New Right of Board to Withdraw Support to Enable Coal to Be Worked.

Part of Coal Industry Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th July 1975.

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Photo of Mr William Wilson Mr William Wilson , Coventry South East 12:00 am, 15th July 1975

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) in opposing the Government's motion to disagree with this Lords Amendment.

Those of us who represent Coventry know full well that although we have no coal mines within our constituencies, the mines situated outside our boundaries operate to a considerable extent beneath the City of Coventry. It is not only the Engineering Employers' Association that has called upon us to support the Lords Amendment. The Coventry City Council has also called upon us to back the Lords in their amendment.

Even without the Coventry City Council urging me to take this action, it still seems to me that the Bill, as it was proposed by the Government, is unfair in the matter of compensation.

All too many years ago, when I was a law student, I learned that whoever owned the surface owned right the way up to heaven and right the way down to hell. That was before the days of the National Coal Board. But the common law of England has always existed. Unless there can be some good reason for breaking the principle of the common law of England, I stand by them.

It is because of that principle and because tonight I have heard no reason, and in looking through reports of earlier debates I have seen no reason, why the common law of England in respect of the right of support and of damages and entitlement to damages should be broken, that I must take this stand. This is not a matter for gentlemen's agreements, for nods and winks, and for the old boys' act. Simply, it is that a person who owns the surface is entitled to the right of support and, if that support is broken, to compensation for the consequential damage.

That is a substantial principle of English law. It should not be broken, even by the National Coal Board. For that reason, unless the Minister says something quite extraordinary, I shall vote, with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West in support of the amendment.