HC Deb 10 December 1974 vol 883 cc244-331
Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 7, after 'acquire', insert 'or take on lease'.

I also welcome the Minister of State's point of order. I am sure that he is showing common sense in the light of the number of amendments before us. I am sure that we can now approach this matter much more practically. I hope that that common sense will continue to prevail in the counsels of the Government, but time will tell.

The amendment is straightforward and simple. The clause empowers the Secretary of State to acquire by agreement or compulsorily any land in Scotland for any purpose relating to the exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum. There could be circumstances—I hope that there will—in which it would be equally appropriate to take land on lease rather than to acquire it. Many of the Government's objectives could be made conditions in a lease.

The amendment is meant in a constructive spirit. As the Government have said many times, these powers will be necessary for only a certain period. We hope that: the objectives will be achieved through getting sufficient building sites for production platforms. So it is not necessary that these powers should be completely unlimited in time. If land could be taken on lease, that would be appropriate.

However, if this matter is already covered in the Bill or in the Government's mind, I should be glad of any elucidation. If the Government can proceed without compulsion, progress is much more likely when the Bill becomes law.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Millan

The amendment is unnecessary, because it is already possible under the Bill to acquire land on lease. The definition of land in Clause 19 includes an interest in or right over land. I am therefore advised that the Bill will already enable the Secretary of State to acquire land by way of lease. That would mean circumstances in which he would be acquiring land by agreement rather than compulsorily, but I think that that is the kind of circumstance that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. With that explanation, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance. I certainly would not intend to pursue the matter in the light of what he has said. However, it would help if this were more specific. The matter is not explicit without one referring to another part of the Bill. If it were more explicit, the Government might be helped in acquiring the sites. I do not press for an undertaking now, but perhaps he will look at this matter before Report.

Obviously, where it is possible to acquire land first of all by agreement and then by way of lease rather than using compulsory powers, this will help the Bill to achieve its objectives. I hope that the Government will bear this in mind when dealing with actual sites and their owners.

However, given the Minister's undertaking, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Hamish Gray (Ross and Cromarty)

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 7, leave out 'or compulsorily'.

I like to think that the Minister may be able to say the same on this amendment as he did on the previous one, that it is not really necessary, but that is hardly likely. On Second Reading, talking of the Bill in general, the Minister said: First, it is designed to ensure that developments essential to the work of getting the oil ashore quickly can take place without delays and that they are controlled in a planned and co-ordinated way so that their contribution to the national economy is maximised."— [OFFICIAL RRPORT, 19th November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1109.] No one would disagree with that, but we take exception to the way in which this object is to be executed. Compulsion is alien to those of us from my part of Scotland, and it is that area that the Bill at this stage will largely affect. If we accept that the Bill will be used only after all the planning procedures have been gone through, what is the point of compulsion?

When a firm applies to set up in an area to build either oil platforms or any other oil-related development, it will go through the normal planning procedures, including even a public inquiry at which every detail is considered. If, at the end of that inquiry or, even without an inquiry, after all the other planning procedures, the local authority and the Scottish Development Department agree that a particular development is desirable and suitable for a particular site—there is a willing seller and the company makes its purchase and proceeds with the development—what is the necessity for the Government to acquire the site compulsorily? I hope that the Minister will be able to give me some sort of answer to that point.

Do we, first, have a voluntary approach from the Government? What method is to be used? When the Government decide that it is necessary to take a site into public ownership, what will be the criteria? How will they decide which sites to take over and which sites they will allow to proceed under normal direction? Are incentives to be offered to developers to encourage them to have their sites taken over? If the compulsory element is retained, the Minister will have almost unrestricted powers under the Bill. What are their strengths?

If a site is acquired and further development is proposed—for example, an oil production platform site—and the company gets successive orders and finds that the land which it is at present developing is not sufficient for the kind of orders it is getting and that it is necessary to negotiate with the land owner to take over further areas of land, will those areas also be compulsorily acquired?

If the land owner has laid down certain conditions which are acceptable to the developer in the first instance—such as a clause whereby the developer provides considerable amounts of money at the termination of his contract for reinstatement of land, what effect will this have on the Government's attitude? Will they take over all the terms in exactly the same way as the developer has done?

Let us take the case of a developer applying, perhaps, for permission to erect concrete platforms on a certain site and the Secretary of State deciding that there is not a case, in his view, for a public inquiry. At the time when the Government step in to take over the land, will it be their intention to hold a public inquiry, or will it be at that point that they will short cut the normal planning routine?

I am sorry to have to pose so many questions to the Minister, but I feel that if he can give us helpful answers it will make it very much easier for us to decide eventually whether to vote for the amendment.

Regarding the future, is it the Government's intention, when land is reinstated at the end of a project, wholly to hand over to the existing land owner, or is it the intention to hand over to a Government agency such as a local authority or a port authority? If the latter, what will be the specification for the use of the land? Will the land be used again for a form of development? There are areas in my constituency where considerable housing developments may take place. Is it the Government's intention, having compul- sorily acquired a site, to hand it back to a local authority and allow that authority to decide the future use, or to hand it back to the original owner? How will this be done?

Those are just some of the questions which I hope the Minister will answer later.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

May I add my thanks to the Minister of State for his announcement at the start of our proceedings. I raised the matter on a point of order yesterday. I am glad that I have not had to reserve a bed for the night in the neighbourhood of Westminster. The original announcement was apparently an error. That was that we were to have all the remaining stages of the Bill tonight. That caused considerable concern not only among back benchers but also among local authorities and others who thought that they would have no opportunity of studying the Committee proceedings. That would have been a serious error.

The amendment raises a fundamental question about the Bill. The question is, why is the Bill necessary at all? I shall listen with interest to the Minister's answer. But I had understood that the purpose of introducing the Bill was that the Government envisage that certain sites will be urgently necessary for work in connection with oil. I had understood, further, that they envisage the possibility that they might not be able to get these sites except by compulsory purchase and that, therefore, compulsory purchase is fundamental to the Bill. However, I shall listen with interest to hear whether the Minister agrees about that.

When I read the amendment, it certainly raised in my mind some of the doubts and difficulties which we in Orkney and Shetland experienced in drafting the Bills which the local authorities of Orkney and Shetland introduced. We thought at one time that we could rely upon Section 102 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, but on looking at that we found that it was somewhat narrow. Furthermore, we considered that it might well be desirable that public authorities should control land to be used for oil development. For one thing, we came to the conclusion that public authorities could more effectively exercise their planning powers by so doing.

We also thought that they should be entitled to look at the general effect of a particular oil installation, especially in the type of area referred to by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray).

However, in addition to hearing from the Minister on the fundamental point about compulsion—which I rather understood had been accepted, at any rate by the Conservative Party, on Second Reading—I hope that the Minister will also say something about why he has found it necessary to go beyond the existing powers which the Secretary of State has under existing legislation.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire, East)

I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) in their anxiety about the powers of compulsion which are written into the Bill. I should like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that my effort on Second Reading was to offer an alternative method whereby the Government might achieve their objective. I have at no time supported the compulsory element in this matter because I consider that it is unnecessary.

I want to make only a few brief points. The first is about the undoubted widespread odium which this element introduces into a Bill which we are all agreed is necessary. As a result of the Government taking this extreme measure, many people will be alienated in their views. This is a fact which applies to compulsory purchase generally and which will prove to be correct in this instance.

