HC Deb 04 July 1957 vol 572 cc1323-38

(1) Subject to subsection (6) of this section, this Act shall apply in relation to subsidence damage occurring before the passing of this Act but after the thirty-first day of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-five, to property within the curtilage of a dwelling-house which at the time of the occurrence of the damage was not a dwelling-house to which the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act, 1950, applied, being—

  1. (a) in the case of damage to a building or structure, damage to the dwelling-house or to a building or structure appurtenant thereto;
  2. (b) in the case of damage to works such as as mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section one of this Act, damage to such works installed for the purposes of the dwelling-house or of a building or structure appurtenant thereto.

(2) In the case of any property damaged by subsidence damage in relation to which this Act applies by virtue of this section, the other provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to the three next following subsections.

(3) Without prejudice to subsection (3) of section three of this Act, all subsidence damage in relation to which this Act applies by virtue of this section shall be treated as one, and accordingly references in this Act to the time immediately before or immediately after the occurrence of the damage shall be construed as references to the time immediately before the first occurrence of any such damage or immediately after the last occurrence of any such damage, as the case may be:

Provided that the Board shall be under the like liability, if any, with respect to the cost of any works executed after the occurrence of any such damage as if no further such damage had occurred.

(4) If remedial works or such merged works or re-development works as are mentioned in subsection (3) of section one of this Act were begun in connection with the damaged property before the passing of this Act—

  1. (a) the persons entitled to serve a damage notice in respect of the damage shall include any person by whom the whole or any part of the cost of carrying out the works in question was incurred and who at the time of incurring that cost was the owner of the damaged property or liable to make good the damage in whole or in part;
  2. (b) the Board shall make the appropriate election under subsection (3) or subsection (4) of the said section one;
  3. (c) any payment under the said subsection (4) shall be made in accordance with paragraph 3 of the Schedule to this Act.

(5) Subsection (1) of section seven of this Act shall not apply, and in paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of that section for the reference to the tenth day of January there shall be substituted a reference to the twenty-fifth day of June.

(6) This Act shall not apply in relation to any subsidence damage by virtue of this section—

  1. (a) if before the passing of this Act the Board made a payment or executed works in full satisfaction of an obligation apart from this Act to make a payment by way of damages or compensation in respect of that damage or to make the damage good;
  2. (b) in a case where before the passing of this Act the Board made, otherwise than in full satisfaction of such an obligation as aforesaid, any payment in respect of that damage to a person who, or whose successor in title, would but for this subsection be entitled to serve a damage notice in respect of the damage, unless the amount of that payment is refunded to the Board or brought into account either by that person or by his successor in title:

Provided that this subsection shall not apply to such a payment made under such an agreement as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section seven of this Act, being an agreement made before the occurrence of the damage.—[Mr. Maudling.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This Clause arises from a discussion which took place in the early stages of our Standing Committee proceedings, at which time I undertook to give further consideration to the arguments which had been put forward. It was argued from both sides that some degree of retrospection should be introduced not for all subsidence damage comprised in this Bill, but for subsidence damage in dwelling-houses not already covered by the Act of 1950. It was argued on both sides that some degree of retrospection should be forthcoming. I endeavoured to explain why, although this is in many ways a persuasive idea, there are certain definite practical difficulties in the way of retrospection, certainly in the way of going too far back into the past.

The two suggestions before the Committee were, first, retrospection to 1st January, 1956, and, secondly, an Amendment moved, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Keegan), for retrospection to 1947. After further careful consideration we have still felt convinced that it is impossible to go a long way back into the past in this matter. Therefore, we have put forward this new Clause which has the effect of giving retrospection in the case of those dwelling-houses not covered by the 1950 Act to 1st January, 1956, which was the date in the Amendment moved in Committee by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens).

