– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1973.
I must inform the House that Mr. Speaker has not selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean).
I begin by giving my reasons for objecting to the Bill. I realise that I am not likely to defeat a measure which seems to enjoy the enthusiastic support of both Front Benches. I wish to secure a debate and so make certain that the views of my constituents are at least heard. It is what I might call the juggernaut aspect of this bit of business which I find unattractive and disturbing.
There is a lot of talk nowadays about community politics—and a very good thing too. I understand that community politics have done the Liberal Party a lot of good. The fact is that when the views of one community, however well founded and however strongly held, happen not to coincide with the views of either of the two big parties, the chances of their ever being heeded are not good. Had I not taken the action which I have taken the Bill would have slipped through unnoticed without criticism, discussion or objection, in spite of the fact that many thousands of my constituents who live near the proposed development are passionately opposed to what is happening.
We should not forget that it is theoretically a feature of democracy that the people on the spot should have some say in matters which concern them directly and drastically. They should not just be sacrificed willy-nilly to what they are assured by the powers that be is the good of the State. If my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development, who I understand will intervene later, says that there has already been a long and expensive inquiry into the whole matter, I would ask him in return just how much attention he and his right hon. Friend have paid to the conclusions of the public inquiry or the further inquiry which followed.
If the Bill becomes law, the resulting iron ore terminal, together with a complex of other industrial projects which, according to the Secretary of State, will follow it, will completely change the character of the Middle Clyde. The project will blight and pollute one of Scotland's greatest beauty spots. Industrial Scotland will be deprived of one of its principal playgrounds. It will strike a severe blow at our vitally important tourist industry. It will eat up some of the best agricultural land in the country and utterly destroy the amenities of a considerable residential area.
I know that it will be represented by both Front Benches and by a number of their more assiduous supporters—I am sure that I may include my neighbour, the hon. Member for Ayrshire, Central (Mr. Lambie)—that Hunterston holds the key to our national prosperity. I do not accept that view for a moment. I do not accept that it will make much difference to the employment situation. It will certainly not do so locally, and that is what I am concerned about. During the last six or seven years the word "Hunterston" has become, quite irrationally, a kind of magic slogan. Properties have come to be attributed to it which in no way correspond to reality.
I am prepared to believe that the Scottish steel industry may need a new terminal, but nothing which has been said so far—and I have followed the discussion closely for six or seven years—has convinced me that Hunterston is the right place for it, less still for the oil refineries and the mini-mills which seem likely to follow it at enormous expense to the taxpayer. I understand that the cost will be approximately £120,000 a job. I understand that there will be relatively little advantage to the economy and the provision of relatively few new jobs locally.
During the past six or seven years we have debated the matter on a number of occasions. I do not propose to repeat arguments which I have already rehearsed several times and at considerable length. Of course we want development, but we want the right development in the right place. I do not believe, when all the relevant factors are taken into account, that the Hunterston peninsula is the right place for such development.
Apart from the question of amenity, I shall take just one of several points which I have raised constantly and on which I have never been able to get an answer. What about nuclear security? That is a question which concerns the safety of thousands of my constituents but which has been studiously dodged by successive Scottish Office Ministers, including the hon. Members for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), on the advice of civil servants who, I happen to know—having read the minutes by a fortunate mistake—urged them not to be too specific on this issue.
Today I would only say that if these projects come they will do irreparable harm to one of Scotland's greatest national assets. Matters are made worse because the chances are that the usefulness of the projects will of short duration. In 10 or 20 years from now there will no longer be any need for them. They will then become white—or perhaps I should say black—elephants and the working population which they will bring into the area will find itself without jobs.
Government Departments, and the Scottish Office in particular, should give a little more thought to the mutability of human affairs. Has it not occurred to them that at some time in the future—let us say 10 years from now—there might be a real fuel crisis? For example, there might be no more oil to bring from the Middle East. The need for giant tankers—half-a-million tonners—and shore-based refineries might disappear. The British Steel Corporation might, for one reason or another, be driven to cut production even more drastically than today and the need for mini steel mills and new iron ore terminals might also disappear.
Generals are always accused of planning for the last war or the last war but one. I have a feeling that that is just what the Government, egged on by the Opposition, are doing at this moment. They are planning a second Industrial Revolution on strictly nineteenth century lines before Scotland has fully recovered from the after-effects of the last one. The London edition of The Times has a leading article today entitled:
Every plan must be remade now".
It has taken successive Governments, between them, six years to make up their minds about Hunterston. Might it not be a good idea if they remade their present plan before it has even had time to take shape?
In 10 years' time it will be too late. The harm will have been done. We shall have made the mistake that our forefathers made so often in the last century. We shall have destroyed an irreplaceable part of our national heritage by allowing developments which will almost certainly, in the long run, turn out not to be assets at all but will simply contribute to Scotland's existing economic and social imbalance.
Today this kind of thing seems to be happening all over Scotland. There seems to be little overall planning and very little regard for the damage that our national heritage is suffering at the hands of a lot of faceless officials. I do not want to be offensive, but I have never believed in the infallibility of the Scottish Office. I believe that my right hon. Friend's Department and my hon. Friend's sub-Department are quite capable of making all kinds of mistakes and then doing their best to slur them over, cover them up or pretend that they have never happened. We have had plenty of instances of that.
If I were seeking a justification for forcing this debate, I would find one ready made in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, who said:
It is an essential principle of the Conservative Party to defend the general public against abuses, whether of private corporations or the
incompetence and arbitrariness of Departments of State.
That is precisely what I am trying to do today, and I hope that at least some hon. Members on both sides of the House, especially those who believe in community politics and may have similar problems in their own constituencies, will join me in voting against the Bill.
I was advised on the composition of my maiden speech by several of my hon. Friends, all of whom told me that I should remind the House of my predecessor. I do not find this to be an even slightly onerous task. John Rankin was a very honourable man who had already given great service to the people of Glasgow in the then Tradeston constituency before he entered the House in 1945. I knew John Rankin before I came here, and I share many of his political beliefs, not least his belief in a Scottish Parliament.
As my predecessor was very much a part of Govan, I naturally referred to his maiden speech when I prepared mine. It is a sad irony and a condemnation of Governments past and present that I can find no better description of my constituency than that given by John Rankin. When he spoke of Govan in 1945 he referred to housing problems, slums and unemployment. Almost 30 years later the same shameful facts are still all too self-evident in Govan.
I represent a constituency—not just a constituency but a community—within the city of Glasgow which has almost had its heart torn out. I say "almost" because, although Govan is the most desolate Dart of Glasgow, the people have still not given up. For years they have watched their community being physically demolished, but the community spirit that is referred to so often nowadays has been present in Govan for hundreds of years and still remains.
The people there have seen fewer and fewer ships coming up the River Clyde and have watched shipyard after shipyard close until only two yards are left in my constituency. These yards are part of the life blood of Govan and Clyde-side. Nowadays the yards have fairly healthy order books, but if that situation is to continue they must be supplied with competitively priced steel. I disagree with the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), who said that he did not believe that the future of the steel industry in Scotland was dependent on an iron-ore terminal at Hunterston. If we are to have a future for the Scottish steel industry and security for the people who are employed in that industry and related industries an iron-ore terminal is a necessity. The effect of the terminal on industry in my constituency is only one example of how vital it is for the future security of the steel industry in Scotland and the industrial regeneration of West Central Scotland.
I fully sympathise with the people of Ayrshire who fear that industrial development at Hunterston will irreversibly damage their environment. Indeed, they are to be complimented on the way in which they have highlighted the dangers of unsuitable development. But the social and physical environment of all the communities in West Central Scotland will be better served by industrial regeneration than by industrial decay. In any case, we now know much more about the reclamation of industrial sites than we did when this protracted argument about Hunterston started.
The whole project has been thoroughly discussed and researched. My only major reservation concerns the Orsi Company plan for a refinery to refine oil from Africa and the Middle East. If all the current plans for oil refineries in Scotland are carried out, we may not need that proposed refinery.
However, the whole Hunterston project does not hinge on that one refinery. It hinges on the ore terminal, and my hon. Friends who represent Scottish industrial constituencies know what a psychological boost the approval of the project will give to the West of Scotland. We have talked enough; can we not now just get on with it?
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on a well prepared and attractively delivered speech. If all that I heard did not please my ears, everything that my eye saw was a delight.
The purpose of the Bill, which I oppose, is to build a jetty. On the face of it, that seems to be a minor matter about which to get agitated, but I dare say that we shall get agitated before the end of the debate. As we all know, what is at stake is not just a jetty. That is merely a modest first step in a development that is designed to lead to major industrialisation of the whole Hunterston peninsula. The question whether that should take place is what we are debating. If the jetty is built on the site proposed the rest will follow as sure as night follows day.
I do not want the House to think that because I am opposed to the jetty I am opposed to all development everywhere. There must be development if we are to live. Development is almost synonymous with life. Whether it be the development of ploughing which raises crops from the ground, of mining which raises coal from below the ground, or of drilling which raises oil from beneath the sea, we cannot have life without development. Life depends on development.
Life, however, does not depend only on development and the riches that flow from it. Life—the good life, the balanced life—depends on many intangible qualities quite as much as on material affluence. The good life depends on fresh air for health, and peace, space, quiet and beauty for relaxation. The good life depends as much on being able to get away from the stench of the factory and the noise of the anvil as it depends on the product of their industry. This is surely common ground between us. All these intangibles which go to enrich the quality of life exist to a marked degree on the Hunterston peninsula and the coast lying between the headland and the village of Fairlie.
