HL Deb 10 July 1951 vol 172 cc721-37

3.1 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading reading read.


My Lords, although certain provisions of this Bill may cause some differences of opinion, and a little disagreement, I think its purpose will assure it a Second Reading in your Lordships' House this afternoon. That purpose is to remove the scars caused to the countryside by ironstone mining. I am sure your Lordships will wish to do nothing to prevent the restoration of the surface of the earth following surface mining. It is not always easy, frequently it is difficult, and at times I have known it to be impossible, to restore the surface to anything like its pre-mining condition; but it can he done, and I know of cases where it has been done successfully. I well remember that, some four years ago, it became my duty, as regional controller in the north-west with the Ministry of Fuel and Power, to go round the countryside and examine the hundreds of acres that had been excavated in opencast coal mining. I could hardly believe that the surface could be restored to its pre-mining condition; but when I returned to some of those areas three or four years later, I was surprised to find that restoration had taken place so completely that I should never have known that any mining had taken place there. We know it Call be done, but it is sometimes a costly undertaking, and the purpose of this Bill is to help to finance the restoration of the surface in ironstone mining, areas.

The most desirable form of restoration is for agricultural purposes; I think that is generally agreed. But experience teaches us that restoration for agricultural purposes is not always possible. Therefore, we must allow for an alternative. When it is not possible to restore for agricultural purposes, the ground may be restored for afforestation purposes. The decision as to which is the proper course to take will be made by the Minister of Agriculture. It will be for him to consider whether the condition of the surface is such that he ought to encourage afforestation, rather than go on with any attempt at agricultural work.

The cost of restoring the surface is to be met in two ways. In the case of those areas, amounting in all to something like 25,000 acres, which were devastated by ironstone mining in the past, the Bill provides that the restoration shall be dealt with either by the local authority or by the land owner, according to which is more convenient; and the total cost will come out of the fund created under the Bill. Secondly, there are the mines which are working to-day, and mines which may be opened and worked in the future. These are creating daily the need for restoration. As noble Lords with any experience of surface mining know, it is possible to carry out restoration together with extraction. In this case the Bill provides that the Exchequer, the royalty owner or land owner and the operator shall contribute to the fund in these proportions: the Exchequer, 25 per cent.; the royalty owner or land owner, 37½ per cent.; and the operator, 37½ per cent. This will be levied on output at the rate of 3d. per ton, making the proportion of payment: Exchequer, ¾d. a ton; the royalty owner or land owner, 1⅛d. a ton and the operator, 1⅛d. a ton. The total annual contribution will amount to something like £180,000 a year, estimated on current output, and it is expected that that will be adequate to cover the estimated need of £150,000 a year. The output of the mines, of course, will vary and the fund will vary accordingly, but we are satisfied that the income derived from 3d. a ton will be adequate to meet the cost of the restoration required.

The Minister of Local Government and Planning will be responsible for making payments from the fund. It may be that certain operators will need help as the work goes along, and if they can show that the restoration is being carried out to the satisfaction of the Minister they may receive interim payments. Claims can be made for all restoration completed after July 25 of last year. It may be remembered that on that date the Minister made an Order under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, requiring in all cases that the land should be levelled and that there shall be separate stripping and replacement of top soil in all but the few cases in which the land is unsuitable. One feature of the Bill may cause not a little thought. The depth of mines varies, and it has been necessary to establish a line of demarcation between various workings. That line of demarcation has been fixed at 35 feet. The restoration of a mine shallower than 35 feet is a different proposition from that of a mine deeper than 35 feet. The same consideration will be given to both categories of mine, but the payments made will differ in degree.

The rate of payment per acre will be settled in advance by the Minister, who will be assisted in making his decision by an advisory committee composed of experts. If it turns out that the cost of restoration is more than the Minister has agreed to pay, the operator will have to secure the balance; and if it costs him less, he keeps the balance. We believe that this payment in advance will be an incentive to operators to carry out the work.

