HC Deb 19 April 2002 vol 383 cc853-6

(1) If, pursuant to this Act an ancient monument is declared which results in any third party suffering financial loss directly as a result of such declaration (including a loss as a result of such third party being unable to exercise fishing rights) then compensation shall be paid to the third party as a result of such declaration. (2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision relating to the compensation to be paid under subsection (1).'.—[Mr. Greg Knight.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.35 pm
Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Earlier this week, when I tabled new clause 1, I think that I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) an attack of hypertension because she was very concerned that my aim might be to talk out the Bill. No such anxiety arose with my dear hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), who is very laid back about such matters. May I tell both of them that I am not here to wreck today's proceedings?

I introduce this primarily probing new clause because the Bill is strangely silent on what happens if someone suffers a financial loss as a direct result of the declaration of an ancient monument. If the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England makes a decision as the result of the Bill and that decision results in others being out of pocket or losing out in some way, surely compensation should be considered. If no compensation scheme covers the scope of the Bill, surely one needs to be introduced. That is the aim of new clause 1.

I am quite happy for the details of such a scheme to be decided by the Government and I do not seek to prescribe in the new clause how it should be set up. I am confident that the Government would ensure that fair provisions were introduced if such a measure were needed, but we need to examine the principle of awarding compensation to those who lose out through no fault of their own, and we need to debate and clarify that issue before proceeding to Third Reading.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

I rise briefly to support my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight). Before being elected to the House, I practised as a chartered surveyor and know that the principle of injurious affection has been long established in British legislation. Under that principle, if someone's property is expropriated or diminished in value in some way for community purposes—for example, if a propriety's value is affected by a new road—that member of the public can be compensated for his or her loss.

It cannot be right that we as a society can take away the value of someone's property for a community purpose without offering fair compensation. I therefore believe that my right hon. Friend has done a great service to the consideration of the Bill by proposing the new clause, without which severe injustice could occur.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) for introducing the new clause, although I invite the House to resist it if he feels that he cannot withdraw the motion. So far as I can understand his objectives, I think that they are two separate things. Before I consider those, I should say that I think that the new clause is technically outside the scope of the Bill, and I shall briefly try to explain why.

I shall put aside the fact that ancient monuments are scheduled, not declared—I do not rest on that argument. In fact, I believe that an ancient monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. There are no provisions in my Bill—if I may so call it, for ease of reference—relating to such scheduling. My Bill only amends the definition of an ancient monument in the 1979 Act to include a vehicle, vessel, aircraft or the remains thereof.

In fact, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) inferred, there are existing procedures for the payment of compensation in connection with scheduled ancient monuments. However, the compensation is not paid when the monument is scheduled as, at that point, it is claimed there is no loss. Compensation can be paid, however, under section 7 of the 1979 Act when scheduled monument consent is refused by the Secretary of State. A process of redress therefore exists.

The reference in my right hon. Friend's new clause to fishing rights is, I presume, in connection with the scheduling of ancient monuments on the sea bed—wrecks or prehistoric built structures—and the danger of nets snagging on and being damaged by those monuments or a fishing boat having to move to new sites. If his argument is that an ancient monument is scheduled, and that that bars a fishing boat from fishing on that area, which would automatically result in compensation, that is a very wide issue. It is not an issue for me; perhaps it is one for the Government. I think that a lot of fishing boats would suddenly turn up to claim compensation. I would also say, however, that fishing boats with fishing rights have those rights in different parts of our seas and not necessarily on just one narrow, restricted part.

There is already considerable consultation before wrecks are designated. If someone drags a trawl net across the sea bed within the restricted area surrounding a designated wreck site—incidentally, such sites are marked on navigation charts—they can be fined for doing so, as it is illegal. I do not want to provoke my right hon. Friend unnecessarily, but a stronger case might be made not for compensation being made to such vessels but for fines being imposed on them if they act without the law.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells)


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. It may be for the convenience of the House if the Minister winds up the debate. I call the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh).

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I simply want to put the mind of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) at rest that I am very relaxed about his new clause. I congratulate him on his drafting ability in that respect, but, for the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) so eloquently explained, although I welcome this opportunity to discuss the issues raised, I have great difficulty in envisaging circumstances in which these conditions would arise. I am firmly of the view that the new clause falls without the scope of the Bill, and, regrettably, we shall not therefore support it.

Dr. Howells

I also congratulate the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) on his ingenuity. After all, if we consider the wording of the new clause, ancient monuments are scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, and there are no provisions in the Bill relating to such scheduling.

I spoke to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire some time ago, and this is a fascinating subject. I understand that considerable consultation with all relevant parties, including the fishermen, is undertaken before a wreck is designated, to ensure, among other things, that their livelihoods are not put at risk. I also understand that there are more than 40 designated wrecks in British waters. I have sought advice on this matter, and have been informed that there has not been a case of any great controversy involving the effects on fishing of the designation of any of these wrecks. These debates are fascinating, because I have just discovered the name of the relevant body that conducts the consultation. The Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites is made up of experts who advise English Heritage and the Government.

12.45 pm

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has raised the issue, but the Government will resist the new clause. We believe that adequate safeguards are in place and we support the explanation that was given by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman).

Mr. Greg Knight

I welcome the Minister's remarks. I am reassured to hear that consultation takes place with all those who may be affected, including representatives of fishermen. The fishing industry has suffered a lot over the past decade and it could do well without a further attack on it. I am pleased to hear that the industry is properly consulted, so I am reassured by the Minister's remarks.

I was rather concerned by the attack of my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on the fishing community. He suggested that some fishermen might fish above a wreck if they thought that they would receive compensation. He made that point in a jovial manner, so I take it that he was not seeking to impugn the honour of the fishermen of Bridlington.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I certainly did not mean to suggest what my right hon Friend has imputed. If I made a slight mistake in my choice of words, he must make allowances for the fact that I come from landlocked Chipping Barnet. We very much appreciate the probity of the fishermen who supply us with a basic need.

Mr. Knight

In the light of the tone of my hon. Friend's intervention, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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