My purpose in intervening in the debate is to plead with the Government to retain this uniquely beautiful part of Scotland so that it may continue to fulfil the important national purpose of providing workers in industry—workers who come from the hon. Lady's constituency just as much as from mine—with a pleasant place which is easily accessible to them—a place where they may refresh their minds and bodies in beautiful surroundings so different from the squalor of the areas where they work.
How many workers from Govan or Hillhead have been able to obtain access to the Hunterston peninsula during the last 100 years?
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) is not his usual perspicacious self. He well knows the damage that this development will do to the foreshore and to the view from Largs, and the smell, and all the rest of it, which the development will bring. He must not be disingenuous, because it spoils his case.
It is the development on this precise spot which I wish to prevent. I believe that to develop in this area would be a piece of wanton and irresponsible vandalism. But because I am opposed to development on the proposed site it does not mean that I am opposed to development elsewhere. I very much hope the House will appreciate this. Therefore, I hope that there will be none of the ridiculous misrepresentation which has often occurred in the past, to the effect that people cannot live on beauty alone. Of course, one cannot live on beauty alone, but neither can one live the good life without beauty. It is not a question of beauty or the beast. We need beauty and the beast. Let us keep the beast in chains and not allow it to wander at will and despoil each earthly paradise as it chooses.
We seem to have been considering the future of Hunterston for a good many years, and a great deal has happened in that time to change the picture from what was originally conceived—and there have been changes recently. What is interesting, however, is that these changes do not seem to have been recognised, at least in the statement that the promoters were kind enough to send me this morning. They refer to the increase in the number of oil tankers, but that conception is surely as dead as the dodo. Who thinks that there is any chance of an increase in the number of oil tankers now and into the far distant future? If there is to be oil it will come ashore by pipe from the Continental Shelf surrounding Scotland, and if by some happy chance, as a result of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's negotiations oil occasionally arrives in this country by sea in bulk, then surely Finart, with its pipe to Grangemouth, is capable of dealing with it. It is unnecessary to duplicate facilities for oil in the way originally envisaged, particularly when the flow of oil is likely to be less rather than more. Therefore, I think we can wash out oil from our calculations.
If there is to be no oil there will be no petrochemical industry, either. All that will be left is the iron ore terminal—and it is for that alone that this area is to be despoiled.
The promoters' statement goes on to say that the Hunterston peninsula provides the only "satisfactory" location. It does not say the only technically possible location, but the only "satisfactory" one. It is extraordinarily self-centred of the developers to think only about their own satisfaction—their convenience as port operators or as steel manufacturers—and entirely to ignore the views of the local inhabitants, whose whole way of life will be most grievously affected if the development takes place, to say nothing of holidaymakers from the rest of Scotland and, indeed, from elsewhere.
The scheme is named after Hunterston, but Fairlie would be a much more accurate description. The centre of gravity has been moved increasingly northwards and the ore terminal is only a few hundred yards away from the houses of Fairlie. The fact that the quality of the local people's lives is being ignored is not, I am sorry to say, an isolated phenomenon. It is happening the whole time. The Government should pay a little more attention to the views of local inhabitants instead of careering on regardless, like a huge juggernaut. It is this unnecessary—and I stress the word "unnecessary" disregard for the wishes of people as individuals which has caused the growth of what is called community politics.
A distressing feature, which Ministers should certainly be considering, is how often the planning machine seems to come down on the side of mammon and the big battalions, and how rarely it espouses the less powerful cause of people, as individuals. Why is this regarded as the only satisfactory location? It is "satisfactory" simply because it costs less money. It is certainly not the only location, nor is it the only place where there is deep water. Just a few miles to the south there is equally deep water, off Ardrossan. Admittedly the jetty would be a little longer there, but what would the marginally extra cost matter compared to the avoidable devastation which will be caused by going ahead at Hunterston?
Usually, when pure commercial judgment points in one way and social needs in another, a cost benefit study is commissioned. There would have been no Victoria Line and no Maplin development on pure commercial grounds, but they were found to be justified after cost-benefit studies had taken place. Can the Minister say why no cost-benefit study has been carried out in this respect? Why is the harshness of commercial decision applied to Scotland while the much more generous assessment of a cost-benefit study is applied to England? The proposed jetty it itself a little old-fashioned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) referred to fighting last year's battles. In future, so I am informed, it will be possible to pump iron ore in slurry into a buoy in mid-stream. There will be no need for a jetty at all. Were any calculations and assessments of this method of transporting ore carried out by an independent firm? We do not want only the views of the Clyde Port Authority, which is an interested party, or the British Steel Corporation.
Surely if we have learned one thing in recent times it is that the days of prodigality are over. We cannot afford to squander our raw materials or our high-class agricultural land at Hunterston for industrial purposes. We need that land to produce food. Industry does not require high quality agricultural land; nor does it require a site of high scenic value. Yet these two things—high scenic value and high quality agricultural land—are precisely what the Bill is unnecessarily providing for industry.
To my mind it is quite monstrous. It is the utter negation of good planning, which should ensure that development takes place without damaging beauty. The whole purpose of having a planning law is to get the two—not one at the expense of the other.
There is nothing technically against moving to Ardrossan. What is against it is that the Clyde Port Authority, the British Steel Corporation and, I am sorry to say, the Government—represented by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office, for whom, despite the harsh remarks I am making tonight, I have the highest private regard—are behaving with the same ruthless irresponsibility for the long-term welfare of Scotland as the most grasping of nineteenth century private industrialists. Hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches should recognise this fact. All that has happened is that the profiteering of individuals has been replaced by the ruthlessness of bureaucrats who think of what is administratively easy for themselves, not what is good for the community as a whole.
I suppose that one cannot unduly blame the Clyde Port Authority or the British Steel Corporation. Their responsibility is primarily of a commercial kind. I do not want to be unfair to them. I merely point out that their hands are no cleaner than those of their private enterprise predecessors. But I most definitely blame the Government for what I regard as their appalling short-sightedness and failure to steer the development—perhaps at some cost in cash, but at great saving in social terms—to a less vulnerable area.
I should not feel nearly so strongly on this matter, or feel that the Government were at fault, if the choice were between steel or beauty. But that is not the choice, and it makes me very angry when people try to suggest that that is the choice. The choice is between an iron ore jetty that is cheap, at the expense of the abolition of beauty, or an iron ore jetty marginally more expensive a few miles down the coast, and the preservation of that beauty.
We can, in fact, have our cake and eat it. For goodness sake—I appeal to the House before it is too late—let us stop this needless desecration of our precious heritage. Let us take the development to the right place and keep the beauty where God put it.
I join the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) in his congratulatory remarks to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her maiden speech. The hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary in almost all circumstances to have beauty and the beast. Certainly she is the beauty.
The hon. Gentleman's speech was extremely well argued and towards the end it demolished to a considerable extent some of the points illustrated by his hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). For example, the hon. Gentleman does not contest, as the hon. Baronet does, that it is essential to have a new iron ore terminal on the Clyde.
I expressly said that I was prepared to believe that the British Steel Corporation might need a new iron ore terminal. What I contest is that it is necessary to have it at Hunterston when there are several other places where it could equally well go.
I was careful to note what the hon. Gentleman said, namely, that he did not think it would make much difference to our economy and certainly no difference in terms of local employment. However, if he now admits or emphasises what was said by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead, that Scotland now needs an iron ore terminal of a substantial character, able to take in the large ships carrying ore from Australia and elsewhere at substantially reduced transport costs, sufficient to sustain our great Scottish steel industry—and that is no longer in doubt—I shall accept it.
I shall not argue—it is for the Minister to give us information, and doubtless he will intervene—whether there is any substance in the proposal about Ardrossan. I recall from my time in the Scottish Office the arguments about the various choices not just for ore terminals but for any of the developments that were to take place on the Clyde. One of the best things I had the honour of doing in this House was introducing the Clyde Port Authority Order Bill, which amalgamated all the harbours of the Clyde Estuary and stopped the silly nonsense of rivalries between Ardrossan, Greenock, Glasgow, and so on. The river is now run properly as a river and estuary, able to deal with all the problems and strategy in these important matters.
I recall being told about the navigation problems of Ardrossan. Those who have lived in that area and know it well realise that there is a great difference between anchorage at Ardrossan and at Hunterston or Fairlie.
I concede to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, and in particular to the Reverend Dr. Gordon Weir, who has been writing us very sensible, polite and well-argued letters on behalf of his parishioners and others, that it is not fair to pretend that nothing will happen to this area when the ore terminal is built. I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor), whose intervention in debating terms was very good, that very few people have ever been allowed in that peninsula over many years. Nevertheless, from Greenock, Largs and many places round about, the ore terminal when it is built—I am sure that it will be built—will affect the amenity and scenery of the area. No one can gainsay that.
I spent a good deal of my life in a house in the West Bay, Millport. From there, one can see where the ore terminal will be. We cannot pretend that there will be no change. The question is: will the interests of this small community and of all who take holidays in those parts and love them very much outweigh the general interest of the Scottish economy?
The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on the point, but has he put the two things in the right juxtaposition? He is assuming that the terminal cannot go anywhere else. If he is right, and technically it cannot go anywhere else, I agree that the terminal and the development is probably more important than the beauty and, indeed, the holiday aspect. However, he should address his mind to the question whether that is the only place. What would it cost to put it somewhere else? That is the point that is always fudged and not dealt with properly.
That was fair. If we were starting off now it would be a fair point. The juggernaut aspects of this affair, which the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire mentioned and the remark about the Bill slipping through unnoticed, is a joke. It must be. This Bill is born of the longest planning inquiry in Scottish history. Even before the inquiry began the debate on Hunterston had raged for many years. Indeed, the present Secretary of State, when in Opposition, swore that his political success would be marked by developments at Hunterston, so convinced were the Conservative Opposition of the case for industrialisation at that time. I am not decrying the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire in that regard. However, as I say, we have known of the Hunterston development for many years and all the legal processes have ben gone through very carefully indeed.
