HL Deb 17 May 1973 vol 342 cc914-35

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I do not think your Lordships will wax into a ferment over this measure, especially judging by the length of the speakers' list. The Bill is a modest affair, Government drafted and of no earth-shaking significance, which has already passed without opposition or amendment through another place. So far as wrecks are concerned it falls into two parts, which I will deal with one at a time.

The first part deals with old wrecks. I have no interest to declare. Even if I should personally end up at the bottom of the sea I doubt if any Secretary of State would declare my last resting place a restricted area, as the Bill allows. The intention is to protect from unauthorised interference ancient shipwrecks of a particular class, namely, those that are declared to be, in the words of the first paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum, of "historic, archæological or artistic importance". The general law on such matters is contained in Part IX of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, which so far as salvage is concerned is briefly this. Anyone is entitled to bring up anything from a wreck but not entitled thereafter to keep it or to dispose of it as he thinks fit. He must hand it over to the receiver of wrecks of the district, unless he should happen also to be the owner. If he is the owner he may keep it, but he must still report it to the receiver. The property so recovered and handed over is kept for a year, and if at the end of that time nobody has come forward and established a claim to ownership then it is sold and from the proceeds a salvage award is paid to the finder. That procedure is not in any way changed or affected by this Bill.

What is affected is the right of diving and salvage, and the necessity for something that probably was not even thought of 90 years ago is simply a result of progress. What I suppose would be most likely to be thought of as progress in this particular case, for example, is the mask on the face, the cylinder on the back, the flipper on the foot—in short, the frogman or skin diver and his aqualung. These have brought into being both a profession and a sport that have spread widely and deeply all over the world since the end of the Second World War. In this small, particular paragraph of our island story the modern diver is at once the hero and the potential villain, the hero because he is the chap who finds hitherto undiscoverable treasure, and the potential villain because, even though he operates with the purest of intentions and within the law, he may none the less deliberately or unwittingly cause great damage or loss.

Naturally, explorers and salvors of historic wrecks vary greatly in their archaeological knowledge, interest and skill. At one extreme are the careful well-equipped experts, and at the other reckless treasure seekers, and through the activities of the latter sort valuable information on ship design and the like of the period may be lost for ever. Knowledge of the construction of ancient ships is still scanty, and the remains of a vessel lying on the seabed may tell us much. In one way a shipwrecked vessel is rather like a clock that has stopped, particularly a clock that had a calendar embodied in its movement. It records the moment at which it stopped—at least until tampered with it does. The contents of such a ship, if undisturbed, may provide a complete collection of artefacts of a date not later than the date of the shipwreck, and such collections are rarely come upon on land.

The careless and unskilled methods of those seeking solely for souvenirs, or for something they can sell, and their ignorance of conservation and recording techniques, can destroy the archæological value of such a wreck. In the Mediterranean, many such wrecks were destroyed before the countries concerned introduced protective legislation. Many countries have now done that, and some have even declared ancient wrecks to be State property. Such procedures will surely be seen as wise by anyone who does not subscribe to the late Henry Ford's theory that "History is bunk". An ancient wreck, then, may be both an object for salvage and a site for archeological exploration, with all the requirements for painstaking and patient search that that implies.

There is, for example, the "Mary Rose", Henry VIII's flagship, lost by foundering in 1545, of which the hull and the contents appear still to be largely intact, and which lies in the sea bed at Spithead; there is the Dutch East Indies ship, the "Amsterdam", which lies off Hastings; and there is the Spanish Armada galleass, "Girona", which has now yielded up much archaeological treasure off the coast of Antrim. Then there were five ships of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell's squadron, which were lost near the Scillies in 1707; and cannon and gold and silver coins have been recovered from the wreck of the flagship, H.M.S. "Association"—possibly, the worst name ever given to a flagship. Some things have been recovered, also, from the wrecks of H.M.S. "Romney" and "Eagle", while the other two ships have still to be found. Near Anglesey, there lie the remains of Charles II's Royal yacht, the "Mary", from which cannon, coins, and jewellery have already been recovered; and there are doubtless others yet unknown.

