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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1973.

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Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

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?