§ 5.43 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT (LORD SANDFORD)
My Lords, I beg to move 1498 that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Sandford.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD STRANG in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Contributions from ironstone operators towards Ironstone Restoration Fund]:
LORD GARNSWORTHY moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 14, after ("State") insert ("after consultation with the Advisory Committee on Ironstone Restoration").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Greenwood of Rossendale and myself. At the outset, I should like to apologise for the absence of my noble friend. He would have been speaking at this time instead of me had he not been called away to an important engagement.
§ In moving this Amendment I would say that we on this side of the Committee welcome Lord Sandford's agreement that the Advisory Committee should be retained, but we are not wholly happy about the position. We are not happy about its membership, its terms of reference or the frequency with which its advice will be taken or even sought. It clearly has not been used effectively in the past, as is shown by the long period since it last met and the very sorry financial position which has developed. If it had been consulted more frequently perhaps the process of rehabilitation would have been expedited and the fund would have remained in balance.
§ It is our view that the Advisory Committee will be much more useful if it does not consist only of the vested interests involved: for example, the Iron and Steel Board, the landowners and the sub-contractors. We think that it ought also to include local authorities as planning authorities, and that there would be tremendous value in including representatives of amenities societies, such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, as representing the wider general public. We say this partly because it is in line with the last Government's planning reforms and the new emphasis being 1499 placed on public participation, and partly because the quality and pace of rehabilitation will affect the cost of the operation, which in its turn will determine the adequacy of the levy. The advice to the Secretary of State could be invaluable, especially when coming, as would be the case, from a much more representative body.
§ We shall listen carefully to what the Minister has to say, and if he can give assurances (as I hope he will) that consideration, and maybe acceptance, of these points is in the mind of the Government, then we shall gladly withdraw this and the other Amendments standing in our name, with the exception of that dealing with Clause 4. May I say on behalf of my noble friend and myself that we very much welcome the support of Lord Greenwood's name to the Amendment.
§ It seems to us that the Association of Municipal Corporations may be very much of the view that I have been expressing. They certainly would like to be consulted about any proposals for reshaping the Advisory Committee with new terms of reference should it be decided not to abolish it.
§ It may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I mention now that the Association regret very much that there is to be no increase, apparently—at least, so far as they are able to appreciate—in the Exchequer contribution, which it seems ought to be made if only to take account of increasing costs and changes in money values. They also regret—and, speaking personally, I share their regret—that the Bill is limited to ironstone workings and has not the wider measure of application that has been suggested to other mineral workings.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I am glad to hear from the noble Lord that he thinks that the moving of this Amendment would be the appropriate moment at which to speak to virtually all the other Amendments on the Marshalled List, except for Nos. 2 and 3 which are in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I think this would be very much for the convenience of the Committee. All the Amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, and the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, 1500 presuppose that the Advisory Committee will not be abolished, as had been proposed in Clause 4 and is now proposed in subsection (2) of the Government's new clause. We have reconsidered the arguments in favour of retaining the Advisory Committee, but I must tell your Lordships that we are not persuaded at this stage that it is necessary to retain it.
Perhaps by way of a preliminary I could remind the Committee that we are now dealing with mineral workings in the context of well-established planning procedures, backed up with planning conditions, whereas in 1951, in the original Act which set up this Advisory Committee, Her Majesty's Government of that day were dealing with restoration which had been neglected in an era prior to any of the planning legislation which we now have.
Although the Advisory Committee helped in settling the standard rate originally, the circumstances are now different in a number of other ways. It is not now a question of quantifying the restoration obligations of operators under their leases in 1950, but of revising the original amount of £110 to allow for inflation. This involves merely the selection of a suitable new index. Consultations so far with the British Steel Corporation do not suggest that there will be any difficulty about this. If other questions arise they can now best and most conveniently be considered in direct consultation with the British Steel Corporation and representatives of the ironstone owners. If, exceptionally, any issue did arise which required independent advice, there would be nothing to prevent such advice from being obtained on an ad hoc basis. In the Government's view, there is no justification for maintaining a statutory body for that purpose.