Unless there are much stronger reasons for including compulsion in the Bill than we have heard so far, it is regrettable that the compulsion element is included in this way. I do not think that any of us want to see undue delay. I do not intend to repeat what I said on Second Reading—that there will be alternative methods to avoid that—but the principle of compulsory purchase in a case such as this is a principle to which many of us object and which we do not want to see extended. It gives the Government of the day much too great a power.

I am not against essential developments, but I am against the hammer of the State coming down for what, if the purpose of the Bill is to be fulfilled in good faith, should be reasonably modest and agreed measures which can be achieved in other ways. Therefore, in my belief that the Government's objectives can be achieved in other ways, I, too, await with some concern their explanation of their determination to include compulsion in the Bill.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

I wish to ask one or two questions on this amendment. If the amendment is accepted, am I right in thinking that, the practical position, will be that we shall have a planning inquiry about a site required for oil development works, and that, after the planning inquiry has decided that the site is required for works associated with oil development, the Government will be in the position to approach people who might still be protesting about that development and have a landed interest in it, and to ask them to sell their land? Surely, if they say they do not agree to sell their land, the Government will be effectively prevented from starting this development.

Am I right in thinking that that is the practical effect of this amendment? If so, Government supporters, and anyone with any degree of responsibility in his makeup with regard to policy, must reject the amendment. The question of compulsion in respect of the pursuit of public policy is not a new principle in any Scottish legislation, whether it has been foisted upon us by a Conservative Government or promoted by a Labour Government.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I should like to ask two questions.

First, can the Minister say whether the power to acquire land compulsorily and bring it into Government control is required to expedite oil developments surrounding the Scottish shores, or whether it is required specifically for the sake of Government control of these sites irrespective of any time factor which may be involved? These are important matters because, although many of us hold the strong belief that it is necessary to expedite the procedures, we remain to be convinced of the desirability of bringing these sites into Government control to assure the best results for Scotland.

Second, in putting forward the requirements for compulsory powers, the Government are concerned that there may not be voluntary agreement to the acquisition of sites. Can the Minister give us specific evidence of the lack of willingness by persons who own such sites around the Scottish shores to sell their land either to private developers or to public authorities? If such examples exist, it is right that we should know of them. If not, can the Minister say why he feels such powers are necessary?

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

Under the present powers regarding industrial development possessed by the Secretary of State, can land be acquired compulsorily, or does he require, in terms of this Bill, to obtain powers to acquire land compulsorily for the specific purposes of oil exploration or oil exploitation? In other words, does he not have at the present time, under his general powers, the opportunity to acquire land compulsorily by the normal process, or does he need to gain such powers as a way of introducing the expedited procedures sought later under the Bill?

Mr. Millan

The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) is accurate. If we took this provision out of the Bill and accepted the amendment, we would be left with the position that land could be acquired only by agreement, which would frustrate the whole purpose of the Bill. In circumstances where that is possible, and where time constraints are not against us, we shall try to acquire land by agreement. It is an illusion to believe that we can carry out the purposes of the Bill without compulsory powers. Without such powers, it would mean that, after having gone through the planning procedures, the planning inquiry and so on, we would have to acquire the land by agreement, and the whole process would then be completely frustrated. It is essential that we have compulsory powers contained in the Bill to carry out our intention.

The expedited acquisition procedures hang very much on the compulsory purchase powers. They are meant to provide an expedited procedure in certain circumstances of urgency. However, there may be other cases where compulsory purchase may be required without the expedited procedure being necessary. In any case, all the powers of acquisition will depend in the first instance on planning permission having been granted for a specific site and for a specific development.

I cannot recommend to the Committee that it accepts this amendment.

The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) raised a number of matters. The principles concerning the extension of existing sites were put forward in the general explanation I gave on Second Reading and again today. Planning permission is required whether we are dealing with the original site or with an extension. In the granting of that planning permission, it is possible for both the local authority and, where appropriate, the Secretary of State to lay down certain stringent planning conditions. Nothing in that is affected by the power of compulsory acquisition, which is directed simply to the effective acquisition of the site, and that course is well precedented under housing, planning and other legislation in Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman asked me what would happen to the land when it was no longer required. Later amendments are specifically directed towards that question. I prefer therefore not to anticipate those amendments. In that regard, we are doing nothing which is unprecedented or not in accordance with existing practice. We need the compulsory power. This amendment would defeat the whole purpose of the Bill. Therefore I must reject it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of this matter. I think he has to some extent underestimated the strength of feeling from the Opposition regarding this amendment. While I accept entirely what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) said, nevertheless I realise that if this amendment is successful it will strike right at the heart of the Bill.

In moving this amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) was trying to elicit from the Government precisely how necessary these compulsory powers are. We heard an explanation of that point during the Second Reading debate. However, we had hoped to hear more elaboration of how necessary these powers are. What concerns us throughout the whole of Clause 1 is the extent to which these powers can be used and the number of purposes for which they can be used. It may be that these powers will be used for a limited range of purposes. But our worry arises when the powers are so wide and have so many different purposes which in our view are not absolutely necessary for the central purposes of the Bill.

The fact that compulsion is included means that we are giving the Government very wide powers across a very much broader range of activity than the Government have possessed in the past. This is the central point of the Bill. Therefore, although in limited circumstances I should not oppose the use of compulsory powers, I become very worried when they are used so widely and broadly.

Before leaving the general point, may I say that I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty will think twice before pressing his amendment to a Division? We have expressed our views to the Minister about compulsion, and whether we believe these powers to be necessary depends largely on whether we succeed in amending other powers later in the clause. If we are successful in limiting some of those powers, it may be appropriate to keep compulsory powers.

My advice to my hon. Friends, although I still hope that the Minister will be able to give rather better explanations than he has so far given, is that we should not press the amendment but, rather, should wait until we see to what stage we get, what the powers will be used for, whether they are as wide as they appear to be at the moment, or whether we succeed in amending later powers.

I come to the two matters of detail on which I should like some clarification. What concerns some of us about the use of these compulsory powers is that, so far as we are aware, no case has arisen in relation to offshore oil development where compulsory powers were needed to acquire a site and to speed up procedures. Looking at the history of these matters, may we have examples of cases in which compulsory powers for an expedited acquisition procedure were necessary to get a development going?

The second matter on which I seek clarification relates to the future rather than to the past. It deals with the circumstances in which these compulsory powers might be used.

Here I wish to cite a specific example in relation to Hunterston and the proposed development there. As I understand it, negotiations are relatively far advanced between the Hunterston development company and various firms which wish to build production platforms on the sites which will be available at Hunterston. Here we have a site owner ready, willing and wanting to develop it. We have developers who, subject to satisfactory agreement with the owner, are ready to proceed.

As I understand it, the only delay in this instance is with regard to the planning procedures and whether planning approval is granted by the Secretary of State for development to go ahead. In terms of the provision of the site and in terms of a willing developer wishing to get on to it, there is no delay. The only delay is on the planning side, and that matter is one for which the Secretary of State already has powers.

