HC Deb 16 June 1958 vol 589 cc738-65

Amendment made: In page 8, line 36, at end insert: a building whereof the whole or any part is".—[Sir I. Horobin.]

Sir I. Horobin

I beg to move, in page 8, line 37, to leave out from "any" to the end of line 46 and to insert:

This is an important Amendment to which I attach a great deal of importance. A great deal of trouble is caused because of the various interpretations which the courts have put upon the word "gardens". It was found very difficult to draft something which would protect roughly a house and garden, without bringing in a whole lot of things which were not in the ordinary sense of the word—market gardens and so on, which were of quite a different type.

6.15 p.m.

Under this Amendment, in the first place we ensure that the Board cannot work right up to the side of a house, and in the second part of it we go even further in protecting the amenities of certain valuable large gardens round houses which are sometimes of great architectural importance. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) is unfortunately not in his place at the moment, but on several occasions he has referred to Winstanley Hall, for instance. There are several houses of that type where there are large gardens which it will be generally agreed should not be spoiled. But they do not go in all directions equally. Therefore, it is necessary to try to provide a protection for them in addition to the radius, which prevents one from exceeding any point nearer than fifty yards. This is a valuable addition to the protection of amenities.

Mr. Robens

Mr. Speaker, do you at this stage propose to take the Amendments to this proposed Amendment?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Robens

If so, would it not be desirable and to everybody's convenience if we took them all at the same time?

Mr. Speaker

We have first got to agree to leave out the words which the Minister proposed to leave out in his proposed Amendment, and then there will be the Question, "That the proposed words be there inserted." On that I intended to call the first Amendment to this proposed Amendment.

In answer to the second question of the right hon. Gentleman, it appeared to me that the first Amendment, in line 2, leave out from "time" to "either" in line 3, and the third Amendment in line 5, after "paragraph", insert: is occupied together with the whole or part of that building went together. If the right hon. Gentleman can discuss all the Amendments together, I shall be very happy about it.

Mr. Robens

With respect, I think you are quite right, Mr. Speaker, in saying that they are two separate points, but the whole concerns one argument, as I think my hon. Friends and the Parliamentary Secretary will agree. It might be to the convenience of the House if it were possible to have a general discussion on all these Amendments after which the Question could be put formally.

Mr. Speaker

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to include the Amendment in line 6, to leave out "garden"?

Mr. Robens

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

We had first better agree to leave out the words which the Minister has asked shall be left out.

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill, put and negatived.

Question proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.

Mr. Champion

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 3, to leave out from "time" to "either" in line 4.

I understand that discussion is to take place on all the Amendments to this proposed Amendment, including those in line 5, to leave out from beginning to second "not", and in the same line to leave out: and not being agricultural land". However, I shall confine my remarks to the Amendments in my name, namely, that which I am moving and the Amendment in line 5, after "paragraph", to insert: is occupied together with the whole or part of that building". In moving his Amendment, the Parliamentary Secretary told us that it was designed to prevent land from being included in a compulsory rights order up to the edge of a dwelling which was occupied. I am not sure about this. So far as I can see, what this Amendment actually does is to exclude from a compulsory rights order dwelling-houses and land occupied by the occupier of a house up to a distance of 50 yards from the house.

I am bound to agree that that Amendment is wholly reasonable. It is an Amendment that it is right should be made. But it seems to me to be quite unreasonable in so far as it provides no protection at all for an occupier of a dwelling-house who does not occupy the land surrounding his house together with the house. I hope that I have made that point clear. It is possible to have circumstances in which land running right up to the edge of a dwelling is not in the occupation of the occupier of the dwelling-house itself.

In the circumstances, it seems to me that where the land is in a different ownership the compulsory rights order could comprise land to the very walls of the house and the occupier of the dwelling-house would have only the safeguards contained in the Bill, that is to say, the right of support contained in the new Clause dealing with the general limitations of the effect of a compulsory rights order and, possibly, compensation for damage at common law.

It seems to me wholly reasonable that a man should be safeguarded up to 50 yards from his dwelling, but it seems also to be wholly right and reasonable that a man should be safeguarded even if the land which abuts his dwelling is not owned by him. I imagine that this must be an oversight on the part of the Minister and that it can never be his intention that a compulsory rights order should be made in circumstances such as I have outlined. I hope that we shall have a favourable answer from the Minister. The matter must be of considerable importance everywhere where opencast mining goes on in built up areas, where, quite clearly, workings could come very near to dwelling houses.

Mr. Oliver

I support the Amendment moved my my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion). I was rather in favour of the Minister's Amendment. I thought it did substantially meet the point raised in Committee and, to that extent, so far as an occupier of a house was concerned with land on which an order had been made, the Amendment fulfilled the Minister's promise. The point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East, however, has revealed what seems to be an oversight. It may well be that neither he nor I are reading the Minister's Amendment quite correctly, but it is possible to construe it, I think, so that an occupier of a dwelling-house could have opencast mining brought right up to his door, and, because he did not occupy or have an interest in the land, he would have no remedy.

The Amendment moved by the Minister provides a remedy for the person in occupation, but it provides no remedy for an unfortunate person who has no interest whatever in the land upon which opencast operations are continuing. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will say that we have misread his Amendment or, if we have not, that he will take the necessary steps to see that such a person is safeguarded from what would be an appalling nuisance.

