§ 2.47 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when the Anti-Aircraft Fort at the entrance to the Thames is to be vacated by radio operators and what action is contemplated against the trespassers.]
THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE FOR THE ROYAL NAVY (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, this matter is still under consideration, and I regret that, in the circumstances, I am unable to forecast when the Fort at the entrance to the Thames will be vacated.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that this is a flagrant breach of the law of trespass? Why do Her Majesty's Government allow the law of the land to be flouted, particularly on War Office property? What privileges has "Lord" Sutch over any other member of the community?
My Lords, I do not think "Lord" Sutch has any privileges over any other member of the community—at least, I hope not. But the difficulty lies elsewhere. The Fort (which, as noble Lords know, rejoices in the name of Shivering Sands) lies a matter of half a mile or so outside territorial waters. This naturally inhibits legal action, either under the Wireless Telegraphy Act or for trespass. However, I should like to remind noble Lords that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to adopt bay closing lines in accordance with the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea, and when this has been done the effect will be to bring Shivering Sands Fort within the territorial waters of the United Kingdom. We shall then be faced with a position rather different from that with which we are faced now.
§ LORD HOBSON
In view of the fact that the distance is only half a mile outside territorial waters, will the noble Earl 1015 arrange for the Admiralty (as it was) to check the distance from the coast, in order that action may be taken?
§ LORD FRASER OF LONSDALE
But, my Lords, if this vessel were 12½ miles from land it would make no difference to its transmission of radio programmes, would it?
I am not quite clear whether I have my noble friend's point aright here. This is not a vessel; this is a fort, and I assume, therefore, immovable.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, are there any other forts outside territorial waters in which any of us can do anything we like?