The problem of how to give protection to such wrecks is a remarkably complex one, involving consideration of such matters as owners' and salvors' rights, the definition of a "historic wreck" by reference to its age, the vesting of ownership of such a wreck in the Crown, the disposal of a historic wreck, and the necessity of interfering, or not interfering, with other private or public interests. This Bill does not purport to answer all these problems. For that, more time is needed and there exists a Committee for the purpose which was set up three years ago by the Board of Trade which includes representatives of interested Departments, the Council for Nautical Archæology, the British Sub-Aqua Club and other relevant concerns. The task continues, but there is a certain element of urgency and as an interim measure this Bill has been produced. It has been discussed in the Committee and with the interests concerned, including commercial salvage interests, to all of whom, I am told, its proposals are acceptable. The best way to see just what these proposals are is to turn directly to the Bill.

Clause 1(1) provides that the Secretary of State, if satisfied that a site in United Kingdom waters is, or may prove to be, that of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed, and on account of the importance on historical, archæological or artistic grounds, of either the vessel itself or of any objects contained or formerly contained in it which may be lying on the sea bed in or near the wreck, may by order designate an area round the site as a "restricted area". "United Kingdom waters" is defined in Clause 3(1) to mean any part of the sea within the three-mile limit and to include the tidal part of a river. "The sea" is defined to include any estuary or arm of the sea.

References to the sea bed include any area submerged at high water of ordinary spring tides. Thus, the power to designate areas does not extend beyond the territorial waters of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but it does extend to areas of what is generally termed "the foreshore". The site of the "Amsterdam", for example, lying close to low water mark in the sands of Hastings, could be designated if necessary. I might mention, in parenthesis, that the "Amsterdam" was a Dutch East Indies ship which was lost in 1749, and lies buried in the sea bed close to the shore. The hull and contents remain reasonably intact and some artefacts, including cannon, have been recovered. The vessel is accessible at very low tide without diving equipment. The expressions "on the sea bed" and "objects contained in it" take account of the fact that a vessel lost perhaps centuries ago may well have broken up and its contents become scattered or buried. And "contents", it may be noted, may mean anything from an anchor or an astrolabe to a set of dentures or a gold moidore. Subsection (2) also takes account of this possibility of scattering, and requires a restriction order to define the area to be restricted.

Subsection (3) lists the acts that will constitute offences if done in a restricted area, otherwise than under the authority of a licence granted by the Secretary of State. These are as follows: first, tampering with, damaging or removing any part of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the sea bed, or any object formerly contained in such a vessel; secondly, carrying out diving or salvage operations directed to exploring any wreck or to removing objects from it or from the sea bed, or using diving or salvage equipment; thirdly, depositing, so as to fall and lie abandoned on the sea bed, anything which if falling on the site of a wreck would either wholly or partly obliterate the site, or obstruct access to it or damage any part of the wreck. For example, it is quite in order to tow a dumb barge full of dredged-up mud through a restricted area, but highly improper to dump the mud. This subsection also makes it an offence to cause or permit such things to be done by an unlicensed person. It places no restriction on what may be done on the surface, including bathing and anchoring, so long as there is no obstruction of authorised diving or salvage operations. This point is covered in subsection (6).

Subsection (4) requires the Secretary of State, before making a designation order, to consult persons he considers appropriate, unless he is satisfied that the making of the order is a matter of immediate urgency—and it may well be. This may be the case where, as has occurred in practice, disorder has followed the discovery of an ancient wreck both of historic importance and with contents of commercial value and the site is threatened with damage. This occurred in connection with the wreck of the "Association", where there was a good deal of unpleasantness among various concerns who were trying to get at it. In normal cases, it is proposed that prior consultation should take place with archaeologists, representatives of museums, the British Sub-Aqua Club and commercial salvage interests. It is proposed that the chairman of the advisory group should be available to give prompt advice if there is a need for immediate action so that designation, if required, can take place immediately.

Subsection (5) deals with the grant of licences for diving and salvage in a restricted area. These licences are to be in writing and to be granted only to persons who appear to the Secretary of State to be competent, properly equipped and generally suitable, or to have legitimate reason for carrying on within the area activities that would otherwise be unlawful. This might cover, for example, a different salvage job in the same area, the tending of submarine cables or the raising of lobster pots. The subsection goes on to provide that licences may be granted subject to conditions or restrictions, and for their variation or revocation on not less than one week's notice. It also provides that any breach of a condition or restriction in a licence is to be treated as done otherwise than under the authority of the licence; that is to say, it is an offence under subsection (3).