This Bill is to implement an order which has been heard by Parliamentary Commissioners and I hope that my hon. Friend for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) and the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), who have been associated with the hearings, will say a word about it. The hearings resulted directly in the shaping of Clause 10 of the Instrument and gave concessions on noise and dust. In the original planning permission the Secretary of State's letter dealt with amenity matters as far as reasonably possible. I cannot accept criticisms abusing the Scottish Office. I agree that the Scottish Office is not faultless, but when I was there it was more infallible than the War Office when the hon. Gentleman was there. Seriously, I do not think that it is fair to attack the civil servants in the Scottish Office. It has carried out the processes required of it by this and the last Parliament.
Neither is it fair to attack the Clyde Port Authority, which has had to devise an alternative scheme to replace General Terminus Quay. If there are arguments against Hunterston, in favour of Ardrossan, it should be said that no one has suggested anything else beyond these two areas.
I did not want to bore the House when I suggested Ardrossan and mentioned Ardmore again and again, and forwarded to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State an adequate plan drawn up by Mr. Morton, outlining all the possibilities of Ardrossan, which is crying out for development.
All these matters were processed at the inquiry and processed again when the objectors appeared before the Parliamentary Commissioners. They have been rebutted. If the Minister has more information to show that this conclusion is right perhaps he will tell us tonight. If he has information which shows that the Parliamentary Com- missioners were misled, the Minister will not bless the Bill. But for the technical assessment it is the Government who are in the position of having new information, and if they do not it would be foolish of the House to deny the Bill its place on the statute book.
I turn to the question of nuclear security. This is relevant to the refineries that may be sanctioned by the Secretary of State. We are not discussing refineries tonight, although I have my reservations about the slowness of the Secretary of State in dealing with the two applications about which he should have done something a long time before this. I agree that the nuclear inspectorate has rightly been examining the problem thoroughly. But it has to say more publicly than it has so far about the safety factors affecting that peninsula, should the refineries be built. That is not true, however, of the ore terminal or the stockyard. I am surprised at the hon. baronet raising that matter tonight.
Does the hon. Member not agree that it is all part of the same package? My right hon. Friend has made it clear that with the iron ore terminal will come all these other developments. In the hon. Member's time at the Scottish Office minutes were sent to me by mistake, which made it clear that what the Scottish Office was concerned about was industrial development and an increase of population within the small area around Hunterston. It is not Hunterston B that we are talking about; it is Hunterston A—the old-fashioned, much less safe nuclear power station which was put there for the reason that it needed to be a long way away.
When I was in the Scottish Office I wrote the letters and signed them, but did not seal the envelopes or put in the enclosurses. It was no doubt a War Office civil servant who did that, while temporarily in the Scottish Office. The revelation does not embarrass me. On the contrary, it is of public concern. That is why I deliberately raised the subject again.
We are not debating refineries. We are debating the ore terminal. The oil terminal is both sustainable and viable in itself without the refineries. My hon. Friends know my position on the need for refineries. Of course I want to see further industrial development, but we are not debating that matter now. We are restricted to the subject of the iron ore terminal and the stockyard.
I should like the Minister to tell us more about what is happening. I hope he will also acknowledge that there is a good argument for reclaiming the Hunterston and Southannan sands. That whole peninsula is an example of reclamation. The land was not "naturally" there hundreds of years ago. It was reclaimed gradually by small farmers building out into the sea and using the shallow shelf whose edge will be the demarcation line of the proposed harbour. I understand that if that reclamation were to take place—and it is a perfectly reasonable proposal—it would provide more land and therefore save less trespassing on land further in from the peninsula That land could be reclaimed at a cost of between £15,000 and £20,000 an acre, and could be a good example of the kind of regional developments we might get from the Common Market regional development fund. We deserve some investment in Scotland from the European Community, and this would be a good example. As for being expensive, it would be no more so than other reclamation projects. It would be enormously useful to us to meet the valid criticisms made about amenity. I hope the Minister will touch on this subject, and say whether the Clyde Port Authority, which is seriously considering this reclamation project, is likely to get the British Government's sponsorship or whether the authority should approach the EEC direct.
Many of us have deep reservations about Maplin and the amount of money committed to that proposition for a South-East Coast port to be reclaimed from the sands of Foulness. Why is it that we cannot get a bit more money invested in Scotland, either from the Government or the EEC, so that we have this marvellous opportunity to create a first-class deep water port at Hunterston?
I am in the unfortunate position of finding myself more in agreement with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald), in her excellent speech, and the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) than with some of my hon. Friends.
I was particularly interested in the hon. Member for Greenock's point about the possibility of getting cash from the Common Market Regional Development Fund. Were it not for the fact that we are contributing £90 million net this year and next to the Common Market, after all the repayments we would have had a splendid fund of £90 million in Britain which we could have used for projects like this without consulting the Common Market. It is a shame that we do not have that opportunity.
I must congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) on the splendid campaign he has conducted on behalf of his constituents. He has done it responsibly and ably and has impressed many people. It has also been a help to the Government in these difficult times because his constant opposition to the proposal has enabled the Government to announce the new project at least once a fortnight for the past year and it has meant considerable items of good news coming from time to time.
However, I am not impressed by the arguments against the Bill. No one can doubt that there is a need for the jetty. The fact is that the general terminus quay cannot cope with the likely amount and cannot take the larger vessels which can bring us economies in terms of the supply of iron ore. There is no doubt that without a new jetty we cannot take advantage of the economies stemming from the use of large vessels.
I am not impressed with the remarks of those who try to press the unique advantages of this peninsula. It has not been available to the workers of Hill-head or Cathcart in my memory. It is not as though we are proposing the destruction of a recreational area for workers. The only point appears to be the view which can be obtained from Millport and elsewhere.
Similar arguments were put to me when we were considering the establishment of the nuclear power station there. However, in my opinion Hunterston "A" has added to the beauty of the area. It is a magnificent sight and has not detracted from the scenic interest of the area.
The question which I want to put to the Minister is the very question that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire asked. Is this just the beginning or is it an end in itself? There is no doubt that an iron-ore terminal on its own would make sense. It would help to provide cheaper and better supplies of iron ore, and the terminal could be justified in itself. But I hope that it is not something in itself and that it is only the beginning of a major industrial enterprise in the area.
It is crucial for Scotland if we are to prosper in the future that we make use of our unique natural assets, especially in view of the pull towards the centre of the Common Market. There is no doubt that the deep water at Hunterson is a unique asset, and it is the reason why so many foreign companies have shown a keen interest in developing there.
My hon. Friend has referred to the deep water at Hunterston. However, it exists at other places besides Hunterston. I wish that hon. Members would get Hunterston out of their heads. It is the deep water which is important, and that is to be found almost anywhere in the Clyde.
My hon. Friend is wrong. There are only about six areas in Western Europe with the facilities that we have at Hunterston.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) suggested Ardrossan. But that has been there a long time. It is an industrialised area. It was only when the agricultural land of the Hunterston peninsula was suggested for industrial development that foreign companies became interested.
We have heard a number of references to stench and smoke. It is said that workers coming from the noise and stench of anvils do not want to find the same in this area. But I cannot see the relevance of that argument. Presumably the people of Ardrossan already have their share of stench. If it is proposed to give them additional stench, it can only mean that the argument is that if they have some stench already a little more will do them no harm.
When we as a nation contemplate spending so much money on major projects like Maplin, the Channel Tunnel and Concorde which may cost the taxpayer a fortune, it is fatal not to give every facility and encouragement to a project which will give Scotland an opportunity to produce cheap steel, which, after all, is crucial to our future.
If we were to put a steel mill somewhere else where it might not be so cheap, we should have to bear in mind the rules of the Common Market steel policy and of the ECSC. It is not possible or consistent with the rules to say that, although we do not want a cheaper project at Hunterston, we want a more expensive one elsewhere. That is neither possible nor legal under the terms of the ECSC. It is not possible to give subsidies to steel works so that they will locate themselves in places which are economically undesirable. If we do not have steel works in the cheapest possible sites, the cost of steel will be that much more. When we have a basing point system for steel pricing as we have under the Common Market rules, the price that we have to pay is the cost of production at the site plus transport costs. When we have the full effects of the basing point system, if we do not produce cheap steel we shall have to pay the market price plus transport costs. To say that we should abandon the Hunterston steel project and put it somewhere else more expensive but more socially desirable is not the real answer to our problems. It will only mean dearer steel, and we cannot subsidise steel developments under the Common Market rules.
My fear has always been that with our entry into the Common Market we should have centralisation of industry and decision making in the centre of the Market just as we have had the pull to the centre of Britain and to the south for so many years. In Scotland we could well end up with great developments in tourism, Harris tweed, Scotch whisky and agriculture but with no development of Scotland as an industrial country which can stand on its own feet, as we have to under Common Market rules. The Common Market arrangements will ensure that we can no longer keep our industries going by subsidising our old industries. We shall have to stand on our own feet without subsidies. To that extent it is crucial to develop Hunterston and to ensure that we have new industrial development which can pay its way and hold itself up in competition with anyone.
I hope that the Government will not delay further on the Hunterston project but, instead, will make sure that in this unique site every facility is given to going ahead with the right development. I am not saying that the one proposed is the right one. However, if we delay we shall get the worst of both worlds.
The one factor holding up decisions has been the study by the nuclear inspectors. I understand that a report should be going to the Government very shortly giving their views on nuclear safety. When the Government have that guidance, I hope that within the limits of security the information will be made public so that we may know the reasons for holding up further decisions.