That is the sole effect of this Clause, although it is in substance and length rather formidable. Subsection (1) is the operative subsection, stating that there shall be retrospection to 1st January, 1956, and the subsequent subsections are machinery matters. For example, subsection (4) deals with the provision where in course of 1956 some work has been done by an individual to put right damage. He can claim to be paid by the Coal Board for the work he himself has done. There is also provision in subsection (6) to make quite clear that if a person has obtained payment from the Coal Board under some other legal right he cannot get a double remedy under this Clause. While it is complicated, the principal effect of the Clause is to ensure that in the case of dwelling-houses there shall be restrospective effect given to these mining subsidence compensation provisions to 1st January, 1956.

I think I should refer again to the reasons why we cannot go back further, although they were mentioned in Committee. In the first place, there have been many strong arguments for extending the scope of the Bill and widening the classes of people and claims which can be made good for compensation, but all the time we felt that it was wrong to impose further burdens on the National Coal Board. Serious burdens are imposed already and the difficulty would be in admitting an exception to the rules without opening the gates to a whole host of other exceptions.

In this case, the problem is a practical one. If we go back more than a practical time how can we be sure that the damage was caused by subsidence? How can we tell whether the repairs to a house were necessary to make good subsidence damage or were for some wider purpose? If the Coal Board wants to make a value payment, if we go too far back how can we decide what that payment should be? Finally, if we go too far back into the past we are liable to create a number of anomalies between the buyers and sellers of houses, the ownership of which has changed in the interim.

For all those practical reasons, we felt unable to accept the view that we should go as far back as 1947 and we have decided to confine this provision to 1st January, 1956. In those circumstances, I hope that the new Clause will commend itself to the House.

Mr. R. Williams

I hope that the House will accept the new Clause, which gives retrospection to the extent for which the Opposition asked in Committee and applies it to the properties to which we referred in the Committee. My observations will be limited to asking the Minister whether between now and later stages of the Bill he will look at the drafting, because there are one or two points which put me in a certain difficulty. I hasten to add that they do not put me in the difficulty of deciding whether I support the Clause. I do support the Clause.

In subsection 1, the Clause refers to damage to property within the curtilage of a dwelling-house". Having said that, it refers in paragraph (a) to "damage to the dwelling-house" It seems to me that the danger in defining in the opening words that the damage shall he damage "to property within the curtilage" is that it makes it difficult to talk about "damage to the dwelling-house", since obviously the curtilage is attached to the dwelling-house. This raises a question of clarity of drafting to which I ask the Minister to address his attention. I do not want to take the matter up at length. It will be sufficient for me to say that the word "curtilage" has been judicially construed in several cases. If the word "curtilage" is used, one should have clearly in one's mind that one is thinking of that which surrounds a dwelling-house and belongs to the dwelling-house rather than of the dwelling-house itself.

My principal difficulty arises in connection with subsection (3), where, it seems to me, there is a formidable drafting problem. Having said at the beginning of subsection (3) that all the subsidence damage of the kind we are discussing—and we are discussing subsidence damage in the cases to which retrospection shall apply—shall be treated as one, what possible scope can there be for any "further such damage" occurring? I have no objection to all the subsidence damage in this respect being treated as one. We could argue that further damage might occur, but having said that all the damage about which we are talking is to be treated as one, we cannot then consider "further such damage."

A house might be damaged four or five times between the 31st December, 1955, and the passing of this Bill. I am quite happy that the damage on those four or five occasions should be treated as one damage. I am happy that when we refer in the Bill to "immediately before" we mean immediately before the first damage and that when we refer to "after" we mean immediately after the last occurrence of the damage. But having put this into one category and said that there shall be one damage only, we cannot then talk about "further such damage".

I do not ask the Minister to make up his mind this afternoon. If he did, he might put me in a little difficulty. I simply point out the drafting difficulty to him and hope that he will look into it. Whether he finds a way round it or not, I can assure him that we on this side of the House feel that the new Clause ought most certainly to receive our support.

4.15 p.m.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

I should like very shortly to welcome the new Clause. I think that the Minister has gone as far back as it is practically possible to go. The question of retrospection was considered at great length in the Turner Committee, and I for my part am satisfied from the evidence which we had before that Committee that we could not go very far back here for the kind of reasons which my right hon. Friend indicated. I think he has been as generous as it was possible for him to be.

