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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 purposesfor example, if a propriety's value is affected by a new roadthat member of the public can be compensated for his or her loss.
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 declaredI 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 Billif I may so call it, for ease of referencerelating 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 bedwrecks or prehistoric built structuresand 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 siteincidentally, such sites are marked on navigation chartsthey 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.
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.
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. Dismore: I reassure my hon. Friend the Minister that it is not my intention to talk out the Bill, and I have had to pass on that message a few times. I also give that reassurance to my neighbour, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman). He is an old hand at these matters and understands how the House works on a Friday. Indeed, he is such an old hand that I cannot resist the ungentlemanly comment of saying that he lays claim to being a scheduled monument in his own right.
This group of amendments would apply the Bill to the continental shelf, and several issues need to be raised in this context. For example, oil rigs and gas platforms may not be the most beautiful objects in the seas around our coast, but they are vital to the national economy. When we extended our territorial waters over the continental shelf, we did so for economic reasons and to allow us to exploit the natural mineral resources that lie off our coastfor example, in the North sea.
People may wonder why I want to preserve oil rigs and gas platforms. They may think that they are not worthy of preservation. However, future generations may see the rigs and platforms as part of our national heritage and culture because of their importance to our economy over the past decade. Those generations might want them to be preserved. However, as the Bill is framed, they would have no protection at all.
The brief provided by the House of Commons Library offers another reason for extending the provisions of the Bill to cover the continental shelf. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the number of designated sites that already exist. In fact, according to the most up-to-date figures, there were 49 at the end of 2000. All of them were within the 12-mile limit, and most were within the three-mile limit. I asked the Library to provide me with an estimate of how many wrecks there might be beyond those limits, and it said:
I cannot understand why there should be a legal objection to my proposal. We recently debated the protection of marine wildlife and are thinking of extending conservation areas beyond territorial waters into the continental shelf area. Lord Whitty said in another place on 4 February this year that the Government are thinking of extending the implementation of the European Community birds and habitats directives beyond the 12 nautical mile limit of the territorial waters to areas over which we claim sovereignty. If we can do that for areas of natural importance, we should also do it for areas of historic importance to ensure that wrecked ships are protected.