HC Deb 04 May 1973 vol 855 cc1682-707


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Sproat

This clause contains supplementary provisions including definitions of expressions used in Clauses 1 and 2—provisions relating to the making of orders and penalty provisions. It also provides that certain actions, such as action taken in emergency, are not to constitute offences under Clauses 1 and 2. This can be dealt with speedily, and I turn to slightly more detailed consideration of what the clause implies.

Subsection (1) defines 'United Kingdom waters" to mean: any part of the sea within the seaward limits of United Kingdom territorial waters and to include the tidal waters of a river. It also provides that the expression "the sea" is to include any estuary or arm of the sea; and references to the sea bed include any area submerged at high water". Subsection (2) deals with orders made by the Secretary of State under Clauses 1 and 2. Such orders are to be statutory instruments and subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament. They may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order made under the appropriate clause. The Secretary of State is required to revoke an order in two specified cases: first where, having made an order under Clause 1 designating a restricted area—that is, in the case of historically, archaeologically or artistically valuable wrecks—he later forms the opinion that there is not any wreck in the area requiring protection under the Bill, or that there is no longer any such wreck in the area.

An example of the first kind of case would be where the initial order is made on evidence, which is positive certainly but perhaps falls short of conclusive proof, that the site is likely to be that of a wrecked vessel of historical importance, so that further investigation and possibly excavation are required before a final conclusion can be drawn. If it then turns out in such a case that the final conclusion is negative, I think the Committee would agree that it is right that the protection conferred whilst exploratory work proceeded should be ended. An example of the second kind of case would be where recovery operations at a wreck have been completed. In addition, having made an order under Clause 2 designating a prohibited area— that is, in the case of a dangerous wreck —the Secretary of State might later become satisfied that the vessel no longer constitutes a potential danger to life or property.

Subsection (3) provides that things done by a person in three sets of circumstances are not to be regarded as constituting offences under the Bill. Those three sets of circumstances are as follows: first, in the course of any action taken by the person in question for the sole purpose of dealing with an emergency of any description. What would amount to an emergency in any given case would depend on the facts, but an obvious example would be the capsizing of a boat; the steps necessary to rescue persons thrown into the water might well constitute obstruction under Clause 1(6) or necessitate entry into a danger area under Clause 2, but would not constitute an offence. The second circumstance is in exercising or seeing to the exercise of functions conferred by or under a statute, local or otherwise, on the person in question or on a body such as, for example, Trinity House or a harbour conservancy board for which he acts.

It is intended that there should be full consultation and co-operation between those licensed by the Secretary of State to conduct operations in a site and bodies having statutory responsibilities for investigation in any area, such as a harbour or conservancy area, in which it may be situated, so that their respcetive functions may be duly discharged.

The need for paragraph (c)— out of necessity due to stress of weather or navigational hazards"— is self-evident.

Subsection (4) provides that an offence under Clause 1 or Clause 2 shall be punishable on summary conviction by a fine of not more than £400, or on conviction on indictment by a fine unlimited in amount. It provides also that proceedings for such offences may be taken in any place in the United Kingdom where the supposed offender may for the time being be, and that the offence may for all incidental purposes be treated as having been committed in that place.

I hope that this clause, too, will commend itself to the Committee.

Mr. MacArthur

I should be glad to have answers to two questions. First, I believe that there is at least one privately-owned wreck in the British Isles, the wreck of the Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay in the Isle of Mull. My impression—it is no more than that—is that this wreck belongs to the Duke of Argyll and his heirs. Certainly the Duke of Argyll claims that that is so, and, searching back in my memory, I believe that the claim is made on the ground that the wreck was gifted to the Campbells by Queen Elizabeth I.

Mr. Sproat


Mr. MacArthur

My hon. Friend confirms that my recollection is correct.

The House will recall that there were many reports in the Press some years ago of a succession of attempts in modern times to salvage the contents of that wrecked Spanish galleon in Tobermory Bay. There were attempts to salvage its contents also in the last century and, I believe, long before that, going right back to the seventeenth century.

There is an agreeable belief in Argyll and generally in Scotland that a treasure of vast value still lies in the wreck. I think it probable that every Spanish galleon which ran aground on the shores of Scotland and Ireland was locally regarded as the treasure ship. Nevertheless, there remains the belief that the true treasure ship is the one lying in Tobermory Bay. Quite a lot has been found. I recall seeing an iron-clad chest, some cannon and various other objects, but, so far as I know, no great treasure has been found at least in modern times.

If I am right in my understanding that this wreck is regarded as being privately owned, would the penally provisions in Clause 3 apply to any diving expedition mounted by the present Duke of Argyll or one of his successors to reclaim the treasure which is alleged to be in the ship? If he were to exploit by exploration what is regarded as his private property, could he find himself suddenly liable to a fine not exceeding £400 as a result of taking what he regards as legally his, whether intending to use the product of the search for his own benefit or for the general good by exhibition in museums or the like?

