Fourth Schedule. — (Waters Excluded for Purposes of Definitions of "sea" and "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 Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East 12:00, 25 October 1949

I beg to move, in page 55, line 16, to leave out from "drawn," to the end of line 17, and to insert: across The Narrows from Lloyd's Hailing Station to the Commissioners' Staiths. This Amendment was moved in Committee by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Colman), and I gave an assurance that we would consider it and put it down ourselves if we found ourselves in agreement with it. It is in precisely the same form as that in which it was moved in Committee.

Photo of Miss Grace Colman Miss Grace Colman , Tynemouth

I should like to thank my hon. Friend for putting the Amendment down. It will be of great assistance to the borough of Tynemouth.

Amendment agreed to.

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

I beg to move, in page 59, line 35, to leave out subparagraph (2).

This sub-paragraph is unnecessary as all the regulations will be statutory instruments by virtue of Clause 45.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read [King's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

5.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

I should like to say a few words after having listened to the miserable rearguard action which has been fought by the landed interests against this very important Measure. In Clause 14 I read: A coast protection authority may be authorised by the Minister to acquire by compulsory purchase any land which they are authorised by section four of this Act to acquire … I do not like this compulsory purchase. When we turn to Clause 4 we find: Subject to the following provisions of this Act, a coast protection authority shall have power to carry out such coast protection work, whether within or outside their area, as may appear to them to be necessary or expedient for the protection of any land in their area. The protection of the land is a very desirable work—not the land that should belong to a few individuals but the land that should belong to the people. It is a very important and necessary work, and I should be very much better pleased if the Minister could so arrange that between now and the Bill going to another place—[HON. MEMBERS: "It has been there already."] It comes from there? Well, we can send it back; they have been sending Bills back to us and we can reverse the process and send one back to them.

I should like the Minister to have the right to acquire by compulsory measures any land without payment of any kind, and I do not think anyone who has the interests of the land of this country at heart and realises the need for the necessary action being taken to save the land from wastage, could possibly object to that—and even the most ardent, hard-faced Tory would have to accept it.

5.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire

We have had from the Leader of the Communist Party his usual speech advocating compulsion and robbery, which are the two principal tenets of his party. From this side of the House we give a general welcome to this Bill, but there are two points I should like to raise upon it; one has been raised a good many times during the passage of the Bill and the other has, perhaps, not been pressed so hard. The first point is the question of the sharing of the expenses of coast protection work between the coast protection authorities—the local authorities of various kinds—and the central finance of this country; that is to say between the Treasury and the local authorities.

All along, we have said that it was wrong that no firm obligation was placed upon the central authorities to pay up to any stated proportion of the cost. It is entirely left to the Minister of Health to decide whether he gives nothing, whether he gives 100 per cent. whether he gives 80 per cent. or whether he gives 50 per cent., and we believe in principle that that is bad legislation, because the general principles upon which the Minister should act should be laid down clearly in the Bill and not left to his discretion.

We were on Second Reading and in Committee upstairs supported on this point by the Liberal Party, now acquired by Lord Beaverbrook, and, therefore, not present. In both parties we felt that the principle was wrong; and though those hon. Gentlemen now are, no doubt, doing their daily dozen at the telephone making calls asking, "What is the time?" and answering, "Time to vote Liberal," and, therefore, are not here, were they here I have no doubt they would support this contention which we and they have put up all along, that that principle was wrong. What we have said is that we ought to have a figure such as 80 per cent. or 75 per cent. to be the obligation of the State, and that the Bill should read that the State should put up no less than a certain amount; whereas at the moment the whole matter is entirely undefined and entirely at the discretion of the Minister. That is the first point that I wish to raise.

The second point is the question of what may happen under Clause 7 and the Clauses depending on it, that is to say, what may happen when coast protection charges are levied under works schemes. In my constituency, where we are greatly troubled with coast erosion, there are a number of small villasbungalows—which are threatened, and it seems to me that it is quite possible that under this Bill this may occur. A works scheme may be drawn up and the unfortunate fellow—say, a retired railwayman, for we have a great many such people in my constituency—who is living on 50s. or £3 or £3 10s. a week, a small income indeed, but owning his house, may have officials come along to him to say, "Your bungalow will, as a result of works we are going to do, be worth £200 or £300 more than it is worth now, and, therefore, you will be assessed on the difference between what we believe to be the present value of your bungalow and the value of your bungalow after we have written it up as a result of this works protection scheme."

There is no doubt, of course, that if that is done most of those people will be quite unable to pay. They are already very much on the edge of it. Any retired person, any pensioner, at the present time is having a very difficult time, and will have an increasingly difficult time as prices rise, as they inevitably will do. If he, having saved all his life to get a bungalow, has got one, and is living on a small pension, on which he is only just able to live and if he is told, "You will have to pay on another £200 because we are protecting you from the sea," that will be the last bale of straw that will break his back.

I should like an assurance that that sort of thing will not happen under Clause 7 and the subsequent Clauses—that there will be no possibility that people will be assessed for charges, liability for which they could not have contemplated. With those two qualifications, the qualification of the sharing of the cost by the central Government, and the qualification of what may happen to owners of small property, I welcome the Bill.

5.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

I rise to welcome the Bill. To some of us this Third Reading is the end of a crusade. It is the culmination of the hopes and desires of those of us who represent devastated coastal areas, and we are grateful to the Government for finding it possible to include this Bill in their programme. In spite of all the major preoccupations and anxieties that beset them and the country, they have found time to perform an act of justice and helpfulness to the hard-pressed local authorities who have felt the burden and strain of this drain on their resources for many generations past.

I was very interested to hear the words of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). It seems to me that he, in common with his party, has now found a principle. This newly-found principle is that the Government should at last come to the help of the hard-pressed local authorities. This is a very tragic piece of history indeed, the history of coast erosion in Britain, and it makes for some bitterness to reflect that, during all the years when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had the opportunity to put this work into operation and to help the local authorities, they did not provide one penny piece in direct grants to the local authorities.