There are two features of the Bill which may arouse some controversy—namely, the provisions in Clause 13 and in Clause 27. Although I do not think that this is the occasion for discussing these clauses in detail, they are sufficiently important to make some reference to them in passing. Clause 13 caused considerable controversy in another place. Noble Lords who have read the debate will realise that the clause has created some alarm—I almost said some confusion. It deals with the development charge in respect of ironstone working. Let me make plain the underlying policy of the Bill. It is that each operator of ironstone, in addition to his present obligations, shall pay a levy of 1⅛ per ton towards an ironstone restoration fund. That is basic to this Bill. Clause 13 is designed to see that every operator does pay that 1⅛d. per ton.

May I illustrate the point in this manner? Assume that this Bill did not exist and that the proper development charge for a particular area of ironstone, fixed on a royalty basis, would have been 6d. per ton. This Bill is brought forward and requires the producers to contribute 1⅛d. per ton. What would happen if Clause 13 were not in the Bill, as was suggested in another place? The Central Land Board would be obliged to assess the development charge at 6d. per ton, minus l⅛d. per ton—that is, 4⅞d. per ton. The operator would then, under this Bill, pay 1⅛d. per ton; that is to say, he would pay 6d. per ton, just as he is paying without this Bill, and would make no contribution towards the ironstone restoration fund. In effect, the Government would be bearing the whole of the operator's contribution fixed by this Bill. Under Clause 13 the development charge remains unaffected, and will still be 6d. per ton, but in addition the operator will pay l⅛d. per ton, making a total of 7⅛d.per ton. The 1⅛ per ton will be his contribution to the ironstone restoration fund, in accordance with the underlying principle of the Bill that I have already mentioned. I hope that that illustration will help noble Lords to regard this clause a little more reasonably than was done by some Members in another place. We shall have ample opportunity to discuss the clause in detail on the later stages of the Bill.

As regards Clause 27, it will be remembered that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a scheme in 1949 for setting off development charge against payment out of the £300,000,000 in the case of certain minerals. This clause only provides the legislative frame; the detail has been published in the form of draft regulations in a White Paper (Command 8217). These draft regulations are now the subject of discussion between the Central Land Board and representatives of the industry and the land owners. It may give your Lordships some consolation to know that the regulations will need an affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. In a word, this clause enables regulations to be made permitting the Central Land Board to take a claim on the £300,000,000 in full satisfaction of a development charge.


We have now gone right away from ironstone into a much wider field.


It goes beyond ironstone, but ironstone is still within the province. I have tried to cover the Bill in its main points and its two controversial aspects. I do not think I need say more on Second Reading, as we shall have plenty of opportunity on the Committee stage to discuss further certain aspects of the Bill. In conclusion, let me say that the Bill is designed to restore to their pristine beauty those areas of the countryside from which the ironstone has been taken and which are not now very pleasant to look upon. That is not an easy task, but I know that that, in itself, will secure your Lordships' support. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor.)

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, this is not an easy Bill to understand, particularly for anybody who has not spent his life in some aspect of the milling industry. It has all the complexity which one has come to expect from a measure emanating from the Ministry of Local Government and Planning. But with the general purpose of the Bill, as the noble Lord the Paymaster General anticipated, we have no quarrel. Indeed, it is to be remembered that in, I think, 1938, a then Conservative Minister appointed the Kennet Committee to look into this matter. That Committee reported in the next year, and no doubt, but for the outbreak of war, action would have been taken a great deal earlier than 1951. Again, during the war the Waters Committee also owed its appointment to the same source and has proved, I have no doubt, a valuable foundation in the preparation of the present scheme.

