New Clause. — (Injury to Ancient Monuments by Their Owners.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd July 1953.

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Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham 12:00 am, 22nd July 1953

I think the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) is referring to a different Part of the Bill. The part he is referring to is about historical buildings. The Part my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) was talking about is concerned with ancient monuments. I want to follow the point taken by my hon. Friend. He has taken a leading part in the discussions on this Bill, and we all have great esteem for him although he belongs to a branch of my family which has not an "h" to its name.

I am anxious to be reassured by the Solicitor-General that this new Clause covers effectively damage to earthworks. People speak of ancient monuments as though they are historic buildings, but the large majority of ancient monuments are earthworks—barrows, prehistoric camps, dykes, ditches. They are susceptible of a peculiar type of damage which it is difficult to define. For instance, if a prehistoric camp or barrow is constantly ploughed over it is very difficult to say at what moment it is being defaced, injured or damaged. The result is that after some years of such treatment that earthwork completely vanishes and, for all effective purposes, is destroyed.

10.30 p.m.

I was very anxious that the Government should accept an Amendment to Clause 12, which is now Clause 13—that the word "damaged," or "defaced," or "injured," or some similar word, should be incorporated—but that was resisted. I am still not satisfied that the new Clause covers those cases of damage, and I should like to ask the Solicitor-General this specific question. If a man with an earthwork, barrow or camp on his land persistently ploughs over it, or once or twice, is he liable under the new Clause? If he makes a track or road for his tractor that goes over such an earthwork and gradually wears down the earthwork a foot or two each year, is he liable under the new Clause? If he makes a track for his cattle that wears a gap through such an earthwork, is he answerable under the new Clause?

I feel that in the new Clause the Government are taking powers, but they are not quite sure how they will be interpreted by the courts. I hope the House will not leave the new Clause without a definite assurance from my hon. and learned Friend that the sorts of categories of injury that I have specified will be dealt with adequately.