HC Deb 30 April 1980 vol 983 cc1356-7
5. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will reconsider his decision not to make further financial assistance available to help in the cleaning of the Durham beaches.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Marcus Fox)

Neither this nor any previous Administration have made any financial assistance available for this purpose, nor can the Government contribute any funds towards it at the present time.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that he has been badly briefed, because he has given incorrect information? Is he further aware that the pilot project is only half completed and that it would be silly and a waste of public money to leave it as it is? Does he appreciate that all the local authorities there and the National Coal Board have made substantial contributions to it in both time and money? As this is one of the scars that has been imposed on the northern landscape by its contribution to the industrial well-being of this country in the past, is there not the strongest case for having the, whole of this project funded by the Exchequer? Finally, in view of the Minister's very disappointing reply, will he agree to accept a deputation from the local authorities, the National Coal Board and myself to discuss the matter?

Mr. Fox

I shall see any deputation that wants to come to see me. This pilot scheme was funded by the National Coal Board on the basis that it would help the working study to come to conclusions. There was never any obligation on the Government to find £23 million to solve this problem.

Dr. David Clark

Is the Minister aware that some of these Durham beaches fall within the EEC designation of former shipbuilding areas? Will he assure the House that his right hon. Friend has not blocked such an EEC scheme at the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Fox

Of course I can give that assurance. I am aware of the importance of these beaches. But this matter has been going on for 80 years. The National Coal Board inherited these rights. I am afraid that there is nothing more that I can say.