Subsection (6), which I have already mentioned, makes it an offence to obstruct any person operating under licence, or to cause or permit him to be so obstructed. There is, however, a saving proviso, in Clause 3(3), which provides that nothing is an offence if it is done with the sole purpose of dealing with an emergency, or if done in exercising, or seeing to the exercise of, functions conferred on the doer by or under an enactment (local or other), or on the body for which he acts, or out of necessity due to stress of weather or navigational hazards. My Lords, that covers the provisions for what I have described as the first class of wrecks covered by the Bill.

Then we come to the second class. These are dangerous wrecks. This section should be of interest particularly to the good people of Sheerness. Off the Thames Estuary there went aground in 1944. in shallow water, the American cargo ship "Richard Montgomery", laden with 7,000 tons of ammunition; and there still she lies, with half her lethal cargo removed but still containing 3,500 tons of menace to the roofs, windows and citizens of Sheerness. The danger of trying to remove the explosive that remains is judged to be much greater than that of leaving it to be slowly neutralised by nature. That vessel is not a danger to shipping, which does not pass close by, but there are, despite prominent "Danger" notices, day-trippers and fishermen, and a good deal of consequent peril. Rather surprisingly, I think, there exists no statutory power to keep people away from this wreck, or from others which may exist, now or in the future. This Bill will put that situation right.

Clause 2(1) empowers the Secretary of State to designate around a wreck an area, not this time restricted but prohibited. This he would do if he were satisfied that a wreck represented a potential danger to life or property and ought on that account to be protected from unauthorised interference. Subsection (2) provides for a definition and for the size of a prohibited area in just the same way as was done in the case of restricted areas under Clause 1(2). Subsection (3) makes it an offence to enter a prohibited area either on or under the surface without the authority in writing of the Secretary of State. Like the offences created in Clause 1, this offence is made subject to the provisions of Clause 3(3), which specifies the circumstances in which an act that would otherwise be an offence shall not be regarded as being so; that is to say, an act to deal with an emergency or in the exercise of statutory powers, or on account of stress of weather or navigational hazards. My Lords, that concludes the section dealing particularly with dangerous wrecks.

Clause 3 contains supplementary provisions common to both historical and dangerous wrecks. Subsection (1) defines "United Kingdom waters" and "the sea", as I have already explained. Subsection (2) provides that orders made under Clauses 1 or 2 shall be made by Statutory Instrument subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. Such an order shall be revoked—and this is mandatory —if in the opinion of the Secretary of State it is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was made. Subsection (3) is a saving provision to which I have already referred, and subsection (4) deals with penalties and provides: A person guilty of an offence under section 1 or section 2 above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than £400, or on conviction on indictment to a fine of an unspecified amount; and that proceedings for such an offence may be taken, and the offence may for all incidental purposes be treated as having been committed, at any place in the United Kingdom where he is for the time being. That, then, is the Bill which is before your Lordships. There is quite a lot more that could be said about it in the way of both its past history and its future. If I were to embark on any of that I should, I feel, be stepping out of my own small restricted area, and I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Ferrers will be telling us, when he comes to reply, something about the probable effect that the Bill will have. In the meantime, it is my pleasure to give way to the doubtless more interesting and well-informed remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a;. —(The Earl of Cork and Orrery.)

3.45 p.m.


I profoundly doubt that, my Lords. On behalf of my noble friends on this side of the House I want to welcome this Bill and say that I hope we shall get it expeditiously into law, because the diving season, and consequently the under-water piracy season, has virtually already begun, and it would be good if the protection which this Bill affords can come into effect before the height of this summer. I think that Parliament as a whole, and indeed the people, must be grateful to Mr. Sproat for introducing the Bill in the House of Commons, and to the noble Earl for introducing it here. The noble Earl has described it very fully, and I want to make only three comments on the Bill. In doing so, it is not my intention to put the wind up the Government about what they are taking on. Far from it! As I have said, I hope that this Bill goes through, and I think it is as well framed as it could be. But I hope the Government realise the extent of the commitment which they are undertaking here, and I hope they realise how thick the other end of the wedge is.