My question, therefore, is, what action is the Secretary of State likely to take after the passage of this Bill? Will he step into the arena at Hunterston, acquire the land from the development company, and enter into negotiation with the firms who wish to build production platforms on the site? If that is how the right hon. Gentleman intends to proceed, this is bound to lead to delay in a case in which there is a willing owner and willing developers. In such a case, I hope that the Secretary of State will not decide to use his powers under the Bill. Instead, I hope that he will allow those who are anxious to go ahead in a willing fashion to carry on in the way in which they plan to do so at present.

Some further clarification from the hon. Gentleman will help my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty to decide whether to press his amendment. It will help us all to know how these compulsory powers will be used.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscaddan)

I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), who appears today in the guise of my favourite hero, the Greek Cephalus, who threw a spear which never missed its target. My hon. Friend is on target again.

To come down to practicalities, in matters of this kind the question always is how much land is to be acquired. In a previous incarnation, I had some experience of negotiating land acquisitions between a willing seller and a willing buyer. The debate always comes round to how much, and how much is left.

Let us take, for example, a large firm. If the owner has two-thirds of it acquired compulsorily and he shifts all his cows on to the other third, it is always uneconomic in the farmer's view. If, instead, he wishes to retain half his farm, the person wishing to acquire the land is in real trouble. In normal circumstances, that is the only time that a compulsory purchase order is required. It is then that the two parties begin to discuss the economics of ownership and how much will be left.

Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)

Those of us who listened to the Second Reading debate learned that the provisions in the Bill concerning the acquisition of land would not be implemented until the planning procedures had been gone through. However, the Bill does not say this, and what people object to is that Clause 1 says boldly that anyone has the right to acquire land. It does not say that he has first to get planning permission. That is one reason why there are objections to the all-sweeping claim in the clause and why the Minister should give some thought to altering the wording so as to make it more agreeable to the ordinary citizen who reads the Bill but probably has not the time to read our Second Reading debate.

Mr. Harry Selby (Glasgow, Govan)

Is not the reason for these compulsory powers to speed up the development of the production of oil? Yesterday we were told that more energy was required more quickly and that the quicker we could get oil from the North Sea the better. That was also the general under- standing when we discussed the Bill on Second Reading.

Mr. Millan

Perhaps I might reply to some of these additional points.

First, the clause is expressed in wide terms. We shall be discussing whether they are too wide when we deal with subsequent amendments. I do not wish to anticipate those later amendments, but I remind the Committee that the powers are no wider than those announced by Mr. Gordon Campbell at the end of January, upon which the previous Government intended to legislate, and, of course, they intended operating it as overriding planning procedures completely; but we shall come to that later.

Similarly, we shall come to the planning point, and I hope I shall be able to say something hopeful and agreeable to hon. Members on both sides of the House at that time.

I was asked whether there had been cases where compulsory powers were necessary and the answer is "Yes". It has been necessary, for example, in Shetland and may turn out to be necessary in other places also. But I must make the general point, which local authorities would confirm from their own experience, that in cases where they have powers of compulsory acquisition for other purposes, the fact that there is ultimately compulsory acquisition available to the public authorities in many cases makes agreement very much easier to obtain. In the absence of compulsory purchase as a last resort, which it sometimes is, the life of public authorities in many fields would be made very much more difficult than it is at the present time.

So far as Hunterston is concerned, we are concerned there not just with acquiring land there for a short-term purpose as we are generally under the Bill but with acquiring sites for a long-term purpose of control and eventual reinstatement as well. Hon. Members must keep that in mind all the way through Clause 1. We are not simply dealing with short-term considerations here. It is very much in the interests of the local communities involved that we should have control over sites to avoid proliferation and so as to have proper powers of reinstatement; and public acquisition is very necessary from that point of view. That answers the point on Hunterston.

In fact, there are not planning permissions available on Hunterston as things stand at present for oil production platform building but it has been made clear by the Secretary of State that he considers that particular kind of activity is a very suitable one for the Hunterston area. The Hunterston Development Company has been co-operative with the Government so far, and I paid tribute to that unreservedly during the Second Reading debate. But from a longer-term point of view it is very important that at Hunterston, even more than elsewhere, there should be public control, which can be obtained only by public ownership. That is the basic reason that we wish to take over land at Hunterston. Quite apart from any individual case, essentially we require compulsory powers to make this particular clause effective. If it were not effective, the Bill would be largely ineffective, and, therefore, this amendment would really go to the root of the Bill and make it much less worth while, if not completely useless.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I would like to press the hon. Gentleman further in relation to Hunterston as he has not answered my particular point on that. My understanding of the situation there is that there is a development company which is co-operating and is anxious to get its development. Will the company be so anxious if the ground is to be compulsorily acquired from it? If at Hunterston, where the stage has been reached where the company which owns the land and potential platform building companies which want to go there have reached, as I understand it, agreement under many heads enabling them to do so, it then becomes necessary to go through this compulsory acquisition procedure, is not this going to delay the actual time at which operations will start on the site?

What matters to the national economy and matters so far as Scotland is concerned, as the Government have said and as we said in Government, is to get sites into operation, subject of course to proper safeguards, as quickly as possible. My concern in relation to Hunterston, apart from speeding up to get things into operation, is how these procedures are to operate in these particular circum- stances. I accept that this is a specific example which would not apply in another situation where there was an unwilling seller and a company willing to build on the site. Obviously, in those circumstances such expedited acquisition procedure would be helpful; but I question whether it would in the Hunterston situation. Would the Minister answer that point before leaving this amendment?

Mr. Millan

I do not know that I shall be happy to keep arguing for the rest of the day always from the general to the particular but in this case I am quite happy to do so because we appreciate that there could be a danger of slowing down development at Hunterston if the Government and the Hunterston Development Company were at cross-purposes. But we are not at cross-purposes, and I am happy to say the position is fully protected, the necessary work required to go on there is continuing and we have made our views about acquisition of the site clear to the company, so that the danger which the hon. Gentleman has in mind is not actually a real danger so far as Hunterston is concerned.

Mr. Gray

I am grateful to the Minister for trying to answer some of the points which I raised in debate, and in view of the fact that as we work our way through Clause 1 I am hopeful of getting more answers to points raised, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 8, after 'purpose', to insert: 'mentioned in subsection (2) below'.

The Chairman

With Amendment No. 3, we shall take the following amendments:

No. 7, in page 1, line 10, to leave out from 'above' to 'the' in line 11 and to insert: 'are confined to'. No. 8, in page 1, line 10, leave out 'include in particular' and to insert: 'consist of'. and Government Amendment No. 18.

Mr. Wilson

The intention of this amendment and Amendment No. 8 is to seek to define, if not to restrict, the powers which will be available under the Bill to the Secretary of State. It is perhaps known that as part of the background to the Bill we are here seeking an opportunity of taking over a limited number of sites for the purpose of the construction or assembly of platforms, and the object could be restricted even further to a certain type of platform, namely the concrete Condeep platform.

One difficulty which must face many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—without wishing to make political points—is that the Government are seeking in the Bill to provide substantial powers for what in effect may be very limited purposes. An amendment has been proposed by the Government which may be construed partly, perhaps, as limiting the effects of some of the powers, but to my mind it does not meet the need for circumscribing to a greater extent the powers in subsections (1) and (2). Specific attention should be paid to the words "include in particular", which would suggest that there are other purposes or functions which could be fulfilled by the Bill, particularly in relation to subsection (1).

