HC Deb 05 July 1957 vol 572 cc1471-505

Order for Third Reading read.

11.5 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. David Renton)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The general principles of this Bill have all along been welcomed by both sides of the House, and I have no doubt that its provisions will be welcomed in the mining areas, for it solves a difficult problem which has defied solution for many generations, a problem which has grown year by year and caused increased chaos and hardship as it has grown. The Bill takes no rights from anybody—I stress that, even at this late stage—but it enables a right of repair or compensation to be obtained by those people who are without a remedy, When their property is damaged, at this moment.

Although the general principles of the Bill have been supported, many Clauses in it have caused much argument and detailed criticism. When such strong local feelings have been aroused—and I think we have disagreed at times—it is remarkable how friendly our debates have been. It is not for a Parliamentary Secretary to toss bouquets about the Chamber, but I should like to say what a pleasant and fruitful experience this has been. In particular I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) for all his help and wise counsel, which is derived from the experience he had on the Turner Committee and the interest he has taken in the subject ever since.

I should also like to acknowledge the large amount of patient and valuable hard work which has been done by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), whom I have regarded as my opposite number throughout these debates. If I may say so, he sits very comfortably on the Opposition Front Bench. We are all very sorry that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal), through illness, has not been able to be with us to finish the job today.

Thanks to the efforts of all concerned the Bill is now a better Bill, but I am afraid that it is also a longer and more complicated one. A number of detailed improvements have been made in the original Clauses. For example, Clause 1 now clarifies three things of importance: first, with regard to damage caused because of alteration in level of gradients, although they may not in the ordinary sense have been damaged. Then it has been made clear that the repairs which the National Coal Board have to carry out include decorations. Attention has also been given to the point which caused doubt, about the de-watering of worked-out seams. It may be in order for me to mention that further clarification is needed of the word "purposes" in Clause 1 (2), in its relation to ancient monuments, and that will have attention.

Under Clause 2 a person who serves a damage notice may now ask the National Coal Board at any stage of the proceedings after serving the notice, and before the completion of repairs, to send a list of the repairs which the Board proposes to do, even though it has not started the work. I hope that will enable many disputes to be prevented, as well as enabling owners of property to know better where they stand.

Clause 5 has been most radically altered. That is the Clause which deals with damage to the land drainage systems of drainage authorities and river boards. We now have a Clause and a procedure which applies to all England and Wales, instead of a procedure which was extended area by area. It is to be hoped that the code now set out in Clause 5 will prove to be a practicable method of solving the rather difficult problems of damage to land drainage systems caused by mining subsidence. I should like to acknowledge the very great help which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) with regard to this matter in Committee.

Under Clause 6, which deals with the avoidance of double remedies, we have now provided, instead of people having to make a once-for-all choice which might be fatal to their interests, that they will have a second chance if they are totally unsuccessful with regard to the first choice or if they abandon the first choice. We ought also to record that under Clause 6 the person with the lesser interest in the property will no longer be debarred from taking proceedings because somebody else has a greater interest in it.

Although the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) acknowledged that it would not have been possible to put a case that the whole of the Bill should be retrospective, we have, nevertheless managed to concede that there should be at least eighteen months' retrospection in respect of dwelling-houses, and that in fact and in practice means those dwelling-houses which were not covered by the 1950 Act.

We have set our faces against consequential losses, generally speaking, being covered by the Bill because that would have shattered the main structure of the Bill and, in our view, would have made it quite unworkable and a most terrible burden on the National Coal Board, but we have been able to provide that people who are rendered homeless shall in certain circumstances be given alternative accommodation and be paid removal expenses.

Further, the Board will now be liable for death or serious and permanent disablement caused by subsidence damage and directly proved to have been so and when there is no claim against a third party, and that liability of the Board will arise even though there has been no negligence on its part.

These concessions go beyond the main principles of the Bill without overloading its structure. We thought it was right to make these concessions in order to meet a fairly limited number of cases of real hardship, and we are advised that they are not likely to place an undue burden upon the National Coal Board.

Since the Bill was first presented, two important gaps of a rather technical kind have been filled, first, with regard to a tenant's right to compensation for improvements during his tenancy, a question discussed in some detail yesterday; and, second, with regard to the procedure to be followed when houses are so badly damaged by mining subsidence that the local authorities think fit to have a slum clearance order or at any rate to order demolition of an individual house. I should stress that the provisions which are now contained in the Bill apply to houses which have got into a bad condition only through mining subsidence. That should be borne in mind when reading the new provisions.

In conclusion, we hope that the Bill will give particular satisfaction to the local authorities and statutory undertakers and that it will thereby help the ratepayers and the community generally in the mining areas as well as relieve many cases of personal hardship which might otherwise, but for the Bill, have been most acute.

11.14 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)

At the outset of my observations, I think it right that I should follow the Parliamentary Secretary in sending from the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal), who has been taken seriously ill, our good wishes and our hopes for his speedy recovery. We acknowledge all the very great work that he did in the earlier stages of the Bill and express our regret that he is not with us to take part in the later stages.

I rise most definitely to support the Third Reading. I think it right to acknowledge at once that the Bill is now a much better one than it was in its earlier stages, and that is in part so because of not only the fairness but the generosity of the Minister in dealing with the many technical points which we have submitted to him. Because of the complicated and technical nature of the Bill, it is not something for which he will receive any reward in the Press, but I think that he himself will feel that it is better that his reward should be in those areas which have been stricken by the subsidence damage to which the Bill relates, and in those areas his fairness and generosity will not pass unnoticed.

With regard to the Bill itself, I wish to address myself in particular to certain main principles and to express the hope that the provisions in the Bill and the spirit which we have all shown in cooperating to make it a better Measure will forcibly bring out the point that we all wish the Bill to be administered in such a way that the emphasis will be upon remedial works rather than depreciation payments. I say that with particular emphasis because on Second Reading I stated that the Bill, drafted as it was, would turn into a depreciation payment Measure.

I hope the House will be patient with me if I refer to a personal experience which relates directly to the provisions of the Bill. Some years ago my home was in a mining area, and it was badly affected by mining subsidence. I well remember getting up in the middle of the night on many occasions in the firm conviction that there was someone in my home because I believed that the noises would not have been made had there been nothing happening. Some time after that it was discovered that we were experiencing the beginnings of mining subsidence.

It so happened—this is why I have emphasised that we should be remedial-works-minded rather than depreciation-payment minded—that, although at that time every day of the week I was acting as an advocate against the colliery companies, I was one of those persons described in the Bill as having remedies apart from the Act. Therefore, when the subsidence had reached the point where the house was in danger, the colliery company concerned devoted itself to performing remedial works, and it saved my home by so doing. Had it been depreciation-payment minded, as it could have been, I should have had a cheque from it and I myself would have been responsible for doing the work.

