HC Deb 30 May 1960 vol 624 cc977-8
15. Mr. Braine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations have been made to him by local authorities in coastal areas with regard to the sharing of financial responsibility for the cost of sea-defence work carried out by river boards; and what reply he has made.

Mr. John Hare

Fifty-four local authorities have recently written to me asking for the full cost of sea defence works to be borne by the Exchequer. My reply has been that the Exchequer already make very substantial contributions towards the cost of new or improved sea defence works carried out by river boards, but the Government take the view that there should also be some local contribution.

Mr. Braine

Whilst it is true that generally assistance is given for new works, no assistance whatsoever is given in respect of maintenance. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a result of the new works carried out since 1953, when the Waverley Committee reported, the cost of maintenance for some authorities has more than doubled? Will he at least undertake to have a look at the whole problem with a view to seeing that the burden upon coastal authorities is fair and not greater than it was in the days before the Waverley Committee reported?

Mr. Hare

As I think my hon. Friend knows, I have no authority to pay maintenance grants, which are regarded by the Government as the responsibility of those who enjoy the benefit of the protection. The cost of this burden is normally spread over the whole of the river board area.

Mr. Peyton

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that not all of us would support the proposal which has just been made? There is no reason why some local authorities in coastal areas should not do a good deal towards their own defence.

Mr. Hare

I have my hon. Friend's point very much in mind.