1.15 p.m.

It seems to me that Clause 1 is widely drawn so that anyone who tampers with a wreck which is regarded as of historic value, and is so designated by the Secretary of State, will be liable to the penalties under Clause 3. I should like clarification of that, and I apologise for not having given the Minister notice of the question. I admit frankly that it came to my mind only as I listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) explaining the penalty of £400 which a person guilty of an offence might suffer.

I come now to my second question. Over the years, there have been reports of substantial treasure being found in wrecks around our coast. I recall that fairly recently a large hoard of coins was found off the south coast of England, and these coins were auctioned publicly only a few months ago. I accept entirely that it was all done most honourably, but my recollection is that the sale fetched a great sum of money. I have no doubt that similar treasures remain to be found on the sea bed around our coasts.

Presumably, designation of a wreck by the Secretary of State would attract some publicity. If someone finds it possible, with the new techniques of diving, to gain access to a wreck containing treasure, will he be liable only to a fine not exceeding £400 if he removes therefrom coin to a vast value?

Mr. Sproat

More on indictment.

Mr. MacArthur

My understanding is that it is a fine on summary conviction of no more than £400. What will be the position of someone who breaks the requirement of Clause 1 by tampering with a designated wreck, removing therefrom coinage to a vast value and then selling the coins by auction at Sotheby's, say, making thousands of pounds in the process? This is no farfetched example. It could well happen. Will he be liable only to a fine not exceeding £400? If so, it would seem to me that the fine is totally inadequate and there should be provision for dealing with abuses of that kind.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The fine prescribed on summary conviction is not more than £400, but on conviction on indictment the fine is unlimited.

Mr. MacArthur

I am much obliged. I had misread the subsection, and I apologise. However, I should still welcome an answer to my first question, in view of what I understand to be the existence of at least one privately-owned wreck.

Mr. Ernie Money (Ipswich)

My hon. Friend raises a rather more substantial question than he realises. Courts of superior jurisdiction—the Crown courts now—would very likely be unwilling to enforce a really heavy fine unless there were special reasons for so doing. The technicality of these offences will often lead the court to treat them with a scale of fines consonant with what could be imposed by magistrates. Therefore, there is a matter here which the Minister may wish to consider.

Mr. MacArthur

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will comment on it. I shall be grateful if it is possible to have some information about the position of any privately-owned wrecks which may exist and if he will confirm whether I am right that the Tobermory wreck is one that is owned privately and, therefore, perhaps not one to which the Bill could or should apply.

Mr. Money

I apologise for having missed the first part of the debate through an other inevitable engagement but I would ask my hon. Friend the Minister to consider specifically whether one point is missing here by comparison with the sort of protection provided for works of art which are discovered on land. The parallel situation that exists there—and in our part of the world there have been the Sutton Hoo treasure in East Suffolk and the great series of torques which were found in my constituency—is the right of the Crown to claim treasure trove and thereby to acquire objects of this kind for the British Museum.

The risk that seems to be incumbent in the penalty provisions in the clause is that a £400 fine in the magistrates' court certainly will not alarm anybody who pursues treasure-seeking on a professional basis. In view of the value of the treasures that have been found— whether it is the treasure of Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the Northern Irish or the Scottish treasures—it is unlikely that the maximum fine proposed for the lower courts will deter anyone, especially in view of the amount of money needed to undertake an expedition. If the matter is taken to the Crown court, the prosecuting authority, which will be left with the decision of whether to prosecute there, will have to adopt a bold attitude in view of the constant criticism that is made about the excess of administrative-type offences being taken to the Crown court, offences which do not come within the normal purview of the criminal law.

The fine envisaged on indictment is unlimited but I am sure that it will be conceded that there is a psychological barrier for judges who have to apply fines which might seem too heavy by comparison with the sort of fines that are imposed in ordinary criminal matters. One thinks in particular of the situation which has arisen over the last few years in connection with the planning law. This applies particularly in the case of tree preservation orders which have been flouted throughout the length and breadth of the country, especially by very wealthy companies. The same can be said of the destruction of historic buildings which have been designated to be preserved. It has proved necessary for the House to introduce new legislation on the subject because the original level of fines imposed in magistrates' courts was too low.

I wonder, therefore, whether my hon. Friend the Minister will consider the sum of £400 and say whether he and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) do not feel that I am right in suggesting that such a fine will not strike terror into the hearts of any but the most amateur of skin divers and that anybody who has a real financial interest in seeking treasure would simply regard that type of fine in the magistrates' court as a form of fiscal risk. He would feel reasonably secure in thinking that unless he committed an offence of real gravity, such as lifting the whole of the Tobermory treasure—if he was someone other than the owner—the chances of his being taken to the Crown court or the sheriff court would remain fairly small.

