HL Deb 18 February 1987 vol 484 cc1094-6

2.52 p.m.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what help they are giving to local authorities, in the interests of tourism, to deal with decaying seaweed on the beaches of holiday resorts such as Worthing, West Sussex.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, local authorities are responsible for deciding the level of cleaning necessary on their own beaches. Expenditure which an authority incurs on beach cleaning forms part of its total expenditure, towards which the Government give support through block grant.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Perhaps I may ask her whether her department's scientific experience will be available to the local authorities should they need it. Furthermore, is she aware that the problem is not the seaweed itself but the terrible smell which arises from it—particularly in the summer months when the temperature has itself risen—with very deleterious effects on the tourist trade? It is in fact so bad that the smell can be recognised in the dining rooms and the bedrooms of hotels. That has a bad effect on tourism generally.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I am well aware that, as a result of severe storms, fronds from the kelp which grows about a mile off Worthing beach break loose and are washed ashore, and that they cause unsightliness and stench and give rise to fly problems, all of which are clearly unwanted on holiday beaches and cause expense to the local authority. My understanding is that Worthing Borough Council has called in a firm of consultants to advise on the problem, and that the Southern Water Authority has also offered its services and is in touch with the local authority on this issue. Clearly the government department concerned is well aware of the issue, if only in part as a result of the noble Lord's Question.

Lord Parry

My Lords, would the noble Baroness accept that a great deal of work is being done on this problem on all the beaches of Great Britain by the Keep Britain Tidy organisation and its local organisations, and that a great deal of research has gone into the causes of pollution of beaches? Would she say a word of encouragement to those voluntary organisations which are already committed to clearing up the beaches of Great Britain?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, that is absolutely right. The Government are right behind the voluntary effort in this sector and fully recognise the work done by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign because we recognise that the long-term solution to the litter problem must lie primarily in persuading the public not to drop litter.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is something more to the problem than the answer she has just given? A number of seaside resorts are suffering from this problem. There is also the difficulty that the seaweed carries a lot of stones, and this is altering the fishing areas. Would the noble Baroness agree that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food ought perhaps to take an interest in this because not just the seaweed but the alteration of the coastline can have a detrimental effect on fishing as well as on the tourist trade?

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I certainly take note of the noble Baroness's point and will draw it to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is a problem which is widely recognised. It does not apply just to Worthing, and we acknowledge that there are many different forms of seaweed as well.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware of the fertiliser value of decaying seaweed, pong and all, and is anything being done about that?

Baroness Hooper

Yes, indeed, my Lords, and this may be of particular interest to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It may well be that the firm of consultants which has been retained by the local council will advise that this is a use, and that it is worth spending money on taking up the seaweed and using it in this way as a fertiliser.

Forward to