Any Government must be given credit for knowing what they intend to do, and for knowing the particular functions of the Bill they are seeking to put before the House. If that is so, they should have enumerated the various purposes referred to in subsection (2), presumably accepting that these are functions which they require in terms of the Bill, and they should accept that the legislation should be confined to these purposes.

Perhaps it is dangerous for Parliament to give a blank cheque to the executive by passing legislation which is insufficiently precise. The Government may say that they do not wish to accept some of the more general implications contained in the Bill, but one of the principles that one learns at law school is that it is not what might have been the intentions of Parliament or even of a Minister at the time that matters but what eventually emerges in the form of the Act, and that that is what judges in the courts will define.

Contained in the powers in subsections (1) and (2) there is so much latitude that any claim of ultra vires might be difficult to substantiate at a future time. It is therefore simply our intention to restrict the operation of the Bill to the particular purposes isolated by the Secretary of State in sub-paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), subject, of course, to any other amendments which may follow.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Grimond

I support the general reasoning behind the amendments. As the Bill is drafted, it goes unnecessarily wide. I raised the matter on Second Reading. The Bill applies to any land, not only coastal land, and to that land … for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of off shore petroleum. As the Bill stands, that can take place anywhere. It is an extremely wide Bill, and anything which can be done to narrow its scope would be welcome. As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said, it is not the intention of the Minister which counts in the end, but the wording of the Act. Further, if it is really intended to deal only with certain sites for building rigs, the Bill goes unnecessarily wide.

Government Amendment No. 18 is, I take it, designed to some extent to narrow the purposes of the Bill. But would it not make nonsense of subsection (2)? As I read it, subsection (2) would state "The purposes mentioned in this subsection include in particular the provision or use of …", but no purposes are mentioned other than those set out in (a), (b), (c) and (d). Therefore, surely technically subsection (2) would be nonsense. I welcome the Government's intention in Amendment No. 18, but I ask them to look again at the wording.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I welcome Government Amendment No. 18, which helps to meet some of the points made in the amendments. As I see it, it helps in the right direction in seeking to limit the purposes of the Bill in relation to sub section (2)(d). As far as I can see, it does not limit it in any sense in relation to the rest of the purposes in subsection (2)(a), (b) or (c). It still leaves in the words "include in particular".

As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has said, by including the words "in particular" it is mentioning the specific, which means that any particular thing which the Government may think of later on could easily be included. The whole subsection in effect ends up as a series of examples of how it might be used, and it in no sense puts any boundary on the extent of the purposes for which the Secretary of State can use his powers.

I would prefer something along the lines either of Amendment No. 3 or of our Amendment No. 7, which would confine the powers to stated purposes within the Bill. Then we would know where we stood, and when the Bill came to be applied in Scotland people would know whether the Government were acting within or without their powers. But unless we correct the wording now there will be no way of showing that powers which go beyond the spirit of the legislation have done so. We are grateful for Government Amendment No. 18, but it does not meet the full spirit either of Amendment No. 3 or of Amendment No. 7.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. John Smith)

The purpose of Government Amendment No. 18 is to restrict the powers of the Secretary of State with regard to the expedited acquisition of land for infrastructure needed for oil-related developments. Power of expedited acquisition, referred to later in the Bill, would be available to the Secretary of State only in connection with infrastructure needed for categories of oil-related developments specified in subsection (2)(a)(b) and (c)—platform sites, pipelines and shore terminals, and so on. They would not be available for the general purposes in subsection (1). By the amendment, we are seeking to meet some of the criticism expressed on Second Reading.

The Government studied the contributions made by right hon. and hon. Members to see whether they could improve the Bill in the light of those comments, and Amendment No. 18 is an attempt to achieve an improvement which I hope will go some way towards meeting some of the feelings expressed on Second Reading without impeding the general purposes of the Bill.

The effect of Amendment No. 3 and Amendment No. 7 would be to restrict the purposes for which land may be acquired to those specified in Clause 1(2) —that is to say, the powers of compulsory purchase would be circumscribed to subsection (2). We consider that such a restriction would be excessive.

We must consider the future of the oil industry as well as the present, and in future there may be occasions when the Government would wish to be able to facilitate oil-related operations by acquiring land and making it available for such purposes as services, public works and storage purposes for which there is no particular urgency for land acquisition. In such cases, the Secretary of State would proceed under subsection (1) because he would not need to proceed under subsection (2).

It is very much part of our approach that we must think of possible future conditions in the oil industry as well as of today's problems. That is the justification for the general nature of Clause 1. It is not unusual in compulsory purchase legislation for there to be such a general clause at the start of the Bill. General powers must always be a matter of judgment, and how far such a power should extend is for the Committee to decide. We believe, however, that it is necessary to give flexibility to meet requirements which may arise in future technology in the oil-related industries.

I can quite understand the feeling that some hon. Members have that Clause 1 is too widely drawn. I have given the Government's judgment. We must look to the future as well as the present. One of the problems is that if we tried to legislate too narrowly we could meet a situation in which we did not have powers from Parliament to deal with it. It would be regretted by all of us if that were to cause any delay in the advancement of the new industrial opportunities that North Sea oil gives us. It is a question of judgment.

I have taken note of the point raised by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about the wording of Government Amendment No. 18, and I assure him that we will study it again in the light of his criticism.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbaim (Kinross and West Perthshire)

The Under-Secretary of State's remarks confirm the fears held on this side of the Committee and specified by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). The Under-Secretary of State has said, in effect, that subsection (2) really means nothing, but that if it means anything, it means that if the Government need it for any other purposes they will ignore it. If that is what the hon. Gentleman meant—

Mr. John Smith

It was not.

Mr. Fairbairn

If it was not, then I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's meaning. If that is so, why have subsection (2) at all? Why is it essential for the words "include in particular" to appear in the subsection? It has been suggested that we can deal with other matters as they arise. If that is what is meant, subsection (2) is a ruse to deceive us into imagining that there is some limitation.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I was interested to hear the Minister's explanation. It seems to confirm the view that the powers contained in subsection (2) are not sufficiently well drawn. It might have been better had the Minister inserted into the Bill the examples which he has suggested as being suitable for future development. If that had been done persons considering this measure in future would be aware of the intention of Parliament and of the rôle of the clause.

I regret that the explanation that the Minister has offered has been so unsatisfactory. It goes to confirm my fear that the clause is drawn far too widely. I suggest that if it is necessary to obtain new powers the time to obtain them will be as they arise.

We are being asked to give a blank cheque. I regret that the Minister has not given a reply which would have enabled me to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

As one who made representations, I thank the Minister for the changes that have been made. They seem to be changes in the right direction. This is the right stage at which to draw certain conclusions.

It is clear from Drumbuie that had a certain body not been extremely persistent and sustained in its scepticism of the whole proposition—I refer to the National Trust—we would not now be seeing alternative arrangements made on the Argyll coast. I link that example with what the Government are doing in general. I ask the Government to be extremely searching of all the propositions that are put forward, particularly those put forward in a hurry by contractors.

Drumbuie has revealed that Mowlems and Taylor Woodrow could throughout have adopted alternative systems if that had suited their commercial convenience. That is one lesson that must be learnt.

Another relevant matter concerns Dalmeny. Had there not been a considerable fuss made by certain citizens of South Queensferry in particular it is clear that different plans would have been adopted for the terminal at Hound Point. Perhaps the excellent landscaping that is now taking place—I give every credit to BP—would not have taken place had not the original series of searching questions been asked. I hope that I am right in thanking the Government for what they have done in the clause.