The principle of the Bill—what I may call its Second Reading aspect—received a not unfavourable welcome in another place, although that welcome was perhaps a little chilled by the Minister himself saying at a very early stage of his introductory speech that there existed "a most shocking state of affairs." He also said: The land has been robbed of its mineral wealth, it has been robbed of its agricultural fertility … and the robbers having made their profits have mostly gone away. We understand that that is the sort of remark which the Minister feels bound to make from time to time, in order to ensure that it is understood that his addiction to Socialism is as impeccable as it is improbable. But it is not a very satisfactory way for a Minister to introduce a Bill, because it indulges in a complete generality which in many cases, I think the noble Lord opposite will agree, is not iustified.

As I understand the history of these particular workings, the position is that before the First World War restoration was undertaken almost without exception —the greater part of the land was restored. Between the two wars, to some extent and in some places—and I think it is particularly true of Northamptonshire —there was a tendency to leave these disfigurements upon the face of the land; and that tendency has probably grown in more recent years. We agree that everything which can be done to remove those scars should be done. At the same time, there is difficulty, arising from the fact that, as time goes on, the machinery used for the purpose of excavation becomes larger in scale and more complex in working. The consequence is that the damage which the machinery itself does by way of disfigurement increases in proportion to the size and character of that machinery, and in the result the expense of restoration becomes a very serious item. Front that point of view, it is no doubt excellent that this fund should now be established, in order to assist those responsible to spread the soil and, so far as possible, to restore the character of the land used for this purpose.

When the Minister talks in that very general tone, it is perhaps worth recording that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin (I am afraid that he is not now in his place), in discussing the matter when he occupied the office which Mr. Dalton now occupies, said in another place that of the 6,500 acres which were worked in Northamptonshire—which, as I have said, is recognised by everybody to be the worst area—only 19 per cent. had not been restored at the time when town and country planning came into operation. So that the picture, although I am not by any means painting it white all over, is by no means so black as the Minister of Local Government and Planning rather exuberantly described it in another place.

The position with regard to Government policy, as we have to consider it to-day, is that it depends upon two separate instruments. In the first place, it depends upon the Ironstone Areas Special Development Order, which imposed two conditions. The first was that in all workings proceeding it should be the duty of the operator to spread the soil behind the working face and to carry out that operation within two years of the time of excavation. The second condition was that where the overburden was 35 ft. or less, then in every case not only had the operation I have mentioned to be carried out, but the top soil as well had to be removed and replaced. That, I think, is the basis of the policy, and the real design of this Bill is to produce the finance in order to put that policy into operation. That is what I understand to be the present position and what we are now discussing.

The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading told the House the rates of contribution which are required under this Bill. They are, of course, flat rates. Although it might be difficult to produce a graduated scale, at the same time we are somewhat impressed by the possibility of injustice in imposing a flat rate. We are a little afraid that, in practice, it may result in the operator who has behaved in a public-spirited way, and who has done all the restoration possible, finding himself penalised in order to subsidise the man next door who has failed to do anything of the kind. There is another objection to the flat rate. The rate of royalty received by the land owner varies very considerably, with limitations anywhere between something in the nature of 2½d. and something in the nature of is. From the point of view of the land owner, to have to pay 1⅛d. on a shilling royalty may not be a very serious imposition, but if he has to pay 1⅛d. on every ton of mineral worked when he is receiving a royalty of only 2½d., from his own economic point of view it is a very serious consideration. From that point of view, we have in our minds some reservation—in spite of our recognition of the difficulty of the graduated scale—as to whether the adoption of a flat rate is really the answer to the question.

The other aspect of that particular matter—the payment in and the subsequent payment out—which causes us some thought, is the question of how this operation of spreading the land and restoring it will be carried out in practice. Who is the responsible authority? There is an advisory committee, to which certain persons of eminence have already been appointed, and we welcome in every case the selection which has been made. But, at the same time, so far as we can see, there is missing from that list of persons anybody who has a real practical expert knowledge of this highly technical work of restoration. I believe that the Minister indicated in another place that be would be prepared to consider including on the committee somebody who fulfilled those qualifications. We very much hope that during our discussions on the Bill here the noble Lord may be able to tell us that that promise has been transmuted into performance.

