HL Deb 05 August 1947 vol 151 cc981-5

Clause 79, page 91, line 46, at end, insert: ("(c) that where—

  1. (i) a mining lease was in force on the seventh day of January nineteen hundred and forty-seven, having on that day an unexpired term of not less than three years, or
  2. (ii) minerals were being won and worked immediately before that day by a person having an interest therein otherwise than under a mining lease, no payment shall be made under the said Part VI in respect of any interest in the minerals comprised in the said mining lease,
or in any minerals which form part of the same seam or deposit as that in respect of which the operations mentioned in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph were being carried out and in respect of which an interest was held as mentioned in the said sub-paragraph, as the case may be, and that no development charge shall be payable under the said Part VII in respect of the winning and working of the said minerals under the mining lease referred to in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph or in respect of the winning and working of any minerals referred to in the said sub-paragraph (ii) in respect of which no payment has been made tinder the said Part VI as aforesaid.")

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:

Because the said Amendment would unduly affect the provisions of Part VI of the Bill, whereas the main purpose of the Amendment could otherwise be secured under the Bill, if thought fit, without the said Amendment.


My Lords, the other place are not prepared to accept the Amendment, and in the circumstances I rise to move, That this House do not insist on the said Amend-merit.

Moved, That this House do not insist on the said Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed.—( The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, this Amendment, which went forward to the other place in my name, is one about which I feel I ought to say a word. It was, and still is perhaps, one of the most controversial parts of this Bill. I see that in the other place last Friday the Minister said that there was no dispute in your Lordships' House as to the application of the Bill to minerals, and that there was no suggestion that minerals should be taken right out. I think that was a little inaccurate, as noble Lords on all sides of the House will feel. There were quite a large number of speeches suggesting that this was not at all the right place to deal with minerals: I myself made two such speeches, one on the Second Reading, and the other at a later stage of the Bill. The fact that we did not move to delete from the Bill the whole of the mineral clauses does not mean, and should not be taken as meaning, that noble Lords, at any rate, on this side, approve of them. If we had sought to delete these clauses, clearly it would have been going directly against a principle which—for better or for worse—had been approved in another place.

We on these Benches, let me make it clear, still think that it is for the worse. We believe that it would have been much better to leave minerals entirely out of this measure. We believe that the fact of dealing with minerals as they are being dealt with under this Bill will have three effects. First, it will cause uncertainty among those who develop these minerals and manufacture essential goods from them. Secondly, it will tend to increase the cost of those goods: it has even been suggested from the Government Benches that where it is found that perhaps too saran a royalty is being paid to some landowner, the Central Land Board may well raise that royalty. Thirdly, it will certainly have the effect of making new mineral development more cumbersome and more difficult than it has been in the past. There are few landowners who, knowing that they will get no advantage from the digging up of minerals in their land, will be prepared to accept the disadvantage and the disfigurement of the land until it is taken compulsorily from them.

We tried, as noble Lords may remember, to exclude minerals which were being worked under existing leases or from seams that were presently to be worked. It might well be that: some limitation could have been applied upon that, but we wanted to get these essential workings out of the procedure of the Bill by not making them subject to a development charge, and not letting them have any claim to compensation. We wanted things to go on without any interference by this measure with the production of the basic materials for the housing programme, with the getting of basic materials for our steel factories, and the basic materials for a lot of our exportable goods, such as our china and porcelain ware. Once again, I am afraid that planning theory is taking the place of practical common-sense administration—and that, indeed, is what I believe is bringing the whole country into its great difficulties to-day. We in your Lordships' House put this forward with a view to removing any encumbrance from industry. There are a certain number of mineral owners in your Lordships' House. In some quarters it might be said about them that they were putting this matter forward in their own interests. I am certain that nothing of the sort was in their minds. It was certainly not for that reason that this Amendment was put forward; it was in order that we should avoid an additional encumbrance on our production effort at the present time. As the Amendment has come back to us, however, my advice to noble Lords is not to insist at this stage upon it.


My Lords, I should like to say one word in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has said. No one seems to be particularly enamoured of this clause. My noble friends have criticized it, and only a few days ago, at the last minute, the Government themselves produced, not an Amendment, but certainly an important modification of the way this clause is to operate. I cannot help feeling that one of the reasons for the apparently almost universal doubt about this clause is that nobody seems perfectly certain as to the object it is to attain. Is the object of the clause to bring more money to the Exchequer, or to make minerals available, or cheaper, or to improve town planning schemes? Or is it simply to enable the Government to say that if anybody is to make a profit out of these minerals, the owner will not be able to make as much as he did before? The Government are claiming to do all these things at once, and the difficulty is that these objects are really incompatible with each other. Surely you are not going to make a thing cheaper by taxing it; nor are you going to make these minerals more easily available if you remove the owner's incentive to exploit them. Nor do I see how you are to improve town planning schemes if you give no greater powers or responsibility to town planning authorities than they have at present.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the town planning authorities, in providing their development schemes, will continue to discover from existing operators what land they will require during the next fifty or sixty years, and then, if these areas seem to these authorities all right from the point of view of amenities, they will put them on the development plans. There seems to be nothing in this Bill, or in what has been said so far, to suggest that the town planning authorities will have to plan as potential new areas for mineral working areas that have not yet been developed. If they had to do that, it would be an extraordinarily difficult and complicated thing to undertake. The only advantage that is now produced, from the town planning point of view, is that it does become easier to sterilize minerals in order to preserve green belts. That seems rather an odd consideration at the present juncture of our history.

Apart from that, there seems to be nothing to suggest that this clause will produce more minerals or cheaper minerals, or better town planning schemes. On the other hand, as Lord Llewellin has pointed out, there is a good deal of evidence that it will make minerals more expensive and more difficult to come by. That seems an odd result to produce, in view of what we shall be told in the debate to-morrow. The other day a man who was trying to acquire a few acres of chalk to burn agricultural lime had the greatest difficulty in finding anybody to sell him this land. It is the threat of this Bill which produces this effect on owners.

I have no doubt that short-term schemes will be greatly facilitated by this new concession which the Minister has announced in another place in considering our Amendments, but as regards long-term schemes, particularly schemes where a great deal of money and machinery and that sort of thing are involved, I cannot see that it will do more than just decrease, to some extent, the uncertainty to which the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has referred. The whole object of my intervening at all at this moment, indeed, is to ask that, so far as possible, the uncertainty about the regulations that are going to be made will be resolved. At the same time I still cannot help wondering what advantage is to be obtained by creating all this uncertainty at this juncture and, if more money is the real reason, why some more scientific form of taxation could not be devised.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

4.15 p.m.