asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions have taken place between his Department and the National Coal Board relating to the environmental aspects of opencast mining in South Wales; and whether he will make a statement.
Both under the Opencast Coal Act 1958 and under the Countryside Act 1968 there are obligations on the National Coal Board and the Government to have regard to environmental issues in dealing with opencast proposals. This is a matter to which we shall give close attention when we are consulted.
In view of the likelihood of our entire energy programme being modified by North Sea oil, is it not time that greater weight was given to the environmental disasters which this type of mining precipitates in South Wales? Will the Minister give an assurance that if the National Coal Board proceeds with its present proposals at Abersychan, which would ravage our eastern valley, and if the Torfaen council objects, a public inquiry will be held at which the people of Abersychan will be able to demonstrate and explain their unremitting hostility to the present proposals?
I give an assurance that if the National Coal Board makes application for this sort of development at Abersychan and there are objections by Torfaen or by the county council, a public local inquiry will be necessary and will be held. Moreover, such an inquiry would be necessary if there were a substantial volume of objection from other sources as well.