Again, we are somewhat concerned as to who is to carry out the day-to-day supervision of this work. It is not enough just to say to the operator: "You put this back, and when you put it back you come along with your certificate and we will pay you money." As I said, this is a highly technical operation, and what we want to be quite sure about is that somebody is charged with the day-to-day supervision. I imagine that one of the most frequent difficulties encountered is that in some soils very considerable limestone blocks are discovered. They create a difficulty which has to be met; unless they are put down at the bottom of the working, and the soil is piled up in successive layers on top, it may be that the restoration, how ever expensive, will not result in the end in any great increase in agricultural production. That is the sort of thing about which we want to be careful. I should like to see somebody such as the restoration officer under the county agricultural executive committees, on the parallel of opencast coal working, reproduced in the operation of this particular Bill, even though our natural affection for a multiplicity of officials is not always obvious.

Another matter which we view with some apprehension is the point which arises on Clause 8—the payment on the basis of an average in certain circumstances. There are obvious dangers in paying excess above an average. If an operator carries out the work in these cases he is paid the excess over the average cost. During the discussions in another place, the Parliamentary Secretary put the average cost as being in the neighbourhood of £275 an acre. Much of the information in our possession goes to show that that is a highly exaggerated figure, and many of the oldest established firms would put it much nearer £140 or £150 an acre. Your Lordships will see the effect of that. If you put your average up to between £275 and £300, and a man knows that he is going to get paid what he spends above that amount, there is no particular incentive upon him to select the most economic way and the most efficient machinery in order to carry out the task which is imposed upon him. He is safe. He is all right. It does not matter what it costs, so long as he is not above the average. If a man could do it for £140 but is going to spend £275, it will mean a considerable drain upon the fund and, as I say, will offer no temptation to anybody to exercise a proper care in the application of the procedure laid down in the Bill.

Another thing about which we are anxious is the preservation of the balance between the claims of agriculture and the claims of forestry. Forestry has, perhaps necessarily absorbed a good deal of agricultural land in the past years, but at the same time we want to he sure how this land is to be used, and on what principles the Minister of Agriculture—who appears to have the last word—will decide these matters. If I may go back one moment, in that connection. to a body which I mentioned before, the advisory committee, it seems to us regrettable that although the establishment of an advisory committee is one of the statutory obligations of the Bill, at the same time the Bill does not state with any precision what are the duties and powers of that advisory committee. We are still left to guess exactly what are the limits of its functions.

There is one small point to which I should like to call attention, although it might be thought to be in some ways a Committee point, and that is in Clause 22 (3) (c), where power is given to requisition land. It causes us some surprise that one of the instruments which can be called into play in order to carry out requisitioning is the War Damaged Sites Act. There is in existence a Statute—the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946—which one would have thought was for all practical purposes sufficient authority and placed sufficient machinery in the hands of the Minister for the purposes contemplated by this paragraph in the Bill. And yet the War Damaged Sites Act has to be one of the methods employed by which land can be compulsorily acquired. My recollection of that Act is that that power was given to deal with areas in such heavily bombed tons as Plymouth, Southampton, Coventry, and so forth, in order that the worst of the debris might be cleared and the town present its most attractive face for the Festival of Britain. Here, surely, is yet another of those instances of extension of the purpose of a Statute far outside the field which Parliament intended. It seems to me that the use of the machinery of that Act is unjustifiable for purposes such as we are contemplating at the present moment.