I have one purely drafting point to make. The opening words of subsection (2) read: In the case of any property damaged by subsidence damage… I do not think that one can be damaged by damage. As the expression "subsidence" is specially defined, I think the phrase ought to be amended to read, "In the case of any property affected by subsidence damage". I am sorry to call attention to so small a drafting point, but this has been the first available opportunity.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity of expressing my appreciation to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the four Amendments just passed in Committee. They were passed so quickly that I was almost taken aback by the right hon. Gentleman's decision to give us the concession which we sought on 14th May.

Mr. G. H. Oliver (Ilkeston)

It is a small point.

Mr. Brown

I agree, but it is very important.

Having said that, I want to put one or two questions on the new Clause. The Bill takes over the full financial responsibility of the 1950 Act, which became operative with effect from 1st January, 1947, and which has, therefore, been in operation for ten years. During those ten years, a large number of dwelling-houses have been repaired and the damage has been rectified. To all intents and purposes, everything in the garden is lovely. We now come to this Bill which goes back to the 1st January, 1956, the date mentioned in the new Clause being 31st December, 1955.

Let us assume that a house has been damaged during the ten years, that repairs have been carried out, that the Government and the National Coal Board acting jointly have rectified the damage and that peace is reigning in the district. Assume that the house is damaged again and that another claim has to be made by the owners of the property. Will the applicant in respect of a house which suffers a second damage, or recurrence of the earlier damage, be entitled to claim under the Bill?

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

It is the same house.

Mr. Brown

It is the same house, and it may be the same tenant. Will he be able to have the damage put right under the new Clause? If his house has been put right under the 1950 Act, will he be able to claim compensation under the 1957 Act in respect of other damage which has been done?

I have no quibble with the other points raised in the new Clause, but that which I have outlined presents a disturbing feature. I should like to know whether people who have claimed in respect of damage under the 1950 Act will be able to claim in respect of damage under the 1957 Act. If the right hon. Gentleman can give me a satisfactory answer on that point, he will satisfy my mind a great deal more than it is satisfied at the moment.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I ought to say that the Amendment in line 3, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), is not selected, but it would be germane to this matter if he would care to speak on it on the Second Reading of the Clause.

Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)

I should like to add my word of appreciation to the Minister for being forthcoming in this respect. He will remember that the Committee was, I think, unanimous that some degree of retrospection must be given to those houses which suffered hardship by being excluded before.

Subsection (2) of the new Clause reads: (2) In the case of any property damaged by subsidence damage in relation to which this Act applies by virtue of this section, the other provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to the three next following subsections. It may be that the Minister will be able to put at rest my concern about retrospection applying not merely to the property but to the occupants of the property, and I hope that I shall not be out of order in saying that there is a later new Clause entitled, "Payments in respect of death or disablement in certain cases," and also a new Schedule, which contain provisions not previously granted.

If we are granting a degree of retrospection to those houses not included in the 1950 Act, because they were not of a certain rateable value, are we also granting a degree of retrospection in relation to new houses coming in? If we are, then I must say that, much as I welcome the provisions of the Bill, we are giving those new houses more favourable treatment than was given to those houses below a certain rateable value which were included in the 1950 Act. I should like to be clear on that point, because I should not be so complacent if more favourable treatment is to be given there. This subject is rather complex, but I am sure that the Minister is seized of my point and will, perhaps, give us some amplification later.

Mr. J. C. George (Pollok)

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for informing me that my Amendment will not be called. That being so, I should like to say a few words as to what prompted me to table it. I cannot agree that the Bill does anything more for the new class of houses than was done for the very wide class covered by the 1950 Act. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) there. Indeed, it is because I think the other way that I put down the Amendment.

The Turner Committee was appointed by the House to study subsidence and how it should be dealt with in view of the nationalisation of the mining industry. That Committee reported that it could see no reason to distinguish classes of property; that dwelling-houses should be treated and compensated as one. The 1950 Act did not do that. It separated dwelling-houses into two classes, consisting of those of a valuation of or below £32 in England and £40 in Scotland, and those above those figures. Therefore, a group of dwellings in mining areas has had the right to enjoy compensation for ten years, while another has no right to compensation until this Bill is passed.

