I gave evidence at the inquiry, as did my hon. Friend the Mem-
ber for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). May I remind hon. Members of what was said at the inquiry by Mr. Griffiths, the QC for the National Coal Board? He said:
You have heard evidence that the Board works fairly and generously within what the law provides and I recognise that consequential losses are not all covered by the law of compensation. I would remind you that, as you yourself observed early in the inquiry, that compensation is a matter to be considered by Parliament and is perhaps best considered by them.
We are doing tonight as Mr. Griffiths has recommended.
Both in this House and another place the Government have been humiliated in their efforts to defend the proposition that in a free country the citizen need have no legal redress for consequential damage against a public board. That is the long and the short of it. As this proposition was so clearly indefensible, the only resort has been feebly to fall back on to a committee—and what a committee! It has sat on average just over once a year for the last four or five years. Clearly, even now we are not being given any idea of when it is to complete its findings. We are told "as soon as possible" and "with all speed" but that is totally unsatisfactory in view of the seriousness of the case.
I am reminded of the situation with the capital transfer tax and agriculture. The tax has been imposed and subsequently we have been promised a committee to decide how much damage it will do to agriculture, the tax already having, been established.
The discovery of this lift. seam between Barnsley and York gives the Government and the National Coal Board the chance to create the perfect coalfield community. This huge deposit of coal has fallen into the board's hands free of all charge and compensation. The conditions are so favourable that it will be mined at a fraction of average costs. All the circumstances are there for the Government to show the utmost generosity to the local community, the only people in the United Kingdom who will suffer rather than benefit from the coal development.
The chance of winning this good will is rejected at every opportunity. The old wooden toll bridge at Selby, built in 1792 and crying out for replacement for the last 50 years, is to be the gateway to the largest and most modern coalfield in Europe. The Barlby-Riccall by-pass is to be cancelled because of the coming into operation of the coalfield. No assurance is given that schools and other essential services will be expanded to meet the incoming population. Now in the House of Commons the Minister is about to tell my constituents that they have no legal redress if, as a consequence of the National Coal Board's activities, their homes, businesses or farms are damaged. That is no way to win the confidence of Yorkshire people.