It is sheer humbug to put up the claim that the Government at this stage should come to the help of the local authorities to the extent that hon. Gentlemen opposite demand. It is very interesting to note that during the Committee stage their claim was for 80 per cent., and they wanted it mandatory that that percentage of the money should be paid to all local authorities, irrespective of their needs—all local authorities, even, that have gained tremendous profits out of their coast protection work and the consequent improvement of amenities. Now, I see that at the Report stage they eased their demands and reduced them to 75 per cent. They must be losing their grip a little.

The Debates have shown—and it is encouraging—a much wider interest in this subject than we might have supposed existed in it. It has been very gratifying to find that Members from inland constituencies have attended our Debates and have encouraged us by their presence here, and we have had interventions from people not connected with this work. It is to my mind unfortunate that the Opposition have tried to magnify the supposed differences between coast protection boards and river boards and catchment authorities. These differences are, surely, easily resolved. It is no good elaborating them, or supposing that there will not be in the administration of the Measure the most close co-operation between those various interests. If that is not forthcoming, and if one body or another tries to make a prestige point of its authority, then we cannot expect that co-ordination which is so essential to effective coast protection work.

The acceptance of the Bill and its ultimate success will depend, not so much on its involved Clauses and on technical considerations, but on the manner in which its financial provisions are administered. Whatever money is spent will be in the nature of an insurance—an insurance against further depredations along our coasts, an insurance to safeguard property and, indeed, the economic stability of a great many of our coastal areas. I hope that the Minister, in allocating grants, will have regard to the acute strain that has been imposed on those local authorities that have had to divert large capital sums from the provision of other amenities in their own towns to keep the sea at bay.

There is no doubt that a great many towns on our coasts and in river valleys might have been able in the past to provide a great many amenities in the way of increased recreational and cultural facilities had they not had perforce to spend so much of their money on keeping the sea from their towns and in protecting their property. In my own area, a small town of 43,000 people, no less than £1,000,000 has been expended on coast defence—a crippling, permanent liability to the town, which has injured its development and has proved a great strain on the inhabitants.

I particularly stress the need for sympathetic consideration for those authorities who in the past have done their best to keep the sea within bounds, but who have been denied access owing to war conditions. This issue of the denial of access is most important, and it calls for sympathetic consideration by the Minister when he allocates grants. They have had to face large accumulations of arrears in consequence. Speaking from experience, which has been very extensive in my own constituency, I would say that they have suffered as much as anyone along the coast. In so far as the grants are apportioned according to need and in recognition of past efforts, that will make distribution more equitable.

I want to say how pleasant it has been for me to work with my friends on both sides of the House on the Coast Erosion Committee. We hope now to see the fruition of our work, and I think it will be found that we have not been unsuccessful. The Minister has always received us and our representations with sympathy and understanding, and I trust that he will think that we have been of some assistance to him. I pay tribute to my friends and colleagues on both sides. We have had a long and interesting association, and I think that we may congratulate ourselves that tonight we have seen our hopes fulfilled. I am sure that this Measure will be warmly welcomed by those who know the problem at firsthand, and I wish those responsible for its administration the greatest possible success.

6.2 p.m.

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

I do not think that my constituents would agree with the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) in his tribute to the Government. My constituency is very seriously affected, as the hon. Gentleman knows, by all the problems of coast protection. We lost a considerable number of houses last year; we are in danger at the moment and a large portion of closely inhabited land needs protection. Not in one single thing does this Bill do anything to help us. It is called a Coast Protection Bill. In fact, it protects 48 per cent. of the coast and by no means that 48 per cent. which is worst affected.

There is a feeling that this Bill deals with the places where the problems are more acute and that the drainage boards and river boards that are to come will deal only with areas that are agricultural land and not inhabited. That, of course, is not so. In many cases, the catchment boards and drainage boards have been for many years the sole defence of land and houses where people are living. That is the position in my constituency. I think that my constituents would agree when the hon. Gentleman said that we were coming to the end of a crusade, because if my recollection of history is correct, the Crusades ended in failure.

We on this side of the House have tried to see that three things were effected. We have tried to see that the Bill was efficiently administered, and for that reason we have tried to protect those authorities who have had the weight of the work on their shoulders in the past. We have tried to protect them from interference by newly-formed authorities and by small local authorities who have not the great knowledge necessary to give them the right of interference. To some considerable extent we have been successful, but there is still need for improvement and still an opportunity for this Bill to be improved.

Secondly, there is the question of money which is of very great importance. This Bill again introduces what is not necessarily this Government's technique, because I regret to say, it is a technique which has been followed in the past, but one which has been far more closely followed by this Government, and that is "grants in ignorance." In other words, authorities do not know what sort of grants they are to get. We maintain that that is wrong. Coast protection work has to be carried out. It is essential to protect the coast of this country. Therefore, the work has to be done, and done as soon as possible. There is nothing which puts a local authority off more than not to know what sort of grant it is to get.

That is why we have tried to specify in the Amendments which we put down the minimum amount of the grant. We believe that is the right principle. Where there is this doubt among local authorities, it is quite true from the point of view of the Ministry that there may be a saving of capital expenditure due to the delay of local authorities coming forward, but that is a thing which we think is not right and which we should like to see out of the Bill.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

The hon. and gallant Gentleman deals with the urgency of this task. Would he not agree that a large amount of money could be saved by the immediate right of entry to which he and his colleagues were opposed?

Photo of Commander Sir John Maitland Commander Sir John Maitland , Horncastle

There is in the Bill immediate right of entry at the moment. The hon. Gentleman can have no knowledge of the difficulties of people who live in the coastal areas and who are likely to be affected by the sea if he does not know that there is no question of people objecting to officials entering their land in an emergency. He knows that in the Amendments to which he refers there was no question of emergency.

The distribution of the financial burden on the people of this country to keep their coastline safe should not only be fair but should appear to be fair. It does not appear to be fair to the people of my constituency. It does not appear to be fair to the people who are paying enormously heavy rates, which this Bill does nothing whatever to remove, in order to keep up their coast protection. Therefore, I think that the Bill has failed in its task in trying to spread the burden properly and fairly among the people of this country, if it is to be truly called a Coast Protection Bill.

