It pains me to have to prefer the arguments of the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) to those put forward by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. I say that because I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend. In all other respects, his judgments are cogent and compelling. I regret that his adjudication of the merits of this case seems to me to fall below the merits of the argument itself.
This is not a matter which should be treated in a partisan spirit. It is one of great concern not only to farmers but even more so to industrialists and to those whom they employ. It is a matter which concerns workers as well as manufacturers, and that is why I wish to outline briefly the history of this discussion and also to discuss the Lords Amendment.
I am no stranger to this problem. For many years, I have been in contact with successive chairmen of the National Coal Board and with Ministers who have been dealing with questions of subsidence.
I am surprised that no mention has been made of the Robens Agreement. This matter of subsidence first became one of great concern in Coventry when the NCB published its intention to start mining in certain areas, especially in my own constituency in the north, where the proposal was a matter of great concern to manufacturers.