Almost the first thing the Bill says—the Explanatory Memorandum says it very loud and clear—is that it will not involve any increase in Civil Service manpower or in public expenditure. Mr. Cranley Onslow, speaking for the Government in the House of Commons, explained that that might not be strictly true: there would be a little extra work, and maybe a few more people to pay, some expenses for typing and travelling, but the sums involved would be so small that they could easily be digested without raising any identifiable ceiling on Government expenditure. That is good. When he was asked about how many wrecks he expected to be designated and protected as historic, he gave the answer that it was probably six or seven immediately and that then perhaps one might build up to 24. This was his figure, and he said that it ought to stay about level there because as wrecks were explored and archæologised, and as their valuable cargoes were lifted, then they would be de-protected; the protection order would be taken off them. So he hoped that there would never be more than 24 wrecks protected in this manner at the same time.

Now as we look at how he said the wrecks were going to be protected the question which must of course be uppermost in everybody's mind is, "O.K.; you lay down a law that this wreck must not be touched without a licence. But who is going to see that it is not?" Let us remember that an aqualung diver needs no equipment except a boat to flop over from and a little ladder to climb up again, and that in calm weather he can use a very fast motor boat which can get away extremely quickly. The answer the Minister gave to that question in the House of Commons was that he did not propose to recruit any special marine police force for this work but was going to leave it to the Receivers of Wrecks, many of whom, he said—though not all —are in any case Customs officers and coastguards; so one assumes that they will be around at the scene of the crime, if the crime is committed, in any case. That appears to be the Government's limit on this: that this is just an extra duty for the existing marine police force, which is only the Coastguard and the Customs. The figure was quoted in the House of Commons, I do not know with how much justification, of 5 million wrecks around our shores; and if I correctly understood my right honourable friend Mr. Roy Mason, who made this remark, there is also a figure of some 10,000 wrecks which might be of historic interest in the Western Approaches alone.

When I was reading this Bill and thinking about it, and was reading the Report of the debate in the House of Commons, I was constantly reminded of the 1913 Ancient Monuments Act. Let me remind the House what that said. It said, for the first time in our history, that certain buildings on dry land might not be changed or destroyed without permission, and a Schedule of those buildings was attached to the Act. I think there were something like 15 or 20 buildings on that Schedule; and every single protection order was to be subject to Negative Resolution of Parliament. In other words, it was very close to this Bill: a tiny number of specified historic objects, each one subject to an individual order and each order subject to Parliament.

That was 1913. What did it lead to? It has led on now to a situation in which we have a quarter of a million buildings listed and no question of individual orders or appeals to Parliament about it at all. The listing of historic buildings and their protection is very big Government business now, 60 years after that first little Schedule appeared. I wonder whether we may not expect a parallel development of some sort in the case of the wrecks, of which to-day we propose to protect only up to 24. I think we may; and I hope the Government and what one might call the sub-aqueous community as a whole, including the British Aqualung Club and the Nautical Archeology Council, and all those concerned, will be looking ahead to the day when this thing spreads and spreads. If the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, can tell us anything about how he actually sees a coastguard who is also a receiver of wrecks executing his function of policing this law, given the existence of fast motor boats and very nippy divers with bad intentions, I think the House will be grateful to him.

If I may look outside the provisions of the Bill for a moment, it says that all this shall be done "in United Kingdom waters". I think I am right in saying that that means territorial waters, which is out to three miles only. Why only three miles? Of course, there are historic wrecks outside three miles and in water shallow enough for divers to work in, and as diving technology improves so it will be possible for people to dive to greater and greater depths.

Another question occurs to me. Why does the Bill say, "United Kingdom waters"? These things lie on the seabed. They are touching the seabed and are very often embedded in the seabed. I may be wrong—and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, can tell us about this —but I thought the Government already controlled all the rights of exploration and exploitation on the seabed, because if you observe the blithe extroversion with which they issue licences to people to explore and exploit for oil and gas on the Continental Shelf right out to halfway across the North Sea, I wonder whether the powers under which they do that are not already sufficient for them to designate wrecks and protect them in the way proposed by this Bill. I am sure they could not be, because no Government ever introduce unnecessary legislation, but it would he interesting to know why that is not the case. Here is a very detailed question. Does the Bill apply to Rockall? I think it must. Rockall is now part of the United Kingdom and one assumes the seabed will have to be policed off Rockall, if there are wrecks of any interest there, which I do not know.

My last point, my Lords, is that although this is a good Bill and we wish it to go forward quickly, I hope it will not hold up the introduction of a major Bill to make sense of the law of the sea and the seabed around our coasts, not only within 3 miles, but within 12 miles, within 50 miles, and to the submarine frontiers which we have with Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, France and so on, all the way round, half-way across the Continental Shelf. The law is in a state of total chaos, and if we are to continue going about the task of introducing order by introducing legislation to cover each little sector, one after the other, there will be no end to our work.