The noble Lord anticipated—and I am glad we shall not have to disappoint him—that we might not look with unqualified favour on Clause 13. That is so. We have considerable misgivings about Clause 13. The levy which this Act imposes is 10. Under the provisions of this Bill as it stands, that levy is not to be taken into account at all in assessing development charge under the principal Act of 1947. That seems to us to be completely wrong, because, after all, the principle of the development charge, so far as I have always understood, was that it represented the difference between what was called the existing use value—the value of the land used as it was at that moment—and the consent value, which was the value of the same piece of land with the planning permission attached to it. Now that was a method, at any rate intermittently comprehensible, and we set about sorting it out. Now you are importing this new feature. That is the basis of our objection to that clause, and I still think, in spite of the Minister's lucid exposition of the clause, that that objection cannot but prevail in our minds.

Clause 27 is a very different proposition. It has got into this particular Bill by methods which I cannot in any way detect or specify but which have nothing in the world to do exclusively with ironstone. What this Bill does very largely is to reverse the whole policy of the principal Act of 1947—the Town and Country Planning Act—in regard to existing interests in minerals. That is a very considerable step. We told the Government when that Act was before the House, that so far as minerals go the provisions contained in the principal Act would not work and although I do not want to carry out the always unpopular practice of saying. "I told you so," the fact remains that we have been from the beginning extremely uneasy as to the application of that Act to minerals.

What has happened now is that this Bill is intended to carry out a policy enunciated by Sir Stafford Cripps in 1949; and what it does is to treat all existing mineral interests as being (in that elegant Town and Country Planning language which has produced the word "conurbation") for this purpose. "near-ripe." A consequence of the Government policy is that the owners of existing mineral interests are to receive compensation at the agreeable level of 100 per cent. That would be a perfectly good policy from their point of view, but there is an entirely different aspect of the matter. The owners of those near-ripe minerals suddenly become, as the effect of this clause, preferential creditors on the £300,000,000 which was the total set aside for compensation in the original Act. There are already two classes of preferential creditors which have sprung up in the interval: the single plot owner and the registered builder. Now, in addition—I may say in passing that I am always glad to have the assent of the noble Lord, Lord Quibell—you create another class with very much more substantial financial interests than the mere registered builder (I apologise to Lord Quibell for the use of the word "mere") and the single plot owner. The estimate has been made that their claim on the Fund will be under £10,000.000; but the estimate of near-ripe mineral interests is something of the nature of £40,000,000 or more.

Most important, from the financial point of view, is that you have reduced the aggregate sum of £300,000.000, which you set aside under the original Act, to something like £250,000,000 for the payment out of the people who will be able to put forward claims, or who have already put forward claims, for compensation for loss of value. That is really a very serious consideration, and, apart from all other aspects, I cannot help thinking that it is so serious that it ought to have been given the dignity and status of a Bill on its own, instead of being slipped as a mere clause into this Bill—which deals, for the rest, entirely with the establishment of an ironstone fund. But we must make the best of it. We have a grave objection to this particular clause, although we like the Bill in general. It may be that the clause is in the Bill because it was expected that that would be the reaction of the Opposition, and therefore it was not inconvenient to put the unattractive powder into quite a considerable coating of jam.

There is one other objection to this proposal in Clause 27, and it is this. We are dealing with existing mineral interests, and those are to be treated for all purposes as near-ripe. A great deal of the land which contains ironstone is held by the operators in reserve under the form of enforceable options. That is a very convenient way of proceeding. A man does not necessarily want to acquire out and out all the land immediately. He has an enforceable option and, as he works out his existing land, so he exercises his enforceable option and takes over more and more land from his reserves and puts it into use. Those enforceable options are not covered by this new departure in regard to near-ripe land. Therefore, when the man comes to the limit of his existing workings and starts to turn to his enforceable option for a reserve, he immediately becomes liable to pay the development charge, although he has made provision beforehand by this enforceable option for adequate reserves, so far as he can see, for his future needs. We do not go so far as to say that all land covered by enforceable option ought to be included under this clause, but we feel it ought not to be impossible to devise some formula by which land likely to be used for this purpose in the reasonably near future should be placed on the same fooling of near-ripe land and, from that point of view, should escape the development charge.