Mr. MacDermot

I should like to begin by thanking the Minister for having put down his Amendment. It is a brave attempt to grapple with the difficult problem raised by an Amendment we moved in Standing Committee, namely, how to ensure that opencast coal workings do not come closer than a reasonable distance to a dwelling-house or buildings.

My hon. Friends have spoken particularly to the Amendments standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion), which are directed to the point that the 50 yards limitation ought to be for the benefit of all, not only for the benefit of a person fortunate enough to own land within a 50 yard radius round his house.

I wish to address a few remarks to the other Amendments which you, Mr. Speaker, have kindly allowed us to discuss at the same time. The first of these is in line 5, to leave out from the beginning to the second "not". It is purely related to a drafting point and is put down in order to probe the reason for the words in paragraph (b), not being land falling within the preceding para". It would appear that the intention behind those words is sufficiently covered by the short word "or" at the end of the previous line. If (a) and (b) are alternatives, I should have thought that the words we asked to be left out would be unnecessary.

The other two Amendments, in line 5, to leave out and not being agricultural land and in line 6, to leave out "garden", are of more substance. I gather from what the Minister has said in moving his Amendment that the words "not being agricultural land" were probably introduced with particular reference to the word "garden"—in other words, to exclude extensive market gardens. If that is the intention, with respect, it is something with which I would entirely agree, but I wonder whether the Minister has sufficiently considered the effect of those words on the other words in the Amendment, yard, court or forecourt belonging to that building". I will take as an example a farmyard, perhaps a fairly extensive farmyard immediately adjacent to, and occupied with, the main farm buildings, but extending beyond the 50-yard radius. Surely, one would want the whole farmyard to be protected, but, if the words "not being agricultural land" are left in, it is not so protected. The same would apply to a court or forecourt. There may be buildings in a yard which are used for agricultural purposes. They should surely be protected just as much as a building used, let us say, for housing the farmer's Rolls-Bentley, or whatever his motor car may be. The garage for the tractor deserves just as much, if not more, protection. That is the object of our Amendment. It is to probe the Government's intention.

The Amendment to leave out "garden" was put down primarily for probing purposes so that we should know what was the intention behind the use of this word. The Minister has already said something about it. We can understand that certain ornamental gardens attached to big country houses are something which anyone would wish to see preserved. Most of them are thrown open on occasions to the public and add considerably to the amenities of the neighbourhood. Equally, however, there are sometimes very extensive gardens attached to houses, walled gardens and so on, which are not occupied for agricultural purposes, which have no architectural or amenity merit, but which are very extensive in area. There might be occasions when the protection of those gardens would operate unreasonably against the Board in preventing it from working seams of coal lying under them.

Perhaps it is a matter which could be dealt with by the elastic procedure of the Minister's directions, but we feel that, as drawn at the moment, the Amendment in this respect is perhaps too wide, and in the other respects is too narrow.

Sir I. Horobin

I think that it would be convenient if I dealt with the last points first. There is clearly nothing substantial between us here, at any rate. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) said, the Amendments in this case are put down either to probe the intention behind the Government's Amendment or to raise possible points of drafting.

I should not like to express an opinion as to whether "agricultural land" would in its technical sense cover a yard or court, but that is a purely drafting point and we shall certainly look into it. I gather that in the light of what I have said already there is agreement that we should exclude gardens which are not the kind of amenity garden that we have in mind and which might extend over acres of raspberry fields, or something like that. Having done that, we are in agreement that we would wish to include amenity gardens even if they extend beyond 50 yards in a certain direction. I shall look into the purely drafting point and satisfy myself whether any change is needed.

6.30 p.m.

I am sorry to say that on the first and much more important point I am not able to satisfy the views that have been expressed, although I should like to very much. There is no question of oversight. The intention of the Amendment, which goes as far as we are able to go in this direction, is severely limited by the same principle that we had to discuss earlier, namely, that we must draw a distinction between persons who have an interest in the strict sense and those who have not. If the land concerned is land in which the owner of the house has no interest in that sense, then this is a risk which runs anyway.

If a person carries out opencast mining operations for minerals, for instance, he has no power to stop the nuisance. I must be careful here. I am not using the word "nuisance" in the strict legal sense. If two people occupy precisely the same kind of house and overlook precisely the same kind of opencast site, one may be affected by the Amendment and the other not, because of the principle to which we have had to adhere throughout the Bill, namely, that we are doing our best to ensure that anybody who has a right over land which the Coal Board is working and is damnified by what the Coal Board is doing shall be compensated. We cannot give rights against the Coal Board which do not run against any other operator. If anybody else can get town planning permission to dig a quarry or build a cement works on the borders of a person's land he has no power to claim compensation. We are not giving any right to compensation against the Coal Board which does not exist against a cement company or whoever it may be.

All we are doing here—and it is as far as we feel we are able to go in a Bill of this kind—is to ensure that if damage is done to land over which a person has an interest in some way and that damnifies him on another part, although not the part taken, either compensation shall run or, as in this case, a person would be protected from it happening at all. The fears that have been expressed that some persons will not be protected by the Amendment are well founded. All we have been able to do is to ensure that where land is in the same occupation operations will not take place within 50 yards of the house, nor shall a garden in the ordinary sense of the word be destroyed in order to get the coal.

