HC Deb 04 June 1951 vol 488 cc659-60
6. Mr. P. Bartley

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what steps he proposes to take to implement the considered view of the Committee on Mining Subsidence that agricultural land now held by the National Coal Board should be transferred to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

The main purpose of the proposals made by the Turner Committee was to ensure, as far as possible, that agricultural land affected by mining subsidence should not be permanently damaged. It would not be practicable to introduce legislation for this purpose without dealing also with the other recommendations which the Committee made. I am afraid that I see no early prospect of bringing in a Bill.

Mr. Bartley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Coal Board, which, rightly, is concerned with coal production, is at least equally concerned with using agricultural land to the best advantage in the national interest?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, it does have great interest in it.

Colonel Clarke

Does the Minister recollect that in paragraph 68 of its Annual Report the Coal Board said that this practice has been roundly condemned by the National Farmers' Union on the ground that it leads to bad farming, and that all concerned with an increase of agricultural production throughout the country also condemn it? Will he consider this again?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Consultations are going on between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Coal Board on the matter.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Are consultations going on with the Secretary of State for Scotland for the same purpose?

Mr. Noel-Baker

So far as I know they are.

Colonel Clarke

Will the Minister also go into cases, if any, where the Coal Board is farming the land itself, because that is equally likely to lead to abuse? It should stop.

Mr. Noel-Baker

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will inform me of any case I will certainly go into it.