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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.