I am sorry that we have not been able to go further, but if we did we should breach a principle to which we have had to adhere throughout the Bill.

Mr. MacDermot

I should like to press this matter a little further because it seems to me that this is a misapplication of the principles to which the Minister referred. We are not dealing with compensation. Going back 100 years or more, one can see a distinction between the compensation that a person who is the owner of land which is affected may get and the person who is not the owner. But here the simple point is that we have already decided and agreed that when the land surrounding a dwelling-house which belongs to the owner of that dwelling-house is taken, it is in all circumstances unreasonable to take land which is nearer than 50 yards to his house.

Why is it unreasonable? It is nothing to do with the fact that he is the owner of the land. It is unreasonable because it is recognised that the nature of these operations is so distasteful that it would inflict a quite unfair hardship on the occupier of a house to have the land taken and have the operations brought any nearer to his house than 50 yards. If that principle is sound in respect of the man who owns both the land and the house, it is sound in respect of the man who does not own the land but who has a house within a 50 yards radius. His need to be protected is exactly the same. As the Parliamentary Secretary says, if one were dealing, not with the operations of the Coal Board, but with the operations of a person seeking to get planning permission to work a quarry, if he got his planning permission he would be entitled to go closer than 50 yards. But would that planning permission ever be granted? One very much doubts it, certainly not if it would produce the kind of unpleasantness that we all know is produced by opencast coal working.

If the principle that a 50-yard limit should be the maximum for the owner is sound, then is not it sound and should not it be the maximum for everybody and should not the discretion of the Minister, when he confirms the order, be limited now by Parliament so that in no circumstances will authorisation be granted which will enable operations to take place closer to a house than 50 yards?

Sir I. Horobin

The illustration that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) has given emphasises the distinction. These are all matters which are material for the Minister to consider when he is considering whether to give an authorisation. Indeed, as we have tried to point out—and the point cropped up over and over again in Committee—the analogy of this authorisation throughout is with town planning. It is a town planning matter. It technically carries deemed planning permission. As the hon. and learned Member has said, it is unlikely in certain circumstances that town planning permission would be given to carry on operations next door to a house if the nuisance in the general sense were very great. If that is so, precisely the same considerations would have to be in the forefront of the Minister's mind in considering whether he should give authorisation.

What we are concerned with is whether we should depart from general town planning principle, which is not to give wide, blanket refusals, but to consider each case on its merits, and whether we should leave the Minister to consider ordinary planning considerations. But where the land is in the same occupation, then, for the reasons that we have heard over and over again, such as there being an interest and objection could have been raised, and so on, he is in a different position. Where he has no interest in the land he must rely on town planning considerations, and the town planning considerations come in when the Minister is considering whether to give an authorisation which carries deemed planning consent.

Mr. Ede

Will the Parliamentary Secretary go a little further and say that the Minister will in fact take into consideration the points mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) when these cases come before him? If we can be assured of that, our points might be fairly met, but the Minister was very careful not to go quite so far as that. During the past few years we have been able to preserve both individuals and the public at large from many eye-sores that used to be tolerated in the past. That has been the effect of town and country planning, which was started during the war by a Minister to whom I do not intend to refer in your presence, Mr. Speaker.

One has been afraid in recent months that some of these feelings that we had during the war are now being whittled away. For a good part of the afternoon, the hon. Gentleman has kept repeating the mystic initials C.R.O. After some trouble, I found that in this connection they mean a compulsory rights order. In all my previous experience, they meant Criminal Record Office. I hope that the compulsory rights order will not be used to effect some criminal records in the matter of devastating the countryside unnecessarily. I hope that the Minister will be able to go just the little bit further that I have asked him to go.

Sir I. Horobin

As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, I think I can satisfy him entirely. These matters would have to be very carefully considered by the Minister. Indeed, one can go further. As we now must have a public inquiry, as the inspector must refer to all these things and the Minister will give reasons why he does or does not consent to the compulsory rights order, with or without amendment, there is no doubt whatever that in practice this kind of consideration would have to be very carefully considered.

We must, however, bear in mind the other side. Throughout the Bill, it has been a matter of balancing. The Coal Board is under an obligation to provide large quantities of coal and there are certain cases where substantial losses of coal might be involved. Therefore, a general blanket refusal of this kind to persons with no interest in the land would not seem to be proper. However, in considering the town planning balance of judgment, I should have thought it was quite certain that if a small amount of coal were at stake which could easily be avoided by remaining at a reasonable distance from a house of the kind in question, that would be a material consideration which would be bound to be present at the inquiry, bound to be referred to in the inspector's report and bound, therefore, to be considered by the Minister when giving or refusing his consent.

Mr. Ede

Would the man who, in the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot), is in what has been called the second house, have the right of hearing at the inquiry?

Sir I. Horobin

I do not think he is a person who would have a right. Nevertheless, once an inquiry is ordered, it is, I am advised, unusual to refuse reasonable requests. In any case, the town planning authority would have a right. This is a town planning matter. The local authority would have a definite right to be there and certainly would be there. Therefore, in the first place, it would be for that authority to press the rights or wrongs from the town planning point of view upon the Minister and his inspector.

