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 Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller Mr Reginald Manningham-Buller , Northamptonshire South 12:00 am, 22nd July 1953

At such short notice I am afraid I cannot answer that. I am certain that my right hon. Friend, carefully considered it before introducing the Bill.

The hon. Member for Farnham raised the question of damage to earthworks. He stressed that they might disappear if constantly ploughed. So might they be worn away if hundreds of people went to see them and walked over them in wet weather. No doubt many earthworks were damaged by the flooding which was suffered in January. The only answer I can give my hon. Friend is that if, on the evidence before it, the court came to the conclusion that there had been a deliberate act by the accused causing an ancient monument to be defaced or injured, the court would be entitled to convict. It really is better to leave the words "injured or defaced" clear, and not to seek to restrict them by extensive definition but to leave it to the courts to decide whether, in the particular circumstances of the case and on the evidence before the court, it is proved that an offence has been committed.

For these reasons I hope that my hon. Friend, whose concern for the preservation of ancient monuments is well-known, will recognise that it would be wrong to make it a criminal offence merely to stand by and do nothing in relation to an ancient monument when the standing by and inaction would lead to its getting into a worse state of disrepair, when it might be that the moral obligation of trying to keep an ancient monument in existence will be more easily recognised in view of what has been said in the course of this debate.