I have not for a long time heard such falsity as I have heard tonight from the Opposition. Before the nationalisation of the mines there was no talk of compensation for subsidence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or pneumoconiosis."] The Conservatives never appreciated what happened to the miners as a result of pneumoconiosis, but that is another point.
We are told that compensation must he paid by the coalmining industry, whatever its profits are, to people affected by subsidence. I have no objections to the principle. Let us bear in mind that people are reluctant to build new factories and plants in coalmining areas. No matter how one prepares underground with packing material, about one-third to two-thirds lowers and affects the surface. The slightest deviation can cause a tremendous upset to sophisticated, automated machinery on the surface. Therefore, industry is always reluctant to come to mining areas. The hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Butler) knows that.
But before the nationalisation of the mines the Conservatives did not trouble about compensation. Houses could be wrecked and it did not matter. After nationalisation, Conservatives became interested and brought the matter to the fore. Of course it matters to the individuals who are affeced, but what shocks me about Opposition Members is that they are mute and quiet unless the argument is against a nationalised industry. Now that the mines are nationalised they become vociferous.
The country requires coal, and the Opposition try to put all the responsibility on the coalmining industry. They are trying to ruin the nationalised industry. Is it their intention to sterilise many areas where the coal that the nation needs exists? They are encouraging people not to build concrete rafts and not to prepare against subsidence by proposing that compensation should be payable.
I have no objection to the payment of compensation, but if Opposition Members want to make it impossible for the industry to be viable and productive, that is the way to do it. That is what they seek to do because they are so much against nationalised industry. Before nationalisation there were no arguments about the cost of subsidence. Since nationalisation more compensation has been paid to owner-occupiers because of damage to houses than ever before, and rightly so.
If, in spite of what industrialists do to try to make certain that the factory floor is safeguarded against subsidence, subsidence occurs, I agree that the National Coal Board should be responsible. But if we are seeking to make the coalmining industry unprofitable and non-viable let us accept the amendment.
If the nation requires miners to go below ground to mine coal, and if it wants a profitable coalmining industry, the nation must be prepared to pay for it. Let us not saddle the industry with all the faults we can find and all the misguided ideas of people who are not miners. Everyone knows that in building houses and factories preparations must be made to prevent subsidence, but there will be subsidence no matter how much packing is done below ground.
Let us not sterilise great areas of coal. It is not just the area of coal that matters. The angle of subsidence stretches out, so that there can be 10 acres of coal and 30,000 or 40,000 acres involved.
I hope that Opposition Members will not be too partisan on this issue and will be fair and just in their arguments, and make certain that they do not saddle too great a responsibility on the coalmining industry. If they do they will sterilise great areas of coal in this country which otherwise could be worked.