Mr. Oliver

Will the Parliamentary Secretary apply his mind to this? If it is a town planning matter and the town planning machinery is being employed, why specify the 50 yards in the Bill if the town planning authority would give the protection which the Minister suggests? The hon. Gentleman tells us that the town planning committee will consider all these things. Why include it in the Statute in respect of the occupier and leave the other unfortunate man naked and exposed to all the vagaries of what might be decided? To put it another way, why protect the rich and neglect the poor?

Sir I. Horobin

I hope we do not get drawn into that argument. This is nothing to do with the rich or the poor. The rich man might be unprotected—it might be Wentworth Woodhouse or somewhere of that kind—whereas the poor man might have a council house and his few yards of occupied land might be protected. We do not want any red herrings of that kind.

6.45 p.m.

We keep coming back to this distinction. There are certain of these people whom we can protect rigidly upon the grounds that they have an interest in the land. Therefore, the compulsory powers of the Board are taking something from them compulsorily to which they could object, town planning entirely apart. That is the distinction. Town planning or no town planning, when a person has an interest in the land, if the Coal Board does not have compulsory powers he can say, "I will not let you come within 50 yards of my house"—[Interruption.]—or, possibly, 100 yards if that was preferred. It is quite reasonable, therefore, to come to some agreement as to what is a reasonable minimum and write it in the Bill.

The other cases, however, would have no such right. Anybody could have come up and done anything which was not an actionable nuisance right outside the window. Therefore, there must be the dependence solely on town planning protection, and that is what we do. That is the distinction. I confess that if one could have done it, I should have liked legally to protect everybody, but we have gone as far as we can.

In the Bill, we are ensuring a specific protection for those who have a legal interest in the land. Therefore, we feel, it should not be taken away from them. We are not, however, giving to persons a right which they would not otherwise have had and which they do not have against anybody else. We do not propose in the Bill to give them a right against the Coal Board that they do not have against any other legal developer.

Why should the Coal Board alone be put in a position of disadvantage which is not shared by any other legal developer? That is our position. I do not say that it is an entirely happy one, but we are balancing one thing against the other and we have tried to draw the line as fairly as we can in the interests of amenity and in the interests of the Coal Board.

Mr. Robens

The Parliamentary Secretary has missed the whole point. He keeps insisting that this is only a matter of protecting, as far as is possible, the legal rights of the owner of the land. It was never discussed on that basis in Committee. This is an amenity point concerning the right of people to live as peacefully as they can despite the opencast coal operations which go on in their midst.

The whole of opencast coal operations take place in countryside which is also associated with council house development and dwellings. There is not a single hon. Member who represents a mining constituency where coal is found who has not come up against a case in which coal workings come right up against dwelling-houses. What we are seeking to do is to minimise as far as we can the inconvenience that opencast coal working brings about.

It is no use arguing that those responsible for town planning can ameliorate this inconvenience, because if the town planners had their way in any area where opencast coal operations take place, they would never agree to any opencast coal workings at all. No elected representatives who are councillors or aldermen, and who sit on county, borough or town planning authorities would dare to give permission for opencast coal operation to take place if they were completely free agents. The only reason why, at the moment, planning permission will be granted under the Bill is that compulsory powers can be applied.

Let us forget about town planning. Those of us who have sat on town planning committees know perfectly well that in normal circumstances, without compulsory powers, there is no town planning organisation anywhere which would give the right to do this opencast coal work. It is not, therefore, a legal matter at all. If the Parliamentary Secretary will cast his mind back to the Committee stage, he will remember that this emerged on an Amendment put forward from this side which provided that houses should not be encroached upon within half an acre, or that a house should be left with at least half an acre of land. We explained, of course, that the half-acre could be entirely behind the house and that the workings could operate close up to the front door.

This is no myth. I have seen and heard hundreds of operations which have been conducted within 20 yards of the front door. Whether it can be done depends entirely on the strata. We said at that time that there should be at least 50 yards around the house in order to provide some reasonable amenity for the people who have to live for five years or longer in these conditions; and these conditions have to be seen to be believed. What the Parliamentary Secretary has said is that if one happens to own the land about which we are talking one can have the 50 yards, but that if one happens to live in a house on either side of that boundary the operating works can go on virtually up to the doorstep because there is no provision about the 50 yards

The Parliamentary Secretary said that we must leave it to the local planning authority, but he cannot say whether the local planning authority will, in fact, guarantee the 50 yards. He does not know. Surely, if it is right in common justice to say that, purely from the viewpoint of amenity—and this has nothing to do with damage, because the damage is done if one is within 50 yards; it is purely an amenity point—the owner of the land can, under the Bill, be protected, then the person living next door and on the border of that same land ought to have the same right in law.

It should not be left to the local planning authority to determine whether it should be 50 yards or not, because, as the Parliamentary Secretary now says, it is not the position even under the Bill that what is said at the inquiry or the evidence that the planning authority will put forward will decide the matter at all, but that it will be decided finally after a public inquiry is held about compulsory powers. If this country gets very short of coal, as it was a few years ago, then the compulsory powers of the Minister will override every other consideration, as, unfortunately, it must.

