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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.