§ Mr. Mason
Why not? Is not the Minister aware that when these mechanical monsters move into the areas concerned they create chaos and despair, that old people's nerves are affected because of the blastings and detonations, which sometimes go on all night, that students' chances of successful progress are jeopardised because they cannot study in the evenings, that property values slump in the immediate vicinity of the workings, and that, over and above all this, there is dirt and there is despoliation of the countryside? Is he aware that our area has recently been surveyed with a view to asking for autho- 4 risation? I give notice to the Minister that we are going to oppose it by all means at our disposal.
§ Mr. Wood
I ask the hon. Member to bear in mind that some coal could not be worked except by opencast methods, and that profitable opencast operations can in fact help to maintain the market for coal, and I myself feel that the Board should remain free to work coal by opencast methods as long as there are not overriding objections on agricultural, amenity, or general social grounds. That is why I have given my permission in the cases to which the hon. Member has referred.
§ Mr. Wood
Since last November I have authorised nine sites which will produce a total of nearly 1,900,000 tons of coal, over varying periods of up to about five years, including about 800,000 tons from a site in Derbyshire which is being worked to ensure the safety of a neighbouring mine. I authorised these sites under the Opencast Coal Act and in accordance with the policy I announced to the House of Commons last October. Future applications for authorisation will be considered on their merits.
§ Mr. Mason
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the opencast executive of the National Coal Board has been extensively surveying and prospecting in Yorkshire and that a number of local authorities have already been consulted? Is he aware that my local authority, Barnsley, and neighbouring authorities are strongly opposed to opencast operations coming into the area again? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that if he goes ahead with authorisation in Yorkshire we shall have to canalise the opposition of mineworkers, farmers and local authorities and make sure that sites are not started?
§ Mr. Ridley
Would my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will not confirm any compulsory orders for opencast sites in Yorkshire, which surely is the most important part of this problem?
§ 19. Mr. Wainwright
asked the Minister of Power if he will state the estimated tonnage of coal that the National Coal Board intends to produce from opencast coal mines for the years 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1965.
§ Mr. Wainwright
Does not the Minister realise that this coal was got only when an emergency arose immediately after the war and that the public thinks that it ought now to stay where it is until a further emergency comes along? In any case, will he take due note of what happens when opencast sites are worked in close proximity to housing estates, when the housewife has to wash furniture and clothes day after day and night shift workers cannot sleep because of the terrible noise of explosions? Will the Minister make certain that opencast working does not occur near housing estates?
§ Mr. Wood
I agree that there are a number of inconveniences connected with opencast working, but I do not think that the public generally takes the view that the hon. Gentleman does, because the public generally is anxious to have anthracite and anthracite is in short supply. Most of the sites which I have recently authorised will produce anthracite, which would be in even shorter supply if I had not authorised those sites.
§ Mr. Mason
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will grant authorisations for opencast mining only if the sole purpose is to produce anthracite? Will he reconsider his original decision for a run-down in view of the fact that there seems to be an 6 acceleration in the number of pit closures and the need to make alternative employment available? Will he also bear in mind that we still have millions of tons of coal in stock?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must confine notice to a particular answer, otherwise I get into difficulties with the rules. May I take it that his notice relates to Question No. 19?