§ 22. Mr. Dormand
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now make a statement on the 1217 action to be taken by his Department on the despoliation of beaches in the Easington constituency.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Everything possible is being done to reach an early conclusion but I am not yet in a position to make a statement on the action to be taken.
§ Mr. Dormand
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is 20 months since he met a deputation from Easington Rural District Council and Durham County Council on the matter. Those councils are still awaiting a decision. Is he aware that there has been a serious deterioration of the position at the beaches within the past four months? Will he immediately make a joint offer with the National Coal Board for a 100 per cent. grant for the construction of the breakwater which has been recommended as a solution, and at the same time begin talks with the board for a long-term solution to the problem of tipping? Is it not a fact that if the beach had been in Tory Bournemouth or Torquay action would have been taken within a week?
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Gentleman knows my personal efforts in the matter and how keen I am on achieving good results. The local authority feels that it needs a decision on the discontinuance of tipping before it can take any action over the breakwater at Crimdon. Conversations with the National Coal Board have been going on for a considerable time. I do not think I am unfair to the board in saying that the ball is in its court now.
§ Mr. Urwin
Surely the Minister appreciates that the question, far from being with the Government for 20 months as my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) says, has been with them since June 1970. It was a live issue when the Labour Government left office, and the right hon. Gentleman picked up reports within two or three months of taking office. The patience of the local authorities as well as the patience of my hon. Friend and myself, who are directly affected in our respective constituencies, has long since been exhausted. It is high time the Minister made concrete proposals to stop the tipping on the beaches and arrived at firm conclusions with the board and the Seaham 1218 Harbour Dock Company to deposit the material out at sea rather than spoil the beaches as they are doing.
§ Mr. Page
I know that it was a problem for the previous Government as well as for the present Government. We have all tried to solve it. It is a question of the practical methods to be used in clearing the beaches. There is no dispute about the desire to do so. Once the tipping on land can stop, there is an 85 per cent. grant available for the tips to be cleared. It is a matter of working out the practical means, which defeated the previous Government as well as the present Government.