HC Deb 21 April 1939 vol 346 cc673-5

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Lawson

We are very pleased indeed to see this Bill approaching the Statute Book, and I am prepared to say that the Government have appreciated the position and have taken all the steps they could to provide facilities for the Measure. If the House agrees to pass the Bill we hope that a state of affairs which means something approaching to misery for great masses of people will be ended, and that is something which we shall all very much appreciate.

11.6 a.m.

Mr. Tinker

Before the Bill gets the Third Reading I should like, in a word or two, to say how pleased I am that the House sees its way to assent to it. It has taken a long, long time to convince the House of the need for this Measure, and, if I may say so, I think that in one sense the fact that we have got so far with the Bill is due to one man. We disagree with him in many things, but certain things he has done have caused other things to follow. I refer to the German leader. The German leader may seem to be a long way off, but what he has done has caused us to stir ourselves to try to get something done in this matter of burning pit-heaps. If we look at the Defence Bill which has been framed in anticipation of what we may expect to happen, we find in Clause 35 a very drastic remedy for a state of things which we have for a long time been trying to get altered, and it is to be hoped that the coal owners will get ready to meet the requirements of the Defence Bill.

In 1937 when I was discussing this question I pointed out the dangers that might arise if enemy aircraft sighted burning pit-heaps, and mentioned one particular heap in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). Yesterday my hon. Friend put down a question about it, and told the House that that pit-heap is in a very bad state at the present time, because nothing had been done in the two years which had elapsed. Somewhere about 12 months ago it was said by the colliery owners that they did not intend to do anything about it, but yesterday it was announced on behalf of the Ministry of Health that certain action was being taken, and it is evident that something is to be done. I hope that the colliery owners will recognise their duty in this matter. They have never before recognised their duty to have regard to the needs of their workpeople living round and about the collieries, the amenities of the district or the health of those people; but something is to be done now in face of a possible national crisis, and I believe that more will be accomplished as the result of that than could have been achieved by all the pressure which we have been able to bring to bear from these benches. However, I am very glad indeed that at last something is to be done, and I hope that within a short time we shall have removed these blots from the face of the land— these pit-heaps have been a blot upon our industrial areas— and that the people living in these areas will enjoy a much better life than has been their lot up to now.

11.10 a.m.

Mr. George Griffiths

I should like to say a word in appreciation of the passing of this Bill. For several years the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and I have been associated in putting questions to the Secretary for Mines and the Minister of Health on the subject of burning pit-heaps, but, as the hon. Member has said, action has only been quickened by a realisation of the danger of these burning pit-heaps becoming landmarks for enemy aircraft at night. I am delighted that the Bill is going through with Government backing and without opposition. Without doubt it will bring about an improvement from the point of view of the health of the people who have to live around these pit-heaps. Not long ago the West Riding County Council sent one of their inspectors round the county to find out how many people were living within a range of 800 yards or so of burning pit-heaps, and it was found that there were thousands of men and women in those areas, and that there were some 70 burning pit-heaps in that Yorkshire county. I am pleased that on such a beautiful, sunshiny morning we are de- ciding to put these burning pit-heaps out of existence.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time," put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.