I hope that the House will approve the Bill. It can stand on its own. It is suitable and desirable for the steel industry to ensure that we get the larger ore carriers coming to Scotland and giving us cheaper ore. On the other hand, I hope that it is just a beginning and that there will be no unreasonable delay in going ahead with it.
I support the Bill as someone who resides in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). He said that he spoke on behalf of his constituents. However, he did not speak for me. He did not speak for any of my friends in both the Conservative and Labour Parties in the area of Bute and North Ayrshire. He spoke for a small minority of people who are directly concerned with the siting of this project.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), I do not kid myself that an iron-ore terminal and a stockyard are not just that. A steel mill is a steel mill. An oil refinery is an oil refinery. No matter how much they are camouflaged they are still industrial projects. However, I object to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) arguing that there is already an iron-ore terminal in Ardrossan but that there is not one in Fairlie. If the argument is against pollution, surely we should be against the whole project.
The point is that the Ardrossan area is not a particularly attractive area.
Are hon. Gentlemen seriously suggesting that it has the same scenic beauty as the Hunterston Peninsula? Let us be honest. It does not. All I am trying to say is that when there is a little bit of industrialisation it is good policy to increase that industrialisation. It is like litter. Lots of bits of paper lying around the place look bloody awful. Put them in a wastepaper basket and they are all right.
The hon. Gentleman has been spending so long in the South-East that he has no knowledge of the West of Scotland. In the area between Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston we get more visitors from Glasgow and the West of Scotland industrial area than any other area of Clydeside. On a good day we get about 60,000 people on the grass and sands in that area.
I remind the hon. Member that the last time I was down at Portencross in the Hunterston Peninsula was when I was a boy. I have never been back since because I was told then "You have no right to be here. This is private property." Now they want 100,000 Glasgow people down in the Hunterston area to enjoy the scenic beauty. We are considering an industrial project over a coastline of about four-and-a-half miles. In the stretch between Ardrossan and Irvine we have one of the main industrial areas, particularly for the chemical industry. It is still an attractive area. People still go there in hundreds of thousands every year to enjoy the sands and the other tourist facilities like golfing.
No one in the Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston area regrets that 100 years ago this year Alfred Nobel, in search of an ideal site for a munitions factory, decided on the area between Stevenston and Irvine. He placed his munitions factory—or his "dynamite" as we call it locally—in this area and there grew up one of the greatest companies in the world, ICI. We are talking about a small area of land. It will not interfere with Millport, Rothesay, Dunoon, Ballantrae, Girvan or Campbeltown.
It has been asked: why go to Hunters-ton? Some people have said that the reason for industrialising Hunterston is to bring in Labour voters to North Ayrshire. When I was prospective Labour candidate for Bute and North Ayrshire it was said that the only way I could defeat the hon. Member for that constituency was by getting more industrial workers to the area. That is not the reason for putting forward this project.
The reason is the same as that which Alfred Nobel had when he placed his munitions factory in the area. It is the only deep-water site with adequate flat land behind it available for development in the Garnock Valley and the Irvine Valley, in the whole western area of the United Kingdom. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) has said it is one of only six such areas on the coastline of Western Europe. We have not picked Hunterston without a good reason. We think we have to go there to utilise this unique asset. We were told that we were on the periphery of the United Kingdom. Now we are on the periphery of Europe. For the first time we have a natural asset possessed by very few other areas in the United Kingdom or Europe.
I am surprised that we should even be debating this tonight. We should be congratulating the Clyde Port Authority on coming forward with the scheme. We should be congratulating the Government on supporting it. Together with another unique asset on the other side of our coastline, North Sea oil, Scotland could become, either as part of the United Kingdom or as a sovereign State, one of the richest and most powerful industrial areas in Western Europe.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her speech. I hope that she will send a copy of it to some of her Scottish Nationalist Party friends in Bute and North Ayrshire and to her party's candidate for that seat. It is time that he started supporting the policies that she has put forward on behalf of her party. I received very little support, as the Labour candidate in that area, from members of the SNP. At the last election the party campaigned against the industrialisation of Hunterston. I hope that we have now got a conversion among the Scottish Nationalists and that they are in favour of utilising this great natural and unique asset.
My only criticism is that we are dealing with an iron-ore terminal and associated stockyards. I had hoped that we would be dealing with the whole gamut of the industrialisation of the Hunterston area on the lines proposed at the public inquiry by Ayr County Council. It put forward plans for an iron-ore terminal with an associated integrated steel mill of annual capacity of 12,000 tons, an oil terminal with associated refineries and a petrochemical works. Unfortunately, we are not discussing this tonight. I hope that by making this start with the iron-ore terminal we will provoke a reaction and will get all of the things which Ayr County Council wanted.
This terminal was approved by the Secretary of State in December 1970 after one of the longest public inquiries in Scotland's history. But that was not the start. The concept of Hunterston arose in 1968 when Colville's came forward with the scheme to revitalise the Scottish steel industry and develop a new, integrated plant at Hunterston. Often I feel despondent when people ask me when we are to get such a development. We have been on this since 1968, and sometimes I think it will be delayed until we get a Labour Government. Now, following the longest public inquiry in the history of Scotland, we are seeing tonight the start of this industrialisation.
Some Conservative Members have said that only a certain group of people are in favour of this project, but that is not true. The whole of Scotland is in favour. Scottish public opinion is in favour of developing Hunterston. The Scottish Council for Development and Industry favoured it in its two "Oceanspan" reports, and the latest report by Professor Nicholl, of Strathclyde University, "A Future for Scotland", emphasises the need for development at Hunterston. The whole concept of "Oceanspan" was that of using the Clyde as the entrance and the exit of Europe.
The Scottish TUC and its spokesman on steel, Arthur Bell, the Scottish Officer of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, have also supported the industrialisation of the Hunterston area. Speaking on behalf of the industrial workers, James Jack, the General Secretary of the STUC, gave evidence in the County Buildings in Ayr on behalf of the project.
Therefore, the whole broad consensus of industry, the Confederation of British Industry and even the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland are in favour of the project. In fact, everyone is in favour of it, with the exception of a small group of people in the West Kilbride area.
I have no objection to people complaining that their lives will be affected by industrialisation. In much the same way, I am concerned with the development of the new town of Irvine, where we are trying to superimpose a new town on existing communities; this creates great problems. When I used to go through Glasgow as a Glasgow teacher travelling around Charing Cross every morning and evening, I saw a different sight from the concrete jungle which now gives quick access from the south to the north of Glasgow. The building of this jungle meant the displacement of thousands of Glasgow people and businesses, but we did not hear a complaint then from people in the West Kilbride-Fairlie area that it was against the general interests of the people of Scotland. I do not mind people fighting on their own individual grounds but they should not confuse their feelings with the general feelings of the people of Scotland.
The first group against these industrial developments was the North Ayrshire coastal development committee, based mainly on West Kilbride. At that time, we were dealing solely with the immediate danger of the application by the Chevron Oil Company to build a terminal and refinery opposite West Kilbride. There was a consequent upsurge from the middle class in West Kilbride, but now they have dropped out of the fight. That committee has been suspended, and we are now getting information from the Fairlie Action Committee. Now the immediate danger in respect of development is an iron-ore terminal not in the West Kilbride area but in the Fairlie area. So we are dealing with objections from very few people, and that is why I hope that the Government will push through with this proposal as a start.
Going up the Clyde on Monday I saw how this area will develop. On the Clyde now, between The Cumbraes and Largs, some of the largest tankers in the world are being unloaded. They should have been going into the great port of Rotterdam. Unfortunately, because of the Arab embargo, they cannot, so they are lying in the deep sheltered waters between The Cumbraes and the coast and the oil is being trans-shipped to smaller vessels to go to the ports and refineries along the English coast, which cannot accommodate the larger ships.
The only thing that I am afraid of is how Scotland's assets will be treated. The late George Middleton, former General Secretary of the STUC, used to tell me, "It was a strange thing that, during the war, the Tail of the Bank was the main port of the United Kingdom, but after the war it was on the periphery, away from the main centres." I hope that these ships are the forerunners of other ships carrying oil and iron ore, phosphates and the other bulk cargoes which must come if the general purposes port is developed. That is why I am glad to see, for the first time since I entered Parliament in June 1970, some developments along the road towards the full industrialisation of the Hunterston peninsula.
I, too, should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) on putting up, consistently and well, the fight on behalf of his constituents. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) implied that this was wrong because only a small minority was involved. This is a problem which we have to face in this House, and which we shall increasingly face over the next few years.
If we are to get the full benefits of oil in Scotland that we all want, there will be any number of people who will say that a development is absolutely superb, exactly what Scotland needs, until it lands on their doorstep. As soon as it does, they will appeal to whichever Member of Parliament happens to represent that bit of ground to fight tooth and nail to preserve them from something which may be entirely necessary for Soot-land's development. He will have to do his best to represent that cause, because there are other hon. Members who, clearly, have contrary views. It is right that we should have a substantial debate on this matter, so that they feel that their viewpoint has been properly expressed.
My hon. Friend, with his usual courtesy, said that he would not reiterate all the arguments that he had used over a number of years, many of which we remember. I had the task of sitting as a Parliamentary Commissioner when this particular problem—I confine myself to the ore terminal—was discussed in Glasgow a few months ago. Both sides brought the best experts they could find to argue the various points which they thought were important, such as whether Ardrossan was a safe place to anchor 100,000-ton tankers; whether we should move from pipelines of iron ore to slurry; or whether it was not a satisfactory method of handling. It was our task to listen to the arguments as they were presented, to ask what questions we cared to ask, and to make up our minds. It is a matter of historical fact that the four commissioners appointed to the task came unanimously to the conclusion that this was the right solution. There was also a unanimous decision that the most that could possibly be done to protect the amenity of the area should be laid on the Clyde Port Authority.