It requires no imagination by hon. Members to appreciate that, having had that experience, I realise that throughout the mining areas there are men and women who have sunk their savings into their own homes and to whom it would spell ruin if remedial works were not performed but depreciation payments made. I mention that from the Front Bench on behalf of the Opposition because a great deal of the success of the Measure will depend on the emphasis which is placed on that aspect of the Bill.

We should bear in mind today that we are doing something which is an acknowledgment of the dreadful price which has had to be paid in the mining areas. Because we have decided that the payment shall be made not through the Exchequer but by the National Coal Board, the amount payable in respect of damage will ultimately fall upon the consumers of coal.

For more than twenty-one years I have acted in the closest professional and personal association with miners and there is not an area in this country in which I have not seen the dreadful evidence of mining subsidence. When we speak of the hazards of producing coal and of the price of coal in the mining areas, we think in terms very different from those outside the mining areas, and that is no reflection on those outside the mining areas. The price of coal is something which we in the mining areas have had to pay for generations, and the commercial price is an infinitesimal part of the total price which has to be paid for coal.

It must be realised in other areas that here we are dealing with one of the great hazards of the industry, hazards, as we have acknowledged in the Bill, to life and limb, hazards to property, risks of ruin to people who live in mining areas. In the Bill we are trying to provide a measure of defence against that type of hazard. I hope that we have done our work well. We have tried hard to do it well, but much depends—and I return to my point about remedial work—upon the Bill being so administered that it is the remedial works provision which will be predominant in the policy of the Board.

I do not think that anybody will criticise the Board when he finds that an increase in the price of coal is probably necessary. Any fair-minded person need only go to any part of the mining areas to see areas which look as though they have undergone the stresses of war. I speak advisedly and I am not over-stating the case when I say that.

We have had to devote ourselves to a close attention of many technical complexities. All we feel from the Opposition, as I am sure is felt from the Government side of the House, is that we have provided rough justice. We have not done more. We could not have done more. We could not have dealt precisely with every individual circumstance. There are still cases omitted and in future there will have to be Amendments of the Bill because of certain defects which, unfortunately, it still has.

However, it is a good Bill and a good practical atempt to deal with a dreadfully difficult and complicated situation. It will enable people in the mining areas to feel that we have not lost sight of the fact that, although they are exposed to the hazards which we take into account in the Bill, they will not be left without compensation and without any provision against those hazards.

The time has come, since we have devoted so many weeks in Committee and in close co-operation with each other—as a team I like to think—in improving this Measure, and since we found even as recently as yesterday that the Bill is already a little out of date in its present form—because it contains a few very clear undertakings which will be considered in due course in another place—to say that we are speaking of a Bill of which we can all be proud. Through the years its benefits will be accepted in the mining areas as a great contribution, long overdue but still come at last. For myself I can only say that I am deeply moved and proud to have had some little part in bringing this Measure to this stage. I am looking forward to the further progress which will be made when the Bill comes into full operation. I support it with all my heart and I can assure the Government that the Opposition will give their full support to the Third Reading.

11.27 a.m.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

I think it right that someone from the back benches on his side of the House should say a word of appreciation of the great care and attention which has been given to this very difficult Bill by my right hon. Friend and his assistants. It is a very complicated subject and it is worth while casting our minds back to the early days of the Committee stage when the prospect was not nearly as cheerful as it is today. There was a moment when everyone felt rather desperate about it.

Here was this very complicated and difficult subject and there appeared to be a big difference between the points of view of the two sides of the Committee. As time went on, discussions were friendly and, as they always are in these mining matters, carried on by those who were expert in the subject. It gradually appeared, as one should have known from the start, that my right hon. Friend was anxious to do what was right. When he appreciated that there was a point which had perhaps not been fully considered, he was perfectly prepared to have it studied.

However, we must not go into those discussions now, but we can all agree that a great many of the difficulties were ironed out and misunderstandings removed and certain points of principle decided. There was one question which, unfortunately, was not decided and there has been evidence that it has not been decided yet. That is how the word should be pronounced, whether it is "subsidence" with a long "i" or with a short "i". That, I think, must remain unresolved.

There is one matter which I want to put on record and this arises from my own personal experience. As some hon. Members opposite know, this is not the first Bill connected with mining matters with which I have been associated. We had a similar situation with the Mines and Quarries Measure with which I had the honour and privilege to be concerned. That started with difficulties—the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is looking at me; I know what he wants to say if he gets the chance, but I hope that he will not say it. There again, we managed to work out an agreement in a satisfactory way.

One thing I cannot resist saying—and I hope that nobody will think it improper of me—is that what struck me about the Committee, as it has done before in connection with mining matters, was the extent of agreement between those of my political outlook and the miners. Miners have a splendid sense of the rights of the individual and of the property which he has, and its need for protection. Perhaps that is why we find it so easy to reach these decisions. I might be described as sticking my neck out in this respect, but there is a great deal of truth in it. The idea of individual freedom and of the rights of the individual is very strong amongst the miners.

We have found in this case that there is a great deal more interest in these rights and this sort of property than many people realise, and that the problems of subsidence affect those rights in a very serious way. I remember one Member in Committee saying that it may be that the people in the mining areas have not got very much, but that that made it all the more serious when damage was done to what they had. It is therefore worth while putting on record the fact that this is an occasion when the Parliamentary system has worked. We hear of many occasions when it has not worked, but here is one when, although there was a rather black outlook at the beginning, it has turned into something very different today. I think that even the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) will agree that a few months ago he would certainly not have used the words he used today.

My right hon. Friend was far too generous to me in suggesting that I had something to do with one of the important matters contained in the Bill. The credit should have been given to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) who, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), did a tremendous amount of work in the matter. That does not detract from the work done by hon. Members opposite, but I thought it right to say that other hon. Members who are not here today have had very much more to do with the Bill than I have, and they can claim a part in bringing to the Statute Book a Measure which will make a serious and business-like attempt to deal with a tremendous problem.

I do not think that any of us could regard the Bill as perfect, and there is a great deal of force in which was said a few moments ago by the hon. Member for Wigan, namely, that the manner in which the Bill is handled, administered and put into force will perhaps be more important than its wording. As for the wording, I can be perfectly modest—because I have had nothing to do with it —in saying that it has been a difficult problem to provide proper words to carry out the decisions arrived at in Committee. I hope that the problem has been solved, but certain problems of language must have cost those responsible for these matters a great deal of time and thought. It is very pleasing to be able to say that a matter upon which there can be such friendly harmony at this stage should be the subject for debate at this time, and in this temperature.

