HC Deb 09 November 1937 vol 328 cc1600-2
Mr. Tinker

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Public Health Act, 1936, with respect to coal-mine refuse liable to spontaneous combustion. This Bill deals with the question of giving greater powers under the Public Health Act in relation to burning pits. Those who do not live in mining districts or do not pass through such districts do not realise what burning pits mean. They are the accumulation of waste matter from the collieries. The huge pits burst into flames after a time and cause great discomfort and ill health to those living in the vicinity. We have not been able to deal with them up to now, although there have been many objections raised and many attempts made to get something done. So far there has not been power to get an improvement. Last year the Minister of Health made an attempt. He sent out one of his inspectors from the alkali works to see if he could get the colliery owners to do something in the direction desired. It was put to them that some remedy ought to be found. I am glad to say that in a number of cases the colliery companies tackled the matter; they followed the advice of the inspector. But in a large number of cases nothing at all was done; the colliery owners defied the advice given and made no attempt to make things better. Because of that, seeing how futile action is under the present Act, I and other hon. Members on these Benches want to prevail on the House to give us greater powers under the Public Health Act to deal with the matter. It is rather interesting that only this morning, on looking through one of the Northern newspapers, I found a paragraph which bears upon this question rather vividly. I will quote it: Silksworth Parish Council last night decided to write to the management of Silks-worth Colliery asking for steps to be taken to end the nuisance caused by fumes from the colliery refuse tip, It was also decided to request the Sunderland Rural Council to act in the matter. The decisions followed a statement by Mr. T. Emmerson, who presided, that the fumes from the burning tips were a danger to the health of people living in the vicinity. That is a state of affairs familiar to many in the mining districts. I have tried to portray as well as I can what this nuisance means, and I have here in my possession a number of photographs, if anyone cares to see them. The question arose, how could we deal with the matter? I know that when the heaps accumulate there is great expense in moving them. What I am attempting to do is to give some information that will show how to deal with these accumulations before they become large heaps. My first suggestion is that where there are depressions in the ground adjoining a colliery the refuse should be tipped there to a certain thickness. If it exceeded, say, 10 feet in thickness, a blanket or layer of sand or something of the kind, non-inflammable stuff, might be put as a cushion to prevent spontaneous combustion of the heat. Another remedy would be the provision of a percentage of non-inflammable stuff and mixing it with what is known to be inflammable material, and thereby trying to stop the heap bursting into flames. If there are no depressions in the ground around a colliery and the refuse has to be got rid of in some way or other, I advise the method of putting it down to a certain thickness, taking up the soil first of all and putting in the stuff, and then when it gets about 10 feet in thickness covering it with a layer of soil.

That would be making the neighbourhood presentable country in place of the present barren and derelict areas. Some attempt to deal with this matter is called for. It is not altogether right that hon. Members who do not live in colliery villages should ignore the trouble that colliery workers have to put up with because they have to live in these areas. I wish I could take hon. Members with me some Saturday afternoon to Billinge Hill, a spot I know very well just outside Wigan. It is a high place, one of the beacon points of the time of Cromwell. If hon. Members stood on that hill and looked towards Wigan and Leigh and Ince they would see huge colliery heaps that look just like volcanoes, sending out smoke and flames. They would get some idea of what these pit heaps mean. But on turning and looking in the other direction, towards Liverpool and Blackpool, they would see a clear atmosphere.

There is a big agitation throughout the country for the preservation of the beauties of the countryside. I noticed that on Saturday last there was an exhibition at Sheffield drawing attention to the drab buildings that were being erected. If we could tackle this question as it ought to be tackled we should be doing something effective towards retaining the beauties of the countryside. Instead of doing that, we do a lot of talking about preserving the countryside, and all the time we allow pit heaps to be built here and there without making any attempt to alter them. I shall make one more request to the House. Two years ago I made an appeal on similar lines. Last year I presented a Bill without a speech, and I made no progress. I hope, therefore, that on this, the third and last time, other hon. Members will help me in my effort to do some little good in a general sense to the community.

Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tinker, Mr. Gordon Macdonald, Mr. Batey, Mr. Parkinson, Mr. Rhys Davies, Mr. Benjamin Smith, Mr. Logan, Mr. Rowson, Mr. Cecil Wilson, Mr. Ellis Smith. and Mr. George Griffiths.