HC Deb 27 July 1936 vol 315 cc1258-60

11.54 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 68, line 27, after "deposit," to insert: (including refuse from a coal mine liable to spontaneous combustion). I move this Amendment for the purpose of finding out what powers there are under the Act. Everyone knows that there are a large number of burning pit heaps, but I am not aware that there has been a single prosecution. It would appear that the local authorities are not aware of their powers, and I am anxious to find out what methods they must adopt to take action against the people responsible for the burning pit heaps. I am also anxious to get into the Bill power to deal with this matter before the fire breaks out. Any deposit from a coal mine will burst into flame after a certain time because of the intense heat generated. My object is to try to adopt means to prevent this happening, if it is at all possible, because when a heap takes fire, it is very difficult to get the colliery owners to do anything, owing to the excessive cost involved. The result is that it has to burn out, and for a long, long time the inhabitants of the neighbourhood have to stand the fumes arising. I realise that it would be very difficult to get the Act materially altered, and I do not expect it, but I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell the Committee what are the present powers under the Act. If he will do that, I have no intention of pressing my Amendment, but I do want it made as clear as possible what the authorities can do under the Act. If that were clearly stated, I think that in itself would be a warning to the colliery owners that they cannot go on as they have been doing in the past, and the local authoririties would also know that they have powers to deal with this matter.

11.57 p.m.


I thank the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) for the reasonable presentation of his case, with which I have much sympathy. He asked what are the powers of an aggrieved person in an area where there is one of these smoking refuse heaps. Well, the remedy lies in Clause 92, whereby the aggrieved person or the local authority can go to the magistrate to get an order to abate the nuisance. He will see that a list of duties is set forth in that Clause. The part which interests him in this connection is that which says: any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance. I do not think the Amendment would strengthen the wording of the Clause. Indeed, it might narrow it, because a refuse heap is clearly covered by the word "deposit." If the medical officer of health in the district came to the conclusion that a certain refuse heap is "a deposit prejudicial to health," then he would report that opinion to the local authority, whose duty it would be to set the law into operation and to go to a magistrate to try and get an order to abate the nuisance. The difficulty in the way, of course, is this, that if an order were granted, the colliery company would have a very great burden placed upon it in abating the nuisance, and for that reason it might be that certain local authorities would be very loth to act. Nevertheless, I think the hon. Member for Leigh has done right in raising this point. There is a good deal of research work going on in this matter, and one hears of collieries where they have tried various ways, which the hon. Member knows better than I do, whereby this nuisance can be abated. As far as the law is concerned, it is clearly set forth here, and more clearly than before in this Clause. I shall be pleased to discuss any particular case with the hon. Member, to see what, if anything, can be done about it.

11.59 p.m.


The whole trouble in this matter arises from the fact that to take the course suggested, of trying to put the law into operation, is, practically speaking, an impossibility on the ground that the burning has become a nuisance to the tenants living in close proximity. If representations are made to the local authority and they make a report that a pit heap on fire is a nuisance, notice to quit is given to the tenants of houses in the vicinity, and the tenants have nowhere to go. That has happened in my own area. It is no good pressing owners to move these heaps because they cannot do it without spending hundreds of pounds. They want to be tackled from the beginning and prohibited by law.

12.2 a.m.


The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) is to be congratulated on pressing this question so frequently. I have always taken the view that Clause 92—which was Section 91 of the 1875 Act—covers this issue in paragraph (a) or paragraph (c). If the local authorities would only do their duty and initiate the necessary proceedings, the nuisance would be abated. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to impress on local authorities that it is their duty to carry out the Act of Parliament.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 93 (Service of abatement notice) ordered to stand part of the Bill.