11.34 a.m.

Mr. G. H. Oliver (Ilkeston)

It is appropriate that I should follow the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) because, as he will recall, I was his principal disciple when he proposed a very important Amendment to the Bill. I am sorry that he was not successful; perhaps that was due to the support which he obtained from hon. Members on my side of the Committee. To that extent we regret that his proposal was not embodied in the Bill.

I intervene only briefly to point out that this is the fourth or fifth mining subsidence Bill in the consideration of which I have taken part. This matter was before the House when I entered it in the early 'twenties. In those days such Bills were promoted by Private Members, and we invariably had them on Fridays. This is a different Bill from those because on this occasion there is a prospect of its becoming law. We did get a little near in 1939; we got a Bill through this House and it went to another place, but by reason of the outbreak of war even that effort came to nothing. I therefore welcome the Bill, as my colleagues do, because it brings to fruition many years of agitation on this important subject.

In mining constituencies this is a problem of very great importance. Without detailing any specific point in the Bill I can say that it establishes one major principle. It gives to mining areas something which has been long denied to them. Compensation will now not be confined to a few houses, to the exclusion of other properties, including shops, factories and small businesses. In the past, the result of mining subsidence damage to property has meant that these people have had to meet the cost of repairs out of their own pockets. The Bill has done away with that distinction, and it puts the mining areas in the same position as the rest of the country. If the property of these people is destroyed or damaged by reason of mining subsidence they now have a claim against the Board to have the matter put right.

Hitherto, mention of the great destruction, difficulties and loss suffered by people living in the mining areas did not induce employers and people with small businesses to come into those areas, because they recognised that after spending money putting up their buildings, if they collapsed or were badly damaged there was no obligation on the part of anybody to put matters right. The Bill remedies that difficulty, and it will therefore be of great assistance.

It will also mean a great deal to local authorities. In one part of my constituency 2s. 6d. out of every £ spent in rates goes to repair damage done by this evil. That is a very substantial sum when we recognise that in mining districts houses are not highly rated. In my constituency there are all the aspects of the mining problem. In regard to some land there is a right of support and in regard to other land no right of support, but a right of compensation. But for the majority of land there is neither the right of support nor of compensation. The Bill therefore comes as a great relief in that respect.

I tried to emphasise in Committee that in old mining areas like this, where they have been mining coal since the Industrial Revolution, it has been impossible to define the rights of the parties as between the surface owners and the mineral owners, because they go back so far and the original deeds have been lost or destroyed. I therefore welcome the Bill, with all its imperfections—and there are many, although we do not expect anything very perfect from a human assembly—because it takes a big step forward in relieving some of the major anxieties which have confronted mining constituencies for many years.

11.40 a.m.

Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollok)

One of the penalties which Scottish Members pay for attending the Scottish Grand Committee in total numbers is that they are deprived of the opportunity to pay sufficient attention to the other Committees of the House. It is with great regret on my part that I was unable to spend much more time in the Committee which considered the Coal-Mining (Subsidence) Bill, not only because of the importance of the subject under discussion, but because of the manner in which the discussions took place. On both sides of the Committee there was a calm and detached desire to solve all the problems put forward and there was a readiness on the part of the Government Front Bench to compromise. Compromise is so much better if it is ready compromise. It was an object lesson to all who attended the Committee.

I congratulate the Scottish Minister on the way in which he handled this important matter which, of course, also applies to Scotland, but I cannot congratulate him on the fact that Scotland is the only country which did not have an Amendment accepted. There were two on the Order Paper, but one was stopped at the wicket and one was caught at the Chair.

The Bill could be called a Bill for the prevention of mining subsidence and the effects thereof. The immediate result of the Measure will be a sharpening up of the National Coal Board in the prevention of mining subsidence, and I hope, as the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) said earlier, that the Board will also apply itself very rigorously to the prevention of damage from subsidence. Therefore I think that the Bill will have two very important effects—the prevention of subsidence and the prevention of damage to homes through subsidence in order to limit the compensation payable by the National Coal Board.

As mining engineers, we know that there are many things which can be done and which are not now being done to minimise subsidence, and I think that we can look forward to a reduction of mining subsidence as a result of the Bill, and, therefore, a reduction of cost to the Coal Board. It has been said that a result of the Bill will be an additional cost of £5 million a year to the Board. That may or may not be so. I personally do not think it is; but, if it does cost an additional £5 million a year, it will only prove the heavy burden which the mining areas have been shouldering up to now. It will mean that in the last ten years since nationalisation the industries and the local authorities of the mining areas have paid £50 million towards making good the damage done. That penalty was paid because people stayed and worked in the areas. Thanks to the Bill, that money will no longer be paid by them.

The Bill should receive the greatest possible publicity. As the hon. Member for Wigan said, because of its technical nature it is not a Measure which attracts publicity. We hope that everybody affected by it, from the, cottage to the castle, from the office to the factory and from the reservoir to the roads will know their rights under the Bill and that they have the means of getting compensation. In Scotland, practically nothing has been said in the Press about this very important Measure.

It is essential that the small householder and occupier should get to know that he is entitled to these new generous rights which have come about through Amendments moved by hon. Members opposite. He should get to know that he has the right to have his house repaired and restored. At the moment, it is not possible to rebuild a house damaged beyond repair, but I think that one day that principle will also be adopted. People should know that they can have decorations carried out which they could not have before. It will be a headache for someone to provide satisfaction in all the homes in that regard.

Under the Bill, people will get temporary accommodation and storage of their furniture. All this does not amount to a vast sum of money, but it strikes at a very tender spot. It has often been emphasised that the damage done by subsidence in the mining areas is of a terribly intimate and tender nature. This monster comes right into the home and creates unhappiness and misery. Therefore, let us make certain, as far as we can, that everybody concerned knows of his new rights and that he can take advantage of them as soon as the need arises.

I think that the Bill could have a boomerang effect on mining areas if that spirit of broad tolerance for which the hon. Member for Wigan asked is not shown. The result could be that instead of attracting industries to the mining areas they would be prevented from coming in the future, because the National Coal Board has now the right to advise the town and country planning authorities about the areas to be affected by subsidence. I think that there will be a tightening up in the National Coal Board of the advice given to local authorities. Indeed, that is happening already.

