HC Deb 02 August 1859 vol 155 cc881-2

rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the rights as claimed by the Crown and other bodies connected with the Foreshores, Tidal Rivers, Estuaries, and bed of the Sea round the coasts of the United Kingdom, the various proceedings instituted of late years by the officers of the Crown with respect to the same, and to ascertain and report to the House whether any and what legislation might be required for defining the said rights, and for securing and protecting those of the public and individuals. By way of premise he might remind the House that the object and importance of his Motion had been ably expressed two years ago by the Earl of Derby in "another place," when presenting a petition in "another place." His Lordship stated then that it was a subject of very great importance involving questions of a very serious and complicated character, affecting the right of the Crown to the land between high and low watermark throughout the kingdom, the extent of that right, and the manner in which it was enforced. No one disputed that there was a right in the Crown, of a certain kind, to the dominion of the land between high and low water-mark; but the question was, whether that was such a right to the soil as would entitle the Crown to make it a means of profit by way of lease, or whether it was not merely a power with which the Crown was invested as a trustee for the purpose of protecting the public in their use of it. This latter was certainly the whole extent to which the maxim of the civil law went; and something to the same effect appeared to be the law of England as it stood in the time of Henry III. Bracton seemed to have the idea that it would be well for the public if such a power were acknowledged in the King as would enable him to protect the public use of it, but it did not appear that he went further. This view was confirmed by the dicta of Lord Hale, Judge Bayley, and several other learned Judges. In short, the result of the law authorities was, that the Crown was nothing more than a trustee for the public, to secure to them, collectively, and individually, the advantages and privileges that might accrue from the right to the sea-shore. When he looked to the older suits instituted by the Crown in reference to this subject, they appeared to have this object in view. But when he looked to the more recent cases, they appeared to have no other object in view than the increasing the territorial estates of the Crown, and that was in a manner which exposed the public to great inconvenience. This was evident from the suits instituted against the Corporation of London with reference to the foreshores of the Thames, and from other suits instituted against other public bodies in reference to the right to the foreshores of other rivers. Moreover, Lord Morpeth, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, in giving his evidence before a Committee of the House which sat in 1848, said, in answer to a question, that he looked for a considerable increase in the revenue from the exercise of the rights of the Crown over the sea-shore.

Notice taken, that Forty Members were not present; House counted; and Forty Members not being present,

House adjourned at a Quarter-after Eight o'clock.