It has been suggested that maintenance of the Committee would avoid any recurrence of the danger of insolvency. I do not think that suggestion is well conceived. The Committee was never a watchdog over the running of the Ironstone Restoration Fund and it would not be appropriate to re-constitute it as such. The solvency of the Fund depends essentially, on the one hand, on the level of ironstone production and the rate of contribution; and on the other hand, on the timing and extent of restoration work 1501 Provided that the basic facts and forecasts about production and restoration are available from the industry, and given that the contributions and standard rate can be varied—which has not hitherto been possible—it should not prove too difficult to secure that enough funds are available to meet commitments. But this, too, points to the need, not for the maintenance of a statutory committee, but for close co-operation with the industry and landowners.
But the Secretary of State readily agrees to the points made in the Second Reading debate that he should be open to advice from those directly concerned with the results of the orders he can make under the first three clauses, and he is willing to accept a statutory requirement that he should consult them before exercising these powers. That is what one of my Amendments gives effect to. And I can give an additional assurance that he will, in any case, consult not less frequently than annually, whether he needs to exercise these powers or not. As the Bill stands, he would have been obliged to consult the British Steel Corporation before fixing a new standard rate under Clause 3. Under the new clause which the Government have put down he would now be obliged also to consult before making an order under Clause 1 fixing a new rate of contributions payable by operators, and before making an order under Clause 2 specifying the owners' share of those contributions. And, further, the owners would be joined in the consultations on all three Order-making powers, and that would be in the Statute.
The new Government clause, as I have said, requires consultation before Orders are made under all the new powers. Although the Order-making powers provide for the much-needed degree of flexibility, new Orders may not be a frequent occurrence. It is for that reason I have given the assurance that the Secretary of State intends to arrange for both the British Steel Corporation and the Ironstone Royalty Owners and landowners' representatives to have an opportunity, not less frequently than once a year, of discussing the state of the Fund, the adequacy of the contributions and of the standard rate in force at the time, and so on. In this way information and advice will be exchanged and review of production and restoration trends should ensure 1502 good notice of the need for corrective measures.
Here may I make a point that relates to Amendment No. 8 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Henley. To extend the field of consultation required under the clause to cover persons who do not contribute, or whose rights to draw upon the Fund are not affected by the Orders—or bodies representing such persons—would not appear either desirable or appropriate. This is not to say, however, that the ironstone operators or royalty owners would be precluded from consulting, or including among their representatives persons having experience of the kinds described in the Amendment. That would certainly not be so. Nor, indeed, would the Secretary of State be in any way precluded from making a wider consultation if he were satisfied that such wider consultation were necessary. But it would not be right, in the context of the Orders concerning contributions and the standard rate, to require, by Statute, consultation with persons or bodies not directly concerned.
Nor is it proposed to require consultation in all this with the local authority associations, who are not directly concerned in this particular matter. They do not contribute, and the variation of the standard rate affects only the drawing upon the Fund by ironstone operators. However, if at any time it appeared necessary to consult them about general principles, the Secretary of State would certainly do so—I give that assurance—as he did last year when the possibility of winding up the Fund was under review. We have been in touch with the appropriate local authority associations about the changes we are now discussing.
I hope that that explanation of what we are importing into the Bill to take the place of the Advisory Committee will give the noble Lords who have had misgivings the reassurances for which they have been asking, and enable them to accept my two Amendments, Nos. 6 and 7, when we come to them, and to withdraw their own.
§ 5.57 p.m.
On Second Reading I welcomed the fact that the Government had listened to representations about the 1503 Restoration Fund, and I want to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, on being so willing to listen to the representations about consultations that we made from all sides of the House on Second Reading. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy, that it was because of previous defective consultation that the Fund fell down. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that the Advisory Committee was not a watchdog. Nevertheless, if it had been consulted, even though the Minister saw no good reason for consulting it, it might have become apparent earlier that the Fund was getting into difficulties.