There is no doubt that it is the people of Fairlie who will really suffer. I do not entirely share the view that the iron-ore terminal will ruin the amenity of the whole area. There is an enormous amount of beautiful country in my constituency, where I am sure these problems will arise in years ahead. We have more coastline than the whole of France, yet every single development of every tiny piece of coast is bitterly fought by people in the area because it is claimed that we are ruining the coastline of Scotland.
I appreciate their point of view. One has to decide what is the right solution. I have no greater certainty than anyone else in the House about the infallibility of the Scottish Office. It is wrong from time to time, but it is human to err, and in many cases it is exceedingly difficult to foresee what will happen in 10, 15 or 20 years' time. But the one deadly sin which occasionally besets the Scottish Office—and some other Ministries—is the inability to make up its mind. If it is going to take six years, not wasted years, to come to a conclusion on a problem of this sort, what chance have we of getting the necessary development to get North Sea oil ashore in Scotland in time to be of any use?
I join the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) in complimenting the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). I agree that while a relatively small number of persons may be affected, this does not lessen in any way the validity of the argument. It would be a bad day if we thought that a Member of Parliament need not bother just because only a relatively small number of people were involved. I compliment the hon. Gentleman on his long and continued concern over the matter. It is right that he should do his best to ensure that the case of a section of his constituents is adequately presented.
I have doubts about what we might do to our coastline. I have raised the question and have urged upon the Secretary of State the need to ensure that we do not spoil the coastline unnecessarily. I recognise that there must be development, but possibly development is carried out in parts where it need not be carried out. Perhaps development should be gathered together in one place, in much the same way as litter is put into a wastepaper basket rather than being allowed to remain all over the place.
I was a member of the Nature Conservancy for a considerable time. I have been concerned about what might happen at Migg Bay. I do not live in the area, and perhaps I am seldom there, but there are parts of our country about which, extensive though the coastline may be, we must remain very concerned. I hope that it will not be thrown on me because I have a vested interest on this occasion, in respect of this part of the coastline. The case has been so powerfully made out that even the hon. Gentleman must bow to it.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) may recall that in the middle of 1967 he and I took a trip down the Clyde. He may also recall the discussion we had with the representatives of the Clyde Port Authority. We asked what particular advantages the Clyde had that might result in its survival in terms of industrial importance. The Clyde was in a difficult way at the time. The answer came immediately—it was "deep water." It was added that it was not only deep water but deep sheltered water. That was the second point made. I cannot recall the third asset which was advanced at that time, but it was to do with flat land.
As I understand it, the peculiar suitability of the site chosen here is that not only has it very deep water; it has also sheltered water. We were told that it will take any size of ship that is ever likely to be built—and our informants were talking of ships ranging from 350,000 tons to 500,000 tons. Ships will be able to go straight in and out. They will not have to manœuvre into any kind of artificial lake or harbour. I understand that one of the outstanding difficulties of Ardrossan is that it does not have sheltered water, but is open to the Atlantic. Not only does the Hunterston area have sheltered water; it also has flat land around it, which is ideal.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire spoke of Ardmore as a possibility. I remember that in 1968—as early as that—my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) and I talked to representatives of Colville's. We got wind of the firm's interest and discussed the matter with Mr. John Craig, who has since retired. We got a description of both the Ardmore and the Hunterston sites. It had not been settled at the time which of these two sites was the more suitable. Ardmore had much to be said for it, but it had certain disadvantages. The approaches were not as suitable, because of the type of ship concerned in this operation. Also, it was pointed out that there was no proper hinterland with a population readily accessible—an important feature in this matter.
Is it not a fact that at that time it was proposed to reclaim 9,000 acres on either side of the Clyde near Ardmore? Also, would not Ardmore be nearer people and the centre of things?
These arguments were advanced at the time, but in the end the argument came down decidedly in favour of Hunterston. We were discussing the steel industry and not the oil industry at that time. Hunterston, it was pointed out, had behind it Ayrshire, with its industrial population spreading into North Lanarkshire as well. Thus, there were advantages in terms of both the approaches and the hinterland. All these factors were carefully weighed. It seems to me that if this is not a wholly unique site it is about as unique as we are likely to have.
In my understanding, the development here proposed is essential for the steel industry as it now exists and as it is planned to grow. The existing means by which ore comes in—if coal were being brought in, the same would apply—is through the terminus quay at Govan, far up the Clyde. But I understand that the ships for that area will range from 15,000 to 20,000 tons, with, perhaps, on very odd occasions, ships of 28,000 tons. But these are tiny ships compared with the ships now sailing the seas and the ships which will be necessary if our steel-making industry is to continue in Scotland.
The information coming to me and, I am sure, to many other Members, is that by 1977–78—not very far away in time—the General Terminus Quay will not be able to meet the needs of the existing steel industry in Scotland. I am not talking about a steel industry on the Clyde, or at Hunterston. It may come. I do not know. However, in the steel industry where it is sited now—and an important part of it is sited in my constituency, at Ravenscraig—the build up, particularly at Ravenscraig, is dependent upon this ore terminal. Without this ore terminal that build up at Ravenscraig will not take place. The two things go together. We have important bits and pieces of the steel industry in Scotland now, but I think that all hon. Members will agree that if we do not have the build up at Ravenscraig the prospects of Scotland's having a sizeable steel industry will be bleak indeed. I put it to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead, while respecting all his arguments, that that is essential for the steel industry as it is now and as its growth is planned.
I am not certain. I am not yet convinced that it has to be on this site in particular. I will go along with the hon. Member that there has to be a terminal. I feel that it could to be at Ardrossan. That is not open to the Atlantic. I know the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) is saying that I know nothing about it and that I spend all my time in London, but I know that Ardrossan is not open to the Atlantic; there is a bit of Kintyre between it and the Atlantic. All I was suggesting was that the extra cost of building that terminal should be regarded as a social cost. On that I agree with the hon. Member. If it cannot be built there, if the cost should be too much, then the steel industry depends upon a new terminal somewhere in that locality.
The hon. Member will know that I cannot answer that. None of us here is in a position precisely to examine all these matters. My understanding is that over a long period of time all this has been looked at and that Ardrossan has a rock bottom, so that it would be expensive to make a deep water channel. That has to be set against the argument for the site with which we are now concerned. There, as I understand it, is a reclaimable shelf, and deep water without the expense of excavation, which would have been a feature of the work at Ardrossan. Moreover, as I understand it, Ardrossan is much more exposed to the big seas out of the Atlantic and is without the shelter which is considered so important.
Without wishing to take up much more time I want for a moment to turn to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), if I could have his attention for a moment. His views and mine are very often close together; we are often close together in our arguments, although sometimes they are a wee bit at variance. When I heard him talking, I wondered whether he would appear next in his kilt. I have not seen him in a kilt, so perhaps I should not say "in his kilt". Before he interrupts me perhaps he will listen to what I have to say. There is nothing wrong with the kilt. I have worn the kilt myself on occasions.
I accept the importance, for Scotland, of this site. I accept the importance of the east coast. I would, however, tell my hon. Friend that an enormous part of the advantages which would accrue to Scotland because of these possibilities of very substantial development in Scotland is derived from the fact that we belong to a much larger unit. The development of a steel industry in that area, or in those areas, and to the size we have been speaking of, would have been nonsense if we had been operating simply on a Scottish basis. It was a Great Britain steel industry with which we were concerned. When we were arguing earlier for the steel complex in that area—we are not arguing for that at present—and thinking in terms of possibly 10 million tons, we were thinking in terms of a United Kingdom industry and not a Scottish industry.
May I whisper in the ear of the two hon. Members who represent the Scottish Nationalist Party in this area? Had it been left entirely to Scotland—had we had a Scottish Government when the decisions were taken about the strip steel mill—there would probably be no strip steel mill in Scotland, because the most powerful steel interest in Scotland was Colville's. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) will bear me out in that. Colville's was dead against the strip steel mill. Colville's had to have its arms twisted. The Cabinet decision was taken against all the advice of Colville's. Sir Andrew McCance was very hostile to our former hon. Friend, Tom Fraser, and to what was said and done then.
I am merely suggesting timidly and modestly that a Scottish Government would almost certainly have taken the advice of the most powerful steelmaking interest in Scotland on the question whether or not to have a strip steel mill, and the advice would have been that there should be no strip steel mill. Therefore, we would have been in a very much worse position than we are in now.
If I sometimes disagree with my hon. Friend it is because I used to attend classes which he organised under the National Council of Labour Colleges. If I make mistakes, it is because of bad training. A Scottish Government would have been a Labour Government, and in 1968 there would have been no Colville's. We would have had a nationalised steel industry in Scotland, which would have developed the Scottish steel industry for the benefit of the Scottish people.
My hon. Friend escaped my influence at an early stage and came under the influence of Bob Lambie—an excellent replica. If we talk about the importance of the Tail of the Bank when Scotland is at war, I suggest that similarly, with Great Britain now a part of Europe, the Tail of the Bank is important because of the North Atlantic and the access to and exit from Northern Europe. That is the importance of it when Britain is part of the EEC. Scotland and England form one of the walls of the North Sea, which is almost an inner lake. As part of the EEC we have an ideal site. Britain has the oil in the north. We have access to the Atlantic from Hunterston and the Clyde—the shortest way across the Atlantic. We are in a beautiful situation, right on the front street. If my hon. Friend will simply appreciate that and throw his considerable weight behind the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun, we shall much more quickly persuade our fellow Scots, including the Scottish Nationalists, to appreciate how much all this is tied up.
