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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 Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

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?