I agree very largely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) said, although my welcome of the Bill is not so warm; in fact, it is not warm at all, it is extremely frigid. I should, however, like to end on a happier note and to say that I personally have very much appreciated the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has taken the Bill through Committee and the House. He has not always had a very easy time from both sides of the House and some of his nearest and most important neighbours have not made things easy for him, but, nevertheless, he has been extremely helpful, and it has been a great pleasure to sit on the Committee and to have tried and to some extent to have succeeded in making this a useful Bill.

6.9 p.m.

Photo of Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn , Great Yarmouth

May I add my congratulations to those already offered to the Minister of Health and his Parliamentary Secretary for their good work in carrying this Bill through. I was shocked at the tone of the greater part of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland). I and other Members have taken a non-party interest in this topic ever since we entered this House in 1945. We are very pleased indeed that tonight we can say that this Bill is on the threshold of becoming law. It means a very great deal, I know, to the constituents of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), and it means a very great deal to people who live within a few miles of my constituency. This Bill is a great step forward.

I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to look at the Third Schedule. Here we are, an island buffeted for centuries by the Atlantic and the North Sea. We know stories of towns, once thriving, that are now lying below the seas—towns like Ravenspur, a little town which was once a flourishing marketing town and probably a European centre, now below the ocean off Spurn Head. That is typical of lots of towns along the East Coast. On the other hand, there are places like Southport where the sea has been receding more and more in the lifetime of everyone here.

Coast erosion is a problem which has faced this country for centuries, and in passing this Bill tonight we have been going through a long scroll of Acts of Parliament and putting them into limbo because we have bettered the work of previous Governments of the political party now occupying the Opposition benches. The last Act is the Coast Protection Act, 1939, which I have here before me, and I find it is a miserable, puerile little thing providing for an inquiry, with 30 days notice, to protect people who were in danger from removal of gravel on some parts of our coast. But there are no measures for helping the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans), who have to spend thousands of pounds a year on keeping their front intact, especially after the damage of the war when they had no access to these places because of military occupation; nor are there any measures for helping the constituents of hon. Gentlemen opposite interested in this Bill. One would have thought that this problem would have been tackled perennially. But no. This is the first real Bill for tackling a problem which has faced this country for centuries, and we ought to be very proud of it.

My experience of Parliamentary life leads me to think that had this Government been of the pre-war variety this Measure would probably have occupied half, or nearly the whole of a Session. But here we are, slipping it in between some of the great Measures passed by this Parliament since 1945. It will mean thousands of pounds of saving to people in Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere who have had to carry on this national fight single-handed for many years. We have heard criticism of the figure of 80 per cent. proposed by the Opposition as the size of grant by the Minister.

Photo of Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn , Great Yarmouth

The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows as well as I do that outside my constituency, in rural districts and places such as Caister, to try to put the responsibility for 80 per cent. on to working people and those living in remote country parishes, in trying to tackle the problem of coast erosion, is fantastic. What we rely on is a public-spirited gentleman like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who recognises this as part of a national problem. These areas know that they will get a very sympathetic hearing from him, such as we have had in our negotiations with him in bringing this great Bill forward within the last few years.

I am very proud indeed that this weekend I can go back to my constituents and say that we have put this Bill on the Statute Book; that the coasts of this country will be inviolate for the first time in our history; that this will be a national responsibility; and that just because a person happens to be born in Lowestoft or Yarmouth, or parts of Yorkshire, he will not be worse off in this respect than someone in a place like Southport.

This is a great Bill, and I am sorry to hear the carping criticism of hon. Gentlemen opposite, some of whom have worked very well with us on a non-party basis in pressing this matter over the last few years. I conclude by congratulating my right hon. Friend, and particularly the Parliamentary Secretary who has had the task of piloting this Bill through all its stages. I think we all agree that he has won his spurs. Perhaps this time next year he will be piloting a bigger Measure through the House when he has responsibility for a more important office.

Photo of Mr Brendan Bracken Mr Brendan Bracken , Bournemouth

The sooner he does it the better as far as we are concerned.

6.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

I should like to associate myself with the expressions of appreciation from both sides of the House to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary in introducing this Bill.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire

Not the Minister. The Minister has never been near it.

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

The Minister will have a good deal to do with whether or not this Bill functions properly.

During the last few minutes two extreme points of view have been expressed. We have had the unqualified praise of the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) and the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn), and the highly critical view of the Bill by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland). I find myself in this position. I certainly welcome the Bill, for it is long overdue. This Measure should have been introduced many years ago, by earlier Governments. The problems and the difficulties we have to face now would be very much less if this Bill had been in existence—

Photo of Mr Roderic Bowen Mr Roderic Bowen , Cardiganshire

In 1906, if you like. If the progress which was made from 1906 until the 1914 war had continued after that war we certainly would not be facing all the problems we have today. I have been tempted to digress.

The only point I want to make is this. This Bill will certainly meet a great need. Whether any practical result will come from it depends, I think almost entirely, on how its financial provisions are implemented. That is my sole cause of anxiety. I do not want to go over again the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts) and myself in Committee; they have been referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle. Unless the Minister is prepared to take full account of the position of authorities where the product from a penny rate is extremely small, and is prepared to extend to them the maximum financial aid, this Bill will be a dead letter. That is why I have to adopt a somewhat qualified attitude towards this Bill, because whether or not it will be of any practical value remains to be seen, and depends entirely on the Minister's approach to his financial duties. If he is prepared to recognise the difficulties of areas such as my own, and the impossibility of their implementing coast protection schemes unless they are given almost 100 per cent. assistance, this Bill might just as well not have been passed.

In Committee, when dealing with Amendments relating to the suggestion for a minimum percentage grant, and the suggestion that it should be a national charge, the Parliamentary Secretary adopted a certain attitude. If that spirit is manifested in practice and translated into action by the Minister when he deals with the financial provisions, this Bill certainly should do a great deal to assist the areas I have in mind. All I can hope is that the promises made by the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to these problems in the poor areas will be kept, and that the attitude of his Department when these questions arise for consideration will be in accordance with the approach he indicated.