While I compliment him, I hope that on this occasion the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will appreciate that what we are doing here must be done if we are to realise the advantages.
The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) made an important contribution to this debate, particularly when he dealt with the effect of this proposed measure on the steel industry as it now is, and to Members such as myself from the north-east of the country that is a matter of great concern. But, undeniably, it is a traumatic experience for people in a small area of the country to be in the spotlight of the whole national machine, being told that they are the foundation of the country's economic future, that they are a most important element whose development is absolutely essential for the future of Scotland. Such people are bound to feel that they have not been properly consulted, and that the interests of someone else are forcing them to come to a conclusion to which they have not been able to accustom themselves.
One hon. Member spoke about the juggernaut of the Government moving along on a theme of this kind, and, of course, to the people I am talking about, this House is part of that juggernaut of the Government moving in on their lives in a way which they had not expected. If this House does not pay very real heed to the feelings of those people, it will be doing itself a very great disservice.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) was speaking for only a small minority, but he himself went on to speak for the interests of the whole Scottish people. He must accept that that minority is a very important element of this debate, and we have to consider its interests very carefully indeed.
I am not sure whether this is entirely a question of the beauty of an area being threatened by a development, because practical issues are also involved. There is a tendency in this House and in this country to decry nineteenth century industrial development as something that is very bad. In many ways that is absolutely true, but there was an enterprise, a spirit and a determination to succeed which we need very much. But I wonder whether what was really wrong with that development was that it was so higgledy-piggledy, because the Victorians did not have the planning techniques or the coordinated skills to make sure that that development fitted into the general framework of what was most suitable for the people involved, and because in many cases their interests were sacrificed.
Today we have those skills and those techniques, and we should be able effectively to plan and develop large-scale industries of the kind now proposed. However, I do not think there is a feeling among the general public that we can do that, so I hope that when he replies my hon. Friend will be able to tell us that we can provide the infrastructure—the roads, the houses, the schools and so on—and that we have plans to cater for the requirements of whatever population movements will be necessary to service this new development.
May I ask a question about the nuclear power station, because it has been suggested, particularly by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), that this became a safety factor only when there were oil refineries and so on, which are not part of this Bill? I should have thought that a radiation leak was a safety matter even if there was only one individual within range of it, and, presumably, there will be many people working on a terminal of the kind proposed in this Bill. So I should like to know whether the safety factor has properly been taken into account. Finally, if the proposal is to present us with the entrance to and exit from Europe, hon. Members opposite will have to rethink very considerably their ideas on the subject.
Like the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon), I have no intention of detaining the House for long, but it is important that someone who represents a constituency not directly affected by what happens in the Hunterston peninsula should say something on this important subject. The impact of what we are about to decide will spread far beyond the boundaries of Hunterston.
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her maiden speech. I am sure that she would agree that her predecessor, John Rankin, in the wonderful work that he did, provided a heritage for which the people of Govan will be most thankful in years to come. John Rankin's work is yet to be seen in the new Govan.
I shall take up a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), and I regret that he is not here now. If it is wrong to pretend to the people of Hunterston and the Fairlie district that the terminal will not be a blight on the scenery, it is equally wrong for the House to pretend to those people that we do not hope that what we are about to decide tonight will lead to the complete industrialisation of the Hunterston peninsula.
My position and that of the vast majority of people in Scotland, I am sure, is that we hope that what we are about to decide tonight will trigger off that complete industrialisation. That includes the oil refineries which have already been referred to. I speak as a Member who represents the only constituency in Scotland with an oil refinery. It grieves me to hear hon. Members who are opposed to, or who seek to insert reservations about, the industrialisation of Hunterston talk of the disadvantages that an oil refinery will bring to Hunterston and the surrounding area. I can assure the House that Grangemouth has certainly not suffered any disadvantage from having the oil refinery. The opposite is the case.
I discussed the matter on Friday on a television programme with the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). I invited the hon. Member, as I now invite any hon. Member, to come to Grangemouth and see how well-balanced and well-developed is the community there and how low is the level of pollution. With co-operation between the oil companies and the local authority we have been able to keep the pollution to a low and acceptable level. Other benefits accrue from the type of development we are talking about tonight. In the two and a half years that I have represented my constituency I have been able to see the benefits which can accrue from such projects and which I am sure could be provided at Hunterston.
In Grangemouth, for instance, there are an artificial ski slope and a brand new swimming pool. The second phase is being built of a new shopping centre. There is a wonderful sports complex, including a stadium. All those facilities are at Grangemouth because of the revenue which comes from the industrialisation of Grangemouth. Such revenue can accrue to the Hunterston area and West Central Scotland in general.
I take up briefly the point which was made by the hon. Member for Govan. The hon. Lady suggested that if all the plans for additional refining capacity in Scotland are met it is possible that we shall not need an oil refinery on the Hunterston peninsula. With great respect to her, the only plan to increase refining capacity in Scotland is a fairly obscure one to increase the refining capacity at Grangemouth from its present 9 million tons to what we hope will be 20 million tons.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) and I have repeatedly urged Sir Eric Drake and other senior BP directors to put a date on when expansion will take place. The plan for Grangemouth is the only proposal on the drawing board for increasing refining capacity in Scotland. That is not enough. I have argued before in the House, and I do so again without apology, that if we as a nation are to derive the maximum benefit from North Sea oil it is essential that we get substantial additional refining capacity in Scotland. That capacity must include the building of an additional refinery at Hunterston.
I would argue—this may be sidestepping—that the building of one more additional refinery in the north or northeast of Scotland is not enough. There is ample evidence that the Middle East nations refine much beyond their total domestic capacity. There is no reason why Scotland should not do likewise.
I recognise, as many hon. Members have recognised, that in industrial developments such as the ore terminal, and what we hope will follow from it, a balance must be drawn between environmental considerations and the need for industrial development. I, like many other hon. Members, would commend the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire for the steady and consistent fight which he has put up on this issue. However, we are living in different conditions from those which prevailed in the mid-1960s. If we are to look to the future with some security, Hunterston is, in my view, the key to the future to the whole of Scotland.
I lend my support to the Bill not as a Member representing a Glasgow constituency or the Hunterston area but as a Member representing a constituency in a highly industrialised part of Scotland. I believe that I have the feeling and the ear of the people to whom I speak each weekend when I go home. I can assure the House that it is the view and the feeling of all those people that we should go ahead and develop this tremendous natural asset. I look forward to the development taking place as speedily as possible.
It seems to have become a regular practice for me to have to make my speech as if I were running a four-minute mile. I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her maiden speech, which showed her to be a first-class passenger. Hon. Members are now listening to the fellow in the guards van who, according to some people, knows very little.
For many years I sat as a district councillor within the Hunterston area. Lord Glasgow, the county convener, who resides in the area, is writing his memoirs. Whether it is legend or folklore I do not know, but he told me that Hunterston was granted to the Hunter family for raising falcons for the King's Falconry many years age. It has a complex heritage.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) is properly representing the interests of his constituents, and I entirely accept his right to do that. Modern society is complex, and we should not forget Crichel Down.
I totally reject what was said by the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), the former Secretary of State, another first-class passenger. He was a valid interlocutor on behalf of his constituents. The inquiry was concerned with oppression and civil rights. All those who were on the inquiry were fully aware of the arguments. The Reverend Dr. Gordon Weir and his colleagues and parishioners came up daily by train from Fairlie and West Kilbride to listen to them.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) used emotive language. He engaged in political graffiti. He used the word "vandalism". Does he understand what it means, and where it comes from? For the benefit of uninformed hon. Members, Vandals and Goths ran side by side as two tribal races in Europe. It was the Vandals who, in 425, desecrated all the beauties of Rome. That is why desecration today is referred to as vandalism. That is just to give hon. Members the benefit of a little learning.
My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) spoke of the choice between Ardrossan, Hunterston, Fairlie and other places. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) said that there were times when the mail boat could not land at Ardrossan. I do not decry Ardrossan as a harbour. I do not know the down time there, but in shipping there is a down time that has to be taken into account. My colleagues know that I have travelled the international highway so that I bring a degree of knowledge to the subject before us. In the modern world deep water has become the new working capital. I do not want to boast about it, but I take an interest in shipping, and recently in Japan I looked at an order book showing orders of 9 million tons at one yard. Japanese international companies throughout the world now have 47 per cent. of the world's business, and hope to get 75 per cent. by 1985. The Japanese and others are thinking of building vessels of 200,000 tons and upwards. That is the sort of vessel we must think of in modern times and that is why a deep water terminal is so important.
We have had advice and evidence on this subject—giving us alternatives—about the mechanics of the situation; we have been told, for example, how to pump slurry 45 miles up to Motherwell. But we must strike a meaningful balance between this sort of development and the tranquility and peace to be enjoyed by people on the peninsula, and in particular the people of Hunterston. The people in the area have the doubtful benefits of Hunterston A and Hunterston B; they already have nuclear technocracy on their doorstep. There is a crusade by some people for a third nuclear power station at Hunterston. There is no doubt that once this Bill goes through Parliament, Hunterston will be in the economic mainstream of activity in Scotland.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonehaven, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Commissioners who examined the situation, is a kind of identikit Ralph Nader in tracking down abuses. Many of these matters are set out in Clause 10 of the Bill. Here I hope to get into the debate a little Latin. All the merchants in the past had a favourable attitude to lex gentium—the law of nations and civil law. There is also lex mercantoria which, I explain to those who do not know, relates to mercantile law. The authorities intend to write into the Bill provisions to protect the individual, and Clause 10 seeks to protect the tranquility of the area. This means that before they go ahead, the promoters must call in design experts. They will also have to make an annual report. The development of the site and the protection of amenities go hand in hand. This has never happened in any society of which I have any knowledge.