Mr. John Smith

I had a suspicion that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) would not find my explanation satisfactory in view of his previous statements. The difficulty which I experience is the problem of foreseeing the future shape of our requirements for the North Sea oil industry. In the short time that I have been in the House the same argument has always been raised when compulsory acquisition has been put forward. Those who criticise the Government's drafting—I have done my fair share of criticising in the past—are met with a reply roughly on the lines of the reply that I have given. Those who are criticising then say, "If and when the future requirements become clear you can return to Parliament." As the hon. Member for Dundee, East knows, it is not so easy to return to Parliament.

The Government are also criticised from time to time by the legal profession for introducing what it describes as hotch-potch legislation. It is said that the Government should introduce comprehensive legislation instead of little bits of Acts as and when circumstances demand. This must remain a matter of judgment. We must take powers which will allow us to have some control over the widest aspects of the North Sea oil

4.45 p.m.

The distinction between Clauses 1 and 2, which I respectfully draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), is that in Clause 1(1) the Secretary of State has fairly wide powers but he cannot for any of the powers which are not included in subsection (2) use the expedited procedure. Clause 2 is more narrowly drafted because it is in that respect that the expedited procedure is required.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee, East feels that he must continue to press his amendment. We had felt that the Government had taken account of earlier criticisms in putting forward Amendment No. 18. We considered the matter carefully to ascertain how we could meet the criticism that has been expressed. We put forward our amendment on that basis.

This is a matter of judgment in that the Committee must decide whether the amendment meets the criticism that has been expressed. I hope that the Committee will be reasonably sympathetic and feel that the Government have gone half way to meet its wishes.

Mr. Dalyell

I should like confirmation that in the opinion of a legal Minister there is sufficient scope for the Government of the day to put searching questions to contractors.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We shall await with interest the Minister's reply to the question of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). It is a relevant matter related to the techniques employed. It begs the question of who is to judge the techniques employed.

I accept that the Government have tried to some extent to meet the criticism that has been expressed. I believe that the amendment demonstrates the difficulties that arise when we are asked to consider a Bill with such wide powers. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), and I find it difficult to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends. For example, if Amendment No. 4 were successful the character of the clause would be changed. In future amendments we are seeking to limit the powers of the Bill. I accept the point made by the Minister that we do not want to be so exclusive that some other development that is closely related to the exploration and exploitation will be found not to be covered by the Bill. I accept that if the Bill is too confined and restrictive we shall create difficulties when we come to use the Bill to carry out useful operations in future. We are faced with a difficult decision.

The next amendment which we shall consider, Amendment No. 4, and subsequent amendments relating to the clause, could very much limit the Government's powers. I have sympathy with the hon. Member for Dundee, East, but if he chooses to press the amendment to a Division I shall have to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to wait until they hear the Government's reply to Amendment No. 4 and subsequent amendments before coming to a conclusion. Perhaps an appropriate time to consider the position will be on the Question, "That the clause stand part of the Bill". We shall then be able to assess what progress we have made on the clause and consider the kind of clause which is before us. We can then decide whether it is necessary to oppose the proposition that the Government are putting forward.

If we consider these matters in isolation we may defeat some of the good purposes of the Bill. If we consider them as a whole we are much more likely to come to a proper conclusion. I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends not to vote on the amendment if a Division is called but to reserve their position until we see the clause as a whole after we have considered subsequent amendments which bear on the same point.

Mr. Grimond

Will the hon. Gentleman give me the legal answer to the point which arises on Clause 1(2)(d)? If we leave that part of the clause unamended —perhaps it is the Government's intention to amend it—we shall let in everything that the Minister intends to take out.

Mr. John Smith

Government Amendment No. 18 seeks to leave out "subsection (1) above". It seeks to insert "this subsection".

Mr. Dalyell

I put a specific, and what I believe to be a fairly tight, question as to whether in the opinion of the legal Minister there are sufficient grounds for a Government to probe firms as to their intentions and as to alternatives. Will my hon. Friend answer my question?

Mr. John Smith

I was reluctant to rise to reply as the phrase "legal Minister" was not one to which I felt immediately obliged to respond. I have enough responsibilities on Department of Energy matters without usurping the functions of the Law Officers. With great respect to by hon. Friend I am not so sure that his question is so specific. His concern is that the Government should take a close interest in the contractors, and the Government, as the owners of the land, in cases where they leased it to contractors, would have certain authority arising from their position as owners and lessees. My hon. Friend has expressed some concern, and I am sure that concern will be borne in mind in future legislation.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

I make a point which may not require an answer. There is a curious confusion in the House whenever we seek to give the people of Scotland something they can control. Certain parties join together to prevent the people of Scotland exerting that control over land.

If my hon. Friend the Minister is looking at the restrictions and the legal points, will he also consider the question of assertions by private industry at committees of inquiry—including such firms as Mowlems and Taylor Woodrow—that there is no other site they can possibly use, yet when they were refused Drumbuie they went somewhere else. When we consider the powers of the Government we might also examine threats by private industry.

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

I had not intended to speak until I heard the intervention by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). Until then I thought we were having a constructive and useful exchange of views on the clause. The point that he raised and that was raised by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is well worth considering—that in these matters the Government, like the ordinary member of the public, can all too often be bamboozled by the experts and the commercial interests which want to go to a particular area not necessarily for the benefit of that area, the environment or the living standards of the people there, but because it would be the most profitable. Yet, with a little consideration and foresight those interests could consider other areas.

I feel that we are still back in the situation where the clause read any land in Scotland for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of off-shore petroleum. Those words could mean that almost anything in Scotland could, by some remote tinge of reasoning, be taken.

If an American oil company wanted to build its offices in Aberdeen could the Secretary of State take over the whole of Union Street and hand it over to the oil company? There are all sorts of other aspects. The wording is far too wide, and for the Minister to say that the Government must look to the future, and to say it in that low key way that he has, does not deceive us. If the Government want further powers they have a clear opportunity of coming to the House and asking for them.

Mr. John Smith

It is unusual to be accused of being reasonable and deceptive at the same time. It would be a curious American company that wanted the whole of Union Street in Aberdeen for the building of an office. We have to look at this matter with common sense. I have explained that the width of the clause is related to the difficulty of predicting the future.

There is perhaps a lot less reluctance on the Government side to seeing land in public ownership than there is on the Opposition benches, whichever party the objections may come from. That is a matter of political philosophy which we do not want to go into too deeply today since we must make some reasonable progress with the Bill. I think that I have given explanations which justify the Government's position. I hope that hon. Members will consider withdrawing the amendment since the Government have gone at least 50 per cent. of the way to meet their objection.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am still confused by the answer the Minister gave to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). If the Government amendment were to be accepted, surely the clause would make no sense, because it would read The purposes mentioned in this subsection include in particular the provision or use of. That does not relate it to anything, certainly not subsection (1) and—

Mr. Millan

The hon. and learned Member is looking at the wrong amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made: —

Question accordingly negatived.

The Committee divided: Ayes 18, Noes 193.