6.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) began by emphasising the difference of opinion which exists between Members opposite and the Conservative Party, and he ended by illustrating that, true to the Liberal tradition, he is sitting on the fence. I wish to deal with the differences which exist between the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) and the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) and those of us on this side of the House. The hon. and gallant Member began by saying that this was a non-partisan Bill, an entirely non-controversial matter, but went on to develop the argument that all the erosion of the coast has been entirely due to the Tory Party.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

He also seemed to make it clear that there were many places where this Bill would not achieve a great deal of good. In spite of the partisan approach introduced by the hon. and gallant Member, he had to agree that the Socialist representative who lives at Lowestoft has been attacked by the sea, while on that part of the coast represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) the sea has receded.

I wish to deal with two or three points in this Bill with which I do not find myself in agreement. There is, first, the general approach to the problem which is thoroughly socialistic in outlook. I am referring, in particular, to matters such as we have discussed regarding the right of entry to private property, which I do not wish to elaborate again. It is a characteristic of Socialists that they do not respect the right of property owners. In Bill after Bill which they present, we find Clauses, such as the Clause contained in this Bill, permitting entry by force against the will of the property owner.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Who gave the property owners the right to the land?

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

The hon. Member's views on property are sufficiently well known and I need not even refer to them, but I have to be a little more specific with Members who belong to the Socialist Party.

Photo of Mr Edward Evans Mr Edward Evans , Lowestoft

Is not the right of entry in order to protect the property?

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

The hon. Member entirely misses the point. The owner who wants his property protected will be only too willing to invite the authorities to come on to his land. What we object to is entry without notice against the will of the occupier or the owner of the property.

The next point I want to deal with is in regard to Clause 19, which is the only Clause, as far as I can see, that in any way deals with the question of compensation. The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that I referred earlier to the question of compensation for those quarrying for sand or shingle on certain parts of the coast who were disturbed. This Bill may well deprive of their livelihood these people who are engaged in perfectly legitimate activities, and yet no provision is made for compensation. The Parliamentary Secretary merely answered the case by saying that it was desirable to remove these people. I can assure him that that is not so.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

I hope I am not misrepresenting the Parliamentary Secretary. He referred to those instances where damage was being done. I entirely agree that where damage is being done it is desirable that it should be arrested, but I am referring to cases where damage is not being done. The position is that, although no damage to the coast is being done by these people, they can be removed from their livelihood. Does the Parliamentary Secretary deny that proposition?

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

Of course I deny it. I made it perfectly clear that coast protection authorities will stop excavation work on beaches only where it is necessary to protect the coast from damage being done by the excavations, and I said that it can only be done by means of an order which will not automatically apply to the whole area.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

I am not saying that it will automatically apply, but the Parliamentary Secretary agrees that, although someone may not be doing damage, the coast protection authority can nevertheless refuse a licence and drive that person from his livelihood. The Parliamentary Secretary's answer is that the coast protection authority will not make orders in such cases. But how does he know? He does not make the orders; it is the coast protection authority. It is idle for the Parliamentary Secretary to say this will not be done, because he has not the faintest idea what will happen. My complaint is that there is nothing to prevent the coast protection authority from making an order and thereby putting a person out of business.

My third point relates to Clause 21, which deals with the question of grants made by the Ministry in respect of damage suffered by a coastal area. It is unfortunate that this matter has not been dealt with in a more realistic way in relation to those areas where there was a denial of access during and immediately after the war. There are many areas where the damage has become greatly intensified by reason of military occupation during the war. The Parliamentary Secretary does not seem to have appreciated that during those six years there has been much more than the normal six-years damage to our coasts. Normally the maintenance work would be done year by year, which would have minimised the damage in the ensuing years, but with six consecutive years without maintenance work the proportion of damage is greatly increased.

It is most unfortunate that the Bill limits payment to what has occurred after August, 1945. The only way is to make this particular war damage a national charge. There seems to be no reason at all why such parts of the coast as those in which I am interested should have to bear the whole cost of making good the damage done during occupation by the Army, which was for the benefit not only of Sussex but of the whole of the country. This is a burden which ought not to fall on my local authority. It is a burden which should be shared by all local authorities and by the Exchequer. It should be a national charge and not a charge on the local people.

For these reasons, I am bound to say that I do not find myself an enthusiastic supporter of this Bill. There are some parts of it which go halfway towards doing what is required, but it is idle for the hon. Member for Lowestoft to get up and talk about this as being the end of a crusade and the Government having discharged a task which should have been done years ago. What has happened is that it has become impossible for local authorities to perform the work they previously did because this Government has thrown so much expenditure on them that they cannot bear the expense.

This Bill has now been rendered completely unreal by the situation the country has been brought to by the Government. It has been rendered unreal because this is a matter involving capital expenditure and we have not been told by the Prime Minister, who has talked in a vague way about more cuts in capital expenditure, what the cuts are to be—he would not particularise them in a document of any kind. We know, however, that one of the items scheduled to be cut is expenditure under this Bill. This may be merely an idle performance we are going through in passing this Bill, because it may be that, without any of us knowing it, the Treasury have decided to make the Bill completely ineffective.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks , Chichester

I should like to follow the point which has just been made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe). I wonder what real benefit will be attracted to the sea-coast territories as a result of this Bill within the next five years. It is regrettable that the Government, having waited for nearly five years before bringing in the Bill, and having to a large extent stultified the efforts of the local authorities and private owners in carrying out normal defence works themselves, by holding out the hope that the whole matter would be subject to a national charge, should again put us into the position of having to consider the probable deferment of the whole business.

I should like to refer to what the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) said before he goes out of the Chamber, because I had considerable sympathy with him. He said he had noted the remarks made by a certain noble Lord in another place when the Bill was under consideration there. That noble Lord, who has sat in this or the other place for some 43 years, holding high office at different times and thus having had a great number of Bills to contend with, admitted that he had never come across a Bill which was so intricate and difficult as this Bill. I take it that the hon. and gallant Member took warning from that and did not distress himself by considering the contents of the Bill, but confined his remarks to the situation as it was between the wars.

Photo of Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn Squadron Leader Ernest Kinghorn , Great Yarmouth

If the noble Lord in another place had said he could remember, over 40 years, many Bills dealing with coast protection, there might have been something in the point, but he could not.

