HC Deb 16 June 1958 vol 589 cc779-85
Mr. Neal

I beg to move, in page 46, line 11, at the end to insert: (a) in the case of an opencast site order where the Minister is satisfied that

  1. (i) works of restoration have been in progress for not less than five years and have been carried out without unreasonable delay, and
  2. 780
  3. (ii) substantial works remain to be carried out in order to secure the restoration of land comprised in the order;
this subsection shall not prevent the extension of that period for a further period not exceeding three years. I want to express the willingness of the Opposition to facilitate business. It would be quite easy for us to have a protracted discussion on this subject, but I will move the Amendment as briefly as is consistent with clearness.

It should not be difficult to convince the Minister that the period for restoration foreshadowed in this Clause will not always be adequate to satisfy the farmer or the agricultural experts that adequate restoration has been made. It would be easy for my colleagues and I to draw upon our technical and personal experience in these matters to prove that it is impossible to say that five years is enough for any known piece of land to settle after extraction.

In the different opencast sites, different thicknesses of seams are being extracted, and different kinds of strata are being met. The result is that the amount of restoration is bound to be varied in the different places, and what we are asking is that the Minister will, where it is found necessary, extend this period. We hope that the Minister will be as amenable as he has been previously and will accept this Amendment.

Mr. Champion

I beg to second the Amendment.

Mr. Maudling

I would be very glad if I could accept this Amendment, phrased and put forward in such moderate terms, but I shall have to advise the House not to accept it, and I will explain my reasons for doing so.

This involves extending the period over which compulsory powers may operate, and it is the Government's belief that it is important to keep the time during which compulsory powers operate as short as possible. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in Standing Committee, gave an undertaking in careful phrases, as he always does, to consider whether there was an overwhelming danger that restoration might be scamped if a compulsory rights order could not be extended beyond ten years. We feel that the case cannot be made out unless there is an overwhelming danger.

Since my hon. Friend gave that undertaking we have carried out a detailed survey of the time taken to restore and carry out the five years' post-restoration treatment on sites since the 1951 Code came into operation, and it has shown that agricultural treatment—and this is mainly agricultural land—took more than five years in about 100 cases, often on only a small area of land and not on whole sites. All but eight of those cases were where certain special factors were at that time operating. Therefore, we do not feel that those cases present an overwhelming argument.

The agricultural treatment of restored sites will be carried out by the agricultural Departments as agents for the Coal Board, and my right hon. and hon. Friends who are responsible for those Departments are quite satisfied that they will be able to complete the agricultural treatment within five years, in all but a mere handful of cases. Even in these exceptional cases they will be able to get the treatment so far advanced that the owners and occupiers should be able to complete it, and, of course, they will be compensated for expense reasonably incurred.

After much careful survey and thought by the agricultural Departments, we do not feel that the overwhelming case to which my hon. Friend referred has been made, especially as the cost of works basis for terminal compensation now ensures that restoration will be continued after the end of the Board's occupation. Therefore, having given a great deal of thought and study, we do not feel that the case for extending beyond the ten years has been made out, and consequently I must advise the House to reject this Amendment.

Mr. Robens

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not felt able to accept the Amendment. I recognise that we discussed this matter at great length in Standing Committee and I would not want to go over all the argument again. On this side of the House we pay a tremendous amount of attention to the question of restoration. We are not asking the Minister to extend all these orders; we are asking him to provide that in the exceptional circumstances—and he has now given us figures which show that there are exceptional circumstances—he can use his discretion.

I should prefer to see the restoration completed before the land is handed over. I think that my hon. Friends who have taken a deep interest in the agricultural aspect of this matter will agree with me when I say that it is far better that the land should finally be handed over in as complete a state of restoration as possible rather than that it should be handed over in the knowledge that the restoration has not really been completed, leaving it to the good sense of the tenant or the owner to complete it.

8.15 p.m.

If we had been arguing that the ten years was not sufficient, which was the argument in the Committee, and if we had wanted complete extension for all the orders, I could understand the right hon. Gentleman's attitude. But that is not the case. We are merely saying that he should have the discretionary power to extend these orders for a period not exceeding three years in order to effect proper restoration.

I feel that we must press this Amendment to a Division if the right hon. Gentleman feels that he cannot give any undertaking on the matter, because, in our view, restoration is so highly important that in these circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to ask the Minister to have reserve powers for the few extra years where restoration can be carried out adequately and completely, rather than turn the land back again to the owner or tenant before it has been completed. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to take these discretionary powers to himself.

Mr. MacDermot

The Paymaster-General's reasons for rejecting this Amendment are somewhat misconceived, as he based his whole argument on an undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary that he would look to see whether there were overwhelming reasons to support the Amendment which we have been discussing in Committee. But that was a very much wider Amendment than this, and we have deliberately put forward what we feel to be the very minimum that can be asked and which we feel should reasonably be granted on this point.

