denude one part of the shore without affecting some other part detrimentally, as anyone who is acquainted with coast protection is aware. Whilst we have a great deal of sympathy for those who would suffer from the violation of a contract, as the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) has mentioned, we must remember that the object of the Bill is to protect our coasts against anything which would act to their detriment. The House should have no hesitation in rejecting the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

I think that the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) has rather misunderstood the Clause. It does not provide for a general prohibition on excavation throughout the area of the coast protection authority. What it does provide is that a coast protection authority will make an order specifying a certain area of the coastline within its own area which shall be subject to this general prohibition on excavation. Clearly, the coast protection authority would only make that order where there was danger of the excavations affecting the erosion of the coast. The point raised by the hon. and learned Member is not, therefore, likely to arise in the form he suggests. He seemed to imagine that on the passing of the Bill there would be a general automatic prohibition, but that is not so.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

It is an automatic prohibition in any area in which the coast protection authority operates.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

No, it is only in the area in which the coast protection authority makes an order. It is not the area of operation of the coast protection authority—that may, and will, be much wider; it is merely in that limited area within the authority of the coast protection authority which they, by order, specify. That is the first point.

4.30 p.m.

Secondly, even within that limited area which the coast protection authority regards as a danger area, the authority can issue licences. Finally, there would be a very real danger if we were to allow existing contracts to continue even though they may be in what I would term danger areas, as they may last for long periods of years and not necessarily for a week, or fortnight, or anything of that sort. To accept the Amendment would endanger the whole purpose of the Bill and I suggest that the position is safeguarded by ensuring that only in those areas specified by the coast protection authority in making an order would this apply.

Amendment negatived.