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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 Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs 12:00 am, 11th December 1973

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.