The noble Lord has come up with suggestions for consultation which seem to cover nearly all the points that I had in mind. First of all, it is fair that the rates should be settled in this way, with the advice and, I hope, the consent of the people concerned rather than by means of the arbitrary powers of the Secretary of State. I take the noble Lord's point that it is easier to do this on a non-statutory basis; that possibly a more flexible kind of consultation could take place if it is not laid down exactly how it shall take place. I note that the noble Lord does not wish to enlarge the body from which he draws advice by calling on those who are not directly concerned. I do not imagine that this will quite satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Garnsworthy; I think he would have liked to see the amenity bodies, county councils and other similar bodies, also consulted. I think I should, too. Nevertheless, the noble Lord has made quite a good case for saying that in this particular instance it is not necessary.
I do not go with him all the way in saying that the well-established planning procedures are good enough; they are not good enough in this context. It may well be that the whole business of planning permission with regard to this kind of mineral working has to be looked at again. I like the frequency with which this Advisory Committee is going to be called into being. I am sure that that is a good plan, even if, as the noble Lord says, there is nothing immediately for them to decide. Because it is not only the money rates and standard rates and contribution that are to be considered; it is the whole business of restoration. This 1504 is something which was dealt with in the 1951 Act; I think it is Section 34(3) which said that any other matter concerning restoration could be considered by the Committee. I hope that "any other matter" will be considered by the Minister's advisers.
When it conies to my Amendment to the noble Lord's Amendment, I think I shall have very little to say. I am not sure I need move it. The noble Lord gave me fair satisfaction on that point. I should like to turn it over in my mind. He uses the word "ironstone"; I use the word "mineral", and the reason why I changed the word was that I felt there might be difficulties so far as the British Steel Corporation is concerned, as the Corporation is responsible to the Minister, in making any points as forcibly as some independent party could do. Also, I felt that as grants can be made under Section 20 of the 1951 Act covering management and future farming of the land after restoration, consultation with owners of purely ironstone-bearing land would perhaps be too narrow. For that reason I changed the word from "ironstone" to "mineral". It makes it slightly wider than the noble Lord's.
The noble Lord says that he does not want to bring in people who are not directly concerned. I am not sure whether that is the right course. Perhaps between now and the time when Amendment No. 7 comes up the noble Lord can turn that point over in his mind. What the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said, with the possible exception of the question of county councils and so on, is very good indeed, and I congratulate him on the flexibility with which he has viewed this whole problem.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
In speaking on this Bill I should declare an interest, because I am concerned with iron ore minerals in the Midlands. While thanking the Government for giving timely attention to this problem, I would add a few words to what has been said already. I was hoping—I think most of us in the Midlands were hoping—that there would be an Advisory Committee of a statutory nature which could at any time ask for consultation on many problems which will arise. But I note that the Minister has made another offer, which I hope will go 1505 a long way, if not the whole way, to meet the requirement. I thank him for giving what I understand will be a statutory right to consultation for owners of minerals and others as well as the operators.
The treatment of land after mining involves a most difficult operation, or series of operations, as to the choice and degree of restoration for farming and forestry. A great deal has been achieved during the last twenty years or so through co-operation among people on all sides associated with iron ore mining and the land; also, and in particular perhaps, through the help of representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture on future use and improvement of the land. I am sure that there is agreement now as to the importance of continuing to restore the land for some form of production and for the preservation of the landscape and the countryside's appearance. I hope the Ministry visualise the extent of the physical problem and of the financial failures which would be greater and more difficult in future. There will be problems and difficult decisions, and a need for consultation closer and more frequent than before. I hope, therefore, that there will be an early consultation with all those who are concerned.
§ LORD GARNSWORTHY
The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, must be reasonably pleased by the range of support he has received in the Committee for what he has indicated we may expect. Personally, I welcome very much the support of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in regard to local authority representation and consultation with them; and the same with regard to the amenity societies. I very much hope that that point may be looked at further. In the meantime, I welcome such assurances as have been given. But may I say that I think it reasonable that we should have an opportunity to study carefully what has been said? If we should feel that we ought to come back to the point on Report stage, I hope that it will be understood why we are taking that action. Or it may well be that the matter could be left to be dealt with at the Second Reading of the Bill in another place. Meanwhile, on the basis of what has been said, and with the leave of the Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1506
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ LORD HENLEY moved Amendments Nos. 2 and 2A:
§ Page 1, line 15, after ("shall") insert ("also");
§ Page 1, line 15, leave out ("in addition to the full rate").