My other point concerns the question of whether my hon. Friend the Minister thinks it necessary to bring this type of legislation into line with the type of legislation that exists to preserve national treasures if they are discovered on land and whether it is desirable that there should be an automatic provision giving one of the major national collections the right and the option to buy such treasure at a price reasonably decided upon by some body of suitable eminence and neutrality.

Mr. Onslow

Strictly speaking, it is for my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) to reply to matters raised about the clause. However, perhaps I might intervene now and be of some assistance to the Committee. I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money) would necessarily think was achieved if we legislated too much in parallel with statutes relating to the protection of historical treasures on land, because from much of what he was saying I inferred that he did not regard these as being particularly adequate statutes.

Mr. Money

I was making a distinction between the penalties, for example, for failing to comply with tree preservation orders and orders covering historic buildings which we have now had to increase, and the other separate, adequate system of treasure trove for the protection of works of art discovered in an archaeological or historical find. The two are quite distinct.

Mr. Onslow

I am not sure that I can cover by comparison with the general law elsewhere the wide-ranging matter which my hon. Friend has raised in his question. Perhaps it would suffice if I were to tell the Committee that I understand that, as matters are, the view of the responsible Department—that is, the Home Office— is that a proper limit on the maximum fine on summary conviction is £400. I suppose that that might carry great weight in the minds of those who decide whether proceedings are to be launched.

It is certainly true that the clause provides no limit to the fine that may be imposed on indictment. It is natural enough to infer that the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) is that, if there were evidence to suggest that a person had made very large gains as a result of action which was outside this legislation, action would be taken against him on indictment because it would be held to be inappropriate that he should be exposed to a relatively insignificant or non-existent penalty. I suppose that in theory it would be possible to extend the penalties. For instance, they might be extended to cover confiscation of equipment used in the carrying out of the unlawful act from whence the gain derived, but there are reasons which the Committee, I think, would find convincing for not taking that course.

If it were left to a magistrates' court, the possible penalties would be unduly onerous. For instance, the vessel involved might not belong to the salvor, who might have hired it from some innocent person who had no idea that it was to be used for unlawful purposes. It would not serve any purpose to render such a vessel liable to confiscation. Also, diving equipment—this comes closer to parallels elsewhere in connection with the law governing firearms and poaching —is not all that expensive and it would not be a particularly severe penalty to confiscate a set of sub-aqua apparatus.

1.30 p.m.

Therefore, it is thought that the appropriate and the greater penalty for offences where conviction is obtained on indictment is the unlimited fine, but I suppose that it is always open for the matter to be pursued elsewhere if there is a feeling that the penalties are inadequate. I can only advise the Committee that the Government take no exception to the terms of the clause as it stands.

As to the ownership of wreck, I shall have to proceed with some care, because I suspect that the law is complex. Legislation to change ownership is in any event unlikely to be a particularly suitable matter for a Private Member's Bill.

Mr. MacArthur

I was not suggesting, and I hope that I did not give the impression that I was, that, if I am right in believing that at least one wreck is privately owned, the House should legislate to remove it from private ownership. It is an attractive and colourful survival of our history that wreck should be privately owned in that way, and I should not want to make any change in that.

Mr. Onslow

I can understand that. I was going on to say that the Bill does not affect ownership as such, but my hon. Friend has put his finger on the point that it may affect some of the owner's rights over his property. Part of the purpose of the Bill is to achieve that very object.

Therefore, I think it right that I should tell the Committee how I see the situation in theory, because nothing I say can confirm or deny rights in a particular object, whether the Tobermory galleon or any other wreck which might come within the compass of this legislation, or which is in, or might come into, identifiable private ownership. I do not think that ownership of wrecks depends on the whims of Queen Elizabeth I. There are other ways in which private owners might acquire title.

I think that the best thing for me to do is to compare the position of an owner under exising law and what it may be when the Bill becomes law.

Long-abandoned wreck as it lies on the sea bed is derelict. It has no owner, and, generally speaking, anyone is entitled to dive, locate it and then effect salvage from it. Rights of ownership are in suspense. But if recoveries are effected those rights revive, because Part IX of the 1894 Act makes it clear that a person claiming ownership of articles recovered and brought ashore in the United Kingdom and held in the official custody of the Receiver of Wreck can assert his claim and will, if it is established, be entitled to have his property restored to him, subject to the payment of salvage and official expenses.

Mr. Maclennan

I know that the Committee is extremely interested in the subject. As the Minister said on Second Reading, however, many of these matters, which are now before the Wreck Law Review Committee, relate to Part IX of the 1894 Act. They are matters of extreme complexity that can be considered at great length when that committee reports. It would greatly assist hon. Members now if the hon. Gentleman spoke not so much to the wider matters, as he appears to be on the point of doing, but confined himself particularly to the clause.

