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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.