I fully agree that retrospection could be extremely difficult and that the date of 1947 on which the right of one group of houses to claim compensation is based goes too far back into the past. Nevertheless, I would say that in order to do full justice to all dwellings in mining areas, the second type of house should have been allowed the right to claim back to 1947. However, I think that there are insuperable difficulties. It would be impossible, after ten years, for the National Coal Board to discharge its onus of providing that the damage was not caused by subsidence.

I have listened to the Minister saying that, in his opinion, in view of those difficulties, this period of one year which is included in the new Clause is as far back as it is reasonable to go, but let us look at the 1950 Act. In that Act, the three-year period of retrospection has worked perfectly satisfactorily. Of the two classes of houses with which we are concerned, I believe that the class representing 94 per cent. of all houses in the mining areas were given the right to claim seven years ago, and, if necessary to back date their claims for three years. We gave one class the benefit of three years' retrospection, but we have kept this other class waiting for seven years before belatedly trying to do it justice, and now it is to be allowed to back date only one year.

Three years' retrospection has proved to be workable, and I suggest that there is no practical, technical reason why that class of house should not be brought into line with those dealt with in 1950. Therefore, while I welcome this new Clause, I feel that the Minister has rather spoiled the generosity that he has shown all the way through, and that we have only rectified to a small degree the injustice done to this class of house.

Mr. Oliver

I am sure that all of us who were on the Committee are very grateful to the Minister for his concession, but I should like to advance some criticism of the new Clause very much on the lines of that voiced by the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George). I appreciate, and so, I think, did the Committee, the difficulty of going back many years, but my criticism is that the Minister has confined the one-year retrospection wholly to dwelling-houses. That means that there is excluded a very large quantity of property which has suffered damage and which is normally in the occupation or possession of very humble people. This new Clause will cut out a number of small shopkeepers, small garages, and one-man businesses, whose property has, in fact, suffered and who have consistently urged upon Members of Parliament, of whom I have been one, for the past year or more, that something should be done.

4.30 p.m.

I am sorry that the Minister has limited it to dwelling-houses alone and taken a period of only one year. I hasten to say that we are grateful for that, but I thought that he might possibly have extended it a little more generously. I am quite sure that many local authorities will be concerned to find that they have been forgotten in this matter and that they will not receive consideration until the Bill becomes an Act. However, I say this only because of something I wish to say at a later stage. I am not quite satisfied. Although I appreciate what has been done, the Minister could have gone a little further.

Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)

We are thankful for small mercies and we are, therefore, very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for going back the little distance he has, but, taking the country as a whole, grave injustice is being done to a certain section of the community which is not able to go back three years. Three years proved to be practical in the 1950 Act, and I cannot see why it should not be practical now.

There are certain areas where the responsibility of the Coal Board was much greater than it is in other areas. In an area like Lancashire, for example, in many parts the responsibility of the Coal Board covers both business premises and houses, both large and small, over the whole period, and, therefore, retrospection in that case does not mean anything at all. But in areas where the Coal Board has no responsibility whatever for the properties which were excluded by the 1950 Act, there is a grave injustice to the people that have had to bear the burden for so long.

I believe that it is possible even now to take the period of retrospection further hack. I appeal to the Government to look at the matter again. I was much impressed by the eloquence of the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), who was able to prove, I think, that it was practical policy to go back three years. Is it not possible even now to go back three years and give a greater measure of justice than is provided by what the right hon. Gentleman now proposes?

Mr. Maudling

If I may have the leave of the House to speak again, there are certain points to which I should like to reply.

The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) raised criticisms of drafting, and I must confess that I find the drafting of this new Clause extremely difficult to understand, after having looked at it for some time. I shall most gladly look at it again in the light of their advice. I believe that the only reference to "curtilage" in subsection (1) is necessary because this, of course, relates to the 1950 Act. That is the reason that the expression is used there. Certainly, we shall look at the points of drafting which have been raised, but I do not think either hon. Member will expect me to give answers offhand.