In effect, of course, this new policy is purely a book-keeping transaction. No compensation is paid out and nothing is paid in. It is purely a book-keeping transaction, but it does for certain purposes achieve the results and, except for the objections which I have indicated, presumably we must accept it. But, of course, there is again the trouble with what are called "dormant minerals," minerals which have not yet come to be worked. There again we find something like the enforceable option position. Future operators, when they come to start using their land, will have to pay the development charge which the existing operator has not had to pay. That is a very severe handicap to impose upon the newly arrived operator, because it at once puts him at a disadvantage with the established man. The only effect this state of affairs is likely to have is to discourage new people from coming into the field, because having, as they will have, to pay the development charge, they will find themselves unable to compete with the existing operators who, because this clause treats their minerals as near-ripe, escape the penalty of that charge. That again seems to us undesirable and we shall have to consider what Amendments we may find it necessary to put down on the Committee stage. Incidentally, looking at the timetable, it would seem that the Committee stage arrives with considerable precipitancy, because we have only a weak between now and the Committee stage in which to consider this very complicated Bill.

The only other matter that I want to refer to in passing arises on two of the Schedules, parts of a Bill which are not very commonly examined in your Lordships' House, but I think these points are worth calling attention to for their rarity and obscurity. These Schedules contain formulæ. The Second Schedule is described as a: Formula for ascertaining contributions by mineral owners. The Fourth Schedule is described as a Formula for ascertaining rate of payment for work in progress on 25th July, 1950. Both those Schedules have presumably been designed to present a clear picture to the person who will have to carry out the actual operations prescribed by this Bill. And, just as it is a principle in Revenue matters that, so far as possible and within reasonable limits, the ordinary citizen shall be in a position to know what his liabilities are likely to be, so here, where a man has to make certain payments out under a statutory obligation, he should at least be given some indication, intelligible to the ordinary person, of what his liability will be and the method by which it is to be ascertained. May we look for a moment at the Second Schedule? If, when the noble Lord comes to reply to this debate, he likes to assume both a mortarboard and a blackboard to explain to the House——


We shall need both!


—how this Schedule works, we shall be very grateful to him, because I confess that not only am I in abysmal darkness on the subject, but I suspect that a great many other people, including those who will have to work the scheme from day to day, are and will remain in the some position. The Second Schedule formula for ascertaining contributions is: Let a be a sum equal to the payment falling to be made in respect of the interest under the scheme made uncler section fifty-eight of the principal Act. I suppose that means something to somebody, but I am prepared to take that on trust. Letb be a sum equal to the development value of the interest as ascertained for the purposes of the said scheme. and then: Letc be a sum equal to such part of the said development value as is attributable to the prospect of winning and working iron-stone by opencast operations. I forbear to read the rest because it is rather long. The illuminating, practical result of that verbiage is to be found in paragraph 5 of the Schedule, where we arrive at the real heart of the matter; there the man ascertains exactly, once and for all, the operation which he has to carry out in order to calculate his liability. All he has to do is to take note of the formula that The amount of the contribution is 9ac/8bd From that moment he readily proceeds with the necessary calculation, in order to transform that algebraic formula into terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Is it really necessary to have on the Statute Book anything quite so unintelligibly complex? After all, people are supposed to understand, and the supposition still holds ground in some quarters, more or less what is on the Statute Book. If we are to be confronted with algebraic formula of this kind, the ordinary person, endeavouring with the best will in the world to operate the provisions of the Act, must find himself at something of a technical loss.