I am 100 per cent. behind the Bill, and I shall support it tonight. Themis was the goddess of law and justice and her ministrations must come into our considerations when we agree to this Bill tonight.
There are two reasons why I support the Bill. Before elaborating upon them, I should like to join my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) in welcoming the conversion of at least one member—I put it no higher—of the Scottish National Party to the campaign for the development of Hunterston. We in South Ayrshire—indeed, all over Ayrshire—have always had as much opposition from SNP candidates as from the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) to our campaign for the development of Hunterston.
I regret that the hon. Gentleman should carry on the charge that was made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie). It is not true that the Scottish National Party opposes the development of Hunterston. Whatever individuals may have said or done, the SNP's policy is in favour of the development, and every reference that I have made—the hon. Gentleman can check in HANSARD—has been wholeheartedly in favour of the development of Hunterston.
I shall have to alter what I said. I now know two members of the Scottish National Party who are in favour of the development of Hunterston. I should have appreciated a statement as categorical as that during the South Ayrshire by-election when the SNP candidate attacked me on my support for Hunterston.
I sincerely regret the environmental damage that will be done to that part of the Clyde by the establishment of the ore terminal at Hunterston and the other developments that I hope will flow from our decision tonight. I do not say that in any bogus fashion. Like everyone else in Scotland, I love our environment. But there are occasions when industrial development and the retention of the environment are not compatible. That is the situation at Hunterston. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) and Central Ayrshire, I feel it is as well to be honest and to state openly that environmental damage will be done. I believe that it must be done if we are to maintain economic momentum in Scotland.
The first reason for my support of the Bill is that I see the ore terminal construction as the forerunner of a number of developments that will open up the Hunterston area and bring it in to support the industrial structure for the benefit of Scotland.
The second reason is more short term in a sense, because of the ore terminal's importance to steel and steel-using industries in Scotland. The fact of the matter is that we must have the ore terminal. It has become an urgent necessity.
I should like to deal with the wider implications. I believe that once the ore terminal is started the demand for other developments, such as a general user port, the establishment of additional refinery capacity, engineering works, and so on, will grow. That in turn will exert pressure on both the British Steel Corporation and the Government to make a clear statement of intention about future policy for steel plant location in Scotland. It is also urgent that we get clarification about the BSC's future intentions in Scotland between now and the mid-1980s.
No one should underestimate the importance of Hunterston in the widest and long-term sense. It has a key rôle to play in extricating the economy of West Central Scotland from its future problems.
I ask the House to recall the statement made by the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC on 11th October this year. After a meeting with the Secretary of State, Jimmy Jack forecast a gross job loss in West Central Scotland of about 40,000 in the next decade due to decline in certain industries and technical changes in others. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with the General Secretary of the Scottish TUC. I know from my experience that he is not given to overstatement or exaggeration. He makes a statement only when he is pretty sure of his facts. I believe that we can take this statement on board as a factual situation into which we shall run in the next 10 years. His statement illustrates the scale of the problem that we must tackle in the economy of West Central Scotland. I believe the build-up of the Hunterston potential will provide Scotland with a dynamic economic weapon for dynamic recovery and it is absolutely essential for the future, not only to West Central Scotland but to the Scottish economy as a whole.
I turn to the importance of the terminal in relation to the present steel and steel-using industries in Scotland. There are 330,000 men and women employed in metal manufacturing, engineering, shipbuilding, vehicle building—all the steel-user industries. That is out of a working population of just over 2 million. Almost every one of these people has as his primary source of employment iron ore which is taken into Scotland from Australia, South Africa, Scandinavia and South America. The point of entry for that ore, on its way to Lanarkshire to be turned into materials for those 330,000 people to use, is the General Terminus Quay in Glasgow, which suffers severe limitations both in the size of ships and tonnage which can be handled. It was designed to handle about 2·5 million tons of ore a year, and, if stretched, could possibly manage for a short period about 2·9 million tons. But I am reliably informed that because of the current development at Ravenscraig we shall have an ore import need of about 4 million tons a year, and the General Terminus Quay cannot handle that amount of ore. The ship tonnage it can accept is no more than about 28,000 tons, and we are living in a day and age when we are transhipping ore in cargoes of about 330,000 tons.
The Scottish steel industry cannot survive without the ore and we cannot get the ore without the terminal. This was recognised by the Secretary of State. In his major decision dated 9th December 1970 he dealt with the question of Hunterston's suitability compared with other places. On page 2 he says Hunterston is a deep-water shipping terminal. Part of the paragraph says:
The evidence taken at the inquiry appears to the Secretary of State clearly to demonstrate that for an all-purpose terminal for oceangoing carrier ships Hunterston is superior to the other sites considered at the inquiry, having regard to depth of water; number of days in the year for safe berthing; and cost of works for equipping the terminal.
Both Mr. Keith and the Secretary of State accepted the early need for an iron-ore terminal to replace the General Terminus Quay. Other sites were looked at by Mr. Keith and the Scottish Office, and both came to the conclusion that the ore terminal had to be at the Hunterston Portencross area. That was reinforced later in a general statement of guidance issued by the Secretary of State on 31st May 1973. In the part headed "Steel" he said:
The maintenance and development of a competitive steel industry is of basic importance to the Scottish economy, both because it is itself a large employer of labour and because the continued provision of an appropriate range of steel products in Scotland is important to the competitive position of steel using industries, such as engineering, shipbuilding and the manufacture of structures for North Sea oil.
Later the Secretary of State said:
This terminal will give the Scottish steel industry the advantage of access to a first class ore port capable of accommodating carriers of all sizes … The new terminal is therefore an essential development and the land has already been zoned for such a use.
The Secretary of State and others, and the Ayr County Council, which was the prime mover in this matter in the first place, took all matters into consideration—questions of environment, amenity, and the possibility of transport of the ore through the slurry method, which is not feasible except at enormous cost, at Ravenscraig. They all came to the inescapable conclusion that the terminal was an urgent necessity.
I end my brief remarks with a quotation from a letter sent by the county convener of Ayrshire to the Largs and Millport Weekly News. It is appropriate to quote the county convener because, with the vast majority of his county council, Mr. William Paterson, probably more than anyone else, has been at the forefront in the fight for the development of the ore terminal at Hunterston.
In his long letter setting out the position he deals with the ore terminal and writes:
West Central Scotland cannot afford to reject the opportunities for new and major economic growth which are offered by the potential of Hunterston. The development of the ore terminal will be the first essential step towards the realisation of these opportunities. I say again that the case for the terminal is overwhelming.
I agree with Mr. Paterson, and I know that the vast majority of people in Ayr-
shire agree with him. What is more, I believe that this House will endorse the view that the case for the terminal is overwhelming.
I rise to support the Second Reading of the Bill.
No one can say that the Bill has been rushed. It was back in 1966 when the planning of the area from the Clyde right down was undertaken. After that, the Ayr County Council decided to apply to the Scottish Office for the re-zoning of a specific piece of land round there. That brought us to 1969. There were objections, with the result that In, as Secretary of State, had to order a public inquiry. I can remember the disquiet expressed by Conservative Members at the time.
It was in July 1969 that the present Secretary of State, who should have known better because there was an inquiry in process, urged us that time was of the essence. At that time he was thinking not just of an ore terminal but of a steelworks, and the rest. When the right hon. Gentleman was in opposition he could say freely that he had no doubt that Hunterston was the best site in the whole of Europe—that it was certainly a better site for a major steel development and in terms of priority than the British Steel Corporation, under the present Government, was later prepared to grant it.
We have spent a long time on this proposal and there is some justification for the remarks of the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) about urgent decisions which have to be made and on which it may be that the prosperity of the country depends.
I can remember how, in 1966, we decided to create a new development in the Borders, at a place called Tweed-bank. Only this year have we managed to get the land for it. That is an indication of the extent to which people can justifiably object and use all the processes of law to put forward their own points of view. Accordingly, I congratulate the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) on the fight that he has put up, especially bearing in mind that this order itself was first applied for in March 1971 and that here we are in December 1973.
I do not know about the right hon. Member for Argyll, who was Secretary of State before me, but I remember being told early on that General Terminus Quay could not last much longer, in view of the developments affecting ore-carrying vessels. Leaving aside expansion, I was told that if we wanted to see the continuation of the Scottish steel industry we had to do something about getting a new ore terminal. There has been reference to Ardrossan and Ardmore. Both were considered during the inquiry. Long before the inquiry Colville's had considered Ardrossan and ruled it out because of the difficulties there. At this late stage, after two inquiries and after the Parliamentary Commissioners have looked at this, it is wrong to suggest that something has been overlooked. I do not think that anything has been overlooked.
I can understand the feelings of people who are suddenly being robbed of what they thought was theirs, probably for their lifetime—the view of the estuary and the sea. In 1956 I built a house in Ayr. From the rear I had a view right to the Hills of Craigie. The Minister knows the place. Now I look out on to a forest of houses—for those living in them very desirable houses—which have taken that view away. We cannot judge this matter entirely on a selfish basis. There is more in this than a house to live in. Upon this depends the future prosperity of Scotland.
It is wrong to suggest that we need only the ore terminal. It would be wrong to have a single development here. That would not justify the change. The original inquiry covered much more than that. It covered an application for an oil refinery from Chevron. There is also the question of steel development. We should be told shortly whether we are to have that development. Even the steel corporation takes it for granted. I think that it has made application in respect of certain land to be retained for possible development there.
