Land use and natural resources are among the questions that are being studied by the consultants commissioned by the consortium of local authorities in the South-West.
While being disappointed with that reply, hoping that a plan would have been brought forward already, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind the tremendous work which the clay industry is doing for the export drive, particularly from the claypits of Meeth and Merton? Will he also bear in mind, while he is carrying out this survey, the problem of Meldon Quarry, Okehampton, the quarry which is producing some of the finest railway ballast in the country, which is to be closed by the Railways Board? Does he not agree that this is disgraceful? Will he speak to the Minister of Transport with a view to seeing whether he cannot reverse this decision?
The last part of the Question should obviously be transferred elsewhere, although no doubt the fact that the hon. Member has made the point means that notice will be taken of it. I cannot altogether understand his disappointment in view of the fact that the Ministry is less than three months old. One of the things which my right hon. Friend has found in this aspect of his work is an almost total lack of knowledge, taking the country as a whole. It is for this reason that this and other studies have to be made before policies can be adumbrated.
Then why is not the right hon. Gentleman doing something about it? Why is he leaving it to a private company commissioned by a local council before his Department was farmed? How can he possibly fulfil his functions unless he has such a survey made by his own officers?
I am surprised that the hon. Member is casting such scorn on a celebrated firm of consultants. My right hon. Friend took the view that as this survey was already commissioned it would be ridiculous to duplicate the work at this stage.
Is the Minister aware that we on this side of the House have a great deal of sympathy with him and his right hon. Friend in having to give such terribly nebulous replies? Is he further aware that in our view his Department is nothing but a fraud and that, in fact, as much knowledge as is required is already available? Will he tell us when some results will flow from his Department, which is now three months old? We want to know when it will start moving?
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the Conservative Party had control of this country for 13 years and did nothing, except for bringing in the consultants whose report we now await? It is very hard to understand the kind of questions which hon. Members opposite are now putting.
Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:
asked the Minister of Land and Natural Resources whether, in considering the natural resources of the South-West, he will take into consideration the need to reconcile the preservation of places of exceptional beauty with the desirability, wherever possible, of reviving non-ferrous mining, particularly in Cornwall; and if he will make a statement.
Natural beauty is one of the important resources of the South-West and this will be given proper weight in any plans for the development of the region's resources as a whole, in common with directly economic factors such as that to which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) refers.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that whereas the tourist trade employs a large number of people for a few months in a year, the greatest need for the South-West is for a diversification of employment throughout the year, which the revival of tin mining would provide? Will he bear this in mind when the two interests conflict, as they sometimes inevitably do?
Will my hon. Friend bear In mind that when tin mines are opened on the Cornish cliffs they are likely to turn them into waste lands? Will he take that aspect into account and try to confine any further operations of this kind to the waste land which already exists?
My hon. Friend's supplementary question is the concern of the Ministry which gives planning permission and which can impose appropriate conditions before granting permission. Since he has made the point, no doubt it has been noted.