Mr. Onslow

The question whether I am in order—

Mr. Maclennan

It is not a question of order.

Mr. Onslow

—and whether my remarks relate to the clause, which is what would make them in order, is not one for the hon. Gentleman to rule upon. I take some exception to his intervention, because a serious question has been asked. It is not a matter that ultimately depends on what may or may not happen when the 1894 Act comes up for review. It is a question of what happens when the Bill reaches the statute book, if it does. The hon. Gentleman has been carried away, by a motive that escapes me, into failing to listen to the argument, or seeking for some purpose of his own to rush the Committee through a very important point.

Mr. Maclennan

The whole of the Opposition are as anxious as is the hon. Gentleman to see that the Bill reaches the statute book. But if he seeks to open up wide-ranging discussion about the Bill, and not only about the Bill but about the matters which he told us on Second Reading were under discussion by the Wreck Law Review Committee, the Opposition will likewise be bound to consider at considerable length many of the points he is raising. That raises the question whether the House would pass the Bill today. It would be most unfortunate if we did not succeed in that.

Mr. Onslow

It would be particularly unfortunate if we failed in that because of a stupid reaction to a point wrongly taken. I hope that nothing the hon. Gentleman does or says will cause me to level that charge against him. There is a point here which has not been touched on previously. I thought that it might be raised and I therefore came prepared to speak upon it. I have made fairly careful inquiries about it, because it affects the owner of a wreck, with all the rights that go with ownership, and the position in which he will be placed if the House passes the Bill. It is a different position. I should be extremely surprised if it were the general view on either side that Parliament does not wish to know the effects of the legislation that it passes.

Therefore, if I may proceed without further interruption, I shall try to explain precisely what the effect is upon a gentleman in ownership of a wreck—at least, one whom I know to be concerned about the matter and to whom, as well as to hon. Members, an explanation of the Bill is owed. I was explaining that there are rights of ownership which can be revived if certain action takes place, and the Bill or anything lawfully done under its provisions will affect those rights.

It not uncommonly happens that a professional diver or concern, interested in the location and recovery of a known historic or antique vessel, will take steps in advance of recovery to acquire by contract such rights of ownership as may be vested in persons, concerns or even Governments that have succeeded to property of the vessel's original owners at the time of its loss. This has been done in the case of vessels wrecked off our coasts and formerly the property of the Dutch East Indies Company, to which the Netherlands Government succeeded. In such a case the new owner-salvor, having successfully located and recovered property from the wreck, is entitled to retain his finds by virtue of his contract, subject to its terms, and they are not required to be delivered into official custody. The Bill will not affect title to property acquired in that way.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich will accept that in many cases the costs involved in recovery are such that there is a case to be made that the owner is entitled to get the best price he can, and that he is not likely to realise that at an auction. I should hesitate to suggest that an artificial limit should be placed on that price. The question is whether museums that are interested will have adequate funds to compete at an auction and establish the proper price.

Mr. Money rose

Mr. Onslow

I do not wish to give way to my hon. Friend, because I am anxious to make progress.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Has what the Minister is saying anything to do with the clause?

Mr. Onslow

That is a matter for the Chair.

It is obvious that ownership could be materially affected by the operation of Clause 1 and that the penalties in Clause 3 could, therefore, fall upon the owner if he acted unlawfully. That was what my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire asked about, when I think the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) was not present.

The whole purpose of the Bill is to effect suitable restrictions in the handling and exploitation of wrecked vessels of historical, archaeological or artistic importance by persons who are now free to exploit them as they choose. We shall now have a situation in which an owner will not be free—

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Minister should apologise for what he has just said about me.

Mr. Onslow

The hon. Gentleman makes a sedentary intervention which may or may not get on record.

Mr. Maclennan

I hope that the Minister will withdraw his imputation that my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) was making comments or interventions without having heard the debate. My hon. Friend has been here, if not during the whole debate, certainly during the greater part of it.

Mr. Onslow

I withdraw the remark that the hon. Gentleman was not present, but I replace it with the more serious suggestion that the hon. Member for Wythenshawe was not paying attention. Now, all he is doing is wasting time.

I wish to explain that if a site is designated, and if after designation illegal acts take place in relation to the site itself, the wreck or articles in the wreck, an owner who has not satisfied the requirements of the statute will be as liable to penalty as anybody else.

We hope that in these matters we shall be dealing with people who will be reasonable and who will act sensibly and keep within the law. I do not see a serious danger that owners who are conscientious and scrupulous and have at heart the interests of archaeology and nautical history are likely to place themselves in a position in which, if they wish to enjoy the rights they formerly enjoyed, they will have to expose themselves to the penalties of the law.

