Oral Answers to Questions — Mining Subsidence (Compensation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th July 1949.

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The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Miss JENNIE LEE:

77. To ask the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he can now make a statement on the report of the Committee on Mining Subsidence.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and the permission of the House, I should like to answer Question No. 77.

I am grateful to the Committee on Mining Subsidence for their detailed report on a complicated subject. After careful consideration of the report the conclusion has been reached that legislation to implement the whole of the Committee's recommendations would involve a number of difficult administrative problems and would have far-reaching financial implications which require further study. The Government are, however, aware of the need for action to alleviate the most serious hardships which occur owing to subsidence due to the mining of coal and propose to introduce legislation as soon as possible to provide a measure of compensation in respect of small dwelling-houses which suffer damage from this cause.

Miss Lee:

While my right hon. Friend's answer will give great satisfaction to private householders, I would like to ask whether it means that at no future time is legislation contemplated to ease the rate burden on those areas, or are people, because they live in mining areas, to go on paying additional rates?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

It is intended that the legislation to which I have referred shall cover local authority houses as well as private houses. As to the question of further legislation I cannot make a statement at the moment. The matter is still under consideration.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

While it is desirable that the people who own houses should receive consideration and compensation—there are many of them in my constituency—there are also roads which are affected. Does what the Minister has told us allow for any assistance to be given to local authorities to deal with such roads? There are some roads which are in a terrible condition; as a result of subsidence, it is almost impossible for the lightest traffic to go over them. Will the Minister deal with that phase of the matter?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

As I have already explained, this Bill will relate only to dwelling-houses. The question of any further Measure has not yet been settled.

Photo of Sir Ian Fraser Sir Ian Fraser , Lonsdale

On what ground of equity will this compensation be confined to small dwelling-houses, leaving out medium-sized houses and small businesses and all others who may suffer?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Because I think it important to deal urgently with the most serious element of hardship.

Photo of Mr Cecil Poole Mr Cecil Poole , Lichfield

Is it not unfortunate that this great problem should be tackled piecemeal? Is not there a very real danger that if we have one Bill dealing with a portion of it, action in regard to the rest of this serious problem will be relegated to some obscure future date?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

No, Sir. There is no question of any immediate legislation to deal with the larger issue but that does not seem to me to be a reason for not dealing with this urgent matter of hardship.

Photo of Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth Sir Hugh Munro-Lucas-Tooth , Hendon South

Who is it intended shall provide compensation in the case of small dwelling-houses?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

The precise arrangements have not yet been settled. The National Coal Board will be directly responsible for paying compensation but in all probability there will be a Treasury grant to assist them.

Photo of Sir James Henderson-Stewart Sir James Henderson-Stewart , Fife Eastern

In view of the large number of houses owned by local authorities, such as Fife County Council, can we be assured that they will be consulted by the Government in the drafting of this legislation?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

Yes, I think I can give that assurance, although, as I explained, the legislation will refer to dwelling-houses.

Photo of Mr George Oliver Mr George Oliver , Ilkeston

Will compensation be paid on the basis of the recommendations contained in the report?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

I cannot at the moment say exactly what the criteria will be.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Minister of Agriculture with a view to seeing what can be done to implement the Committee's recommendations about land drainage, which is considerably affected, and about which protests have been made by the drainage authorities?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

That is a matter which will come up in the course of further consideration of the report, and consultations are taking place between my Department and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Miss Lee:

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication when the legislation to deal with the matter may be expected?

Photo of Mr Hugh Gaitskell Mr Hugh Gaitskell , Leeds South

I can only say that we shall get on with the job as quickly as possible.