The noble Lord said: Going with Amendment No. 2 is a manuscript Amendment of which I think most of your Lordships now have copies. I apologise for this. It is a small drafting point and Amendments Nos. 2A and 2 are really all part of the same thing. When I put the Amendment down last night I am sorry to say I put down half of it and forgot to put down the other half and I noticed that only this afternoon. What it amounts to is that the clause will now read as follows, on page 1, line 15:
An order under subsection (2) above shall also specify a lower rate of contributions …".
What I have done is to put the word "also" in after "shall" and left out, ", in addition to the full rate,". The reason why I have done that is that as the clause is drafted—and I am quite ready to be told by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that the legal experts say I am wrong—it seemed to me that the provision could be interpreted to require the order to specify an additional rate. This is obviously not the intention. The reduced rate should be specified and applicable, not as an addition but in substitution for the full rate for pre-February 15, 1951—full restoring leases and ironstone land held on charitable trusts or for charitable purposes. It is a very small point and your Lordships may well say that as you read the original draft it is perfectly clear that it could not be interpreted to require the order to specify an additional rate. Nevertheless, it ought to be made clear and I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
I will not go so far as to say that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is wrong, but I can assure him that his Amendment is not necessary and there is no danger of the subsection as drafted being interpreted in the sense that one rate can be added on top of another rate. It allows only for the specification of two different rates to apply to two different classes of land. I hope that with that assurance the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ 6.10 p.m.
LORD HENLEY moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Contributions in respect of Ironstone extracted before 1st April, 1971
§ " . In respect of ironstone extracted before 1st April 1971 by opencast operations from land within the ironstone district as defined in the Act of 1951 and on which contributions have or will be paid under section 3 of the said Act the Secretary of State shall pay into the Fund such sums as are required from time to time to meet the payments to operators under section 9 of the Act of 1951 such sums to be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament."
§ The noble Lord said: On Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, drew our attention to the fact that there were still some 3,000 acres of land worked for ironstone to be restored to agriculture or forestry, and that the cost of this operation would be something in the order of £1½ million. I think this figure is not challenged by the Government, but clearly it would leave a heavy deficiency in the restoration fund, which at the moment I believe, stands at considerably less than half a million pounds; and quite an amount of that sum represents outstanding claims in the pipeline against it. Obviously there will be a deficiency of something like £1 million. The noble Lord said that in his view it would not be altogether fair that this deficiency should be met out of future contributions to the fund, and that the fair and just thing would be for the Government to accept responsibility for settling all the outstanding claims on the fund as at the end of March this year.
§ It may well be that operators other than British Steel Corporation will be entering into new leases. While this is not very likely, it is possible; and if it is likely that there will be new mineral owners entering into new leases it does not seem fair that they should be asked to bear the burden of this deficiency when the contributions for it have already been received.
§ I think that the Government—or successive Governments—cannot alto- 1508 gether escape from the suggestion that in part they have been responsible for the building up of this deficiency. During the Second Reading debate we discussed at some length the fact that the old Advisory Committee had not been convened for 13 years. It was also pointed out that even if the Advisory Committee had been convened there were certain things with regard to the raising of prices that they could not do. Nevertheless, I feel it was rather curious to have an Advisory Committee which was never called upon for advice, and, had it been called on for advice, as I said before, it would have become apparent that something was going wrong with the fund. This Amendment is designed to enable the Secretary of State to deal with the current deficiency in the fund in respect of land from which contribution has already been paid, rather than that it should be met by increased contributions on future extraction. I beg to move.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
The 1951 Act made just enough financial provision to enable immense progress to be made. There is considerable anxiety that unless there is some further assurance of help for the fund it will be much more difficult in future to pay for attending to some land already worked, and it seems likely that in future a smaller percentage of the land could be fully restored to agriculture and that the greater amount will have to be levelled without top surface and put into forestry instead of into farming.
Without having any idea of what the Minister has it in mind to impose in future in the way of levies for the fund, I find it difficult to speak on this matter, but I think everyone hopes that in the consultations soon to follow provision will be made which will enable the existing backlog to be removed and the future work to be done as everyone wishes it to be done.