Those, briefly, are all the comments that I desire to make on the Second Reading of this Bill, although, as I say, we may desire to put down Amendments on the Committee stage. We think it is a pity that Clause 27, bearing as it does on such a very different and general subject, should be comprised within the limits of the present Bill. We should have liked to give this Bill as it stands, even with that clause in, a good deal more careful study than is possible in the somewhat accelerated pressure of the moment. But, none the less, to the general principles contained in the Bill we are anxious to give our assent; and we are anxious to see the procedure set out in the Bill put into practical operation as soon as possible, so that the very considerable disfiguration which parts of the country have suffered may be rectified at the earliest moment.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, in opening his Second Reading speech the noble Marquess, for some reason or other, disclaimed any personal experience of mining. Those of us who have listened to his speech would hardly accuse him of having no knowledge of this mining industry. I anticipated that he would deal in the various questions he raised with Clauses 13 and 27, and I can assure your Lordships that, if you knew how complicated and how technical they are, you would not desire me to deal with them this day. These clauses can be satisfactorily left to the Committee stage, when

they can be dealt with in much more detail. They are in the Bill for a very useful purpose. I cannot agree with the noble Marquess that Clause 27 should have been in a separate Bill, but we can discuss both clauses on Committee stage. I knew before I made my Second Reading speech that neither of the two clauses would be wholly acceptable to the noble Marquess.

The noble Marquess has a great deal of experience in these matters, and when he refers to the imposition of a flat rate I do not think he would find a graduated rate any better. What does a flat rate do? It has many advantages. We have experienced these advantages in other mining industries. The effect of the flat rate is that those operators who are working land that can be restored cheaply subsidise those who are working land that costs a good deal to restore. This even distribution of the cost will avoid unnecessary dislocation in the price structure of ironstone, which is vitally important at the moment. It will avoid the danger of workings being abandoned because of expensive restoration, and it enables the cost to the ironstone industry to be limited to l⅛d. a ton over and above existing obligations. I hope that between now and the Committee stage the noble Marquess will find time to look into the question as to whether a flat rate has not more advantage than a graduated rate.

With regard to the personnel of the advisory committee, I cannot further enlighten the noble Marquess. I have not the name of the individual referred to by the Minister during discussions in another place, but it may be that between now and the Committee stage I shall be able to give the name to the noble Marquess. Responsibility for restoration lies with the Minister of Local Government and Planning. He relies on reports from the officers of the Ministry in the locality in question; if they make a favourable report to him that certain restoration has taken place, and that it is such that the Minister can certify and approve, he will approve it. That will apply equally to the restoration of land in ironstone mining as to the case of coal-mining. With regard to agriculture and forestry, the Minister of Agriculture is vested with large powers. He himself can decide whether the land can be restored

for agricultural purposes. If he does so decide, then the land must be restored. It is only when he considers that it is not possible to restore the land for agricultural purposes, but that it could be used for forestry, that afforestation takes place. I do not see any danger there.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but may I just get that point clear? Do I understand that it is not intended to devote any of this restored land to forestry unless the Minister of Agriculture is satisfied that it cannot be restored for agriculture?


That is the advice I am given. He must be satisfied that it cannot be used for agricultural purposes before he will agree to its being used for afforestation. I have looked at Clause 22 fairly carefully. I understand the noble Marquess has raised the question because it refers to the War Damaged Sites Act. I am advised that the reason for this clause is that, where the Minister of Agriculture has to hire land in order to carry out restoration, he must be able to obtain possession quickly, otherwise restoration work already done may be prejudiced, or work may be badly held up. Under the War Damaged Sites Act, it should be possible to get possession in one month. That is the reason for Clause 22.

The noble Marquess dealt with some algebraic formulae with regard to the Schedules. I have before me sufficient algebraic formulæ to keep us going all the afternoon, but it is not for me to read them. The part of the Schedule that has been referred to is in the Bill because it is considered helpful in making clear the whole purpose of the Bill. I agree that this is a question which will need consideration, but I am satisfied, on advice, that this Schedule is necessary. I agree that for the layman it is a very difficult Schedule to understand, but I do not think the Bill would do what is needed if this Schedule were not there. I hope that I have said sufficient to justify the Second Reading of this Bill, although I know there will be much discussion with regard to it on Committee stage.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.