HC Deb 29 July 1958 vol 592 cc1173-7

Lords Amendment: In page 17, line 20, at end insert: (c) any reference to the provision of a suitable alternative right of way shall be construed as a reference to the making of a suitable alternative way available for use by the public during the period for which the order under that section remains in force;

Sir I. Horobin

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Mr. Neal

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would it be convenient to take the subsequent Amendments in pages 18 and 19?

Sir I. Horobin

It is intended to take all the Government Amendments to this Clause together.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am agreeable if that is the wish of the House.

Sir I. Horobin

These Amendments deal with a very simple point relating to public rights of way. If these Amendments were not made, it would be necessary to dedicate the new temporary right of way and then undedicate it when the old one was back in use, and this would be an extraordinarily cumbrous and expensive proceeding. All that these Amendments do is to say that if the Board, under its powers, has suspended a right of way it must make available for public use an alternative one, but it will not be necessary to dedicate it. The dedicated right of way is suspended. We think this is a sensible provision.

Mr. Neal

We consider that these Amendments are fair and reasonable. It is obvious that the Coal Board would have been placed in exceptional difficulties if, after excavating and restoring the site, there were two paths instead of one. It would involve considerable expense if the original right of way had to be undedicated.

I believe that the circumstances in which this may arise are very few, but when rights of way are removed the local inhabitants are very conscious of their rights. Although these paths may sometimes be little used, the inhabitants are inclined to feel that they have lost a valuable right if they are unable to use the paths. In the past, contractors have always tried to provide an alternative path. That is what will have to be done in this case. There will have to be an alternative path and not a right of way so that there will not be any need to undedicate the original path. We therefore support this Amendment.

Mr. T. Brown

We on this side of the House appreciate the importance of this and the subsequent four Amendments to this Clause. We stressed the importance of this matter in Standing Committee. What troubles me is the attitude that is adopted by contractors responsible for the extraction of opencast coal and the difficulty experienced in securing a proper roadway from the site to the main thoroughfare. I know that these Amendments deal specifically with alternative roadways; they are not permanent but are alternative to the way which is being removed.

An alternative roadway which is constructed in the course of winning opencast coal in order to transport it from the site to the depositing station may become what we know as a first-class roadway, for it is to the credit of the National Coal Board that the roadways that they are now constructing are very different from those which they constructed, say, eight or nine years ago. It may be that the roadway which has been newly constructed as an alternative will be better than the one which is displaced.

I understand that before a footpath or roadway can be diverted permanently, a proposal must be submitted to the quarter sessions. I am wondering whether we must go through what we in Lancashire call "all that paraphernalia," or whether, immediately the opencast coal operations on a site have finished, the National Coal Board will do away with that roadway and restore the original one, which in many instances will have been there for centuries. These roadways are by no means new. The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that at an earlier stage I mentioned one, and I was taken aback when Members on his own side of the Committee did not know what a "dingle" was. The footpath in question has not yet been restored. That is my concern.

It is all very well for the Lords to put down these Amendments to help. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that these things will help us in the restoration of the original footpaths, but in the districts concerned those responsible for the restoration of footpaths which have been temporarily closed because of opencast operations are refusing to restore them. It may be that they are being awkward and stupid, but the footpath to which I referred on 11th March has not yet been restored.

It is useless for us here to talk about what the N.C.B. and the regional office are prepared to do. Unless there is an enforcement order upon these people, they will not do it. They should apply commonsense and reason. They have taken the footpaths from the people in the villages and have put something in their place for the time being, but when they have finished with their opencast mining operations they say—

Mr. J. T. Price

They could not care.

Mr. Brown

I quite agree. They are apathetic, indifferent and, to a degree, selfish in outlook. Little consideration is given to the people who for two, three or four years have been debarred from using the footpath which they and their families before them have used.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary again, as I did on the previous Amendment, that at least somebody in authority, either in Hobart House, at Millbank, or wherever it may be, should have power to say to the Coal Board or to the contractors, if they are responsible, "Now, you are finished. This roadway is of no further use to you for the transportation of opencast coal to the depositing station. Now that you have finished, restore the original footpath to the people whom you have debarred from using it whilst you have been carrying out opencast coal operations."

4.45 p.m.

I must speak very strongly on this. I feel, and the people in my village and in my constituency feel, that hitherto no attempt has been made either to restore footpaths to their original condition or to do away with the temporary footpath which has been substituted. We have reached the stage when one Britisher should not be awkward with another and when these people should attempt to be amenable, reasonable and tolerable and try to give some degree of contentment to those who have been debarred from using the footpath which they have had for many years.

Sir I. Horobin

The short answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is that his question does not arise on these Amendments. Whether the provisions in the Bill are now as strong as he and I would like to ensure that the old permanent dedicated right of way is restored does not arise on this Amendment. We have been into that matter carefully, and I hope we have made it right. All that these Amendments deal with is what happens to any temporary right of way.

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal) was quite right. We are discussing here the narrow point whether the Coal Board is to be saddled with another dedicated right of way simply because in pursuing its operations it had, very properly, to provide temporarily an alternative road for the inhabitants. That is the whole point. The question of restoration, how quickly it is done, how certain it is and the quality of the permanent right of way, does not arise here. I hope that the point made by the hon. Member for Ince is satisfactorily dealt with in the Bill, but it does not arise at this stage and I should be out of order to pursue it. All that we are doing in the present Amendments is preventing the Coal Board from being saddled with an extremely cumbrous piece of machinery by which there may be two rights of way instead of one.

I hope that the House will feel that we are doing a sensible thing in enabling the Coal Board to give a temporary right, as it must do, but then to be able to get rid of it as soon as—and the sooner the better—it restores the original permanent dedicated right of way.

Question put and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 18, line 26, leave out from "alternative" to end of line 28 and insert: way will be made available by the Board (whether on land comprised in the authorisation or on other land) for use by the public during the period for which the order remains in force.

In line 31, leave out "the provision of that alternative right of way" and insert: making that alternative way so available, or in permitting it to be used by the public,".

In line 43, leave out from "then" to end of line 3 on page 19, and insert: in the application to that order of subsection (5) of section five of this Act, the authorised purposes shall be taken to include the purpose of making an alternative way available for use by the public on land comprised in the order, and the right exercisable in accordance with that subsection, as against all persons directly concerned, shall include the right to permit the public to use any way so made available.

In page 19, line 4, leave out from "land" to "is" in line 5, and insert: on which the alternative way is to be made available.