We are asking the Parliamentary Secretary to get away from this idea of legality, because it is not the legality of the matter with which we are concerned. We are concerned that opencast coal mining operations should proceed with the minimum loss of amenity to those people who have to live within these operational areas, some of which are gigantic.

We are asking the Government to give some relief and not confine the 50 yards to the owner of the land only, but extend it to those around the site, who ought to have the same consideration. That would not affect at all the views of the local planning authority on the matter, but at least the local planning authority would be unable to permit or to authorise digging operations within 50 yards of a dwelling house.

That is the simple point, it seems to me. It is a reasonable point, and if the Parliamentary Secretary would read again the report of the Committee stage of the Bill he would see some of his own words: It is monstrous—and if we can avoid it, it should be avoided—to leave a house perched on a pinnacle."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 20th March, 1958; c. 352.] This had nothing to do with who owned the house. All that the hon. Gentleman said was that it was monstrous that a house should be left in that position.

I beg the Parliamentary Secretary not to go on pursuing this matter as if it were a legal one. It is not; it is an amenity matter. If it is right that the man who owns the land should be protected and that he should not have to rely on the local planning authority for his 50 yards, it is also right that anybody who lives in such a house should have the same sort of protection under the Bill. That is what we seek, and I should have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary would have gladly accepted it.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

I should have thought that if, in the course of a few years, we found ourselves short of coal, we might be less concerned about amenities than we might be about the production of coal and the winning of coal from all possible sources. I have not taken part in the discussions on this Bill, either in the Standing Committee, of which I was not a member, or in the debates in this House today, but I was once Minister of Fuel and Power, and I had a great deal to do with opencast coal operations. I recall the difficulties that beset the Ministry of Fuel and Power when we sought powers to proceed with opencast operations.

Some of my colleagues may recall the occasion when there was considerable controversy in the country because we sought to acquire for opencast coal operations land at Wentworth Woodhouse, when Earl Fitzwilliam, who was the owner at the time and may still be in possession of the mansion and the land adjoining, sought to prevent us. I go further. Some of my colleagues sought to prevent us on the grounds that we were interfering with amenity. Why? Because we were interfering with this mansion, the gardens and the land adjoining. We were proposing on that occasion to undertake opencast mining operations almost up to the windows of the mansion, because there was a need for the coal.

Conditions have changed since then, and it is extremely doubtful whether, at present or in the foreseeable future, we shall require to engage substantially in opencast coal mining operations. It may be that we shall provide ourselves with sufficient coal from deep-mined sources to enable us to carry on and in a few years to dispense entirely with opencast operations. I do not know; I cannot indulge in any crystal gazing.

Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham) rose

Mr. Shinwell

I do not speak often. The hon. Gentleman might interrupt the thread of my discourse. I am easily distracted, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. Indeed, I have almost forgotten the next sentence I was going to say, but I am not going to forget the one after that, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me.

Mr. Speir

Did the right hon. Gentleman yield to pressure?

Mr. Shinwell

What I do say is that all this is very disturbing. I do not understand anything on the legal side of this matter. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) has said that this is not a legal matter, but since I came into the House I have heard a great deal of legal jargon, the intricacies and subtleties of which I fail completely to understand.

It may not be a legal matter, but I have heard opinions which it seems to me might adversely affect the Coal Board. I am bound to say that it gives me considerable surprise to find the Parliamentary Secretary actually defending the Board and some of my colleagues seemingly, I will not put it higher than that, seeking to deprive the Board of some of its powers. This seems to me to be upsetting the apple cart. It is a complete reversal of our position.

I also note this—and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will not regard this as more than a mild digression—that recently there have been many criticisms of many kinds levelled at the Coal Board. Many indictments have been preferred against it, some of which may be substantially held, while others may be based on imagination or fiction. I would say to my colleagues that we have to be very careful not to allow too much criticism of the Coal Board, even by intellectuals on this side of the House.

7.0 p.m.

We must be extremely careful. The Board was our baby. Let us not forget that. While we must not allow it to become arbitrary in character, or possess arbitrary powers, we must nevertheless seek to protect it so far as we are able so long as it is necessary for it to engage in opencast coal operations. Let us not forget that there was a time when the Ministry of Fuel and Power was entirely responsible for these operations. That power was transferred to the Board, though not in my time. I should have preferred to keep it under the aegis of the Ministry, but that was what was done by others who perhaps had greater knowledge of this subject and were more highly intelligent than I can claim to be.

It seems to me that if we had a guarantee—perhaps we might get an even more definite guarantee and assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary after more mature consideration—that not only those who possess land in the neighbourhood, but those who have certain amenity rights in the neighbourhood, are protected through the town planning authorities I should have thought that we might be satisfied.

If this is a matter of penalising the Board by as much as a hair's breadth, no one will drag me into the Lobby in support of the proposal. I want to make that clear. We had enough trouble when we were advocating the formation of the Board, and it has enough troubles on its plate at present. It must not be penalised in the matter of opencast coal operations and amenities more than is absolutely essential in the interests of the country. I want as much as anybody to see amenities preserved.

