asked the Minister of Fuel and Power when he proposes to discontinue requisitioning land for the purpose of surface mining.
So far as I can foresee at present, it will remain necessary for some years to maintain opencast coal production at a high level. The Government fully appreciate the inconvenience caused by opencast, and land will be requisitioned for this purpose only so long as is essential in the national interest.
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure me that before land is requisitioned he will make the fullest inquiries?
Will my right hon. Friend take note that it is not just a matter of inconvenience, but of taking agricultural land in the desperately serious food situation which exists?
Since land taken for opencast mining is restored to agriculture—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and, in many cases, gives very good crops, will the right hon. Gentleman try to do something about land which is taken for sand, gravel and other purposes and which covers a much greater acreage, but is not restored to agriculture?
I very much appreciate the hardship caused to agriculturalists by opencast mining. The question raised by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Noel-Baker) is a different one.
Is it not only a matter of hardship to those concerned but of the food supplies of the nation?
Are not farmers equally affected by land taken and devastated to obtain sand, gravel and other things? Will the right hon. Gentleman take effective action to protect farmers in those cases also?
That is a different question.