HC Deb 05 February 1951 vol 483 cc1336-7
40. Mr. Deedes

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will undertake a survey of agricultural land which may be suitable for opencast mining, and publish its results so that farmers may know whether or not their land will be required, and can, where necessary, go forward with capital development.

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

The Survey proposed by the hon. Member is being made as rapidly as the number of qualified geologists allows, and the earliest possible information is given to farmers when their land is scheduled to be worked for opencast coal.

Mr. Deedes

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the survey is likely to be finished, because, in view of the announcement made during the debate last week, it is now a matter of importance to an increasing number of farmers?

Mr. Noel-Baker

It is, of course, a long and laborious matter, and to try rushing it would serve nobody's advantage. It all depends on the number of qualified geologists we can get, and we are getting as many as we can.

Mr. Eden

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider making the survey available to the House when it is complete? I am sure that he realises that one of the most disturbing results of the coal shortage is the increase in opencast mining, which may have unfortunate consequences for our agricultural industry.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, I will certainly give all the information I can. If the right hon. Gentleman will put down a Question I will give him an answer.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Can the Minister recollect assuring the farming industry, not so long ago, that there would be a rapid end to this disastrous policy of opencast mining? Why are we stepping it up now? Does he still agree, or not, with what the Minister of Labour once said about a shortage?