Division No. 24. AYES [4.56 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Pardoe, John Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Beith, A. J. Penhaligon, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E.)
Crawford, Douglas Reid, George Winterton, Nicholas
Freud, Clement Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Goodhart, Philip Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Mr. Douglas Henderson and
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Thompson, George Mr. Andrew Welsh
MacCormick, Iain
Allaun, Frank George, Bruce Ovenden, John
Anderson, Donald Gilbert, Dr John Park, George
Archer, Peter Ginsburg, David Parry, Robert
Armstrong, Ernest Golding, John Pavitt, Laurie
Ashton, Joe Gould, Bryan Pendry, Tom
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Gourlay, Harry Perry, Ernest
Atkinson, Norman Graham, Ted Prescott, John
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grant, George (Morpeth) Price, William (Rugby)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood) Grant, John (Islington C.) Radice, Giles
Bates, Alf Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Richardson, Miss Jo
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hamling, William Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bidwell, Sydney Hardy, Peter Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Boardman, H. Harper, Joseph Rodgers George (Chorley)
Booth, Albert Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Rodgers, William (Teesside)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Hatton, Frank Rooker, J. W.
Bradley, Tom Hayman, Mrs Helene Roper, John
Broughton, Sir Alfred Heffer, Eric S. Rose, Paul B.
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.) Hooley, Frank Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)
Buchan, Norman Horam, John Rowlands, Ted
Buchanan, Richard Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson) Sandelson, Neville
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Haringey) Huckfield, Leslie Sedgemore, B.
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Selby, Harry
Campbell, Ian Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)
Carter, Ray Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Sillars, James
Cartwright, John Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Silverman, Julius
Clemitson, I. M. Jenkins, Hugh (Wandsworth) Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) John, Brynmor Small, William
Coleman, Donald Johnson, James (Kingston, W.) Smith, John (N. Lanarkshire)
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Snape, Peter
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Barry (East Flint) Spearing, Nigel
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Spriggs, Leslie
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Kaufman, Gerald Stallard, A. W.
Corbett, Robin Kelley, Richard Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)
Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot) Kerr, Russell Stoddart, David
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stott, Roger
Cryer, Bob Kinnock, Neil Strang, Gavin
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh.) Lamond, James Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Dalyell, Tam Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Davidson, Arthur Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Tierney, Sydney
Deakins, Eric Loyden, Eddie Tinn, James
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Luard, Evan Tomlinson, John
Delargy, Hugh Lyon, Alexander (York) Torney, Tom
Dempsey, James Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Tuck, Raphael
Doig, Peter Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Urwin, T. W.
Dormand, Jack McCartney, Hugh Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Duffy, A. E. P. McElhone, Frank Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)
Dunn, James A. Mackintosh, John P. Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.) Ward, Michael
Edge, Geoffrey Madden, Max Wellbeloved, James
Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.) Magee, Bryan White, Frank R. (Bury)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Mahon, Simon White, James (Glasgow P)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Whitehead, Phillip
English, Michael Marks, Ken Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Evans, loan L. (Aberdare) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Evans, John (Newton) Marshall, Jim (Leicester) Wilson, William (Coventry S.E.)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Maynard, Miss Joan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Meacher, Michael Woodall, Alec
Flannery, Martin Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Woof, Robert
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mendelson, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian Young, David (Bolton E.)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Millan, Bruce
Ford, Ben T. Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Forrester, John Murray, Ronald King Miss Betty Boothroyd and
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Newens, Stanley Mr. James Hamilton.
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) O'Halloran, Michael
Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'exploitation' and insert 'extraction'.

The Chairman

With this Amendment we shall take the following amendments:

No. 10, in page 1, line 14, leave out 'exploitation' and insert 'extraction'.

No. 11, in page 1, line 15, at end insert 'save that such exploitation shall not extend to oil refining'. Government Amendment No. 151, and Amendment No. 106, in Clause 19 page 13, line 3, leave out 'exploitation' and insert 'extraction'.

Mr. Fletcher

The amendment again touches the very principle of the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State for Energy talked about the wide powers necessary in the Bill. In describing those wide powers, the Government are using unnecessarily wide words. If I did not know the hon. Member better, I would accuse him of being a "wide" boy.

The word "exploitation" covers a multitude of operations, from oil refining to the largest kind of petrochemical complex. If it remains in the clause, it will extend the powers of the Bill to a variety of onshore activities covering the whole spectrum of oil-related processing and manufacturing activities. Those activities were never envisaged when these measures were first formulated by the Government and those involved in offshore operations.

The use of the word gives the Secretary of State powers outside the requirement to expedite the extraction of North Sea oil, and brings the scope of the Bill into a wider area of industrial planning and operation than is necessary for oil extraction and the development of offshore petroleum. It conjures up the possibility of using the Bill to reproduce in Shetland or somewhere in the North of Scotland a petrochemical complex similar to that at Grangemouth.

It is the question of the scope of the Government's powers and the way in which they propose to use the powers they seek in the Bill that gives cause for concern. The Opposition do not quarrel about the need to expedite the offshore activities, but public confidence is vital, and the over-extension of the limited powers necessary to bring North Sea oil ashore could greatly harm confidence in the Government's intentions in introducing the Bill. Ministers should consider our amendment seriously. They should use terminology that is easily understood, easily denned, and capable of carrying out the purposes for which we were led to believe the Bill was intended.

[Mr. RICHARD CRAWSHAW in the Chair.]

Mr. Millan

We welcome the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) on what I think is his first appearance on the Front Bench, and we congratulate him. I hope that we shall be able to sustain these congratulations to a late hour tonight, when we finish the Committee stage.

If the Bill were drafted in such a way as to import into the clause all the processes that the hon. Gentleman has described, it would go well beyond what is intended. I am advised that it does not go anything like as far as the hon. Gentleman fears. On the other hand, it may go rather further than the Government had intended. But to clarify the matter we have tabled Amendment No. 151, which makes clear that there is nothing in the clause which takes the clause into the realms of refining, and, a fortiori, into the realms of petrochemical activities and the rest. I hope that that will be an assurance to the hon. Gentleman and to the Committee generally that land would not be acquired for refineries under the clause. The amendment makes that absolutely clear.

This will be some reassurance to Shetland County Council, which has certain apprehensions about refinery development which I was able to assure the council were unnecessary in terms of the Bill. When it sees the wording of Amendment No. 151 I hope the position will be absolutely clear. The wording of Amendment No. 151 includes the qualifying phrase: except so far as is necessary for its onward despatch". I should explain what that means in case any undue significance is attached to it. It might mean, for example, the stabilisation of the crude oil by removing some of the associated gas, reducing the pressure, and removing water from the crude. The extent to which these functions must be undertaken at the shore terminal will depend upon what processes have already been undertaken at the platform, where there is likely to have been a certain amount of preliminary treatment, and the method by which the crude oil or gas is to be transmitted forward from the terminal. Where the crude oil is to be transmitted onward by pipeline, for example, pressure may be maintained, and where it is to be loaded on to a tanker it must generally be depressurised. It is clear from these examples that what is in mind here are basically limited operations which will be necessary for the safe and effective handling of the crude oil or gas and will not involve anything like refining or associated activities. Therefore, under Amendment No. 151 refineries are exclusively excluded from Clause 1.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I accept what the Minister has said, but could he not give a little more detail about the scale of operation which would be required? It has been suggested in some quarters that that scale would be considerable. Can he give any detailed description of what this process—that is, an exceptional process— might entail?