One instance was brought to my notice about a very important concern in Scotland which wanted to extend warehouses of considerable magnitude. The National Coal Board would not agree to the extension because some time in the future subsidence would take place and because, under the Bill, the Board would be responsible for the damage done. If that tight attitude is to be taken by the Board it could be a very serious thing for the mining areas. It should be remembered that town and country planning authorities themselves have no knowledge of what subsidence is likely to take place or of its extent, and they must, of necessity, ask the advice of the Board. If the Board is going to play safe as it did in this case, where it played terribly safe, then it will seriously affect those areas. I hope that the broad spirit of tolerance asked for by the hon. Member for Wigan will be shown in that and many other aspects of the Bill.

One matter which we discussed at length during the passage of the Bill was the safety of reservoirs and how that could best be provided for. We know that, like ancient monuments, once a reservoir has been damaged it can never be restored to its original condition. I wanted to suggest during the Committee stage, but was unfortunately prevented from doing so by unavoidable absence, that where mining work takes place under a reservoir it should take place only on an agreed scheme with the Mine Inspectorate. I should like that matter looked at. Where coal is to be extracted from under a reservoir consultation should take place with the Mine Inspectorate before operations begin and the system finally adopted agreed between the Mine Inspectorate and the National Coal Beard.

Generally speaking, I am satisfied with the Bill. I tried yesterday to get the Minister to relent a little in the matter of retrospection. I was rather sorry for the Minister when he went to the Dispatch. Box to reply. He knew that he had a terribly weak case. He had been ready to help in everything else, but not in the matter of retrospection. That is one of the blots on the Bill. I felt that the Minister knew that he was not doing complete justice in that respect. However, I give the Bill my hearty support, for I know that it will bring happiness to many homes where there is at present hardship and misery.

11.50 a.m.

Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)

I join with other right hon. and hon. Members in their expressions of appreciation and gratitude to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary who have clone a great job of work. I do so, not because they have given all that we on this side of the House wanted, but because they have been accommodative and reasonable about what we have suggested.

The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) said that we had not yet decided on the correct pronunciation of the word "subsidence." He brought to my mind the story of a little boy in my village who had been elevated to standard X7 in the elementary school. After his second day at school he returned home anxious to get his mother's opinion on the correct pronunciation of the word "either." He said. "We had grammar at school today, mother, and I am a bit lost and puzzled as to how to pronounce the word e-i-t-h-e-r. Is it 'eether' or 'either'?". His mother said, "It doesn't matter, lad, other'] do." And "other'l do" for "subsidence" so far as I am concerned.

I think today of those who in the past tried to do something for the people living in mining areas and affected by mining subsidence. I think of George Tomlinson and George Daggar who played their part in the days which lie behind us. They failed in their endeavours, but they left their mark, and we cannot forget what they did in their day and generation to try to remedy the injustices suffered by those living in mining areas.

I agree with those who have welcomed this Bill and pointed out its imperfections and shortcomings. George Bernard Shaw once said, "When you find a perfect woman, you will find a perfect nuisance." When we find a perfect Bill, we shall have a perfect nuisance. This Bill is not perfect, but it has helped us to advance a long way in the direction of solving many of the problems with which those who live in the mining areas are confronted.

It is 71 years ago since I made my entry into this world. I was born in a little mining village. I still live there. I live in the same roadway. For 38 years I have been an ardent advocate of compensation for damage caused by mining subsidence. This is what I call one of my happy days. As we pass along the roadway of life there are days which are outstanding, and this, for me, is an outstanding day. For I have lived to see the pioneer work done way back in 1919 bearing fruit.

It was in June, 1919, when I started to agitate and advocate for compensation to be paid for damage done by mining subsidence. I have made many enemies. I have made many friends, too. There have been misunderstandings. But all these things are the lot of one who embarks on the path of social and industrial reform. It matters not what kind of reform. Men or women who take the path of social reform and are sincere in their endeavours to attain their objective will find that they cannot accomplish it by "return of post". They have to go on. As the Scottish bard said, they must Keep right on to the end of the road. We are not yet at the end of the road, but we have gone a long way in our efforts to bring some degree of contentment if not satisfaction to those people who suffer from mining subsidence.

I do not believe there is such a thing in the world as satisfaction. The human heart is always grieving after something. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have the happy idea that they have satisfied us by what they conceded. But they are not satisfied; they would like to have gone a lot further. But there are certain factors which prevented them. However, this Bill will bring a degree of contentment to men and women, and to local authorities in particular, which they have not enjoyed before.

Hitherto local authorities have been hamstrung in their endeavours to help the people in mining areas. They could not do what they desired to do. Why was it impossible for local authorities to do what they wished to do? It was because they were weighted down with the expense which would have been put upon the local rates had they attempted to repair the damage caused by mining subsidence. As I said yesterday, I represent a constituency from which deep-mined coal has been won for the nation since 1546. That was the year when the first piece of coal was mined in my constituency.

Today, 43 per cent. of the township which bears the name of my constituency is derelict. There one can find pit heaps, swamps and all the other sordid evidence of mining subsidence. The figure of 43 per cent. represents almost half of my constituency, but in the half which remains miners are still producing coal. I wonder whether those who live in non-mining areas ever think of this matter from that point of view? I wonder whether they ever give a thought to the men who have given their life, their strength, their talents and their craft to the winning of coal; and who are prepared to make the sacrifices which they have to make and who are living in conditions which it is difficult for me to describe?

I hope that local authorities who have experienced this vast inroad upon their towns and villages will at least be able to do something to rectify the tremendous damage done by mining subsidence. I am delighted that on this July day I have been permitted to see, not the end of my advocacy, not the end of my propaganda, but an occasion when my agitation and the agitation of others is bearing fruit, and attempts being made to remedy a great social injustice. My propaganda and advocacy was intensified when I became a member of a local authority. I served on that authority for 25½ years and, without wishing to be boastful or egotistic, may I say that I experienced only one election in that time. During my period of service I realised the expense to the rates caused by mining subsidence. I was the chairman of a public utility for seven-and-a-half years. It served three neighbouring authorities. I wish to relate only one incident which occurred during that time.

We had a twelve-inch gas main in that town, and it served three other towns. It did not crack, but subsidence in that town drew out the joints. The man worked on it, and in one hour's time got the couplings joined. They went for their lunch, and in one and a quarter hours the joints had been drawn out again by 1¾inches. It may seem impossible to the non-mining members and public to understand us when we talk in the strain that we do.

