Skip to main content

Regional Grants

Volume 933: debated on Friday 24 June 1977

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

I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 6, line 28, at end insert:

'and opencast workings of coal'.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With great respect to the Chair, may J say that this amendment rather puzzles me because I understand that the definition of "coal activities" under the Bill includes opencast workings of coal. Since that is so, I can see no validity in the amendment.

The House divided: Ayes, 45, Noes, 90.

In the circumstances, I think that it would be convenient if the Minister were to explain the amendment.

It is precisely because the wording in the Bill does not make that clear that I am moving the amendment. The Bill refers to "colliery activities". Does that include opencast activities? That is my point.

This is a matter of considerable concern in my constituency and neighbouring areas, where there is perhaps more opencast activity than in any other part of Britain. It has been going on for a great deal of time. One of my mining villages has seen opencast activity since 1947, and in some areas it is on the increase rather than on the decrease. One can see whole villages surrounded by opencast sites, and that is a cause of great distress to the inhabitants.

Housewives, for instance, find that they cannot hang their clothes on the line because of the dust which comes from these activities. White paint becomes black quite quickly and therefore, if one lives near a site where there is so much dust, it is no good painting one's house. When the weather is bad, the mud on the roads is almost intolerable. It is absolutely filthy. There are complaints, even a few miles from my own home, about heavy shot-firing and about cracks in the walls. These complaints come mainly from house owners, and not only from tenants, although many of them are involved in the mining industry. They say that their homes are suffering in this way and that the National Coal Board is unwilling to admit that it is in any way responsible for the cracks which appear in floors and in walls. Something must be done quickly. That is why I should like to see the words "opencast workings of coal" included in the Bill.

I shall be brief. My constituency contains five deep mines which produce most of the coal that goes to the great Port Talbot steelworks. In addition, because we are in the coastal belt, opencast mining, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows from the inquiries that have taken place, is a very important issue. It is a very important issue in areas where there were previously deep mines. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to assure the House that the wording in the Bill includes opencast mining. I rest my case there.

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) for moving the amendment and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Padley). Mr. Deputy Speaker has more or less clearly defined how I should reply. The hon. Member for Carmarthen expressed doubts about definition. I wish to clarify that the amendment would not achieve anything. The definition of "colliery activities" under the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act includes

"winning, working or getting coal".
This clearly includes opencast mining. Since the hon. Gentleman's amendment is already covered by existing legislation, I ask him to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.