Mr. Millan

It is perhaps a little difficult for me to do that, partly because I am dealing with technical matters on which I would not like to pretend a competency to the Committee which I do not possess. But it would vary from one operation to another depending on the scale at which the crude oil was being landed at any particular point.

We are dealing here with very limited operations which do not compare in the least degree with what is understood as refining operations. It is basically a separation and stabilisation process of a limited degree. I am perfectly happy to write to the right hon. Lady before Report stage, perhaps explaining in more detail what might be involved in terms of work and the number of people employed, and I would be happy to give that information to other hon. Members if they so wish.

The qualifying phrase in the Government's amendment is not intended in any way to let in by the side door what we are appearing to be taking out by the rest of the amendment. It is simply necessary to allow certain essential processes to take place, partly for safety reasons.

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation of the amendment, but I am a little surprised that he should feel unable to speak on technical matters and be so diffident about it, because that feeling is not shared by many of his colleagues who find it easy to speak on these matters even though they have an equal lack of knowledge. [Interruption.] I was not referring to the present company on the Government Front Bench.

5.15 p.m.

Could the Minister explain a little further in relation to gas developments the terminology he is using here. At St. Fergus there is to be a gas plant which will take gas ashore from the Frigg field. There are now proposals in the area for an ammonia plant which would use gas as its basis. Can the Minister say whether his amendment would exclude a possible ammonia plant and related developments from the term of the Bill?

Sir John Gilmour

I was interested to hear the Minister mention the fears of Orkney and Shetland, particularly Shetland. I took part in the deliberations on the Zetland County Council Bill, and one of the reasons for which the area around Sullom Voe was delineated was that there might be provision for oil refineries. It was for that reason that some of us engaged in the Committee stage of that Bill thought that it would be better to restrict the area which could be compul-sorily purchased around Sullom Voe, so as not to allow the oil refineries to be sited there.

One query which emerges from Amendment No. 151 is that it includes the phrase shall not include the refining of crude petroleum, except so far as", which gives the inference that there is to be some refining. I thought the Minister said that he wanted treatment to be applied to the petroleum in the interests of safety and to get it posted to the next port of call where it was to be dealt with. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), who moved Amendment No. 4, said that we want to take out the word "exploitation" and provide for necessary treatment in the interests of safety, rather than have the Government amendment which gives the idea that it might be possible to have refining in certain circumstances. Will the Minister look at what he is seeking to do—in good faith, I accept—and consider whether it might not be done more simply, in a slightly different way.

Mr. Grimond

I did not intend to take part in the discussion on this matter but since the situation of refineries in Orkney and Shetland has been mentioned I should like to put forward my views of the present position. The Minister correctly stated what are the virtual certainties of the case. It is virtually certain, or highly likely, that some treatment will have to be given to crude brought ashore on Flotta in Orkney and Sullom Voe in Shetland to enable it to be taken by tanker or other means. I do not say that this is certain, but it is highly likely.

With regard to the question of a refinery, perhaps the Minister will confirm that the Bill does not affect measures already covering Shetland and Orkney, and leaves them exactly as they were. I hope that the Minister will say that the position of these measures in relation to refineries is not altered vis-à-vis Orkney or Shetland in any way.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I unreservedly welcome the spirit of Government Amendment No. 151 because it meets the particular situation and fulfils an undertaking which the hon. Gentleman has given outside the House of Commons.

However, I share the doubts of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) as to whether it puts it as explicitly and clearly as it might, and, therefore, I ask the Minister to look at it again. It seems to me that unscrupulous people could legally drive a coach and horses through it, but I hope that would not happen. I ask the Minister to consider the matter further and to tighten it up if necessary in order to get the spirit of the proposal more fairly reflected than the letter.

However, my main point at present is that the Minister has not dealt with the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher). We feel that by changing the word "exploitation" for "extraction" we perhaps provide a much better way of achieving the restriction in the purposes for which the Bill can be used. The word "exploitation" is extremely wide. It could be used in relation to almost any form of economic activity concerned with the handling of oil through to the refinery stage. We have dealt with the refinery point and are grateful to the Government. However, there are still many other remaining purposes connected with oil. The amendment would confine the Bill to the truly necessary purposes. No one has any doubts about the need for exploration. We all realise that it is to the advantage of this country to expedite the process of exploration.

There are further activities, such as the provision of platforms, shore installations, pipelines and so on, which might be better covered by using the word "extraction". I would like the Minister to explain his objections to the use of this word. There is some concern in Scotland about the use of the word "exploitation". Perhaps the Minister can tell us that we have suggested the right word, or if not, perhaps he can tell us why not.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I wish to express some support for the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) in his plea for the use of the word "extraction" rather than "exploitation". I await any explanation which may be given by the Minister. I also express thanks for Government Amendment No. 151. Subject to satisfactory assurances being given to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) we would be prepared to withdraw our amendment and accept Government Amendment No. 151.

Mr. Millan

To deal with the point about the ammonia plant raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), I can say that that would be excluded by the Bill as drafted. It certainly would be excluded if and when the Government amendment is accepted. The trouble about using the word "extraction" instead of "exploitation" is that it is nowhere near what we are trying to do. It would be quite inconsistent with paragraphs (2)(b) and (c) which are concerned not just with extraction but with the landing of the oil, with pipelines, shore terminals and the rest. The use of the word "extraction" rather than "exploitation", if it means anything at all, would have absolutely no effect on the Bill. It would produce a clause which would be internally inconsistent. We would therefore have the worst of all worlds.

I have given a good deal of thought to the drafting of this clause generally. Without the Government amendment the Bill is by no means absolutely clear. Our amendment is tabled so as to clarify the issue beyond doubt, as far as that is possible. The qualifying phrase in our amendment is necessary, I am advised, because otherwise we would simply cut out developments which everyone would agree were essential. I am willing to look at this again. If there is a neater or clearer way of achieving the Government's intention I will see that it is considered.

There is a good deal of advantage to be gained by putting the Government amendment in as a separate subsection, because it does not come in by implication or as some kind of qualifying phrase. It is in explicit terms. I feel that we have got the wording right, and I hope that the Committee will be willing to rest on that.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

I am grateful for that explanation and am glad that the Minister of State is willing to consider the terminology used. We feel that the word "extraction", with perhaps something added to it, might be more relevant to this clause and to what is being aimed at. In view of the Minister's assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 9, at end insert: 'from the United Kingdom continental shelf'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this we can also discuss Amendment No. 34, in Clause 3, page 3, line 37, leave out 'surrounding Scotland'; Amendment No. 105, in Clause 19, page 12, line 12, at end insert: '"Continental shelf" has the same meaning as in the Continental Shelf Act 1964'; and Amendment No. 144, in Clause 19, page 12, line 35, at end insert: 'within sea areas allotted to Britain for oil exploitation'.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As drafted, this Bill can be used for purposes of offshore oil exploration or exploitation wherever that occurs in the world. Theoretically, if we wanted to use oil produced from a Japanese offshore site it could come to this country and be dealt with by the Government under this measure. I accept that that is a far-fetched example. What we are seeking to do is to ensure that the Bill applies to the exploration and exploitation of offshore oil produced off the coasts of the United Kingdom. The amendment is to make it clear that the Bill refers to oil produced from the United Kingdom Continental Shelf.

Amendment No. 34 relates to the designated sea areas in Clause 3. This is by way of being a probing amendment into the legal validity of the phrase "the sea surrounding Scotland". I would be interested to know whether there is legal precedent for that phrase or whether there is any possibility of disputes arising because of it.