Photo of Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks Hon. Lancelot Joynson-Hicks , Chichester

I will leave the hon. and gallant Member to carry out his desire to leave the Chamber.

May I now turn to the question of the Bill's financial provisions? I do not wish to labour the matter, but from the point of view of my own constituency it seems quite illogical that people who live in North Sussex, who shop in Surrey and have all their interests in Surrey, should be subject to a contribution for these charges as a result of their direct interest in the county through rates, whereas their neighbours just over the border have only an indirect contribution to make to coastal protection through the national Exchequer. It is completely illogical because both parties enjoy the coast. There is no difference in the benefit which they enjoy from the protection works which may be carried out, yet there is this hard-and-fast dividing line as to who pays and who does not. The Minister of Fuel and Power, who is sitting on the Front Bench and who is one of my constituents, will have to contribute directly towards sea-coast protection, but if he moved slightly across the border his contribution would be limited to the amount which he had to pay in taxes through the national Exchequer.

The whole build-up of the method of contribution makes it essential, in the natural way of carrying on local authority business, that necessary sea-coast protection works will be deferred. They will be deferred on an accumulating basis and will gradually get worse—the more they are deferred the more rapidly does the need become greater—until we get to a certain point before the Exchequer agrees to the Ministry making their contribution. Until the situation gets really bad, we shall see that, in practice, however good the intentions of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, the Treasury will not approve of a contribution being made to the work being done.

Clause 31 is our notorious old friend the Henry VIII Clause. We thought we had succeeded in precluding this Clause from coming into legislation again. It is a heinous Clause and is contrary to the dignity of Parliament. That any Minister should have the right to vary, modify, withdraw, or, if necessary, cancel provisions which have been passed by Parliament and put into statutory enactments, and not even come before Parliament with his new provisions, unless they have certain effects, is wholly wrong.

I want to explain a qualification of a statement made by the Parliamentary Secretary. When he gave me an assurance on a matter of detail, I was not quite sure whether he was intentionally limiting that assurance. When an order is made under this Clause power is given, under the First Schedule, to various parties to object if they consider that to be necessary. The parties who have a right to object are really the parties who are concerned particularly with the Bill—local authorities, coast protection boards, and so on. The people for whom I was seeking an assurance are those who enjoy some protective provision in other legislation. The fear I have is that the Minister, in making an order which will cancel that protective provision, may quite inadvertently do it in a way which will not come to the attention of the person for whose benefit that protective provision has been passed. I believe that the only proper way to ensure the protection of those whom Parliament intended to protect is to let all these orders come, before Parliament so that they get the necessary publicity, and that the private person whom Parliament sought to protect shall continue to be protected.

I wish now to refer to Clause 30. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton mentioned that there was no other Clause dealing with compensation. This Clause deals with compensation in a different sense—compensation which the Minister considers it may be suitable to give to officers who lose their jobs when boards or coast protection authorities have their functions transferred, or are amalgamated or generally reorganised as a result of his activities. That is right and proper, but what I object to is that the whole question of whether compensation is payable, and, if so, to what extent, is left entirely to the Minister's discretion. This is not a satisfactory provision. I do not think we can say that it is fair to the Minister or to the officer who has been serving the coast protection authority that the officer's whole future is a matter of bargaining between the two. It does not seem to me to be the way in which Parliament should have dealt with the question, and it is a matter which I sincerely trust will not become a precedent in future Bills.

In general, may I once more express regret that the Minister of Health, as opposed to the Minister of Agriculture, is the dominant Minister under this Bill, but whoever is going to do the job, I would remind the Government that they have kept us waiting more or less on tenterhooks for some four years. As a matter of fact, it is rather more since we first started trying to get them to move in this matter. Whether or not the Bill will be put into effective operation, in view of the Government's decisions on the suspension of capital expenditure and all that, one does not know, but I beg of them to make up their minds immediately and to let the coast protection authorities and the local authorities on the coast know what is their intention. In suspense nothing can be done by local authorities, but whether they are in suspense or not, the sea goes on damaging our coasts and eroding them. It is essential, particularly after the weather we have been having, that the people should know what the Government are going to do to implement the provisions of this Bill. The position is likely to be very serious indeed this winter.

6.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edwin Gooch Mr Edwin Gooch , Norfolk Northern

As representing a division which has a very long mileage of coast line and where terrific damage is done from time to time, I give a welcome to this Bill. In my part of the country the sea makes a terrific onslaught from time to time and much money has been spent in repairing the damage. The whole problem has been a financial one, and unless and until there are means made available, the problem cannot be tackled as it should be. Hon. Members opposite have expressed doubt whether anything will come out of this Bill. I know I am expressing the feeling of a good many people in my part of the country when I say that I welcome the passing of the Bill because of the great amount of good work that can be done under it.

Earlier this year, I went into two villages in my constituency where the sea had broken through. As I passed from house to house I could see the debris that had been left by the sea, which had forced the people to live upstairs. They were in a despairing state, and they asked me whether there was any possibility of this Government coming to their assistance. I am very glad that with the passing of this Bill their request to a very large extent will be complied with.

We have been trying for a good many years to deal with this problem on a voluntary basis, and I realise that within the last few years the Ministry of Agriculture have come forward with sub- stantial grants enabling a certain amount of work to be done. However, this problem needs something more than raising money by whist drives and dances. That is what is being done. These functions are being held in order to erect sea walls and such other works to deal with coast erosion. That is entirely wrong. I have always said that the State should come to the assistance of those who are in this plight.

I was privileged to play a small part in paving the way for this Bill. When the Lord President of the Council was down in my area of Norfolk, I urged him to spend an hour or two to go along the Norfolk coast to see what the sea had been doing. After the Lord President had finished his tour of those parts, especially where much damage had been done, the expression he used was, "You have got a case." I was delighted when in January, 1947, the Prime Minister, replying to a Question I had put down to him on this subject, announced the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to deal with this colossal problem.