We cannot laugh off the future and say that there are plenty of facilities elsewhere. There is certainly not sheltered water elsewhere. Where is the ideal place for this development? It is at Cairnryan, where there were big developments during the war. However, factors such as sheltered water, depth of water and the hinterland rule that out. I am sorry that we have not had any suitable development there. The railways are there. For the same reason, Ardrossan would have been fine. People do not rush at these things and take the most unsuitable site for one reason alone. It is the unique quality of this site which commends it to so many people.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small). I remember when in the debate on the North Wales Order, we had a speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Oswald). Those of us who heard it will never forget it. It was a fantastic speech. I wish that the people who write in the Sunday Express had read it, because then they would not have written what they wrote last weekend. We shall not forget the speech of my hon. Friend tonight, nor shall we forget the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton)—an intervention to cap the list of Lex Romana—Lex McLean.
Order. May the Chair be permitted to share the right hon. Gentleman's pearls?
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is an esoteric joke among Scots. I am sorry if you have not heard of Lex McLean: you have missed a lot.
We will not quarrel tonight with the things that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) said: hers was one of the best speeches that we have seen here for a long time—and I say "seen" quite rightly. I welcomed the hon. Lady's tribute to John Rankin and the work that he has done.
The case has been pretty well proved. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is going to lose his case, because he has fought so hard. I am not so sorry for the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), for all his talk about beauty. This is an area over which few people have the privilege of walking. I have never done so. The hon. Member took refuge in the fact that it was a wonderful view from many places. He does not mind if the view is spoiled down the coast a little, so long as it does not reach Ballochmyle or Ayr, or other sacred places.
We must have balance. Of course we do not want the environment and an irreplaceable heritage unnecessarily spoiled. This is why I am worked up about 28 places where, according to the Scottish Office, concrete rigs could be built. That is nonsense, especially since it would be a temporary development. The subject of this Bill is very different; the whole continuation or survival of the industry of central Scotland may depend upon it. We cannot afford not to develop here because of the scenery. I am an Ayrshire man and am reluctant to give up any beautiful part of Ayrshire, but we must do so here because so much depends upon it.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire was wrong to suggest that but for him this matter would have slipped through. After all this time and all the shouting, there was never a chance that it would.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that if I had not objected we should not have had a debate on this measure?
We have had debates and we shall have more debates, I am sure, because the Bill deals only with the ore terminal.
I am talking about the whole of Hunterston. I hope that the hon. Member appreciates that, and also appreciates the Secretary of State's attitude.
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon). I am sure that he had in mind the feelings in his constituency and in Peterhead when some changes were suggested up there. We did not take three months to deal with that, but that did not stop the present Secretary of State attacking me for daring to have a Committee stage for the Bill to enable the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East and me to talk and to allow the Scottish Office to soothe the feelings of the people in the area. The subject of this Bill has been discussed for well over six years and is of vital importance.
I hope that the hon. Member will think again about dividing the House. There have been so many voices in support of this project that he would be wrong to do so. He has made a good fight for his cause, but it would be wrong to divide the House.
This is a Private Bill and it is not for me to sum up the debate, but it might be convenient if I indicated the Government's views and answered some questions at this stage.
May I add my warm congratulations to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mrs. MacDonald) on her maiden speech? We all agree that it was a most effective contribution, and we much enjoyed the hon. Lady being here. I hope that I shall not be misunderstood when I say that I hope to meet her here often, and to hear her often. I hope that she might add to her laurels, which are great, by ensuring that her excellent speech is the longest that she will ever make. If she does that she will have a fine career, and we all welcome her here.
I must confine myself to the Bill which I remind hon. Members relates to the provision of an ore terminal, and not to any of the other interesting matters which we have discussed. However, I have noted most carefully those other matters which are not directly relevant to the ore terminal and I shall draw them to the attention of those of my right hon. Friends who are involved, and see that they are taken into account.
We have had a most interesting debate with varying views from many hon. Members. Not for the first time the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) takes the laurels for the most interesting and varied contribution. But I take him to task on one matter upon which, I hope not deliberately, he totally misled the House, and in doing so did a great disservice either to the Goths or to the Vandals, or both. If the hon. Gentleman goes back to the Library, he will see that it was the Goths who sacked Rome in 410 AD and the Vandals in 510 AD. I hope that he will make apologies in the due quarter for that matter.
The real issue which I ought to comment on is directly relevant to the Bill. I add my tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) on his speech and on the way he has fought for his constituents' views, which are very important. He has, as we would expect, done so exceptionally well. I hope that he accepts that the House, as a whole, has demonstrated this evening that it is most appreciative of what he has done and that it has listened most carefully to the views he has put forward on behalf of his constituents. I ask him to accept one other thing from me. Although his constituents cannot but be distressed at what is happening to the neighbourhood in which they live—and I fully understand their concern—I hope they will not feel that their objections have been treated lightly, or hastily, or that they have not been listened to or have been brushed over. Everyone has listened to, and carefully studied, all that has been said on behalf of the area. I say to those in the area that we recognise absolutely their right to feel the way they do and we have listened most carefully to their views.
The only thing I could say which would satisfy them and my hon. Friend would be that I feel that there should not be any development and that I do not think that there should be an ore terminal. That would satisfy them in every way, but I and my right hon. Friend have to take a difficult decision. If we were to agree with the views of every person, in every locality, in every part of Scotland, there would not be any development anywhere. Therefore, I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) that we have to make the particularly difficult decision which he asked us not to make. The decision is whether we must reluctantly spoil a beautiful part of the Clyde coast, and accept the consequences, or whether we put the interests of the Scottish economy, and the prosperity of thousands of workers, as being more important, on balance, than the amenity of the area. I hope that I have demonstrated that I feel strongly about this, and am sad that it will mean that there will be some diminution of the amenity of the area. But on balance the interest of the economy as a whole does in this instance have to take priority. There cannot be any question of the Government being neutral. We give our support to what the Bill is trying to do.
On the question of hastening the consideration of this project and the alternatives, such as using Ardrossan, I ask my hon. Friend to reflect again about the extreme length of the inquiry and the comprehensiveness of everything discussed. It was a long inquiry—probably the longest we have ever had in Scotland. It examined the most that migh happen on the Hunterston peninsula—not just what we are discussing tonight. That is to say, it considered the possibility of an ore terminal, a general user port, a huge integrated steel works employing 10,000 to 12,000 men, and a substantial oil refinery as well. In the time available, I cannot go over all the evidence submitted, even if it were proper to do so. But I want to make a few points to show that charges of inadequate consideration or overriding of evidence are quite unfounded.
With one exception, all the relevant topics were covered at length at the inquiry—the suitability of Hunterston as a terminal for both the largest ships and the smaller; the ease and safety of the navigational approaches; the prospective need of certain industries to use extra-large ships; the impact on the environment and on tourism; the merits or demerits of any alternative sites; the effect of the presence on the site of nuclear power stations, and so on. The report was very full by any standard, and my right hon. Friend's decisions were based on its findings. One may disagree with the conclusions of reports from time to time, but one cannot say in this case that it was not exhaustive.
We have also had it suggested that the reporter's recommendations were against what my right hon. Friend decided. I cannot accept all of that as being true. It would be an odd situation if a reporter in an inquiry had to be followed in all cases. I am sure that the House would not accept such a doctrine. It must be for the Secretary of State to make the decision and take the consequences of doing so. That is part of our system. My right hon. Friend did not abide strictly by every one of the reporter's recommendations, but the extent to which he departed from them has been wildly exaggerated.
First, the reporter firmly recommended approval of the ore terminal, which is what we are considering tonight. His recommendation flowed from his acceptance of the supremacy of Hunterston as a terminal for both extra-large and smaller ships. He recommended against the immediate zoning of land for steel industry development, but he clearly envisaged that that development might be justifiable in certain circumstances. He recommended against an oil refinery, largely on the evidence of refinery capacity in relation to demand as it was presented to him at the time. My right hon. Friend accepted that recommendation at the time while nothing that circumstances might change.
I stress all this because of the degree of distortion of truth which has come from some quarters—in some of the letters which my right hon. Friend has received, for instance, from people living in the area since the specific proposals for the ore terminal were put forward and planning permission was given for the landward works. These have implied that my right hon. Friend's decision disregarded all the evidence and ran counter to the reporter's recommendation. I am bound to say that the writers of some of these letters either have not troubled to look up the facts or have chosen deliberately to ignore them.
No one denies that there will be a significant loss of amenity when Hunterston is developed. I have not sought to do so. My right hon. Friend very much regrets it. But loss of amenity in particular cases must be weighed against the social and economic gains generally. These are very difficult decisions and have to be taken by someone. The Govern- ment have taken this decision, and that is why we give our support to the Bill.
I was asked to say something about nuclear safety, and I can give an assurance on that which I hope the House will accept. The latest oil refinery applications which have come in have called for detailed scrutiny from the point of view of nuclear safety in general My right hon. Friend has not yet got the results of the scrutiny, but he will give full weight to the needs of nuclear safety when he gets its conclusions. I hope that the time he has been prepared to wait whilst this question is examined thoroughly shows that he is genuinely concerned to ensure that no avoidable risks are taken. I hope that assurance will be welcomed by the House.
When is the Secretary of State likely to get the report from the Nuclear Inspectorate?
I cannot give a definite date, but I understand that it will be a few weeks before we can expect to receive the recommendations.
I have taken quite long enough. I would close by once more saying to my hon. Friend that we very well appreciate how he and his constituents feel, but we feel, and my right hon. Friend feels, that, on balance, we have to take this difficult decision in the interests of the economy and of the steel industry in Scotland, which, in this case, call for some sacrifices, and one of them, I regret to say, may be some of the amenity in what is a very beautiful area.