HC Deb 19 May 1953 vol 515 cc1861-3
32. Mr. Hartley

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware that the nuisance arising from the colliery refuse tip at Oxclose, Washington, County Durham, is continuing; and whether he will ask for a report as to the effect of the fumes on the health of the people residing in the district and take effective steps to deal with the nuisance.

Mr. H. Macmillan

My inspector made suggestions for dealing with this nuisance. I will make further inquiries as to their result and write to the hon. Member.

Mr. Bartley

Is the Minister aware that the method of dealing with this refuse tip, which, presumably, the inspector had in mind a few weeks ago, is still ineffective? Even though parts of the tip are covered by sand and loam, as was then suggested, it very often takes fire again and gives rise to the awful fumes about which the public are complaining. Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, take some expert technical advice as to the best method of dealing with this nuisance, especially in view of the effect it may have upon the health of the public, and thus assure the public by evidence that effective improvement is being made in this matter?

Mr. Macmillan

We have sent the most expert man of whom we know, and I will certainly take note of what the hon. Member has said. At present, the authorities concerned are trying to treat the fire with sand and loam—there is no water conveniently near—and it is hoped that they will be successful. If we can get some further expert advice, I will certainly take note of what the hon. Member has said.

Mr. T. Brown

Does the Minister not now hold the opinion that the time has come when his Department should be in closer collaboration with the National Coal Board and should prevent these pit heaps from going up, otherwise there will be trouble in other parts of the country? It is now understood by the men who know about it that wherever pit heaps are put up, there will be fires. Therefore, we ought to prevent the heaps going up, and there would be no fires.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

Will the Minister be good enough to consult the Minister of Fuel and Power to see what can be done to prevent coal being mixed with the stone day after day which merely helps to feed these fires? If this were done, it would go a long way to alleviate the problem.

Mr. Macmillan

I am grateful for the suggestions of hon. Members, who are, obviously, very well qualified, and I will try to consider them.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Since the Minister is going to be good enough to study this problem, will he also consider with the Coal Board whether by the use of bulldozers pit heaps could not sometimes be transformed into useful housing sites?

Sir H. Williams

On a point of order. Are we entitled to ask questions about the day-to-day administration of the National Coal Board?

Mr. Speaker

I do not see anything in that point of order. The question asked the Minister whether he would consult with the Coal Board, and I see nothing wrong in that.