It should not be forgotten that if opencast coal operations proceed within 50 yards, ten yards or even five yards of someone's dwelling—this is the old trouble in connection with farm property—the Board has an obligation to restore the land. In the ten years since opencast coal operations began, in spite of all the criticisms and the pessimistic predictions about the effect on amenities, hardly a tract of land where opencast operations have taken place has not been restored completely and to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.

In those circumstances, we ought to be a little careful about the matter. I beg my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth to plead with the Parliamentary Secretary for an assurance which will satisfy us without seeming to penalise the Board.

Mr. Speir

The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) referred to the occasion when there was a threat to destroy Wentworth Woodhouse in order to extract coal by opencast methods. He did not tell the House what the answer was to the pressure put upon him as Minister of Fuel and Power at that time. It is my belief that he yielded to the pressure.

Mr. Shinwell

I did not yield.

Mr. Speir

Yet the right hon. Gentleman now tells the House that we ought not to pay any attention to amenity matters and should not by even one hair's breadth limit the powers of the Board in respect of opencast mining.

If, when we were desperately short of fuel in the 'forties, we could pay attention to amenity, as I believe we did, and if, on another occasion when opencast operations were taking place on Town Moor, Newcastle-on-Tyne, it was thanks to the right hon. Gentleman that the work ceased at week-ends and night, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is the person to come here and tell us that we should not have regard to amenities at a time when fuel is far more available than it was when he was in office.

Anyone who lives in the vicinity of opencast coal mining operations suffers untold misery and hardship, and we must remember that the operations take place not only at week-ends and during the day but all night as well. Everything possible should be done to safeguard the interests of those living in the neighbourhood. I hope that the Minister will undertake to look at the matter further and ascertain whether an Amendment could be tabled in another place.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) made a very powerful and eloquent speech, but at the end of it I remained a little doubtful what it was about. At one time he seemed to be defending the Coal Board on the ground that it was his baby. It was a very legitimate baby, but it has grown up now and is perfectly capable of taking its place in the world and standing up to criticism and defending itself against unjustified criticism.

I do not regard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) as being any kind of an attack on the Board. He seemed to me to be making a very simple and narrow point. It had nothing to do with the Board and nothing to do with any question of lawyers, intellectuals, or anything of the kind. What he was saying was that since the Government apparently admit that if a man owns a house he ought to be protected in his enjoyment of it up to a perimeter of 50 yards, then for the same reason some protection ought to be afforded to a man who merely occupies the house without owning it. Are we to take it that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington would be in favour of protecting amenities within 50 yards for a landowner, but not for a tenant? That would be a strange rôle for my right hon. Friend.

I hope that nobody on this side of the House will be disturbed by the eloquence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, but will vote for the Amendment to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth was speaking, which seemed to be one of such elementary justice that it is difficult to understand why the debate is continuing so long.

Sir I. Horobin

I do not wish to stand in the way of any other hon. Member who wishes to address himself to the Amendment, because much of what has been said in recent speeches had nothing whatever to do with it. I think the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) is under the disadvantage of not having read the Amendment. It has nothing to do with ownership. It deals with occupation.

Mr. S. Silverman

I was talking about occupiers.

Sir I. Horobin

Then the hon. Memmight have mentioned occupation. He never dealt with it at all. He mentioned ownership throughout.

I am entirely in agreement with a great part of what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said. Indeed, I tried to make the same point. We have to consider how far in the Bill we can protect property, especially, and people's amenities. The position that we have taken up is that persons with an interest of occupation in both a house and land adjoining are in a different position from those who have no interest in the land concerned. Where they have that interest, where they occupy the house and occupy the land, we feel that it is possible to lay down special protection for them. Where they have no interest in the land, we feel that the National Coal Board should be in exactly the same position as any other legal developer.

If a man occupies a house and has no interest it the land adjoining, then he has no legal right to interfere with any development which has obtained either planning consent, or, as would be the case here, deemed planning consent. We cannot see why the Coal Board should be put in a position different from that of any other developer. That was the point which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington was making, and that is precisely what lies behind the distinction which we are drawing.

As there were some red herrings about only protecting owners, I should make it quite clear that that is not in the least the point. There still seems to be some slight confusion about town planning. The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) appeared to be interpreting what I said and the meaning of our original Amendment as implying that the outcome must be dependent upon a separate decision of the town planning authority. That is not the case, and if I gave that impression I am very sorry.

What I tried to say, and what I think I did say, was that the protection that these people must have is a town planning protection. However, under the Bill, these powers of town planning are transferred to the Minister. It will be he who, taking account of the need for coal and the need for amenity, which may vary, will give the authorisation, a decision which in effect is a town planning decision and which, in any case, a local planning authority might have given, if it had been a cement factory which it was proposed to build near the house.

That is the point. It is not the case that the occupier of a house who has any interest in neighbouring land will be left to the mercies of a town planning decision. A town planning authority would not be in the same position as the Minister in drawing the balance fairly between the needs of the Coal Board and the need for amenities in the district. The position is that probably the man himself and certainly the local planning authority will have the right to appear and argue these issues at the public inquiry. The inspector will deal with it and the Minister will deal with it, and it may well be, and probably will be, that if only a small amount of coal is needed and there is no great demand for coal at that time the authorisation will not be given up to 20 yards, 50 yards or 100 yards, whatever the Minister decided on town planning considerations.

