Consent of Secretary of State Required for Certain Works

Part of Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 15th July 1986.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 7:45 pm, 15th July 1986

I have read clause 16.

The current proposal is that the company will carry out reclamation on the basis that, within three years, it will continue the development. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that in three years all sorts of circumstances will change. I am not casting any aspersions on the integrity of the Tees and Hartlepool dock authority or the dock authorities at Immingham, Yarmouth, Tilbury, Southampton or Falmouth. All the people involved in those docks genuinely believed when they reclaimed land that they would be able to expand their port facilities and attract new jobs. All I am saying is that the evidence is that it is not as easy as that.

Unfortunately, at Southampton a considerable amount of the estuary was reclaimed with every good intention, but at present the land has not been used for dockland. It is logical, having enclosed the land at Southampton and taken it away from the birds, to let that harbour develop rather than run the risk of taking away more land at Felixstowe, with a question mark over whether the development will take place.

The new clause is to ensure that the company has to satisfy the Secretary of State that within a year it will go ahead with the development. That is a reasonable test of sincerity. I accept that even within a year circumstances may change. However, at least there is a reasonable possibility that the development will take place. Of course, there is always the risk that the reclamation will go ahead and that at the end of that period there is a financial crisis within the country or the company or a change of circumstances which leads the company to decide that it will not go ahead with the rest of the development.

The new clause says that to allow that risk over 12 months may be reasonable, but to allow it over three years is a little unreasonable. I would not be particularly happy about a development that took jobs away from other ports but I am sure that I should be very unhappy about reclamation taking place and then, at the end of two or three years, the company announcing that it could not go ahead with. the development.