HC Deb 30 March 1943 vol 388 cc35-8
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

With your permission, Sir, I wish to make the following statement:

The Government have had under consideration the restrictions on access to coastal areas necessary in the present phase of the war. Apart from the special restrictions applicable to aliens in aliens protected areas and the restrictions on access to beaches and camping near the coast, there has been from time to time, as part of the measures against the possibility of invasion, a ban on the entry of pleasure visitors to a coastal strip from the Wash to Littlehampton and to the Isle of Wight. Except in Kent and a small part of Sussex this ban has been suspended during this winter until 1st April.

The time has now come when the question of access to coastal areas must be considered, not solely in relation to the risk of invasion, but also from the point of view of the use of this country as a base for offensive operations against the enemy. This new situation calls for measures of a different character, and the following arrangements will apply after 1st April. The ban on the entry of pleasure visitors will not be in force except from the Thames to Hastings and in the Isle of Wight. On the other hand a different system of restriction will come into force over a more extensive area of the coast. The area affected will be the whole of the East and South coasts from the Humber to Penzance to an approximate depth of 10 miles inland, and in Kent and Sussex will also include the area at present subject to the visitors' ban.

Mr. MacLaren

Is not this giving information to the enemy?

Mr. Morrison

If I make the statement, the security aspects will have been considered.

This coastal belt will be declared a regulated area under Defence Regulation 13A, and within it access to particular places may from time to time be either restricted or completely barred without prior notice by the military authorities for military purposes. The coastal strip from Milford Haven along South Wales and round the Severn Estuary to Portishead, and in Scotland areas round the estuaries of the Forth, Tay and Clyde will also be declared regulated areas under the Regulation, and places within these areas will be subject, as occasion may arise, to similar restrictions.

As from 1st April, therefore, no guarantee can be given that anyone entering these regulated areas may not at any time and at any place encounter restrictions imposed by the military, after consultation with the Regional Commissioner, for military purposes. It will not be possible to make any general public announcement as to the nature, place or time of these restrictions. Any persons intending to visit a place in a regulated area should ascertain beforehand from the person whom he intends to visit, or the hotel, etc., where he intends to stay, whether any special restrictions are in force at the time in that locality. Advice on the position can only be given locally and will not be available from railway companies, travel agencies, etc.

The Government appreciate that this system of restrictions may bear hardly upon persons who have legitimate reasons for visiting places in these regulated areas, because of the uncertainty whether they will be allowed to reach their destination, but they are confident that the public will willingly accept any inconvenience involved, having regard to the purpose for which these restrictions are necessary. No greater restrictions than are required for military reasons will be imposed. No additional transport facilities will be available this summer to any place within the regulated areas and the injunction against unnecessary travel applies with particular force as regards travel to places in these areas. The directions of the Regional Commissioners concerned restricting the taking-up of residence in the coastal belt of the Eastern and South Eastern Regions, and in the Isle of Wight, remain in force.

Mr. Bossom

Is there any reason for the retention of the bar on South East Kent and the Isle of Wight?

Mr. Morrison

Yes, Sir. In the case of South East Kent the restriction on visitors has been on throughout the summer and winter, and it is thought best to retain it. In the case of the Isle of Wight, the reason is local transport considerations.

Earl Winterton

Do we understand that, so far as it is in the public interest to do so, local authorities will be informed in advance of the actual restricted places so that they may communicate to members of the public who come to ask for information?

Mr. Morrison

It is not proposed that local authorities should communicate with members of the public. Members of the public should ascertain in the way I have suggested, and anyone answering inquiries of the public must be very careful not to convey to them any detailed information of military use to the enemy. I will consider the point the Noble Lord raises, but I should not like to give a clear answer at the moment.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of conferences have been arranged in some of the places covered by his statement, and, in view of the uncertainty, would he be willing to get into touch with the people who are organising these conferences to see whether some satisfactory arrangement can be made?

Mr. H. Morrison

I am not sure whether I can safely do that on security grounds, but I recognise that there is a problem there, and I will consult with the Secretary of State for War to see how far he can be helpful in the matter.

Brigadier-General Clifton Brown

Could people to whom military identity cards have been issued visit these areas?

Mr. Morrison

Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put that Question down. I do not know the answer.