There is in existence a list which has become rather famous in circles which study these matters, compiled by Mr. Norman Humphreys and published in the winter 1972 edition of a periodical called The Council Surveyor. It is a list of 41 things which are done in the sea and on and in the seabed below normal spring low water mark and which the ordinary layman might think ought to be subject to law in some way and most of which are not. I propose to read the list: beach recreation, swimming, power boating, water ski-ing, diving, angling, bait digging, sailing, canoeing, wildfowling, commercial shipping, navigational aids, rescue services, docks and shipyards, dredging, drilling, land reclamation, coast defences, promenades, slipways, piers, roads—yes, roads, my Lords—headroom under bridges, tunnels, cables, pipelines, offshore terminals, seabed oil storage tanks, beach construction sites, waste disposal, cooling water dispersion, desalination, water storage, pollution control, marine archeology, commercial fish hunting, fish farming, marine nature reserves, visual amenities, land drainage and gunnery ranges.

I hope that the day will soon come when the Government will take a deep breath, take their courage in both hands and introduce an omnibus Bill which says what is and what is not the law on all the 41 things. I think there is justification for picking out No. 35 on the list, marine archæology, as we are doing to-day, but if that is to be all it will not be enough. I repeat, we welcome this Bill, seeing at the moment, although we feel further study is needed, no need to amend any of the provisions beyond the purely factual questions which I have asked the noble Earl.


My Lords, I must confess to some element of negligence, in that I never glanced at this Bill until I was listening to it in conjunction with the very interesting speech of my noble friend, Lord Cork, but I believe I should be failing in my duty to your Lordships if I did not inquire where the Secretary of State for Scotland comes in. One's mind goes, for instance, to the famous galleon in Tobermory Bay, and so on. I feel that the people of Scotland would like to be satisfied, with respect to negotiations in regard to that or any other wreck which is manifestly of interest to or connected with Scotland itself, that it would be dealt with by the Scottish Office. Perhaps the noble Earl would be able to answer that question.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to say much. I welcome this Bill as a start, but it is only a start. To begin with, listening to my noble friend, I could have added several other purposes to his list. I will not do that now, but there were several others, including various scientific purposes, which have to be considered.


Name some.


Research, my Lords—and not only pure research but also a great deal of applied research, such as research into the quality of underwater paints and similar purposes which have been carried out at sea. But, apart from that, I do not think the Bill as it stands is by any means adequate for carrying out its purpose. There are all sorts of weird problems when you come to preserving wrecks, different from those of preserving, for example, ancient buildings. There is not usually more than one ancient building in one place—you do not usually have two or three on top of one another. But owing to the nature of wrecks and the way wrecks occur, when you have a place where it is likely that there will be a wrecked ship it is quite likely there will be a second wrecked ship, and the result is, as all underwater archæologists know, you quite often have to start out with wrecks A, B and C which are largely sitting on top of one another or inter-scattered with each other. So it might well be said by somebody who was accused of attacking one ancient wreck that he was not in fact dealing with that wreck at all but with another wreck on the same place. All this kind of thing has to be sorted out.

Another weird detail is that a number of wrecks are not at sea but on land. The sea coast is by no means a rigid things. It shifts about, as we know, and large areas which were formerly sea are now very frequently part of our agriculture. A number of historical wrecks, particularly the oldest now turning up, are turning up on shore among fields. I am not sure, and I should like to know, if the noble Lord who is to reply can answer the question, whether these are preserved by the Bill. If not, would it not he a good thing to have a clause in the Bill to provide that the preservation of ancient wrecks at sea includes the preservation of ancient wrecks on land? These are only two points that I can think of instantly. I can probably think of fifty more if noble Lords would wish it—but not to-day. Many of them are Committee points. The important thing is that this is a very useful and valuable Bill but that it is a start, and a start only. Nevertheless, let us start.

