Before addressing myself to the subject under discussion, I must disclose to the House that I have a small interest in certain mineral rights. In years gone by I have had a close association with the development of minerals in Cornwall, and therefore, having some knowledge of the subject, I think it would be wrong of me not to point out to the House on this occasion that mineral development is entirely remote from the development of the land. They cannot possibly be dealt with on the same lines; the same considerations are not applicable, and we cannot possibly know what will happen in the future. Let me give two or three illustrations. First, the tin and copper mining industries, which go back not hundreds but thousands of years. At one time those industries were valuable and prosperous, but discoveries elsewhere have rendered them almost valueless today. For the life of me, I cannot see how any sort of compensation can be worked out in that case. When different people and concerns own varying fractions of a lease there will be enormous complications in apportioning the amount of compensation.
There may be areas of land containing minerals, which, in the next few years, will be of considerable importance to this country, but that has nothing whatever to do with ordinary compensation for the development of building land. For example, China clay is a raw material which will be absolutely essential to us, in view of the impending financial crisis. We shall have to develop that industry to the fullest possible extent in this country, and how can we hope to fix any form of compensation and betterment? It is sometimes assumed that the development of minerals is profitable to the landowner, but that is not necessarily so. I once undertook an electioneering venture in Cheshire—at which I was not too successful—and one of the important considerations arose over the salt mines, when legislation was introduced to deal with it. Compensation for minerals involves legal complications which will keep many lawyers busy for quite a long while. Those minerals are the raw materials which we shall need in the immediate future.
My right hon. Friend referred to the value of building stone. When you are dealing with a county council, they do not want a lease for three or four years, because they want to develop for a long period, and at the end of the period a considerable amount of land may be quite useless. You cannot tell now how you are to compensate now, or how many acres they will take—a thousand things may turn up; the county council may find a better stone somewhere else, which is handier or easier to work.
I have tried not to be controversial, and to put a point of view which I felt should be put. I represent a West Country constituency, and this is a matter which affects the living of many people, although it does not affect a very large number in my constituency. The Minister said that he was looking into this. I hope that even at this late stage he may see that the argument against bringing minerals into the Bill is stronger than he originally thought. That being so, this Amendment will not do any great harm, nor will it wreck the Bill. This Clause is an unnatural thing to graft on to the plant of this Bill. Is it really worth doing something which will upset industry at the present time, and which in all probability will have to be cut out when the financial crisis comes? Would it not be better to cut it out now, than to have to do so at a later stage?