HC Deb 20 December 1937 vol 330 cc1739-42

11.8 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 29, line 30, to leave out "Section four," and to insert "Sections four and five."

This is the first of a rather formidable list of Amendments, but there is not as much in them as might appear from the space they occupy on the Order Paper. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I deal particularly with the first of them, which I am now moving, with the ninth, which is to insert new Sub-sections (4) and (5), and the fifth, to leave out Sub-section (3). All of these Amendments arise out of the question which Clauses of the Bill shall apply to the Forest of Dean, owing to the special position of the coal mining industry in that area. Clause 5 of the Bill, which deals with retained interests, has already been admitted to have no effect on the Forest of Dean, and the proper place to omit it is the place in which we are now referring to it, namely, in this Sub-section (2), which deals with the question of what shall be retained and what shall not be acquired by the Commission. The new Sub-sections referred to in the ninth Amendment are in substitution for Sub-section (3), which refers to a number of Clauses of the Bill. The point is that those Clauses are inapplicable to the special conditions of the Forest of Dean, which is managed by the Forestry Commission, who will continue to manage it. I apologise to the Committee for the fact that in our first scrutiny we did not realise how many of the Clauses of the Bill had no application to the Forest of Dean.

The Deputy-Chairman

Would the Attorney-General mind repeating, for my information, the Amendments with which he was dealing?

The Attorney-General

I was dealing with the first Amendment—in page 29, line 30, to leave out "Section four "and insert "Sections four and five "; the ninth Amendment—in page 30, line 8, at the end, to insert new Sub-sections (4) and (5); and the intermediate Amendments, in page 29, line 43, to leave out Sub-section (3).

11.10 p.m.

Mr. Price

I am much obliged to the Attorney-General for his explanation. Not being a lawyer, I find it a little difficult to understand, but I happen to know the peculiar conditions prevailing in the Forest of Dean and as I understand them, I think I am right in saying that what this really means is that the rights of the free miners in the Forest of Dean are exempt from the operations of this Bill, that this Clause takes out from the Bill the rights which these miners have in the royalties of certain coal seams there, that the rights of the Forestry Commission in these seams will be handed over to the Coal Commission, who will become the proprietary owners of them, but that the royalties themselves will be paid back to the Forestry Commission and will appear in their accounts as before. In other words, this is simply a bookkeeping entry. It is a very interesting and remarkable situation, and I think some of my hon. Friends on this side have often wondered how it is that there are miners in the Forest of Dean who are themselves royalty owners. When we come to speak of the royalties issue in the Forest of Dean we have to be very careful what we say, because on going back many hundreds of years we find that any working miner who has been born in a certain hundred of the Forest of Dean and has worked for a year and a day in any of the coal mines in the Forest of Dean has the right to put down his name in one of the societies there which are formed for the purpose of claiming royalty interest in certain coal seams, and they are then, along with the Forestry Commissioners, namely, the State, royalty owners. The shares are then apportioned between the State on the one hand and the miners on the other. As it seems to me, the Bill hands over the proprietary interest in these seams to the Coal Commission, gives back these royalties as a book-keeping entry to the Forestry Commission, but leaves that section of the royalties to the free miners where they were before. That, as I understand in all this verbiage, is practically what it comes to. If I am wrong, I hope the Attorney-General will put me right, but I think it is just as well, as one who has to deal with the free miners, to have it put right.

11.14 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has got it quite right, but I can give him the categorical assurance that the rights of the free miners are preserved. The Forestry Commissioners will continue to exercise their existing powers of management, but the coal will vest in the Commission, who will pay compensation for it and get the royalties. It is not a mere book entry of the money going to the Commission and back again to the Forestry Commissioners, but I think the point that the hon. Member is probably interested in is the fact that the powers of management of the Forestry Commissioners will continue as they are, and the rights of the free miners are preserved.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 39, line 34, leave out "all the estate and interest," and insert "the interest."

In line 40, leave out "estates."

In line 41, leave out "rights, powers. and liabilities."

In line 43, leave out Sub-section (3).—[The Attorney-General.]

11.18 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 30, line 1, at the beginning, to insert: In the application of Sections six and seven of this Act, and of the Third Schedule to this Act, to the coal and mines of coal comprised in the said land, the interest therein subsisting in the Forestry Commissioners at the valuation date, and no other interest, shall be treated as as acquired interest, and. This is a clarifying Amendment. It makes it clear that in relation to the Forest of Dean, the words "acquired interests" mean that the only interests which are in fact acquired are the property interests at present vested in the Forestry Commission.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 30, line 4, leave out "estate and interest vested in the Commission," and insert "interest."—[The Attorney-General.]

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, in page 30, line 5, to leave out "for the communication to the Regional Valuation Board," and insert: (in substitution for the provisions of that Schedule relating to registration under the Registration Act and the notification to the Regional Valuation Board of such registration) for the notification to that Board by the Forestry Commissioners. The gist of this Amendment is in the words in brackets. It might have been that without the insertion of those words the Forestry Commission might have to apply under the Registration Act and it is not desirable that they should have to do that, because the information which will be obtained under that Act is already in the possession of the Forestry Commission and will be available to the Board of Trade and the Coal Commission. These words make it clear that they do not have to register under that Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 30, line 8, at the end, insert: (5) Sections, eight to twelve, Sub-sections (1) to (3) of Section thirteen and Section seventeen of this Act, and the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Schedules to this Act, shall not have effect. (6) References to coal shall not be construed as including references to minerals or substances, that are subsidiary coal hereditaments within the meaning of Section six of this Act.

In line 13, leave out "estate and".

In line 15, leave out "estate and".

In line 26, leave out "estate and".— [The Attorney-General.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.