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, I want to say only a few words in support of what my noble friend Lord Kennet said in his concluding remarks. He listed an extraordinary number of issues which were involved. I think there were 41 of them. This indicates the complexity of this problem. I wish only to emphasise what he said: that this very comprehensive series of problems can be dealt with only by the International Conference on the Law of the Sea which is to be held. We already have our complexities with Iceland; we are driving deep into the North Sea; the Norwegian Government is suggesting that it should extend its territorial limits into the ocean; and some South American States even extend their area to 200 miles. Is it not obvious that all these complicated issues can be dealt with only by international agreement; and is not the proposed Conference on the Law of the Sea therefore immensely important? I say that while welcoming the somewhat limited Bill which we now have, but I hope that Her Majesty's Government in reply to this discussion may indicate that they are well prepared to go into international conference to settle the wider issues which arise from this subject.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery for introducing this Bill which, as he said, has already been considered and approved without amendment in another place. It is a fascinating subject and this fairly modest Bill has produced this afternoon a fascinating series of questions and suggestions of different avenues to be explored. Studying the circumstances which surround this Bill one cannot but be reminded of the rather romantic stories of Davy Jones' locker of pieces of eight and the search for dubloons and so on; but at the outset I should refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because he said that this is merely one example of the vastness of the subjects which need to he considered. Of course, the International Conference on the Law of the Sea is very important and we hope to play our part in it. I should not wish, on this Bill, to go further than that in view of the more limited subject on which we are engaged, but I accept his point that it is a very important subject indeed.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that he did not want to "put the wind up" the Government but he rather "put the wind up" me when he suggested that the Government in this Bill had got hold of a massive tiger by the tail. That may be so; but if I explain to your Lordships what is behind this Bill I think you will find that although it covers only one small aspect of the situation, it will not be quite so alarming—although I accept that there are other problems which in due course will have to be considered.

The Government are the first to recognise that the wreck provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts are in need of revision, both in relation to historic wrecks and in their general application. A review of wreck legislation is now being undertaken by the Department of Trade and Industry, but it will take some time to complete because of the complexity of the subject. In view of this and of the concern expressed both inside and outside Parliament, the Government agreed that a relatively short Bill should be introduced to give interim protection to selective historic sites pending the introduction of more comprehensive legislation. This Bill is the result of that modest consideration and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery and to Mr. Sproat for taking on the task. In framing its provisions there has been full consultation with the interests concerned, which include the Council for Nautical Archaeology, the British Sub-Aqua Club, salvage interests and others. All the views expressed by these people have been taken into account in framing the Bill's provisions, which have met with their general approval.

My Lords, the general freedom of divers to explore the sea bed and to recover artefacts is not restricted by the Bill except within specified restricted or prohibited areas around the sites of wrecked vessels. As my noble friend explained, these areas may be designated by the Secretary of State. Designation of historic wreck sites will be limited to those of special importance and they should not amount to more than half a dozen at the outset. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that he thought there were five million wrecks around the British Isles. I do not know who went down and counted them, but I could not confirm that figure; indeed, I should be suspicious of the total arrived at. I would only say the Bill refers to wrecks of historic and archaeological interest. Their number may increase above half a dozen if new sites are discovered, but it is not thought that it will exceed 24 in the first few years. If this figure is exceeded there will be consultation with the interests involved, including diving interests.

The main purpose of the Bill is to prohibit unauthorised interference with any wrecked vessel or its contents which have been designated because of its historic importance. In order to make this provision it is considered necessary also to prohibit unauthorised diving or the use of diving equipment within a restricted area surrounding the vessel. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, asked why could not this refer to vessels on land. I take his point. I can assure him that the Bill does not refer to vessels on land but to vessels of archaeological interest. I think he will agree that the case of those that have been on land for some considerable time would be covered by legislation other than the particular Bill we are considering. There will be consultations with the British Sub-Aqua club regarding the extent of any restricted area.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl at this point in case there is no Committee stage on this Bill? It is a point of detail but one of importance about vessels on land. The Bill, if I remember rightly, speaks about low water mark, about operations up to low water mark—


High Water mark.


I apologise. My Lords, it speaks of "high water mark". What about a wreck which is on the foreshore above the high water mark, on public property or the Queen's beach, whatever it may be? Is that covered by land archaeological legislation? Obviously, the noble Earl cannot answer now but perhaps he will look at that before we reach a later stage of the Bill.