The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) asked a question which was, I think, based on a misapprehension, if I may say so. He asked what would happen to a person who had already claimed under the 1950 Act? This new Clause cannot affect anyone who has a claim under the 1950 Act, because it applies to properties excluded from the 1950 Act. Therefore, the danger the hon. Gentleman has in mind cannot possibly arise.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) asked a most interesting ques4ion as to whether, as a result of what we are hoping to do this afternoon, the effect will be that people owning properties of this category will receive the benefit of the new provisions dealing, for example, with physical injury and removal expenses, whereas people in smaller properties will not. The answer "No." The hon. Gentleman will find that both these new provisions, the new Clause and the new Schedule about removal expenses, refer exclusively to something happening after the passing of the Act. Therefore, in practice, there will be no distinction, and it will not be possible for this limited category of householder to get benefits under the Act as a whole denied to the wider category of householder, who has been claiming up to now under the 1950 Act.

Other hon. Members, the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor), my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South asked whether we have gone far enough. I suppose it is inevitable that, when the Government have done something, as they have here, someone should say, "The Government have done a little; let them now go a little farther." An argument was put that we should extend the provision to further categories of property and, also, that we should extend the provisions farther back in time.

As regards the category of property concerned, which was the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston. I think it was agreed during the Committee stage and there was, I thought, fairly general agreement by most people interested, that it is quite a different thing to extend retrospection to the whole range of damage under the Bill, to all local authorities and all types of property; and I did not think that there had been much demand for that. Certainly, from the point of view of possible expense alone, I do not think that we could accept it.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

My right hon. Friend will be aware that that view is endorsed by the Turner Committee in its Report. It is exactly in accordance with paragraph 96 of the Report.

Mr. Maudling

I am grateful for that information; I must confess that I was not aware of it. I am always a little doubtful about quoting from the Report too often, because I am accused of selecting the bits which suit my purpose and ignoring those which do not—which might have a certain amount of truth, as often happens, on these occasions.

As to the other argument, that we have not gone back far enough, I agree that it is right that we should try to go back as far as possible. I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend for Hendon, South in our decision that this is about as far as practicable. After hearing all that has been said, I still feel compelled, rather reluctantly, to the view that both on grounds of expense and of practicability we have gone back as far as can reasonably be expected. That is the proposal we are putting before the House, and I hope that the House will be prepared to accept it.

Mr. T. Brown

I did not quite catch what the right hon. Gentleman said in answer to my query about claims for compensation under the 1950 Act as against claims for compensation under the Bill. Though, I do not like asking him to repeat it, I should be grateful if he would give his answer again.

Mr. Maudling

The answer was that this new Clause cannot affect anyone claiming under the 1950 Act, that is, small property owners. This new Clause affects people whose houses are above a certain rateable value, and people with houses below that rateable value cannot be affected in any way by the new Clause.

Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)

I hope that the House will excuse me for intervening. I did endeavour to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during the Second Reading, and I am one of the few Conservative Members who represent constituencies closely affected by mining subsidence. If I may say so, I had the opportunity of presenting a Petition to this House on that matter, and I have, in a small way, co-operated in an all-party meeting on the subject.

For myself, I find it difficult at this moment to criticise the Government about this new Clause very strongly because I am overwhelmed by the new Schedule, which is a thing which I and many other people were hoping the Government could see their way to provide. Any question of going back is a small one compared with enlarging the scope of compensation.

As for the question of going back, perhaps I may be excused for saying that it is difficult enough to get evidence when everybody is talking about what happened yesterday, but to get evidence over the years almost presents a temptation to people to go into litigation. I think that, by and large, it is most necessary, when one is setting a time limit for claims, not to put it too far back, not merely because it is impossible, or very difficult, to get at the facts, but because one leaves many dissatisfied people.

If one puts it back two years, the man who is arguing for three years or four yours is still dissatisfied. One has to put the guillotine down within the reasonable limit of memory, and that, in my experience, does not go farther than, and very often not as far as, a year. On the whole, I would myself support the Government in saying that they have gone back, probably, as far as reason demands.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right when he says that when we draw a line some fall on the wrong side of it and some on the right side. The question of retrospection has exercised the minds of many of us from the time of the publication of the Report of the Turner Committee. While I join in the general chorus of welcome that the right hon. Gentleman has gone some way to meet the wishes of the Members of the Committee on the question of retrospection, I also join with those who feel that his generosity has not been of the highest degree.

