§ Viscount Lambton
asked the Paymaster-General whether he will make a statement on the exercise of compulsory powers for the acquisition of land for opencast coal working.
§ Mr. Maudling
The National Coal Board have assured my noble Friend that in present circumstances they are not letting any fresh contracts beyond those to which they are already committed, or which are necessary to discharge their legal responsibilities, or which, in the discharge of their national obligations, they consider they must let to secure supplies of particular kinds of coal. The effect will be a steady run-down in opencast production, unless circumstances so change as to call for a reconsideration of the position.
The Minister's powers under the Opencast Coal Act, 1958, include the confirmation of compulsory rights orders made by the Board when they cannot get any new land they need by agreement. In view 171W of the assurance that the Board has given, my noble Friend does not expect to be asked, and if asked would not agree, to confirm such Orders under present circumstances.