My Lords, I shall certainly have a shot at answering the question now, but if the noble Lord requires more details I will certainly look at it. The Bill operates within three miles of high water mark. Of course there is the possibility that some wreck might be involved in a storm and tossed above the high water mark. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will agree that if that happened in the future, or even if it had happened in the immediate past, it would not come under the category of being an historical or archaeological wreck. Such tossing as would have happened to the ship in order to qualify under this Bill would need to have happened many hundreds of years ago. It may happen, but the wreck would not be caught tinder this Bill. If such a wreck is found on land, I think that the normal process, when someone discovers a wreck, something of historical interest, is that the Department of Trade and Industry and other people involved put their heads together to decide on the best way to deal with such a find. If the noble Lord wishes for more detailed information with regard to the Acts that cover such discoveries, I will see that he has it.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl.


My Lords, I was saying that there will be consultations—and here I take the point raised by my noble friend Lord Ferrier—with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Departments and with harbour authorities if sites are in their areas. It is not intended to designate a restricted area simply on the suspicion that an historic wreck may lie somewhere within it. We should require physical evidence of the existence of a wreck such as, for example, artefacts lying on the sea bed, before designation. There will be complications with fisheries departments if it is proposed to designate a site where diving for lobsters or scallops may be undertaken. Where necessary, licences will be granted for diving operations for this purpose on condition that there is no interference with the wreck itself. It may also be necessary in exceptional circumstances to grant a licence for the salvaging of a vessel which has foundered in a restricted area. As my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery said, unauthorised dumping of materials which might obliterate, obstruct or damage the wreck also is prohibited.

My Lords, the Bill does not prohibit navigation, anchoring, fishing or bathing within these restricted areas, except when those activities amount to obstruction of an authorised salvage operation. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked why it was necessary that the provisions of the Bill should be restricted to three miles, and what about wrecks found—


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl something about the last point he made before he goes on? It is about anchoring. Does the Order made by the Secretary of State not have the effect of prohibiting you from anchoring over a designated wreck? While the licensee is not operating you are not getting in his way; but if you put a thumping great anchor down through the middle of the wreck, and go away again the next morning, that would bust it up pretty effectively, would it not?


Yes, my Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is perfectly right. You may put down an anchor within the restricted area, but you may not put it down on the wreck because that would be interfering with the wreck and it is the purpose of the licence to prevent that from happening. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked earlier why was this restricted to three miles; what about wrecks that were further than three miles out and as we have licences to get oil and minerals from the sea bed, surely we are covered. The answer is that there has been international agreement on the extraction of oil and minerals, and as a result of that we have been able to frame legislation to cover that point. There is no international agreement on wrecks found on the high seas. That is why the provisions of this Bill have had to be restricted to our own territorial waters.

My Lords, it is proposed that the Secretary of State should consult an advisory committee with regard to historic wreck sites which are designated, 'the person likely to carry out salvage operations on the designated site and the conditions to be attached to the licence for the protection of the archaeological value of the site. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, who has great interest in and knowledge of nautical history and who has been chairman of the Trustees of the National Maritime Museum, has agreed to act as chairman of the advisory committee. It is hoped that the chairman, or his deputy, will be in a position to give prompt advice when urgent action is called for. Subject to the chairman's views, it is envisaged that the advisory committee will include archaeologists, such as representatives of the Council for Nautical Archeology, representatives of national museums in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as appropriate, the Hydrographer of the Navy, representatives of the British Sub-Aqua Club and salvage interests. It is proposed to advertise the Secretary of State's intention to designate a named historic wreck site in the Department's journal Trade and Industry and elsewhere, and to allow time for consideration of objections. When there is need for immediate action a designation order would be made immediately, but it could be revoked in the light of any representations which may subsequently be received.

My Lords, designation orders will give an accurate description of the site and the restricted area. They will be widely publicised and each site, where practicable, will be marked with a buoy, the form and installation of which is to be discussed with the lighthouse authorities. The Hydrographer of the Navy has agreed to issue notices to mariners and, where practical, to mark the designated sites on Admiralty charts. Of course a designation order would restrict the normal right of an owner of a wreck, or of a salvor working on the wreck, to recover property from the site. This, of course, is the purpose of the Bill. It is therefore right that such a person should have a prior claim to be allowed to inspect and salvage the wreck, provided he is willing and able to meet the conditions of the licence necessary for the protection of the archaeological value of the site. It is hoped that such conditions will not be unduly onerous. Some sites may be regarded as suitable for salvage operations without any serious loss of archaeological value provided that the appropriate conditions are met. A few sites, where the vessel and its contents might be largely intact, would probably need to be kept undisturbed until a full-scale archaeological survey and recovery operation could be organised.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said, "Ah!; but how is this to be done?" As one would expect of the noble Lord, he has put his finger on a very real point. The enforcement of the historic wreck provisions may be difficult. One accepts that, especially where the sites are in remote situations. It is not proposed to provide additional resources for enforcement and the police are being asked to accept the primary enforcement responsibility. But of course the Receivers of Wreck, most of whom are Customs officers, and Her Majesty's Coastguards, will be asked to report unauthorised interference or diving activities. This is one of the reasons why it is necessary to include around the wreck an area larger than the wreck itself so as to see who are diving within the area.