What we cannot accept is that the Coal Board should be in any different position from that of any other developer in this matter. It must be free to do these things as any other operator would be allowed to do them, if the planning authority so decided. If the planning authority would not give this permission, we are arguing about nothing, because the Board would not be allowed to do it in those cases.

We feel that the Coal Board should not be specially hindered in its statutory duty of trying to obtain coal. I cannot help the House any further, and if I have not persuaded hon. Members we must leave it at that. We have tried to draw a fair and rational line between the needs of amenities and the need of the Board to fulfil its statutory duties, unhindered by handicaps which do not apply to other developers.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

My law is a little rusty, but it seems to me that the Minister has based his resistance to the Amendment on a fallacy, or at any rate on bad law. The Government have inserted the figure of 50 yards, and, provided that an occupier of a dwelling-house occupies the land around (it, the opencast mining cannot come nearer than 50 yards from the house, but if somebody else occupies the land opencast mining can come to his doorstep.

That means that the owner of Blagdon Hall, Lord Ridley, could not have opencast mining nearer than 50 yards from his house, whereas the occupant of a council house could have opencast mining on his doorstep. I have seen hundreds of houses perched on the edge of yawning chasms. Presumably, the Government have inserted the figure of 50 yards to keep opencast mining at arms' length from a dwelling house, provided that the occupant also occupies the land, because opencast mining is a very unpleasant operation. It is extremely noisy and continues day and night. It is extremely dirty, and the whole area is mucked up with mud in wet weather. It is also extremely dangerous.

Before I was privileged to become an hon. Member, I had occasion to pass an opencast mining site twice a day, and I have seen stones flung all over the place. It is extremely dangerous, which is presumably one of the reasons why the figure of 50 yards was included. In other words, it is a nuisance—although that may not be the strictly correct legal term. Being a nuisance, the distance of 50 yards to some extent abates the nuisance for the occupier of the house.

Throughout the last hour or so, the Minister has refused to accept our proposal, which provides a partial abatement of the nuisance to the occupier of the house who does not occupy the surrouding land. His resistance is wholly based on the argument that our proposal would breach an important principle of the law, that the Coal Board must be in the same position as any other developer of land. I suggest that that is the wrong way to consider the matter. The Coal Board does not develop land in the same sense as someone who builds a house or factory develops land. In opencast mining, the Coal Board is carrying out a very unpleasant, nasty, dirty and dangerous operation and is in no sense developing the land—certainly not in the sense that the builder of a factory develops the land. On the Government's own case, opencast mining creates a nuisance, at least for the time being.

There are many examples in law where a nuisance can occur on land and where the owner of the adjoining land has an action against the person causing the nuisance. A person who wishes to abate nuisance need not be the occupier of the land where the nuisance occurs. There are many examples of that. The right to ancient lights is one where the offending building may be on someone else's land and where the nuisance is to the owner of the adjoining land. Another example is that of noxious smells, and there are several others. In basing his resistance to the Amendment on that argument, the Minister is arguing bad law and is basing himself on a fallacy.

Sir I. Horobin

Where there is a nuisance of the sort the hon. Member describes, all the rights remain to the offended party, so I do not see the relevance of the hon. Member's argument. If it is a nuisance, there is still the same legal remedy.

Mr. Short

That is a quibble. The mere fact that the Government have inserted 50 yards shows implicitly that they regard opencast mining as some sort of nuisance and are willing to concede partial abatement of the nuisance if the occupier of the house occupies the surrounding land. If that is the correct interpretation, surely it is only common justice that the occupier of any dwelling house, whether he occupies the surrounding land or not, should have the same right of partial abatement—

Mr. S. Silverman

The same protection.

Mr. Short

—the same protection by having these operations kept 50 yards from him. I add my plea to the others that the Minister should promise to reconsider the matter.

Mr. Robens

The Parliamentary Secretary has not risen to say whether he will give consideration to this, and I take it from the nodding of his head that he is not able to do so. You were good enough, Mr. Speaker, to allow us to discuss five Amendments at the same

time. Therefore, as we wish to divide on this one, we will not move the others.

Question put, That the words proposed be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 197, Noes 153.