We believe that the Bill is the right thing to do and is long overdue. After all these thirty-eight years of agitation I am very pleased and happy today. I worked underground for much of that period. I realise the discomfort, anxiety, heartaches and headaches of people living in the mining areas, and it gave me the impelling force to go on. I have gone on and on, and I make no apology to anyone. I have said strong words to mine owners and I may have said strong words about the National Coal Board. I shall continue to say them if the Board does not do the things it ought to do and that the Bill gives it power to do. I shall come down upon it with words like a ton of bricks.

I support the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George). He has the technical qualifications and I have the practical qualifications. Both he and I and all mining and ex-mining men believe that a great deal can be done by way of prevention of mining subsidence by the right technique in mining. I have always held this opinion as a practical miner. Much of the damage done in days gone by could have been avoided if the right technique had been applied. I know that we are living in days of change in mining. We have gone from the pillar and stall method to the long wall, which had a tendency to aggravate subsidence unless there was the right technique.

I hope that the National Coal Board will do many things, but two things in particular. One is that its technicians and engineers should apply their minds to prevention, which is absolutely important. The second thing is that they should administer the Bill with a humane approach. In the past, much trouble and hear burn have been caused because certain individuals have had the incorrect approach to the problems confronting them. If the Board has the right approach, the Bill, despite its little imperfections and shortcomings, will prove to everybody that the House of Commons can give hope to the people in the mining areas who have suffered through the ages. At long last this House has thought about the men and women in the mining areas. I hope that the National Coal Board will realise its obligations to the people and will see to it that nothing unfair or inhuman will be done.

I welcome the Bill in spite of its imperfections, and I trust that the people in the mining areas will realise that the House of Commons has at last thought about them and about what they have done and are doing in the mining areas.

12.5 p.m.

Mr. Bernard Taylor (Mansfield)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), I live in an area which is encircled by pit hills. Some people are inclined to think that our passions run away with us on the question of mining subsidence. Others will readily understand why, after so many years of seeing the damage caused by mining subsidence, we are welcoming the Bill.

While the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) was speaking, I noted the points he made about prevention of subsidence. They were taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince. I echo the sentiments expressed on that point, and I hope that the National Coal Board will mobilise all its technical ability to prevent the disastrous effects of mining by initiating more effective measures to prevent subsidence. There is a saying which is very apt in connection with this subject, that a fence at the top of the cliff is much better than an ambulance at the bottom. The provisions of the Bill relate as it were to ambulance work, which the National Coal Board will now have to undertake in regard to the effects of subsidence, but I am sure that it will also give attention to prevention.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), who has been in this House for many years, spoke in a somewhat reflective mood. I join him in the tribute he paid to a very able and worthy colleague who used to sit on these benches, the late George Tomlinson. On a day similar to this, but many years ago, Mr. Tomlinson introduced a Private Member's Bill to deal with the results of mining subsidence. I wish he had been privileged to be with us now to enjoy the happiness we all feel about the imminent passing of the Bill. As one who has had experience in advocating compensation for subsidence damage, I rejoice at the Bill, which is the culmination of many years of agitation. Not very often are people privileged to see the realisation of the dreams and ideals which they have been propagating for a long period. Realisation usually comes to others. It is a great pleasure to me to have the privilege of standing here and realising the very happy situation in which I am placed today.

I should like to make a brief reference to that fine body of men which, in dealing with this question of mining subsidence, did a remarkable job of work—the Turner Committee. It is ten years since the Committee began its investigations, and its probe into this matter and the detailed investigation which it undertook, in my view, brought more forcibly into the light of day not only the damage caused by subsidence but the many frustrations and disappointments, as well as the very heavy financial burdens, that have had to be borne over the years both by individuals and local authorities exclusively confined to the milling areas.

I would add my tribute to those which have already been paid to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) for the work he did and the interest he has taken, not only during the period of the Turner Committee's investigations, but during all the stages of this Bill. I hope that all members of the Turner Committee will now have a feeling of satisfaction that, if not all, many of its recommendations are put into effect in the Bill now before us.

We would be remiss on an occasion like this if we did not pay our tribute to the work that is being done by the local authorities. Over the years, and particularly since the Turner Committee was set up, the local authorities—and be this said to the credit of these bodies, not only in the mining areas, but with substantial support from local authorities outside—have done a remarkable job on this problem of subsidence.

The proposals in the Bill will remove a lot of anxiety that exists in mining areas. In the past, it has been dreadful for our people in these areas to have the feeling—and it is still there—that their houses and homes were in danger of being damaged, and that they had at any moment to face the possibility of being turned out. That feeling cannot be removed unless more effective preventive measures are adopted. Added to that was the thought, which has been a veritable nightmare, that there has been no compensation at all. Because of these facts, I join in the general chorus of welcome for the Bill, which will at any rate give some protection to people placed in these circumstances. The Bill is very comprehensive, though, as was shown yesterday, not as comprehensive as we should like it to be, but it will, nevertheless, be a very useful umbrella for those people who are, and others who will undoubtedly become, victims of subsidence.

Coming from a mining area as I do, all my life I have been accustomed to seeing houses shored up. At this moment, in my own division, there are houses, churches and other buildings which are in that condition, and I speak from my heart when I say that this Measure, although we would have liked to have seen it a little better than it is, will really be welcomed in mining areas.

I would also join with the hon. Member for Pollok in making an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on the question of publicising the proposals contained in the Bill. I do not know what he has in mind, but it is the case that this is a Bill which does not get, for instance, in the Press, the publicity which it deserves, and yet there are so many well-merited proposals in it. So much that is contained in these proposals is going to be of advantage and benefit to people who will be affected that I make this appeal to the Paymaster-General to see if he can devise ways and means of bringing it to their notice. If he did so, I think it would be very greatly welcomed.

It has been said and it is true that the proposals in the Bill will impose financial burdens on the National Coal Board. The hon. Member for Pollok reminded us of what the present Minister of Supply when he was Minister of Fuel and Power said—that it was estimated that the Bill would cost £5 million a year. I think that is a very conservative estimate. Time will tell, but my view at this moment is that these proposals will cost the National Coal Board, which, incidentally, means the consumers of coal, much more than £5 million a year. This is a burden which hitherto the industry has not carried. Let us face the fact that it is certainly an unknown quantity at present.

I would add one note of criticism, if on this happy occasion I may venture to do so. I regret that the Government did not accept one of the Turner Committee recommendations respecting the cost of these proposals. Although the Paymaster-General has been very amenable, forthright and forthcoming to any suggestions made to him to improve this Measure, of course, he was tied by the Financial Resolution to the Bill, and was unable to adopt suggestions made in Committee regarding the apportionment of the financial burden, as recommended by the Turner Committee.