The legislation will have an effect on rights of ownership in an area where such rights have not been fettered before. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Wythenshawe is so careless of the rights of private ownership as not to wish to have them explained in the House, he has no right to sit there and carry on these interruptions.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without amendment.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. Sproat

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I am glad to have this opportunity to say a word or two on the Third Reading of the Bill. I can assure the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), who is sitting in his place so impatiently, that I do not intend to deprive him of a chance to make the remarks which no doubt we shall hear a little later. It is a great pity that any sort of acrimony should be introduced in a discussion of an important Bill dealing with the protection of wrecks.

I have been grateful for the widespread support given to the Bill on all sides of the House, and also from outside Parliament. Since Second Reading many people have contacted me both in correspondence and in person and have made various suggestions about how the Bill can be improved. No doubt they have made similar suggestions to the Department. I am grateful for the helpful suggestions which have been made, and I assure the House that I have looked at these matters closely. If certain of the suggestions have not been incorporated in the Bill or have not been tabled in the form of amendments, that does not mean that we have totally disregarded their value. We regard those suggestions as valuable, and if amendments require to be made at a later stage, I am sure the Minister will be glad to look at them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) asked me to apologise for his absence since he has had to catch an aeroplane to Scotland. He asked me to correct a minor historical inaccuracy which he does not wish to go uncorrected. He said that it was Elizabeth I who gave the right of ownership to the then Duke of Argyll. My hon. Friend meant to say that it was the English ships under Queen Elizabeth that drove the Spanish armada north towards Scotland, where they foundered. Therefore, it would be the then monarch of the Scottish kingdom who would have given such rights of property as there were to the Duke of Argyll and his successors.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mrs. Monks) brought some of her constituents to see me on this matter, and she wished to know how this legislation compared with similar legislation in other countries. It is interesting to consider what happens in other countries for it helps to put the matter in perspective. There has been some interesting legislation on this subject in Western Australia, where the phrase "historic wreck" is defined as: any ship referred to in the schedule before 1900 …"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not pursue that argument. I would remind him that we are now on the Third Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Sproat

I take the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall not go into detail. I was merely pointing out that various other countries have faced this problem and have found it necessary to introduce legislation, with various interesting differences which bear on what we are doing in the present Bill. However, I will take your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will attempt to inform those who are interested by other means than by remarks on the Floor of the House.

I should like to have some clarification from my hon. Friend the Minister on the question of fishing. I should like to have his view of what will happen if there is any interference with fishing or with the catching of lobsters or other crustaceans. Am I right in thinking that under the dangerous wrecks provisions of the Bill there can be no fishing, whether commercial or recreational, in any designated area? That is the interpretation I should like put on the Bill. When human life is at risk, this must be the paramount consideration, but it is important to clarify the interpretation with regard to historic wrecks. When life is not at stake, there can be disputes about priorities — whether commercial fishing or preservation of the historic or archaeological value of a wreck.

It is my intention that there should be no bar on fishing from the surface unless it were deliberately intended to obstruct a licensed salvor. This has been used as a method of obstruction when recognised salvors were at work. It is not common, but it has been known. Such obstruction would be an offence.

Am I also right in thinking that it is the Minister's reading, as it is mine, that fishing by means of diving and fishing for lobsters or other crustaceans could be banned? It is also necessary to assure the fishermen that we are not out to place any impediment upon the exercise of their commercial activity and that it would be intended that the Secretary of State or his representatives should consult the Fishery Departments in England and Wales and in Scotland before any restricting order was made to ensure that it did not interfere with legitimate fishing, or so that the reasons for it could be explained and communicated to the fishing communities concerned.

We should ensure that fishermen, especially those who live by lobster-catching, know that if they can prove their case the Secretary of State would be able to grant a special licence for lobster-catching within a designated area. The fishing community should be reassured on these points, first on full consultation and, second, that a special licence for legitimate fishing in designated areas will be available.

We should also make it clear, perhaps, that wreck sites which are not designated pose no problem. There seems to be an impression that the Bill will designate all wreck sites. I do not know how many areas the Secretary of State might choose to designate. The Undersecretary mentioned the "Mary Rose"—

Mr. Onslow

I did not mention any site as definitely to be designated, because I was at pains to make it clear that we would depend on the advice of the consultative committee headed by Lord Runciman. So I hope that my hon. Friend will not seek to deduce from my remark any specific or definite intention.

Mr. Sproat

I did not mean to give that impression. I interpreted my hon. Friend's words to mean that the "Mary Rose" might be a candidate for designation. I used that example to show that we shall not cover the seas and oceans around the United Kingdom with designated areas. Many wrecks will be un-designated, and fishermen will not have to worry about these.