Division No. 151.] AYES [7.20 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Godber, J. B. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Aitken, W. T. Goodhart, Philip Mawby, R. L.
Arbuthnot, John Gough, C. F. H. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.
Armstrong, G. W. Gower, H. R. Medlicott, Sir Frank
Ashton, H. Graham, Sir Fergus Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Atkins, H. E. Grant, W. (Woodside) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Balniel, Lord Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Barber, Anthony Green, A. Nairn, D. L. S.
Barlow, Sir John Gresham Cooke, R. Neave, Airey
Barter, John Grimond, J. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Batsford, B. C. C. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Baxter, Sir Beverley Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Oakshott, H. D.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Gurden, Harold O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Hall, John (Wycombe) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Page, R. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Harris, Reader (Heston) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Harrison, A. B. C. (Maidon) Partridge, E.
Bidgood, J. C. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Peel, W. J.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pitt, Miss E. M.
Bishop, F. P. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Powell, J. Enoch
Black, C. W. Hesketh, R. F. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Body, R. F. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Bonham Carter, Mark Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Profumo, J. D.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Ramsden, J. E.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hirst, Geoffrey Rawlinson, Peter
Boyle, Sir Edward Holland-Martin, C. J. Redmayne, M.
Braine, B. R. Hope, Lord John Renton, D. L. M.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Ridsdale, J. E.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Horobin, Sir Ian Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Brooman-White, R. C. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Roper, Sir Harold
Burden, F. F. A. Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Campbell, Sir David Hulbert, Sir Norman Russell, R. S.
Cary, Sir Robert Hurd, A. R. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Chichester-Clark, R. Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.) Sharples, R. C.
Cole, Norman Hyde, Montgomery Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Speir, R. M.
Cooke, Robert Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Cooper, A. E. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Storey, S.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Studholme, Sir Henry
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Joseph, Sir Keith Summers, Sir Spencer
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Keegan, D. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Kerby, Capt. H. B. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Kerr, Sir Hamilton Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Cunningham, Knox Kershaw, J. A. Temple, John M.
Currie, G. B. H. Lambton, Viscount Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Dance, J. C. G. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Davidson, Viscountess Leavey, J. A. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Deedes, W. F. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Linstead, Sir H. N. Vane, W. M. F.
du Cann, E. D. L. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Vickers, Miss Joan
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Longden, Gilbert Wade, D. W.
Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Errington, Sir Eric McAdden, S. J. Wall, Patrick
Farey-Jones, F. W. Macdonald, Sir Peter Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Finlay, Graeme McKibbin, Alan Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Fisher, Nigel Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Wood, Hon. R.
Gammans, Lady Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gibson-Watt, D. Markham, Major Sir Frank Sir Gerald Wills and Mr. Bryan.
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Mathew, R.
Ainsley, J. W. Herbison, Miss M. Pentland, N.
Albu, A. H. Hewitson, Capt. M. Popplewell, E.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Holman, P. Prentice, R. E.
Allen, Scholefieid (Crewe) Howell, Denis (All Saints) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Awbery, S. S. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Probert, A. R.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hunter, A. E. Proctor, W. T.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Redhead, E. C.
Beswick, Frank Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Reeves, J.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Reid, William
Blackburn, F. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Blenkinsop, A. Janner, B. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Blyton, W. R. Jeger, George (Goole) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Boardman, H. Johnson, James (Rugby) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Kenyon, C. Ross, William
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Short, E. W.
Boyd, T. C. King, Dr. H. M. Shurmer, P. L. E
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Lawson, G. M. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Brockway, A. F. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Skeffington, A. M.
Callaghan, L. J. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lindgren, G. S. Snow, J. W.
Champion, A. J. McCann, J. Sorensen, R. W.
Chapman, W. D. MacDermot, Niall Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Coldrick, W. McGhee, H. G. Sparks, J. A.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) McLeavy, Frank Stonehouse, John
Corbet, Mrs. Freda MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stones, W. (Consett)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Deer, G. Mann, Mrs. Jean Sylvester, G. O.
Dodds, N. N. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Mason, Roy Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mayhew, C. P. Thornton, E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mellish, R. J. Tomney, F.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mikardo, Ian Warby, W. N.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mitchison, G. R. Watkins, T. E.
Fernyhough, E. Moody, A. S. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Forman, J. C. Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Moyle, A West, D. G.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wigg, George
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wilkins, W. A.
Gibson, C. W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Willey, Frederick
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Oliver, G. H. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Grey, C. F. Oram, A. E. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Owen, W. J. Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Padley, W. E. Woof, R. E.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Pargiter, G. A. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hamilton, W. W. Parker, J.
Hannan, W. Paton, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hastings, S. Pearson, A. Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price.
Hayman, F. H. Peart, T. F.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.

7.30 p.m.

Sir I. Horobin

I beg to move, in page 9, line 12, to leave out "and".

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we may also discuss the next Amendment, to line 16.

These Amendments are important. I hope that we shall now get back to common agreement and that the Amendments will be generally acceptable.

In the Bill as drafted, the C.R.O. may not relate to land covered by buildings, unless the conditions in the Minister's consent have provided for restoration and replacement. The Amendments propose to tighten that up by saying that the buildings must be restored before the Board gives up occupation. That was inserted primarily in order to simplify the results of changes in compensation which dealt with tenant's improvements. The net result of this point was that the owner would have to pay in the first place and it was therefore very important to avoid putting the unfortunate owner in the position of having to find ready cash to a very large amount.

We propose to get over that difficulty by an Amendment which would ensure that all the work would be done before the Coal Board gave up occupation, leaving only comparatively small items for which the owner had, in the first place, to pay the tenant.

The Amendments have very considerable advantages for their own sake. I think that in all parts of the House we shall be pleased that some of these restorations, where they apply to buildings, must be done at a much earlier date than would otherwise have been the case as the Bill was originally printed, and before the Coal Board gives up occupation. Instead of the owner being told, "You will in due course have your barn or pigsty restored," the buildings will, in fact, be there when he comes back into occupation. I hope that will be generally acceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 9, line 16, at end insert: and (d) those conditions specified a time within which the restoration or replacement of the building was to be completed being a time not later than the end of the period specified in the order as the period for which the order is to have effect". —[Sir I. Horobin.]