HC Deb 19 July 1995 vol 263 cc1653-4
9. Mr. Clapham: T

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what access his Department has to studies on the effects of the cessation of pumping at disused mines conducted by British Coal before privatisation. [33379]

Mr. Clappison

British Coal has discussed with the National Rivers Authority the implications for the water environment of potential mine closures, and has made available any studies relevant to the responsibilities of the NRA.

Mr. Clapham

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but that conflicts with what I and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mrs. Jackson) were told when we recently met members of the NRA and local business in my constituency. We learnt that the NRA is finding it difficult to gain access to the impact studies that were conducted following the closure of each colliery and that they did not have access to the mine plans. Will the Minister ensure that the NRA and the new Environment Agency, which will take on that duty next April, have access to those mine plans and the impact studies carried out by British Coal?

Mr. Clappison

I am happy to talk to them about that. The hon. Gentleman will of course derive reassurance from the fact that the Coal Authority has confirmed that it will continue pumping operations at abandoned mines where the NRA considers it necessary. It is doing just that at a former pit, Wooley colliery, in the hon. Member's constituency. My hon. and noble Friend Viscount Ullswater gave an assurance that the authority will go beyond that and seek the best environmental outcome in the circumstances.

Mr. Illsley

Is the Minister aware that the Coal Authority has said that it does not consider itself to be responsible for the pollution from abandoned mines? Given the problems of the NRA not having access to certain information and insufficient resources to deal with the problem, the Government should devote more resources to combat pollution, which is causing a great deal of concern in former mineworking areas.

Mr. Clappison

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman has put that interpretation on what the Coal Authority has said, because he is completely wrong. As I said, the authority has guaranteed to continue pumping operations. It is clearly important that it should do so. The hon. Gentleman is aware that those operations are continuing at a number of pits, including some close to his constituency.

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