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Column 446

Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim

Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Sims, Roger

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)

Soames, Nicholas

Speed, Sir Keith

Spencer, Sir Derek

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)

Spink, Dr Robert

Spring, Richard

Sproat, Iain

Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steen, Anthony

Stephen, Michael

Stern, Michael

Stewart, Allan

Streeter, Gary

Sumberg, David

Sweeney, Walter

Sykes, John

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thomason, Roy

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)

Thornton, Sir Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)

Tracey, Richard

Tredinnick, David

Trend, Michael

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Viggers, Peter

Waldegrave, Rt Hon William

Walden, George

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Waterson, Nigel

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John

Whitney, Ray

Whittingdale, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Sir Jerry

Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)

Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Yeo, Tim

Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. David Willetts and Mr. Michael Bates.

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Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Canavan, Dennis

Corbyn, Jeremy

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Cunliffe, Lawrence

Davidson, Ian

Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

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Evans, John (St Helens N)

Hoey, Kate

Lewis, Terry

Mackinlay, Andrew

Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)

McAvoy, Thomas

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Paisley, The Reverend Ian

Pike, Peter L

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Salmond, Alex

Shore, Rt Hon Peter

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)

Spearing, Nigel

Wise, Audrey

Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Austin Mitchell and Mr. Ted Rowlands.

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Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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Opencasting (Leeds Green Belt)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Bates.]

12.46 am

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet): I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to raise a subject of vital importance to my constituents, albeit at a late hour and in a very interesting week in politics. It is a subject, as I say, that is of great interest and importance to my constituents, as I believe it is also to yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), who is in his seat tonight.

My purpose in seeking the debate is to focus attention on the effect of the revision of mineral planning guidance note 3 this summer on opencast applications in the green belt and to seek clarification of what those changes mean. I am concerned particularly with its impact on the east Leeds green belt, but what I have to say will have wider implications for similar areas.

I am aware that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot comment on the facts of individual cases, but I shall have to refer to some to identify the issues of principle that they raise. However, I say at the outset how pleased I am that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has agreed to visit my constituency to see the area for himself that has been affected by a recent spate of opencast applications and to discuss what needs to be done as far as the planning framework is concerned.

It has been clear for some time that MPG3, the planning guidelines governing opencast applications, were out of date and needed fairly radical review. I and many others submitted evidence to the Secretary of State in the consultation process on that review. Many of the ideas that I and others submitted were incorporated into the revision that was announced in July, and I welcome that.

However, the first appeal decision to be made by an inspector under that revision, by H.J. Banks Ltd., related to land at Garforth in my constituency, and my concern is that, if that decision is a valid precedent, the new thinking in the MPG3 revision is not working out in practice as was intended and as I believed at the time when it was raised in the House.

The old position was that, in the national interest, there was a presumption in favour of opencasting. That is clearly no longer true, as there is a massive surplus both of coal being produced and of coal reserves. That presumption was removed, first by a ministerial statement and then, by way of confirmation, by the MPG3 revision. Rightly, there is now no overriding requirement in the national interest that coal should be extracted simply because it is there. The correct test now is principally one of environmental acceptability. But that must carry a special significance for the green belt, where there are especially strong environmental factors. Although it is true that coal can be worked only where it lies, it is equally true that houses can be built only where there is appropriate land available. Now that there is no national priority for extracting coal, there is no more logical reason for treating that activity more favourably than any other kind of development in the green belt. In other words, it should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

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