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Right Of Board To Work Coal In Former Copyhold Land

Volume 889: debated on Thursday 10 April 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made: No. 11, in page 5, leave out lines 5 and 6 and insert—

'(b) on two successive weeks in such newspapers circulating in the area concerned as appear to the Board to be desirable for giving adequate publicity to their intention'.—(Mr. Eadie.)

I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 5, line 22, at end add:

  • (c) have begun to exercise the right conferred on them by subsection (1) above in relation to any coal or a mine of coal comprised in or lying under any land in which the retained interest subsists'.

With this amendment it will be convenient to take Government Amendments Nos. 14 and 15.

The purpose of the amendments is to change the reference date for the calculation of the compensation to be paid by the board to the holder of a retained copyhold interest. As originally drafted, this would have been the date on which the board published its notice of intent. The Opposition were concerned at the erosion of value which inflation might cause between that date and the date when the compensation was actually paid, which could be many years later.

The method suggested in the Opposition amendment would be complex and impracticable to administer. However, I undertook to try to meet the point. The two Government amendments do this by changing the reference date to that on which the board actually exercises the right to mine coal. Payment will therefore be calculated on the basis of a transfer of the retained copyhold interest to the board on the date it began to mine coal under the land in question. Payment should be made as soon as possible thereafter.

On Amendment No. 15, will my hon. Friend make it absolutely clear again that this Bill does not deal with compensation? The presence of the word "compensation" in the Bill has led many people, particularly those in local authorities, to believe that the Government are neglecting the whole subject of consequential compensation. As I know from individual constituency cases that I am handling at the moment, there is a very real case for the cost of mining coal to be borne by all those who consume it rather than by individuals in coalmining constituencies who suffer in one way or another from subsidence but who have no claim under the present regulations.

I want my hon. Friend to spell out clearly, as he did in Committee, that this is not a Bill which deals finally with the question of compensation. I want a reassurance that the interdepartmental committee is considering this question and I want him to give an indication when it will report. I ask for these matters to be dealt with in view of the great concern which exists outside the House about them.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) has touched on a point which we discussed at some length in Committee. The word "compensation" appears frequently throughout the Bill. It is in the Explanatory Memorandum. The Minister has been at pains to explain, however, that this is not a compensation Bill. I naturally take his word for that, but in reading the Bill one comes across the point repeatedly. It is for that reason that the misunderstanding that the hon. Member referred to is so widespread, and perhaps the Minister will therefore set out his position on the matter.

I am delighted to welcome the amendments because they surmount what could have been a very tricky situation. A notice could have been supplied but no work take place perhaps for some years. People would have found themselves in the situation in which the money they were committed to receiving would have been far less than the true value at the time work started. I thank the Minister for taking the points we made in Committee on this point.

In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), I may say that the purpose of Amendment No. 15 was to give effect to the Government's intention as expressed in Committee at col. 136 that compensation payable in respect of a retained former copyhold interest should explicitly include a claimant's reasonable legal and valuation expenses incurred in preparing and prosecuting his claim.

The hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) was correct in saying that in Committee we discussed the question of compensation. I argued that it was not a compensation Bill, but I undertook to see that the interdepartmental committee would try to carry out its investigation as expeditiously as possible. I shall honour that pledge, which I think I gave in a letter to the hon. Gentleman, in which I mentioned that the matter was complicated and difficult. I was seized of the points made in Committee, including that made by my hon. Friend. I shall do my best to expedite the undertaking.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 14, in page 5, line 25, leave out from second 'which' to end of line 26 and insert:

'they began to exercise the right referred to in paragraph (c) above'.

No. 15, in page 5, line 43, at end insert—

'(5A) Where compensation is payable to the owner of a retained interest under subsection (4) above there shall be paid to him, in addition to the compensation, any reasonable legal or valuation expenses incurred by him for the purposes of—
  • (a) establishing his ownership of the interest and giving notice of it as mentioned in subsection (3)(b) above, and
  • (b) ascertaining the value of the interest;
  • but this subsection is without prejudice to the powers of the Lands Tribunal in respect of the costs of proceedings before the Tribunal by virtue of subsection (4) above'.—[Mr. Eadie]