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 Alexander Eadie Mr Alexander Eadie , Midlothian 12:00 am, 15th July 1975

I should like to attempt to reply to the debate. I do not challenge the sincerity or integrity of any hon. Gentleman who has spoken. With regard to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman), I would say to him and his other hon. Friends that I shall seek to persuade them by argument that they should not go into the lobbies and vote against the proposition which I presented to the House.

I tried to assure my hon. Friend in the course of his remarks that the Robens Agreement still applied so far as Coventry is concerned. It is no use saying that the agreement is not worth very much when it has been honoured right up to this very day. We are discussing the question of compensation, and I know how sincere and compassionate he feels about the city that he represents. Compensation in itself would not solve the problem of Coventry cathedral, and we are discussing today the issue of compensation—not just compensation but compensation arising from subsidence.

There are no changes of substance proposed in the Bill. Although my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Wilson) mentioned rights, I can assure him that there is no change of rights in relation to this Bill. I hope to demonstrate how the Government propose to meet precisely the points raised in the course of the debate. I shall try to do it by argument and by persuasion.

There was what I considered to be a debating point made about the length of time taken by the committee. I think it was the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) who, in a very fair contribution, made the point that he was the Minister involved in 1972 and that he had been concerned about the activity of the interdepartmental working group. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken with great compassion and concern, but if they want to make this a debating point, the House is entitled to ask what they were doing all the time in Government in respect of all these anomalies with which we are faced at the present time. There was very powerful criticism of the working of the interdepartmental working party, but if there were so many burdens imposed on people, the Opposition have done nothing about them. The hon. Member in the course of the debate made a point about the delay in relation to the working party. Indeed, the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson), who led for the Opposition, made some rather scathing comments about the interdepartmental working party and the time that it has taken. I hope that he will concede if he is to raise the question of the time that it has taken and the lethargy of this Government, that it is equally fair that I should make the debating point that the Conservative Government had a long time in which to do something but in fact did nothing about bringing the whole matter to fruition.