I have also had considerable correspondence about how the Bill will affect the enthusiasm and keenness of amateur diving clubs. The Bill's intention is to safeguard historic vessels and to protect people from dangerous vessels, not to dampen the spirit of amateur divers. Although this was said several times on Second Reading, I have still had representations from people who think that the Bill is directed against sub-aqua clubs. This is not the impression of the generality of associations, but it is the impression of certain individuals and small clubs, which are not always in touch with the main bodies.

Let me give one specific example. My hon. Friend the Member for Chorley brought two of her constituents to see me a couple of weeks ago. They were members of the local sub-aqua club, which was just the sort of organisation I am sure we would all wish to support. It largely supported itself, although there was a small grant of about £80. It did a lot of good work with young boys, teaching them the delights of underwater activity, encouraging their spirit of adventure. These people said they were afraid that this measure would damage their interests and operate against the smooth running of their club.

They put it to me that the club might be the first to discover a wreck. When it applied for a licence it could be told "Certainly you discovered the wreck, but you are a small, amateur body. You do not have the sophisticated equipment, the money, the persons with necessary experience. You know nothing about marine archaeology. We will not give you a licence further to exploit the wreck." I want to say as firmly as possible that this is not our intention. It would be perfectly possible for such a group to make arrangements with more sophisticated bodies, to contact marine archaeologists, people with the sophisticated equipment and the necessary experience so that the Secretary of State would then be prepared to grant the licence.

No one should feel that there is any reason why the Secretary of State will not grant a licence provided they are properly competent and the sort of people to whom we feel a licence should be given. The safeguard here is the committee to be headed by Lord Runciman. Those who are there because of their interests in amateur clubs will be able to put their case and ensure that it does not go by default. I hope this will help to assure amateur clubs that it is not our intention to pass these matters into the hands of richer, more sophisticated bodies. It is our firm intention to encourage the spirit of adventure which these clubs so well exemplify.

I turn to another question which has raised considerable doubts both before and after Second Reading; namely, the policing of this measure. How are we to enforce it? Many people agree that it is a splendid measure but wonder how it can be enforced. I am the first to admit that this is a genuine difficulty. At the first level it is a physical difficulty. It would be simple to have ultrasonic equipment placed in areas of designated wrecks and connected with the coastguards or some such body. However, under the requirements of the Bill we are not allowed to spend any money. The Bill makes clear that we do not intend to use the police as a primary agency, although we shall have the services of the Receiver of Wrecks, Customs officers, coastguards and many amateur divers. We shall also rely on a sense of local community to ensure that the measure is enforced.

May I ask a specific question about this? I said that we should find methods of providing proper incentives for salvors of a wreck to adhere to the requirements of the Bill. The Minister said he would look at this because it was the wish of his Department to find such incentives. Has any progress been made here, because it is of the greatest importance in enabling the measure to be implemented as effectively as possible?

I appreciate the support of the House in steering this Bill through, and I hope that the House will now give it a Third Reading.

2.8 p.m.

Mr. Maclennan

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) knows that he has enjoyed the support of my hon. and right hon. Friends during all stages of this Bill because we regard it as a useful, if small, measure of protection for wrecks of archaeological and historical interest.

I welcome the announcement of the appointment of Lord Runciman as the chairman of the consultative committee. A more eminent man and one more suit- able for the job it would be difficult to imagine. He will be welcomed by all interested in this subject.

The Minister probably realises that the Opposition would have preferred a more formally constituted committee with identifiable individuals, although we recognise the desirability of the widest possible consultation before making decisions about the designation of areas of special interest. We would have preferred such a committee not only because we envisage that the committee will be in a position to offer advice to the Minister but because there is some considerable public interest in these matters. It will be of interest to know whether it will be the Minister's intention to inform the public from time to time or to invite the consultative committee to inform the public of the progress of its work in reviewing the position and in reviewing the priorities for protection.

The Bill is welcome. It is, however, dealing with an interim situation prior to the conclusion of the study by the Wreck Law Review Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has taken a particular interest in these matters. He very much regrets that he is unable to be here today to welcome the Bill and to offer his felicitations to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South upon the Bill's passage through the House to this late stage.

It is not my intention at this relatively late stage to delay the House long with a further review. The hon. Gentleman has given a review at some length, and the background to the Bill and the circumstances which gave rise to it are firmly on the record. I congratulate him, on behalf of the Opposition, on his achievement. I congratulate him from the position of one who has sponsored two Private Member's Bills which went successfully through the House. Therefore, I appreciate the value which back-bench Members attach to the opportunity to pilot legislation through the House. The hon. Gentleman will, I have no doubt, understand that his interest and enthusiasm for the Bill is paralleled by the interest of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) in another measure which it had been hoped might have received rather lengthier consideration than now seems likely. That having been said, and in view of the widespread recognition that this is a valuable measure, I conclude by congratulating the hon. Gentleman and thanking him for the trouble which he has taken in bringing the Bill before the House.