Hon. Members opposite have spoken about the delay which has taken place in reaching this stage tonight. The delay that has taken place in the lifetime of the Labour Government is nothing compared with that which took place in the lifetime of other Governments. Other Governments have taken up this problem of sea erosion, and then dropped it like a hot brick. This Government have not only taken the question up, but have held on to it. With the passing of this Bill the people living in the coastal districts will be provided with the means to deal with this terrific problem. In my division, the people are anticipating the passage of this Bill, and the Erpingham Rural District Council has already been in touch with the parish councils to ascertain the size of the problem in their areas and secure their suggestions as to how the problem should be dealt with. Thus the Erpingham Rural District Sea Defence Committee will be in a position to start on a variety of schemes when this Bill is passed. The Bill will give new hope to those people who have been looking for help for a long time past, and all I can say to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House is that I challenge them to challenge a Division on this Bill.

6.48 p.m.

Mr. McKie:

In a few words I should like to give qualified approval to this Bill. My welcome is very much nearer to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) than that given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland). I should like also to say, speaking as a Scottish Member, that I deplore the only intervention up to date from Scotland, namely, that of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who proposed confiscation instead of compensation to property owners affected by this Measure. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have had something more constructive to propose on Third Reading. There is a considerable coastline in his division of West Fife, and I was waiting to hear him say something really constructive. I was disappointed when he did not do so, and I was surprised when the hon. Gentleman suggested to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that he should introduce in another place an Amendment to this Bill. That was lamentable ignorance on the part of the hon. Gentleman, because he should have known that this Bill had emanated from another place. I do not propose to say anything more than that on what the hon. Gentleman said.

Having a coastline of something like 300 to 400 miles in my constituency, I cannot but take a considerable interest in this Measure, although I do not think it will do all the wonderful things which were claimed for it by the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) in his fulsome adulation. We shall have to judge the Bill on its achievements Indeed, as has been suggested from this side of the House during the Debate, the Bill may never become operative because of the cuts in capital expenditure, and therefore we may be only deceiving ourselves on this Third Reading. The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth should, in the words of a former prominent Liberal statesman, "wait and see." He should not jump in too quickly to tell us all that is going to be done, or describe this as one of the greatest legislative achievements of this Government.

Having a very extensive coastline in my constituency, I take a considerable interest in the passage of this Measure. Fortunately, coast erosion does not bother us very largely, but coast encroachment is becoming quite a serious matter for the small ports and harbours. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will fully testify to the fact that in his own constituency, which has a considerable seaboard, the same kind of thing is going on. I hope in this matter also to have the support of the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth. I sincerely hope that something concrete may be done under this Measure, particularly in the re-opening of some of those ports and harbours. Some 30 or 40 years ago there was a very extensive coastal shipping industry along the coast there, but it has almost entirely disappeared and the ports and harbours have closed down.

A considerable movement has sprung up since the end of the war urging that these ports and harbours should be put into repair and used. I hope that the Bill will go a long way towards achieving that object. It is very necessary that this form of coastal shipping should be opened up for a widespread rural area, especially having regard to the growing inefficiency of the British railway system. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will bear that point in mind, because very strong representations were made to him on that point when he had a very enjoyable four days' holiday in my constituency during September. I put the matter to him on more than one occasion.

I should like to mention one point in connection with coast erosion. It approximates to that which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint and concerns the rights of property owners, large or small, and more probably small, which I say for the benefit of the hon. Member for West Fife. In consequence of the passage of this Measure, those property-owners will be in considerable difficulty about their assessments.

I can think of one place in particular in my constituency, just the kind of place which my hon. Friend had in view. It is a place called Portpatrick on the Wigtownshire coast. It is a tourist resort where there is quite considerable coast erosion. I was speaking only this morning on the telephone to someone who takes great interest in the affairs of that place and he assured me that something like £8,000 will be required to deal with the position there. The harbour is used every year by the fishing fleet and it will very speedily go to ruin unless that money can be found. In the old days it was the embarkation point for the short sea passage to Ireland. I hope that it will be possible under this Measure to have the necessary work done. I am sure that, not only from the point of view of the property owners concerned but of the finances of the local authority, there is complete unison in what has been said by the several speakers from the Conservative benches.

Having addressed those few remarks particularly to the Under-Secretary of State, I have nothing more to say. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen would like me to go on, it will be quite possible for me to do so and to keep well within the Rules of Order but I have no intention of trespassing upon the patience of the Chair, which is very much more important than pleasing or displeasing hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they will now allow me to say so, that is all I have to say by way of hostile or partly hostile criticism. I agree to giving the Bill a Third Reading.

6.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

As next-door neighbour to the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), I can testify that he represents a long and interminable coastline—nearly as long and interminable as some of his speeches. I welcome the rather belated interest in the Bill of Conservative Members for Scotland. I remember that during the protracted Committee stage—I say in fairness to the hon. Member for Galloway that he was not a member of the Committee—I was the only Scottish Member, apart from the Minister, who took any interest in the Bill. We did not see any Conservative Members for Scotland in the Committee, presumably because they were satisfied that the long coastline of Scotland should be represented by a Welshman. I give a hearty welcome to the Bill, which will greatly benefit the fishing community of Scotland, especially on the West Coast.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire

The Bill has nothing to do with fishing.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

The hon. Member for Flint is not aware that fishing is carried on along the coast and that fishing villages need to be protected from erosion and their harbours from the ravages of the sea. He probably knows more about the Stock Exchange than the sea. In my constituency are at least two little communities that hope to benefit from the financial provisions of the Bill. I refer to the town of Girvan and to the fishing village of Maidens. Both of them are very anxious at the present time that the Bill should go through and that they should get grants under it. I assume that those grants will come.

I remember during the Committee stage, when the Opposition were trying hard to find constructive Amendments, that one Amendment suggested that the works proposed under the Bill should be advertised in the "London Gazette." Some of us wanted to know, if works needed to be done on the Scottish coast, why it was necessary to advertise them in a local paper like the "London Gazette." Ultimately the Amendment was washed out because that was exactly the wrong paper in which to advertise. It was a London paper and it might have reached the eye of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We have no great desire for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take a particular interest in the expenditure we are incurring upon the west coast of Scotland.