§ LORD SANDFORD
In responding to this Amendment I think perhaps I ought to start by saying that were we to carry it we should, I think, be infringing the privileges of another place. That does not mean to say that there would be any harm in discussing the matter; in fact I think it would be helpful to comment on the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, because it clearly caused concern 1509 to a number of noble Lords at Second Reading. In that debate the broad suggestion was that the Exchequer should wipe the slate clean so that the provision of financial arrangements under the Bill would relate to future operations only. It was argued that it is inequitable that the results of some failure to take remedial action at an earlier date should be visited upon the present industry, vested in the British Steel Corporation. However, this new clause seeks to go still further and to require the Exchequer to meet not merely that part of the restoration costs not covered by the existing balance of the fund, but the whole cost of that work for which there is manifestly no justification.
As I said during the Second Reading debate, the present situation has resulted from a combination of three different circumstances. Initially, it stemmed from the fact that the Act of 1951 contained no provision for revision of the arrangements to allow for inflation and other changes in circumstances. But the effect of that adverse trend is now being accelerated by declining home ore production, and the decisions of the British Steel Corporation to close quarries, which have only recently emerged. Even if earlier action had been possible, however, and if amending legislation had been introduced by our predecessors a little earlier and the present circumstances had been foreseeable, I think it must be assumed that the action taken would have been on similar lines to what is now proposed; that is to say, the claims by operators on the fund would have been reduced by raising the standard rate to reflect the increased costs of restoration, and the contributions would have been raised.
It may be suggested that in that event the additional cost would have fallen upon the former operators or, to put it another way, it is the former operators and not the British Steel Corporation who have benefited from the fact that earlier revisions were not possible owing to the rigidity of the Act. This may be so, but the fact that our predecessors chose not to alter the incidence of the liability within the industry is no reason for seeking now to shift the liability away from the industry to somebody else; namely, the taxpayer. Some of the land for which restoration liability currently exists will be land which the Corporation have 1510 themselves worked and for which they are plainly responsible. It is true that some will be land which has been worked by other operators, but as the proper successor to the industry and heir to its liabilities as well as its assets, it is right that the responsibility should pass squarely on to the shoulders of the Corporation and not on to the shoulders of the taxpayer.
I recognise that it would be attractive to the industry to have the slate wiped clean, but this can only be done at the taxpayer's expense and there is no sufficient reason why the taxpayer should foot this particular Bill. During the Second Reading debate (15/3/71; col. 272) the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, referred to the generally accepted principle that we in the Department of the Environment certainly endorse; that is, that the man who despoils or damages the countryside must be made to pay for the damage for which he is responsible. I submit that it would be the negation of that principle for the taxpayer to assume the responsibility for meeting the outstanding liabilities beyond the extent already agreed; that is to say, from the continuation of Exchequer contributions at the existing rate per ton. It is for those reasons that I must advise the Committee not to accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, should he decide to press it, although I hope that, in the light of that explanation, he will not do so.
I rather feared that in moving this Amendment I might be infringing the privileges of the Commons, but as I knew the noble Lord was very unlikely to accept the Amendment, and that even if I pressed it I should be defeated, I nevertheless decided to put the point before the Committee. In spite of what the noble Lord says, I am not convinced that what he is suggesting is altogether fair. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood: that those who make a mess should clear it up; but I am not sure that Governments have not contributed to this mess by their own negligence, so that they should help to clear it up. And they are not helping very much to clear it up, in that they are not making an increase in their own contribution. This seems to me unfair. The operators are going 1511 to have to increase their contributions; the standard rate will have to be doubled, or even more. The contribution from the royalty owners is going to be increased. I cannot help feeling that the least the Government could do, if they are not going to wipe the slate clean, is to increase their own contribution very substantially.
Nevertheless, I still think that, because our predecessors here did not seek to shift the burden, did not seek to alter the rate, did not seek to inquire who should pay for it, future operators and owners should have to foot the bill. The noble Lord, spoke only of the operators, but there are the owners as well. They are in a different case from the operators. Whereas it is unlikely that there will be any new operators, other than the British Steel Corporation—unless the Government are going to hive this off; and I do not think so—the owners will be entering into new leases; there will be new owners who were not there before, and they are going to have to pay for the mistakes previously made. I feel, with the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, that it would be only fair and just if some measure of this cost was met by the Government. I cannot say that I am in any way satisfied or reassured by the noble Lord. However, I know that I am unlikely to get enough support to be able to defeat the noble Lord's Government in this matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Variation of the standard rate]:
§ 6.25 p.m.
LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 3, line 42, leave out subsection (3).
§ The noble Lord said: I do not think there is there is anything more of substance which I wish to add before moving this Amendment, except perhaps to agree with those noble Lords who indicated by what they said that our planning legislation, planning procedures and planning conditions do have a considerable bearing on this matter, but they are not strictly relevant to this rather narrow 1512 Bill. It may be that they are not in all respects perfect, but I am convinced that this Bill is not the right vehicle in which to set them to rights. That is one point I wanted to make. Apart from that, I think I have said everything I want to say on these next two Amendments. I beg to move Amendment No. 6.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.
After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:
§ Consultation with ironstone operators and owners and abolition of existing Advisory Committee
§ " .—(1) Before making an order under any of the preceding provisions of this Act, the Secretary of State shall consult such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him to be representative of ironstone operators and of owners of interests in land from which ironstone is extracted as mentioned in section 1 above.
§ (2) The Advisory Committee on Ironstone Restoration established under section 34 of the Act of 1951, is hereby abolished."—(Lord Sandford.)
LORD HENLEY moved, as an Amendment to Amendment No. 7, Amendment No. 8:
Line 3, leave out from ("be") to end of line 5 and insert ("expedient including persons or bodies of persons having experience of ownership and management of rural land, of ownership and management of mineral bearing land and of mineral workings.")
§ The noble Lord said: Before I ask leave to withdraw this Amendment I should like a word from the noble Lord as to whether he feels there is any substance in what I had to say about the possible difficulties for the British Steel Corporation in arguing their own case to their own Minister. That is why I used the concept of "mineral" rather than "ironstone". The other point is really in line with that; it is about the grants that can be made under Section 20 of the 1951 Act. Here again I think one should use "mineral" rather than "ironstone". I know this is a fairly narrow Bill; the noble Lord has pointed out that that is one of the reasons why he does not want it regarded as pro forma for other mineral operations, because it deals with only one aspect, ironstone. He 1513 argued that for that reason he did not want to bring in anybody not directly concerned. But has he anything to say on this point? I beg to move.
§ LORD SANDFORD
The noble Lord asked me to expand on two points. First of all, we have, of course, had extensive consultations already with the British Steel Corporation and there is no indication that there are any difficulties arising from the reason the noble Lord indicated. As to the next point, about the interests of those bodies not directly concerned with the operation of the Fund, perhaps I should say that the purpose of the original 1951 Act was to deal with 2,500 acres of past dereliction which had arisen in an era before there was any planning legislation or possibility of imposing planning conditions. That situation no longer exists. That past dereliction has been cleared up, thanks to the operation of the original Act, and planning legislation and planning conditions are available to deal with the matters that were neglected at that time. The amenity interests, local authorities et cetera, now have their say in the matter at the stage of a planning application and perhaps a local planning inquiry, all of which goes on in connection with mineral workings, as it does with a planning application to build a house or a highway. The Mineral Workings Bill does not replace that in any way, but it exists side by side and in parallel with it. I hope that satisfies the noble Lord.
It does not quite satisfy me. What I felt about this question of grant under the 1951 Act was that in so far as grant can be paid for restoration of land worked, both for agriculture and forestry, under the 1951 Act, it would be reasonable to discuss the question of restoration with people who were not necessarily immediately concerned with ironstone only. There are new techniques. All sorts of things are being done in restoration; and as grants are to be given, is the noble Lord not keeping the Committee too narrow by not allowing himself to consult people not immediately concerned with ironstone. That is why I raised the question of the 1951 Act, and he has not quite answered that. Nevertheless, I do not think the 1514 point is important enough to press it. I would say once again that the noble Lord must not attribute too much to the planning conditions, because they are not adequate with regard to a great deal of mineral working and they need to be looked at. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Abolition of Advisory Committee on Ironstone Restoration]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Resolved in the negative, and Clause 4 disagreed to accordingly.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.