2.13 p.m.

Mr. Money

I shall be brief because I know that there are other matters to come before the House. I had hoped to deal with the matter which I am about to raise with my hon. Friend by way of an intervention, but understandably, he was not prepared to break the course of his comments.

I ask my hon. Friend to take another look at the matter which was raised by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) during Second Reading—namely, the importance of keeping together collections of works of art gathered from wrecks of artistic or archaeological interest. The "Girona" treasure, for example, which is now in the Ulster Museum, is of preponderant importance because it is all kept together. The Sutton Hoo treasure—as a land-found treasure, to which I adverted earlier—is in the British Museum. That, too, is of preponderant importance because it is all kept together. If any one part of their objects is sold off the total value of such works of art is diminished. But—and it is a very big but—it was possible for the Ulster Museum to acquire the "Girona" treasure as a whole only because the salvor or salvager was generous enough to accept sale by valuation rather than to put the individual works of art on to the open market and to sell them individually.

That is why I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider this matter, although he said that it was a matter of the museums concerned having an adequate subsidy. As a provincial hon. Member—and I see that there are other provincial Members present—I should deplore everything going to the British Museum. I should like to see works of art spread round the country, but it seems that the money is not available. The Government must be congratulated on having raised to £400,000 the Victoria and Albert's provincial museum fund to meet the purchase of works of art, but it cannot be expected that this would cover whole collections of this sort.

I ask my hon. Friend to consider carefully the question of keeping such works of art together as a whole. The matter, as I said, was raised by the hon. Member for Smethwick during Second Reading, and I hope that my hon. Friend will again consider it before the Bill goes to another place.

2.16 p.m.

Mr. Hamling

Bearing in mind the position of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), I do not propose to detain the House for very long. In fact, a great many of the points which I intended to raise have been made.

I am delighted to hear the Minister say that Lord Runciman, the former chairman of the trustees of the National Maritime Museum, has accepted the invitation to be chairman of the advisory committee. Having worked with him for some years as a co-trustee of that museum, and knowing his interest and enthusiasm, I am delighted to know that he accepted the position. We could not have had a better chairman.

I welcome the Bill. The hon. Gentleman knows, following discussion of the Navy Estimates that the difficulties which the Department has had are known. We know of some of the difficulties that have been experienced in trying to draft a Bill to do the job which was wanted. I can remember that, in some of the discussions in which I took part, people said "Things are much more complex than they may seem to be on the surface." That is true. I do not think that it has been made more evident than in the speech made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money). The hon. Gentleman raised matters which I know are very much in the minds of all the people who are concerned with them. I speak as a trustee of the National Maritime Museum. That is partly my interest, but I am also interested as a social historian.

The Bill does not meet all matters. Of course, it is not intended to do so. It is, as has been said, of a limited nature. There are some oher long-term considerations that must be dealt with. I know that the Under-Secretary of State has a close interest in these matters and that his Department has them very much in mind.

I wish to place on record my appreciation of the way in which the Department has taken a long and keen interest in these matters. I also place on record my appreciation of the help which it has given to those who are concerned with marine archaeology. There are, as I have said, other questions to be answered. I am not sure whether I should be out of order if I specified them. In any case, I do not wish to detain the House.

There are some questions still to be resolved, and I am sure that, with the good will that has been shown, with this measure behind us, we may soon be able to resolve them. I conclude by again saying how much I welcome the Bill and hope that it will soon be on the statute book.

2.20 p.m.

Mr. Onslow

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and to others who have spoken in what I do not think will be a prolonged debate. I am grateful, in particular, to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan).

Perhaps I may start by accepting that I may have been short with the hon. Gentleman a moment ago, and also with his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), but I hope that both hon. Gentlemen will take it from me that to be interrupted and pulled up short and accused of filibustering when in the middle of dealing with one of the most difficult and relevant points raised in the debate is apt to catch anybody, however naturally good-natured, on a sensitive point. I shall not spend any more time on that, but I think I was not unjustified in getting a wee bit niggled. I shall not go on, but I apologise to both hon. Members if I was too terse.

I was delighted to hear it said that the Bill is welcomed generally by the House. There is a ballot to decide the order in which we should deal with the business before us. I recognise that there are other matters to be dealt with, but this is the matter with which we have to deal first, and I think that the House has had a useful and constructive debate.

I believe that it would be a mistake to expect too much of the Bill. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, West said, there are many things which have to be left to be dealt with, some of which are even more complex than the matters before us today. There is a legislative limitation, which we must recognise, but there is also a practical limitation. If we seek to provide legal protection for our marine archaeology, we must realise that there are serious physical limitations, as well as financial ones, to what we may be able to achieve.