I am anxious about one part of the Bill. There were references in the Prime Minister's statement yesterday to the possibility of a reduction in expenditure in connection with coast erosion. I hope that the Government's attitude to the Bill will not be that this is only a small infant and that it should be smothered at birth. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has been very helpful in this matter and I suggest that he use all the influence he has with the Scottish Department to see that these provisions are not subject either to the axe of economy or to the jack-knife of the Treasury. It is a very important Bill for the fishing community of the west coast of Scotland and I heartily support it. I hope that its financial provisions will not attract unnecessary attention from the Treasury.

I do not quite understand the point of view of those Members of the Opposition who are urging us this afternoon to get 100 per cent. Treasury grants. For the next two days they are going to denounce national expenditure, but here they are urging the Government to increase expenditure.

Photo of Mr Nigel Birch Mr Nigel Birch , Flintshire

Surely the hon. Member must appreciate that what matters economically is whether the job is done or not. That is what generates the purchasing power. He asks, if the job is done—in most cases we all agree that it has to be done—who pays for it; whether it is raised by local or national taxation? Economically there is really no difference.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I hope the logic of that argument will be carried forward into the Debate tomorrow and the day afterwards. I think that the national expenditure incurred in this Bill will be useful capital expenditure and in the interests of the people of the country. In this Debate we have had criticism of the Bill because it does not respect property. I do not think that that argument can be applied to this Bill or to any other Measure introduced by this Government. Criticism which can be made is that there has been super-respect for property in the Bill, and I hope that that criticism will also be applied to the next Bill before us tonight.

7.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I wish to make a few brief remarks particularly because the coastline of my constituency is one of the biggest trouble spots so far as the coast of the United Kingdom is concerned, as it includes Seaford. Newhaven, Peacehaven and several other places. I was surprised by what was said by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and not least by his statement that Scotland has an "interminable" coastline. That is quite beyond me; I just do not understand it.

I was even more surprised at his statement that hon. Members on this side of the House had at some stage of the Bill pressed for coast protection to be 100 per cent. a national charge. So far as I know—I am open to correction—nobody has pressed for that. If they have, they have done so in an individual capacity. I hope it will not go down on the record that there has been any attempt to make this a 100 per cent. national charge. Not less than 80 per cent. was recommended and later a charge of 75 per cent. upon national sources was recommended, but 100 per cent. was never mentioned.

I agreed with the hon. Member for Northern Norfolk (Mr. Gooch), and I am the first to admit that he played no small part in bringing forward the Bill.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

All right, then—in bringing it forward along the way which he has paved. I readily admit it. However, I cannot help reminding him—this is most pertinent to the contents of the Bill—that he was a leading member of a committee called the Coast Erosion Sub-committee of the County Councils' Association which met on 1st May, 1947, under the chairmanship of a colleague of his, the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). It was a small but very important sub-committee. It was unanimously of the opinion that in the general public interest the cost of sea defence works should be made a national charge, and it so recommended. I have here the proceedings of the subcommittee. It says: As a result, they have reached the unanimous conclusion that the administrative and financial principles upon which the statement is based"— That is the Prime Minister's statement of 27th January, 1947, upon which the whole principles of the Bill are based— are wholly unacceptable, and they will consider it to be their duty"— Mark that, "their duty"— to oppose any legislation designed to give effect to them. I can only say that the hon. Gentleman has had a mental aberration since then, as has his hon. Friend, and has forgotten the contents of that most important report. I am sorry that the crack of the party whip has proved stronger than the consciences of those two hon. Members who must have been speaking very largely for their parties, since they were experts in these matters.

I am also sorry that there has been some attempt during the Third Reading Debate to make party capital out of this. It happens that for some 2½ or three years I was the honorary secretary of an all-party coast erosion committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend—he is my friend—the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans). All of us on this Committee did a great deal to urge upon the Government the need to bring forward this Bill in view of the immense damage done to the coastline during the war.

It is pertinent to remind the House—in view of the argument that nothing was done between the wars—that on 31st May, 1911, a Royal Commission on coastal protection reported, with only one dissentient that coastal protection should not be made a national charge and that no case had been made out for it. Then we had a war during which coastal works were undertaken and during which access to the coastline was not barred to anything like the same extent as in the last war. There is no comparison with the inter-war period, during which, incidentally, the parties in power—we were in power quite a few years—did a great deal to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I would emphasise that there was only one dissentient from the decision that there was no case for making coast protection a national charge. Since the war, Members of all parties in our small Committee have held the view that it should be substantially a national charge, and although the Bill does not go the whole way towards meeting the arguments, it goes part of the way. Hon. Members ought to admit that, in trying to make any sort of party capital out of this, they are not being at all fair.

I want also to support my hon. and learned Friend the junior Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) in what he said with reference to his Amendment which has been rejected but is still pertinent to the Bill. I hope that the Minister will most carefully read his speech and ensure that under the Bill as it is at present drafted their livelihood will not be taken away from those who have earned it in the past by obtaining shingle or other material from beaches simply because a coast protection order is made. That matter cannot be dismissed with an airy wave of the hand. We have to consider not only the livelihood of the employers but the livelihood of the men who work for them. In my constituency and the constituencies of other hon. Members with coastal problems there are many people who may be affected if the Bill is not looked at in that light.

I want also to add my protest to the protests already made about the absence of the Minister of Health. It shows a most strong and marked lack of respect for the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that he should not even take the trouble to come here and participate in the Third Reading of the Bill. I protest as strongly as I am able. It is a most disgraceful thing; it is treating us with scant respect, if any respect at all. Nonetheless, I readily admit that I think this is, on the whole, a good Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I cannot see why it should be thought frightfully funny that I think that it is quite a good Bill. Many of my hon. Friends think that it has good aspects, although we have carried out the duty of the Opposition by criticising it and improving it. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite who did not like it did not also do their duty and criticise it.

I am particularly surprised at the financial measures in the Bill in view of the fact that in Seaford, in my constituency, and at Caister, two parts of our coastline where the problem is at its greatest, the Government have already, before the Bill has become law, made exceptions and allowed 80 per cent. grants—

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

I do not understand why the hon. and gallant Gentleman should say "exceptions."