In conclusion, I think that throughout the whole course of the debates on this Bill, we have had a demonstration of the House of Commons at its best. The collective knowledge and experience which hon. Members on both sides have brought to bear in discussing the proposals in the Bill has been very valuable. On the other hand, we have had a Minister and Parliamentary Secretary who have listened to the arguments, made promises and carried out their promises, with the result that the Bill today, while not perfect, as has been said, is a much better one than when it was introduced. I take this opportunity of paying my tribute to the Paymaster-General for the way in which he has listened to our proposals and sought to embody them in the Bill in order to make it a better Measure than when it was originally introduced.

12.20 p.m.

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

On an occasion such as this it would, in my view, be wrong to strike a discordant note. Therefore, I propose to use my limited time to give credit where it is due. Having had a long experience and the privilege of clashing with one of the greatest intellectuals this country has produced, having had the privilege of fighting the greatest demagogue this country has yet produced. I have arrived at a stage when I desire to give credit where it is due and to place on record men's contribution to life.

The observations I shall make in supporting the Third Reading of the Bill will be against that background. I have learned that it needs a big man to listen to others, particularly men and women who are elected to an assembly of this character. I hope that younger men who are to follow will be good enough to read what I am saying now, because I am convinced that they will make a greater contribution to life if they bear in mind observations of this character.

It has been my privilege to serve in this House for a long period and I have seen men come and go. I have never attended a sitting of this House, or of the many Committee meetings there have been in that long period, when the proceedings have been more harmonious than they have been over this Bill. I have never known a Minister prepared to listen to and consult with his advisers during proceedings in the House or in Committee more readily than the right hon. Gentleman who has been responsible for piloting this Bill through the House.

I want to pay tribute, which should be paid on occasions of this kind, to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Parliamentary Secretary. It gives me great satisfaction to do so because I have been involved in controversy and agitation upon which I look back with pride—especially the agitation. In my view it is the duty of all real Labour men to unveil the grievances of the people. One is tested by the amount of courage one exerts in speaking on behalf of the people one is elected to serve. Our people in the mining areas who have suffered through mining subsidence for so long will derive great satisfaction today from seeing that at last justice will be meted out to them.

Having had the experience of working with some of the finest men and women with whom it is possible to work, I want to give credit to the civil servants who have worked behind the scenes and given advice to the Minister. I admit that in Committee at times some of us may have appeared irritable. That is understandable because, if a person is sincere, he is hound to give expression to irritability at times, provided his emotion is truly reflecting the feelings of his people, because he knows how our people have suffered. However, we pulled ourselves together and restrained ourselves.

The right hon. Gentleman saw that there was something in what we were saying and consulted the officials. It would be wrong if we did not give credit to the right hon. Gentleman and those who have served him so well behind the scenes. I also include the Parliamentary draftsmen. We have almost torn the Bill to shreds with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman and colleagues on both sides of the House. We have pulled it to pieces and added to it, and the draftsmen must have been very concerned; but they put in a tremendous amount of work to make the Bill what it now is.

Looking back over twenty years, I recall how in 1938 my friend George Tomlinson said to me one day. "I have come out of the Ballot today, Ellis. What Bill would you choose to introduce?" He represented Farnworth but I also had Stoke in mind when I immediately replied, "There is only one Bill to introduce—one dealing with mining subsidence," and he at once chose it. In our innocence we came to this House one Friday when it was packed as it used to be in those days. It was packed on the opposite benches by representatives of the mining industry, which was then in the hands of private enterprise. I could pick them out one after the other and name them if necessary, but I do not want to strike a note of that character today. Our Motion was carried and we celebrated, but in our innocence little did we realise the various stages through which it would have to pass and where it would end.

Then the war came and all agitation of that kind had to stop. After the war the city which I have the privilege of serving suffered more than any other city through mining subsidence. Although urban districts suffered, no city has suffered from mining subsidence in the past as much as Stoke-on-Trent. From the way in which things are going as a result of scientific modern mining, the city looks like suffering more in future. The city authorities decided to take action, first very largely due to the work of the late town clerk, and later, as a result of discouragement, the city council again decided to take action. It organised a conference of local authorities in the Central Hall and a national committee was elected, which has been responsible for work behind the scenes throughout the country to obtain justice for people who have suffered through mining subsidence.

It would be wrong of me not to place on record the names of those to whom we owe most in activity outside the House for the success about which we are talking today. I would mention first the late Alderman Dale of the City of Stoke-on-Trent. Then I would refer to the Town Clerk of Stoke-on-Trent, the Town Clerk of Chesterfield—who served on the Turner Committee—and the Town Clerk of the Rhondda. When we were beginning to get a little disappointed with our progress I used my personal influence with a real gentleman, whom I shall mention later. I have in my locker two of the most kindly and finely phrased letters it has been my privilege to receive. It was obvious at that time that the health of that gentleman was beginning to be undermined. I knew his life record. I knew the way his manner had been tested and how it was reflected in his actions.

It would have been wrong of me not to have mentioned today what we owe to him. Sometimes we are apt to forget people who are no longer with us, but I want to place on record what we know with regard to Sir Anthony Eden in connection with this Bill. Sir Anthony Eden wrote to the then Minister of Fuel and Power, the present Minister of Supply. It was a kindly letter and it was obvious that the then Prime Minister meant action. That action has resulted in this Bill as a result of the instructions and influence of the Prime Minister. No doubt it is all on record in the files of the Ministry. I have seen each step which was taken until the Bill came before the House. It has been dealt with in Committee and on Report, and now we are supporting the Third Reading.

I have been as brief as possible in what I want to say. I have restrained myself in certain feelings that I look upon with pride and which I hope I shall retain until the end of my days; but it would have been wrong today to have said anything about that, because we should give credit where it is due. This House has proved itself to be big on this occasion. Everybody who has spoken has done so in a big way. It is in that manner that I associate myself with all that has been said.

I also want to give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal), who is not able to be with us today. I hope that when, lying on his bed, he reads what has been said today, it will give him some satisfaction for the work he has done, both in his locality and on the Standing Committee. Everybody knows that all the work is not done in this assembly or in Committee. To equip oneself to play one's part in an assembly like this or in Committee, one must pore over papers and books night after night to hold one's own with anybody.

The contribution to life of my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is a monument in itself and he will need no stone erected to him. That is the best type of monument. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has a similar monument and today we are placing on record, in the proceedings of the House of Commons, the lifework of an ordinary working man.

I have used my limited time, not to speak about the Bill, because I am satisfied with it, but to give credit where, in my view, it is due. If I have omitted anyone, I hope I may be forgiven, because that was not my intention. We should today give credit to all those who have made any contribution at all, because the people living in the mining areas have suffered long enough and when the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament elementary justice will at last be meted out towards their own and their local authorities' property.