My Lords, I hesitate to keep interrupting the noble Earl who is being most generous about time, but in the House of Commons on March 2 Mr. Cranley Onslow said: We do not propose additional resources for enforcement, and the police will not be asked to accept the primary enforcement responsibility."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 1870] Has there been a change of tack since then? I am not saying that it is wrong if there has been, but if there has been, perhaps it is worth pointing it out.


My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's point. If there has been a change, I will let him know. The real point is that although there are not going to be extra resources, people will be able to see what is going on within the area, and it is up to the diving interests and the coastguards to inform when they see any unauthorised attention being paid to the site. I am informed that the noble Lord is quite correct in suggesting that the police are not being given the primary responsibility for this. If I gave that impression, I was in error, and apologise.

With regard to the provisions concerning dangerous wrecks, it has been considered that the Secretary of State should have powers to prohibit unauthorised entry into an area which will be known as a prohibited area, immediately surrounding a wrecked vessel, which because of its contents is potentially dangerous to life or property. The penalties which are provided in the Bill will be an additional deterrent and will reinforce the powers which harbour authorities may already possess for this purpose. The Bill of course provides powers which can be used outside the jurisdiction of any harbour authority. At present the "Richard Montgomery", which lies near Sheerness, is the only site which needs this protection. But the powers will be available for use in any similar future case.

I should perhaps mention that the powers are not available for use in prohibiting access to a vessel which is a danger solely because it is an obstruction to navigation because, in such a case, the danger does not arise from the vessel's contents and the vessel does not need on that account to be protected from unauthorised interference. Lighthouse and harbour authorities already have powers to mark or to remove such obstructions under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894, and under local legislation. Nor could the powers be used to protect swimmers against the danger of being sucked under or trapped in a wreck, since the danger does not arise from the vessel's contents. The powers are suitable, however, for use in a case where a wreck contains toxic or dangerous materials, which it might be impracticable to remove, and where it is clearly important that the public should be protected from the consequences of unauthorised interference with the wreck.

My Lords, I commend the Bill to your Lordships. I apologise again to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for misinforming him and saying that the police have the primary responsibility, when they have not. I hope your Lordships will give what I agree is a modest Bill a Second Reading.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, he has not referred to the question that I asked about the Secretary of State for Scotland. Could he clear my mind about that? I may be a stubborn Scot, but I am also a fervent Unionist and by no means a Scottish Nationalist. Nevertheless, I think it might be prudent to add, say, a Clause 5 just to explain where the Secretary of State for Scotland comes in in respect of wrecks in waters which are manifestly Scottish.


My Lords, I know my noble friend is not a stubborn Scot, but perhaps at one period of my speech he was not paying quite the attention that he normally pays, because I did refer to this point and give him the assurance that there will be consultations with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Departments when this is necessary, when wrecks are found within the areas over which they have an interest.


My Lords, it would appear that there is very little for me to say further, which will be a great relief to one and all. There is no danger of my working your Lordships up once more to the height of passion that you have reached during the last three-quarters of an hour. I am grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Bill, notably the Lord, Lord Kennet, and I am greatly interested by many of the points that he raised. I agree that we should not be showered with orders for the preservation of millions of wrecks. However, that is outside the scope of this Bill.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Ferrers, who is known to be an authority on these underwater matters—on underwater biology rather than archaeology—when referring to lobsters and scallops made no mention of his particular speciality, which I believe to be upside-down jelly-fish, as he has mentioned on more than one occasion in the past. On the matter of co-operation, it is a pity that this Bill cannot operate round the whole of the shores of the British Isles. This, although not strictly relevant at the moment, might be a point for the Government to bear in mind. This is possibly an extremely suitable matter for co-operation between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland. I have nothing further to say other than to commend the Bill to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill read 2a;, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.