Some of the wrecks which have been mentioned are by no means in an untouched state. It is interesting to reflect that when the Duke of Wellington was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports he received a deputation from the fishermen of Hastings complaining that their traditional rights to loot the "Amsterdam" were being interfered with, and I dare say they made a large hole in the Dutch East Indies Company's property.

Hon. Members may have seen a short item in today's Daily Express citing the "Mary Rose" as possibly the most perfectly preserved mediaeval fighting ship, but it shows that enormous costs are involved in doing anything about it. We have been reminded that there are legal difficulties to be settled and overcome before we can hope to do anything about the "Mary". All I can say is that the matter is very much one for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but it is my understanding that negotiations for a form of salvage agreement between the Ministry and archaeological interests, led by the City of Liverpool Museum, are in progress.

It is true, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money) is right when he says, that at the end of the day there are prizes to be won, not just for individuals but for us all, and that the "Girona" is one of the most splendid examples to be seen. I hope this time next week to see this collection in Ulster.

It is fair to recognise that, adventurous though the people are, those who make this their hobby or profession—and considerable though the intellectual and physical skills are which they bring to it—can, if it is a job done responsibly, do a service to us all.

The answer to the specific point about museums raised today by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich and on Second Reading by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) must, in a sense, be disappointing, if only because the question of providing funds for museums is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and other corresponding Departments.

The Bill has a limited effect, and that is to secure the protection of wrecks from interference by unauthorised persons. It may, incidentally, lead to a more orderly exploitation of wrecks, but that is not the prime aim of the Bill. The provision of funds is important to enable people to engage in the orderly exploitation of wrecks, and the acquiring of objects from them is desirable, but that is even more remote from the Bill's object. But I suggest that my hon Friend the Member for Ipswich should pursue this cause with all the vigour that he can command in more appropriate places than the Department of Trade and Industry.

Perhaps I may now respond to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and carry out an undertaking which ought to follow from something that I said on Second Reading. I recognise that it is desirable that we should look at the question of salvage awards. I indicated then that consideration would be given to whether increased salvage awards could be made to salvors licensed under the Bill as an incentive to report the find of an historic wreck. One thing that we do not want is these wrecks to be smuggled away to heaven knows where.

I am glad to be able to say that there is a real chance that we shall be able to be more generous in such cases. I cannot indicate any particular percentages, because they will to some extent depend upon circumstances, but I hope my hon. Friend will take it from me that there is an intention to recognise responsibility in so far as this can be done in a further increase in the salvage award.

My hon. Friend raised specific points about fishing, and it is probably important to spend a few more moments on this. I hope that the House will forgive my doing so.

The situation under the Bill is that in the case of dangerous wreck sites designated as such under the Bill entry is completely prohibited and no fishing of any kind, whether commercial or recreational, may take place within them. I think the House will accept the necessity for that. I think it is right that that should be so.

The situation of designated historic wreck sites is different. There will be no bar on any kind of fishing from the surface, either commercially or for sport. The exception will be purported fishing conducted for the purpose of obstructing the activities of a licensed salvor. Fishing operations of all kinds conducted by diving in designated sites will, however, be affected, because diving on such sites will generally be banned. I understand that only the taking of bottom-dwelling molluscs and crustaceans, such as scallops and lobsters, will be affected. It is not, however, our intention that commercial fishing—if that is the right word, since the marine creatures concerned are not fish— of this kind should be unnecessarily hindered, and we shall seek to avoid this in two ways.

First, my Department will consult the Fisheries Departments before the Secretary of State makes a permanent order and will take account of any advice which they might give. Secondly, where it is felt that an historic wreck site should be designated in an area important for the commercial taking of lobsters, and so on, by diving, we shall be ready to consider applications from the fisherman concerned for a licence as provided for in Clause l(5)(ii) to continue diving.

Needless to say, wreck sites, other than those so designated dangerous, and historic wrecks, can continue to be exploited by fishermen in exactly the same way as at present. They are not affected by the Bill.

I hope that that makes the fishing aspect clear. I have little more to add except to say that I recognise the hope expressed by my hon. Friend that enthusiastic amateurs will not be put out of business. I share my hon. Friend's hope that they will be able, either from their own resources or by combining with others, to satisfy the necessary level of competence for a licence, and I am sure that they will be able to get all the help that my Department can give should the situation arise where difficulty of this kind appears to confront them.

I conclude by adding my tribute to that paid by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, from a non-political and non-party point of view, to the Department, and by that we mean the officials who have done the donkey work and whose work has this afternoon received so much blessing from Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, West, too, has done a bit of donkey work, and I am sure that nobody will deny that. I think he deserves the appropriate congratulations and those which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland expressed to him.

It remains for me, in commending the Bill to the House, to hope very much that it will achieve the purpose which we all hope it will.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third lime and passed.

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