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

I do not understand why the hon. Gentleman should not understand. I was under the impression that an Amendment was moved from this side at an earlier stage asking that at least 80 per cent. should be a national charge. I am simply pointing out that in the two most important cases where big coastal works have been undertaken the Government have shown that they agree with our point of view by making a grant of 80 per cent. at Caister and Seaford, which seems to show that there may have been a great deal in our arguments. I would not always think an argument was a good one because the Government happened to agree with it; in fact, I should very seldom think so. The Bill also has been much improved by both Houses, although there is undoubtedly still much room for improvement.

I will conclude by saying that I entirely agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire who is so rightly proud of being a Scotsman. [An HON. MEMBER: "A Welshman.] This Bill seems to me, as it seems to him, to be illogical at this moment when we are being led into such an appallingly grave crisis by the gross incompetence of the Government.

7.10 p.m.

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

First I would pay a tribute to all those who have directed the attention of the Government to this problem in earlier years, and particularly to the efforts of Members of the unofficial Committee of this House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) and others on both sides who have kept this issue alive and have done much useful work in ensuring that this Bill should come before us. If, however, I may use the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), the "frigid welcome" that he was giving to this Bill seems to be the proper description of the attitude of hon. Members opposite altogether. I can quite understand, from the attitude they have taken on the Third Reading of this Bill, why it was so difficult to get any action of this kind in earlier years when hon. and right hon. Members opposite had direct responsibility for the Government of the country. If, indeed, we are to take up the attitude which seemed to be taken by the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe), of insisting that the private interests of one or two should stand in the way of essential public work which can bring relief to many, no wonder that little was done in the intervening years.

Photo of Mr Anthony Marlowe Mr Anthony Marlowe , Brighton

Since the hon. Gentleman was referring to me, I hope he will let me interrupt. I think he knows that I have never said any such thing, or else he has failed completely to understand, in which case he must be deficient in intelligence.

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

That is the kind of personal insult that one might expect to receive from the hon. and learned Gentleman who has done little to assist in the progress of this Bill and has, indeed, shown his anxiety merely to put forward one or two purely private interests and to prevent, if he can, this Measure going through. I am surprised that he does not vote against this Measure in the Lobby. It would be a far more honourable thing to do than to make the general criticisms he has made during the passage of this Bill. I certainly absolve other hon. Members opposite from much of that criticism because many of the suggestions they have put forward during the Committee and Report stages have been valuable. As I think they will willingly agree, we have inserted in the Bill a number of the proposals which they put forward and in that way have ensured that the position of the various undertakers who will be concerned in this matter is properly and fairly safeguarded.

After all, the main feature of this Bill is to ensure that there shall be some effective co-ordination of the work upon the coastline of this country. One of the great difficulties of the past has been that work might be done on one section which would have a serious effect on other parts of the coastline. It was not necessarily the case that nothing was done, but that a great deal of what was done had a serious effect on other parts. Therefore, one of the most important features of this Measure is not only that it enables new work to be carried out, but also that it gives some guarantee that that work will be carried out with the co-operation of the various authorities and will not be to the detriment of any other parts of the coastline.

It is perfectly true that the shortage of materials is one of the prime factors limiting the amount of coast protection work that it will be possible to carry out. Above all, this work is costly in terms of steel. Obviously, therefore, we are bound to be limited by the amount of material that we shall be able to provide for work on our coastline. All the more important is it that the work to go forward shall be carried out to the best advantage, and that we get the working together of all authorities concerned. I am convinced that it is quite possible under this Bill for all the authorities who have the right and power to carry out coast protection work to do so in co-operation with one another. We shall certainly do all we can to ensure it, since that is the principle underlying this Measure.

The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) and others referred to finances, and on Second Reading hon. Members opposite raised the question of whether or not this work should be made a wholly national charge. In Committee that was brought down to 80 per cent. and later to 75 per cent. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) asked whether, if it is true that the Ministry have authorised a grant of 80 per cent. in two specific instances, that does not prove that it was right to insist that 80 per cent. should be paid in all cases? Of course it does not. Those are two serious cases which have been judged on their merits and where it was quite clear that, without the guarantee of that grant, the work would not have been carried out.

These are the criteria we must use in considering the different schemes put up. We must consider whether the authority concerned can reasonably be expected to recoup a large part of the expenditure from various revenue earnings which it can obtain from the works themselves or from what it carries out on top of the coast protection works; or whether the charge will fall heavily and there will be little revenue arising from them or none at all. The position varies enormously in every part of the country, so we must examine the position in each case before we decide what grant shall be made. What we have done in those two instances of Seaford and Caister shows that it is the intention of the Government to ensure that where a large grant is necessary to see that the work is done, it shall be made available. Indeed there is no reason why 80 per cent should be regarded necessarily as a maximum; equally there is no reason why in some areas a grant should be made at all.

I was rather surprised, too, that the hon. Member for Flint raised the question of liability to payments under works schemes. He put the case of the small occupier who might find it difficult to make payments. The point of the works scheme is to ensure that where advantages have accrued to individuals or owners they should be invited—if you like, required—to make a reasonable contribution towards it. However, we have inserted a series of provisions to ensure that they shall have the right of appeal should the charge levied upon them be an unreasonable one. The charge which would be levied would in any case be a small one, and I cannot imagine any likelihood whatever of a very small owner who is charged suffering any hardship under the Bill. We want, however, to ensure that the larger owner, who is securing substantial advantages from the work to be carried out, should be expected to make a reasonable contribution. On the question of excavations on the seashore, I should make the point that the approval of the Minister is required to any order made to stop excavations.

Altogether, we can be satisfied that the Bill marks a very real advance. It means that we can today make grants out of the national Exchequer towards coast protection work, which were not possible in the past. It means, above all, that we can hope to secure a real, effective co-ordination of all our different efforts throughout the country towards this very great and important aim. During the Report stage, I mentioned the example of the work now going on at Caister, with the very real co-operation of all those concerned, and where, in spite of very great difficulties and doubt whether we should ever succeed in protecting many homes and also a great deal of land lying to the rear, we can now be satisfied that the work is being successful and that the grant that we made available has had the result that we intended it to have. Therefore, we can part with the Bill confident that, although the work we do under it will inevitably be limited by the amount of materials we can provide for it, we can make great advances in this work and bring great benefit to a great many people.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.