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Clause 1. — (Machinery and Plant.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Industrial Development Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th August 1966.

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Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash 12:00 am, 11th August 1966

I want to take issue with the Minister of State on the argument that this is really akin to agriculture. It surely cannot be denied that timber, in this sense in which we are talking about it, is not a crop for consumption in that sense. This is the preparation of an industrial material. It is akin to industrial material. It is a material integral to many aspects of industrial manufacture. It is not only a material for the making of things like window frames and furniture, a material which the furniture manufacturers use, but it is deeply related to the extraction of coal.

It is so analogous to coal, and so closely related to coal, that I cannot see how the Minister can possibly excuse not putting this particular industry into the same category as those covered by the Clause, in the same category as searching for or the extraction of coal. If the Minister is talking about the extraction of timber as being akin to a long-term—this was the phrase he used—a long-term crop, he should remember that if he were to carry that further he would discover that timber in the very long term becomes coal, and there is no reason, therefore, why he should not be prepared to give it the same treatment as coal, on that extended time scale.

The point is of some historical significance and interest. I do not know whether the Minister has seen it, but if he has he will recall, in Professor Alan Taylor's "English History, 1914–45", the extremely interesting point which the professor brings out, namely, that the German submarine warfare, in the 1914–18 war, and developed comparatively late, after 1916, had a serious impact, above even the impact on food supplies, upon the supplies of pit props for our coal mining industry, which at that time was unsupported by oil and other mineral resources for the generation of power for British industry.

Pit props were essential to the mining industry and a large percentage came from Scandinavia, and supplies were almost entirely cut off by the success of the German submarine warfare. It was that which led to the setting up of the Forestry Commission, for the specific purpose of growing pine and other similar trees so that pit props could be supplied from British forests and we would not be subject to this sort of possible strangulation if war came a second time.

I hope that the Minister appreciates that pit props are an integral part of industrial processes. Plant and machinery required for the preparation of pit props in the forests should qualify in the forests in which the trees are felled, lopped, and turned into pit props on the spot. We want to make quite certain that he will at least agree that the preparation of pit props qualifies under the Bill. It would be much more suitable if he allowed the machinery used for the preparation of this essential industrial material to qualify, whether machinery used in forestry or for getting the material away from forests to factories, and if he were to make quite certain that the extraction of a natural feature, which is integral to the manufacturing process in factories and mines, is included in the provisions of the Bill.