12.33 p.m.

Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)

We have gone a long way on the road to justice in the matter which is under discussion today, but we have not gone the complete road. There is still something left to do. It has taken long years to reach this position, but one of the reasons for that was that there was so much to do before we could make a start. I am convinced that had it not been for the nationalisation of the mines and the taking over by the nation of the industry, an Administration such as the one in power at present would never have placed upon the private coal owners the burdens which are placed upon the National Coal Board at the present time.

We have not dealt fully in the Bill with the question of consequential damage. That is something which is left for the future, but, fortunately, under our present system of nationalisation of the mines, it is possible that much of what has been left out of the Bill can be dealt with administratively. The other matter on which I am bound to express disappointment is that the Bill does not really accept the principle of a home for a home. There are possibilities of the Coal Board making a money payment and of a man losing his home in consequence. But we are placing a colossal expenditure upon the Coal Board.

I come from an area in which much of the benefit of the Bill has already been enjoyed because of other remedies which are available. I have in mind a single street of shafts which collapsed and the colossal expenditure to which the Coal Board was put to restore the damage. I have seen the anguish and despair of the traders in that area as a result of the collapse of their property. I hope that as a result of the Bill, the opportunity will be taken for a real review of our national policy in mining. It is imperative that we should consider the question of support and of preventing this grave damage rather than attempt to remedy it after it has occurred.

The tremendous anxiety and imperative need of the nation for coal have brought us to adopt measures that create rather than prevent subsidence. The local authorities, the Coal Board and the nation should, I believe, take special measures to review the whole national policy and see whether we cannot adopt a scheme, bringing in the scientists, who have done so much in other directions, so that we may be able to prevent this mining subsidence rather than do the ambulance work after it has arisen.

I should like to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid to the various people who have played such a big part in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) has played a very big part himself. I have the honour of representing him—he is one of my constituents—and, therefore, I am specially interested in the enormous work he has done. Having served on the Standing Committee and seen the special work that was done by both sides of the House, I associate myself also with the tribute to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary.

I am bound to say a word on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who has played a special part. He has a special association with the trade union movement. He is connected with one of the great trade unions—the miners' union—which, it seems to me, almost trained him specially for the job of carrying out the technical work of the Committee stage of the Bill. I am bound to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his excellent work in advising and assisting us and in using his legal knowledge to help us.

I hope we will not lose our interest in this matter but that the House of Commons, and especially those who have been closely associated with the problem, on both sides of the House, will continue to review it and see whether we cannot reach the final stage when we can say that every aspect of the problem has been dealt with on the basis of justice and ensure that every Englishman's home will be his castle, even though it is in a mining area, and that we shall not be in danger of seeing its foundations removed and the castle topple around the person who has the pleasure of regarding it, however modest, as his home, which is one of the greatest things in life.

12.38 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)

I shall not detain the House for more than a few moments. I am prompted to intervene because of a remark made by the Parliamentary Secretary on Second Reading. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is in his place this morning.

I was impressed by the compliments paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) to the various people whom he enumerated, but I could not help feeling that we on this side and. I am sure. Members opposite too, must have been struck by the tenacity and sincerity which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South has himself shown in this matter over the years. I extend my thanks and appreciation to him for what he has done.

The remark in question by the Parliamentary Secretary when winding up the Second Reading debate—he said it, I am pleased to say, with some degree of regret—was that he was surprised at the absence of the voice of Wales. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) referred earlier this morning to the fact that he was not present at some of the meetings of the Standing Committee because of his attendance in the Scottish Standing Committee. Up to the present—and I emphasise that—Wales has not had a Welsh Grand Committee. I am very much looking forward to its having one. However, I remind the Parliamentary Secretary that although the voice of Wales, that is, of a Member representing a Welsh constituency, was not heard on that occasion, the voice of Welshmen has been heard in the debates on the Bill since.

I would pay a special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams), who, I am very proud to say, is a fellow Welshman, and the work that Welshmen did in Committee on the Bill has been acknowledged by the tributes already paid to him. Then there are my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor), my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), and my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Iorwerth Thomas), and finally there is myself, representing Aberdare. We were all on the Committee. What effect we had in Committee it would be ill fitting for me to say here.

My main reason for speaking in this debate is to express my appreciation of the work of the Standing Committee, although I was a Member of it, and to congratulate the Standing Committee upon fulfilling many of the recommendations of the Turner Committee. It is true there has not been a very wide interest in the House in this matter, principally, I suppose, because it is a technical Bill whose effect is confined to only some areas of the United Kingdom. Had all hon. Members of the House seen the evidence of subsidence and its effects I am sure they all would have taken 100 per cent. interest in the Bill.

The general principles of this Bill are acceptable to my constituents. Indeed, as I am the only Member here at the moment who represents a constituency in South Wales, I would say that the principles of the Bill are generally acceptable to South Wales. They are acceptable for their provisions relating to the local authorities.

I hope I shall not be accused of immodesty, but I cannot help feeling some gratification in remembering that it was upon this subject that I spoke in the debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech and in perceiving, I am pleased to say, that many of the needs which I mentioned then are now being provided for by this Bill.

However, I feel some concern about one aspect of the matter, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Pollok. I may be accused of being a little unscrupulous, but I hope that the publicity for this Bill will not be given too soon. Perhaps I shall be accused of being a little unscrupulous, but I am rather worried lest claims should be made on the National Coal Board before they should be made. I say no more than that about it. Except the retrospective provisions dealing with houses, the Bill will be effective only from a certain date, and I am rather concerned that we may lose the benefits of the Bill should there be subsidence under my chapel today since the Bill will not be effective tomorrow. I hope that in giving publicity to these matters the Government will state categorically what its terms are.

I shall go home today with a very much lighter heart, because although Wales has suffered a serious defeat this week—I cannot discuss that matter now —at least we are being compensated somewhat today, in South Wales at any rate, by the real merits of this Bill, and I would conclude by thanking the Parliamentary Secretary and the Paymaster-General for the way in which they have helped the Members of the Standing Committee upon the Bill by fulfilling the promises they made.

12.44 p.m.

Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)

We have reached the final stages of this Bill in this House, and in a few moments we shall part with it, and it will be dealt with in another place, finally to receive the Royal approval, when the measures which are contained in the Bill will commence to operate. That will be a day of great jubilation for those who are affected by the Bill, and will be recognised and remembered as such by those who have been conscious of the necessity for these remedial measures and compensation for the damage which has been done by mining subsidence, and particularly by all those who, during many years, have raised this matter in this House, and who have been mentioned by hon. Friends of mine in this House today.