Earlier, we were envisaging a power in the Minister to extend in every case the ten-year period for the operation of the compulsory rights order for a further five years. But what this Amendment is directed to is the case, which we are advised occurs, and which the Paymaster-General's statistics confirms do occur, namely, where the restoration which normally is not expected to take more than five years unexpectedly turns out to require six or seven or possibly even eight years. They are exceptional cases, but where those cases occur we feel that the reasonable course is to allow the Board to complete the work of restoration and not to compel it to hand back the land in a partly restored condition, without having finished the job, so that it is left to the owner to complete the restoration, and to claim compensation based on the diminution in value at the time when the handover takes place, with

this hypothetical deduction for the value of the future cost of works payments.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is not in his place now, as he would find that we are attempting to deploy such intellectual resources as we have at our command on this occasion in support of the Board. We feel that this is a case where undue hardship and cost will be imposed on the Board if in those exceptional cases that do occur from time to time the Minister is not given the power to extend the period of the order for this limited period not exceeding ten years.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 138, Noes 194.

Division No. 152.] AYES [8.20 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Hayman, F. H. Popplewell, E.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Herbison, Miss M. Prentice, R. E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hewitson, Capt. M. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Awbery, S. S. Holman, P. Probert, A. R.
Bacon, Miss Alice Howell, Denis (All Saints) Proctor, W. T.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pursey, Cmdr, H.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hunter, A. E. Redhead, E. C.
Beswick, Frank Hynd, H. (Accrington) Reeves, J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Reid, William
Blackburn, F. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rhodes, H.
Blenkinsop, A. Janner, B. Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Blyton, W. R. Jeger, George (Goole) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Boardman, H. Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Kenyon, C. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Ross, William
Boyd, T. C. King, Dr. H. M. Short, E. W.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Lawson, G. M. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Brockway, A. F. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Silverman, Julius (Alton)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Champion, A. J. McCann, J. Skeffington, A. M.
Chapman, W. D. MacDermot, Niall Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Coldrick, W. McGhee, H. G. Snow, J. W.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) McLeavy, Frank Sorensen, R. W.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sparks, J. A.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Stonehouse, John
Deer, G. Mann, Mrs. Jean Stones, W. (Consett)
Diamond, John Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Dodds, N. N. Mason, Roy Sylvester, G. O.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Mayhew, C. P. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mikardo, Ian Thornton, E.
Edelman, M. Mitchison, G. R. Tomney, F.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Moody, A. S. Warbey, W. N.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) Watkins, T. E.
Fernyhough, E. Moyle, A. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Forman, J. C. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) West, D. G.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wilkins, W. A.
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Willey, Frederick
Gibson, C. W. Oliver, G. H. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Oram, A. E. Winterbottom, Richard
Grey, C. F. Owen, W. J. Woof, R. E.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Padley, W. E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Parker, J.
Hamilton, W. W. Peart, T. F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hastings, S. Pentland, N. Mr. Pearson and Mr. J. T. Holmes.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gower, H. R. Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Aitken, W. T. Graham, Sir Fergus Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Arbuthnot, John Grant, W. (Woods'de) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Armstrong, C. W. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Nairn, D. L. S.
Ashton, H. Green, A. Neave, Airey
Atkins, H. E. Gresham Cooke, R. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Barlow, Sir John Grimond, J. Nicholson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Barter, John Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Oakshott, H. D.
Batsford, B. C. C. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Beamish, Col. Tufton Gurden, Harold Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Hall, John (Wycombe) Page, R. G.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Harris, Reader (Heston) Partridge, E.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Peel, W. J.
Bidgood, J. C. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pitman, I. J.
Bingham, R. M. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pitt, Miss E. M.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Powell, J. Enoch
Bishop, F. P. Hesketh, R. F. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Black, C. W. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Body, R. F. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Bonham Carter, Mark Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Profumo, J. D.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Hirst, Geoffrey Ramsden, J. E.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Holland-Martin, C. J. Rawlinson, Peter
Hope, Lord John Redmayne, M.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Renton, D. L. M.
Braine, B. R. Horobin, Sir Ian Ridsdale, J. E.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. W. H. Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Roper, Sir Harold
Brooman-White, R. C. Hulbert, Sir Norman Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Bryan, P. Hurd, A. R. Russell, R. S.
Burden, F. F. A. Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Campbell, Sir David Hyde, Montgomery Sharples, R. C.
Cary, Sir Robert Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Shepherd, William
Cole, Norman Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Speir, R. M.
Cooke, Robert Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cooper, A. E. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Storey, S.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Joseph, Sir Keith Studholme, Sir Henry
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Keegan, D. Summers, Sir Spencer
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerr, Sir Hamilton Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kershaw, J. A. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Cunningham, Knox Lambton, Viscount Temple, John M.
Currie, G. B. H. Leavey, J. A. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Dance, J. C. G. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Davidson, Viscountess Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Linstead, Sir H. N. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Deedes, W. F. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Vane, W. M. F.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Vickers, Miss Joan
du Cann, E. D. L. Longden, Gilbert Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Wade, D. W.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.) Macdonald, Sir Peter Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebona)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McKibbin, Alan Wall, Patrick
Errington, Sir Eric Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Finlay, Graeme Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Webster, D. W. E.
Fisher, Nigel Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Markham, Major Sir Frank Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gammans, Lady Mathew, R. Woollam, John Victor
George, J. C. (Pollok) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Mawby, R. L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Godber, J. B. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Mr. Gibson-Watt and
Goodhart, Philip Medlicott, Sir Frank Mr. Chichester-Clark.
Gough, C. F. H. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.