I would have welcomed the Clause if the Minister could have found it possible to go back, in view of the very small number that would be affected, a little further than what, in actual practice, is about 18 months. We are not asking for the moon on this question of retrospection. We are not asking that it should go back to 1947 or even 1950. I think that the request that this should go back two or three years instead of the 18 months laid down in the new Clause is very reasonable.

Mr. Philip Bell

I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is making, but it is not, if I may say so with respect, as simple as that. It is not that certain claims can go back; it is all the disputes and anxieties that arise when one claim succeeds and five fail. We encourage disputes and litigation if we open the field of dispute.

Mr. Taylor

I appreciate the difficulties inherent in going back too far. The point that I am trying to make, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) and in my general observations, is that the proposed 18 months is too short a period. Had it been twice as long, my own view is that it would have been fair and reasonable and that the difficulties presented would not have been insurmountable. I was endeavouring to find out whether the right hon. Gentleman had closed his mind or whether he was prepared to look at this again. I am sorry that he appears to have closed his mind on this very important question of retrospection. I hope that even at this late stage, in view of the appeals which have been made to him, he will, in the interests of those who are just over the limit of rateable values laid down in the 1950 Act, be prepared to have another look at this and at a later stage come down on the side of the appeal for extending this principle of retrospection.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)

I have been very interested in the discussion. I have listened to the points which have been touched upon and the difficulties we might expect if the time limit were extended. Nevertheless, we have to judge by past experience. When we passed an Act and it gave not a year's opportunity to go back but three years, it must have been assumed at that time, although there may have been difficulties in getting the exact facts and making a true decision, that it was reasonable to extend the time to three years.

As time has gone on, we have decided that even at that time we had not allowed sufficient flexibility for applicants to make their claims and for the extension of that opportunity to other people. We recognise that circumstances change, but in this case it is not a change of circumstances —they have been there all the timel—but our opinion which has changed. We have changed it in a generous way in one direction, but we have hardened our point of view in another. I always feel in these discussions, particularly in regard to the National Coal Board, that a much greater degree of generosity is extended to all applicants to the Board than would be the case under private enterprise. Sometimes that tends to make me sit tight rather than make a plea for the people who have prior claim upon the coal industry.

The point has been made that if we extend the time we are likely to have a greater number of doubtful cases making application and a greater number whose claims will not be successful. Is that any justification for limiting the time to one year? I cannot see any justification for it at all. The point is that these people have not had the opportunity before to make application. This Bill, if it passes without Amendment, closes the opportunity to a limited number. It is extending the position now to almost everyone who suffers damage to his house from subsidence. If one can get this opportunity, I think that all should get it.

The point of difficulty that has been put to the House is that the more we extend this principle the more doubtful cases there will be applying. But, after all, is there not a limit? When a man takes proceedings to recover compensation it costs money, and, therefore, unless there is some circumstance which attaches to his particular case which gives him encouragement to apply, he is simply throwing his money away. The question therefore arises whether we are to apply this principle entirely to everyone who has suffered damage by the industry extracting coal. If so, why should the man who knows the circumstances and that the damage was caused by subsidence be debarred from applying?

We may say that there is the cost to the man, but there is also the cost to the National Coal Board of any legal proceedings that may take place. That has to be considered as well. It is not a big plea to ask that we should recognise the justice of the demand for compensation. We went back over three years in 1947, so surely we can extend this provision to two years now. I personally should not like to feel, when we are going into the whole of these difficulties and troubles, that I had limited the opportunities to such an extent that all reasonable applications could not be put forward. We are not asking a great deal. We simply want the extension from one year to two years, when, in practice, there has already been an extension to three years in similar circumstances. We would be wrong to debar any justifiable cases which could succeed. As there was the extension to three years in the earlier Bill, there ought to be an extension now to at least two years.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.