I invited my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) to state our position on Third Reading and to open the debate for this side of the House as a mark of tribute to him for the tremendous amount of work he has put into this Bill. I do not think it is generally recognised, except, of course, by those who have themselves occupied our position on these Opposition benches and been active in Opposition, that we on these benches have to do all our own work, for we have no Civil Service or highly trained specialists to do our drafting for us. We have to rely upon those amongst us who are learned in the law to help us on many technical and legal matters.

It has been a matter of considerable gratification to us to have had my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan to help us, his great ability to put our thoughts on paper in proper Parliamentary style, and his great ability himself to express views in the manner of a good Parliamentarian. His speech today, expressing our wholehearted support for the Third Reading of this Bill, was, I think, an eminent example of what a Parliamentary speech ought to be, and it contained many personal references, and expressed the obvious sincerity with which he speaks on this matter.

I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary and the Paymaster-General who, throughout the whole of the proceedings on the Bill, have been more than helpful to all of us. We have appreciated that very much indeed. I do not think there was any occasion of any difference between us when the Parliamentary Secretary or the Paymaster-General did not readily see our point of view and consult their advisers about it and, if they thought there was substance in our case, were not ready to produce Amendments to meet it. If, after consideration, they still disagreed with us they made plain where the disagreement lay, and we have been very largely satisfied by their explanations.

In my experience of membership of this House, and having sat on a large number of Committees, and having occupied the position which the Parliamentary Secretary now occupies, I have known of no occasion when one's Parliamentary duties have been so easy and so enjoyable as on this occasion of our work upon this Bill, and the fact that I can say that is largely due to the very co-operative spirit of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I thank them on behalf of the Opposition for the consideration they have shown to the views we have expressed from time to time.

This is a very good Bill. I do not want to damn the Bill with faint praise by saying that it does not go far enough. I think it is a very good Bill. It may be that, as the years pass and we gain experience of its effects, we may have another Bill which will take us another step forward, but I have no regrets at all about this Bill. It is an extremely good Bill, and all those of us who in the House and in Committee have been associated with the Bill can be very proud of the part which we have played. It speaks well for our Parliamentary democracy that all of us, irrespective of party, in considering the Bill have looked only to what its effects will be on those who suffer from mining subsidence. We have done our job in Parliament upon this Bill well, and we have done so because we have worked together, arguing matters out and coming to conclusions which, I think, will be very beneficial to all those who suffer because of mining subsidence.

I emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan said opening the debate from our side of the House today, and I join with my hon. Friends in the words of appreciation they have uttered of the work upon this subject of both past and present Members of this House, and, indeed, of all those who have taken part in work upon the Bill in and outside the House, including the Parliamentary draftsmen and others interested in this matter. I add to theirs my appreciation of the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) who, unfortunately, because he is ill in hospital, cannot be present today at the closing stage of our work upon the Bill.

I say once again we wholeheartedly support the Third Reading of the Bill, and I express my thanks to all those on the Government side who have been ready to see our point of view and to help to bring the Bill to its present form.

12.50 p.m.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I am grateful to hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House for the way in which they have helped to shape, improve and pass this Measure. My hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power has borne a very large share of a very complicated burden, and I am most grateful to him. I am grateful, also, to my hon. and now absent Friends, particularly the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George), who has great technical knowledge of these matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), whose legal knowledge has been particularly valuable on many occasions.

On the other side of the House there are a large number of hon. and right hon. Members with long and intimate experience of these matters. Their presence made me at first approach my task with great trepidation owing to my own ignorance. I have learned a great deal from them. I would mention particularly the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) and the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), who have so long played a leading part in pushing forward claims for legislation on this subject.

I very much regret the absence of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal). I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) for the courtesy and kindness with which he has dealt with me, and in particular I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) on his effective debut on the Front Bench. As the right hon. Member for Blyth said, producing Amendments in Opposition is not easy. I have had a little experience of it in a backroom capacity, and my Amendments were nothing like as legally accurate as those of the hon. Member for Wigan. I used to rely on the Government to put them right if they accepted the point. I am glad that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South referred to Sir Anthony Eden. As he rightly said, Sir Anthony's interest in the Bill when he was Prime Minister had a considerable influence on the timing of its introduction.

The Bill carries on the work done by the Labour Government in their 1950 Measure and to some extent completes it. We have all agreed as we have gone along that although the Bill is not perfect it does a very great deal to benefit people and will be much welcomed throughout the mining areas. I wish I could have met some of the other points made most persuasively by hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but it is not always possible to go to the full extent that one wishes to go. The Bill will now pass to another place. There I have no doubt their noble Lordships, possibly slightly refreshed by yesterday's announcement in the House, will give it the attention it deserves.

I said yesterday on one or two occasions that there were points raised which needed further consideration. I can repeat the assurance that we on our part will consider the arguments put forward. There were some points on the personal injury and disability Clause and there were certainly some on the alternative accommodation Clause which will need looking into. We will give them as much attention as we can. In the meanwhile, hon. and right hon. Members opposite will no doubt see that their noble Friends in another place are informed of the issues.

Two points were raised by several speakers, including the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. B. Taylor) and my hon. Friend the Member for Pollok to which I would like to refer. The first is the question of administration, which particularly interests the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South. The other is the question of publicity.

It is undoubtedly true that in all matters of this kind administration is vitally important. Whatever we decide in the House and whatever is decided by Parliament, the practical effect on the individual depends so much on the way in which these Measures are used. My own impression is that the National Coal Board is extremely good in this respect. Mr. Bowman, its chairman, to whom I should like to pay a personal tribute for his understanding and sympathy, has every intention and desire to carry out the Measure in the spirit in which Parliament intended.

I agree that it is most important that full publicity should be given to the benefit that people can obtain from the Measure, which is complicated and difficult enough for us here to understand. I am giving as much attention as possible to means of publicising its effect. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mansfield for mentioning this point and to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert), whose warning about premature publicity we shall do our best to observe.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I found that ordinary people expressed great appreciation of the leaflet which was issued after a previous Act was passed. Could a similar leaflet be issued on this occasion?

Mr. Maudling

We will produce another leaflet and distribute it as widely as possible. I shall see particularly that all hon. Members representing mining areas receive copies, and I shall also consider the question of advertising in local newspapers.

We have covered all the ground this morning, without re-opening any controversies, and we have agreed between ourselves that this is a useful and valuable Measure. I am, therefore, happy to think that the House is now prepared to give it a Third Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third lime and passed.