Might there not be cases, particularly in the Solway Firth area, in the Celtic Sea, in St. George's Channel or even in the Minches, when it might be necessary for a rig or platform built in the Clyde to be completed in waters which are not off the coast of Scotland? I have no strong feelings on this but I would welcome the Government's views.

Are we wise to make this legislation apply only to Scotland? Oil is already being sought in the Celtic Sea, off the coast of England, Wales and Ireland. If we want to see such developments going on rapidly, might it not be necessary to introduce a similar Bill for these parts of the United Kingdom? Since a company might want to complete the assembly of a rig or a platform in waters not surrounding Scotland, might not the lack of legislation covering the rest of the United Kingdom prove a hindrance? I do not think that we shall vote on that aspect, but, as we are considering geographical matters which are not wholly connected with the amendment, I hope that the Government will help us by giving us their thinking on that matter.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Grimond

I have an amendment on the Notice Paper with exactly the same purpose as Amendment No. 5; that is to say, to limit the application of Clause 1 to offshore petroleum around Britain. I can see that there are arguments against it. There is every possible advantage to Scotland in producing works for the exploitation of petroleum elsewhere, but we are taking wide powers over all land in Scotland, and the people of Scotland would be surprised if the powers were used not for their benefit but for the benefit of a foreign operation.

We are told that one reason for pressing on with the Bill is that it will make a significant contribution to our balance of payments. I should like to think that the Bill will be used primarily for the purpose of exploiting petroleum in and around our own seas. I sympathise with the view that the Bill should be a United Kingdom Bill, and I find the Government's arguments against it unconvincing. The Government have deliberately drawn the Bill in such a way that it applies to every conceivable form of activity, not just to rig-building sites. It is just as likely that those activities might be carried on on the Humber or the Tyne as on the Forth or the Tay.

Mr. John Smith

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) have raised wide questions about the application of the Bill. I do not know how far it will be possible for us to have a long debate on this subject because it is outwith the terms of the Bill, the House having given a Second Reading to a Bill which is confined to Scotland.

The only conceivable use for the Bill in the immediate future is in relation to Scotland because the deep waters which are required are unique in the United Kingdom to Scotland.

Associated with Amendment No. 5 is Amendment No. 105, which amends the definition clause and defines the Continental Shelf as having the meaning given to it in the Continental Shelf Act 1964, but the Continental Shelf is not defined in the Continental Shelf Act 1964. That is not a point of great substance and I do not use it against the hon. Gentleman, but his argument takes us in a circle.

The major argument is whether we should circumscribe the activities which can be carried out under the Bill to off- shore petroleum from United Kingdom waters. We must go back to the purpose for which the sites are being made available, which is particularly for the construction of concrete platforms. The purpose is to facilitate the exploitation of United Kingdom oil resources, but it is behind our thinking that British-based industry will benefit from the opportunity to get a secure foothold in the lucrative international oil market. The exploitation of offshore oil will develop not only in United Kingdom waters but around the world. Firms which are given access to sites under the Bill may wish to tender for orders in, for example, the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. McAlpine is building at Ardyne a concrete treatment platform for the Frigg gas field. It would be undesirable to prevent British firms which were given sites under the terms of the Bill from tendering for orders from abroad.

The provision of offshore supply equipment is not restricted to the United Kingdom sector only. It would be difficult to say "No" to a contractor who had several contracts but at the time of the site acquisition had only a foreign contract.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he moved the amendment, and I hope that the reasons I have given are sufficiently compelling to make him reconsider whether he should proceed with it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I entirely accept what the Minister said about firms which are building platforms in Scotland being given the opportunity to tender and build platforms for offshore drilling elsewhere than in Scottish waters. I am more concerned about the question—which he did not answer—of the landing of oil from other fields. Suppose a tanker containing offshore oil from the China Sea came to these shores. Could the procedures be used by a landing terminal in Scotland?

Mr. John Smith

I am sorry that I did not reply to that question. Neither did I reply to the hon. Gentleman's comments on Amendment No. 34, but I will do so now.

In reply to the question which the hon. Gentleman has just asked, that is a matter which we should have to keep under constant review. Any installation that wanted to take in Norwegian oil, for example, would have to get planning permission in the first instance, and the matter could be evaluated at that stage. It is not possible to say that we want to land oil only from the British sector. As Britain and Norway operate on different sides of the median line, Norwegian gas will be coming ashore, in any event from the Frigg field. We shall keep this matter under review and there will be the safeguard of planning permission.

The hon. Gentleman in speaking to Amendment No. 34 raised the question of definition. There is ample precedent for the definition in the Fishery Limits Act 1964. The hon. Gentleman also asked about rigs which are completed elsewhere. That is a possibility. Different stages of fabrication might be done at different places. Whether it is necessary to have a compulsory purchase order in England to facilitate the last stage of construction is another question. We hope that a great deal of the work can be done in Scotland but, if necessary, some will have to be done in Teesside or elsewhere. We have already said that the Government's view is that the Bill is limited to Scotland.

Mr. Russell Fairgrieve (Aberdeenshire, West)

The Minister mentioned the Continental Shelf Act, which derived from the treaty, which in turn derived from the Geneva Convention of 1954. It is a pity that we did not in those days realise what might lie under our seas. We agreed to a median line between ourselves and Norway, but if we were to ask geologists who have studied the sea bed in that area, they would probably say that the amendment should read "That portion of the Continental Shelf that we did not concede gratuitously to Norway."

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for those assurances, and I accept his explanations. In some of his explanations he emphasised the precise difficulties I mentioned. For example, he said that one reason for restricting the Bill to Scotland was the suitability of the deep-water areas As the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said, it is extraordinary how technology apparently changes as the availability of sites changes. Whenever that happens, firms are prepared to adapt their technology. Therefore, although deep water is an asset, it is obvious that technology can overcome the difficulties at a site where deep water is not available. This weakens the arguments about the importance of deep water and any necessity for the Bill to apply only to Scotland because of the availability of deep water there. It is quite possible that some of the platforms could be built in much shallower water.

The Minister said that he hopes to see landings of oil in Scotland. This begs the question in terms of the odd case which may arise where oil is found in waters surrounding Scotland which for one reason or another could be landed by pipeline elsewhere in the United Kingdom. In that case the purpose of the Bill is to some extent lost. This underlines the point that it might have been more sensible had the Bill embraced the whole of the United Kingdom rather than taking in Scotland only. I do not intend to pursue the amendment any further, but I am grateful for the assurances we have been given.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to the comments made by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve), I should like to inform the Committee that it appears to be creeping into myth that in the early 1960s we should have foreseen all sorts of things—for example, median lines. The Committee stage of the Continental Shelf Bill in 1964 was the first Committee stage in which I participated, and I can inform the Committee that questions of this nature were asked. The answer we were given was that we were dealing not with oil but with an extension of the Dutch natural gas field. What is obvious to us now was not quite so obvious in earlier years. Hindsight is a marvellous property, but technical opinions in earlier days were different from what we now conceive to be the truth.

Amendment negatived.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Grimond

I beg to move Amendment No. 135, in Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert ' subject to planning permission having already been granted.'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this amendment, I hope it will be convenient to take Amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 9, at end insert: '(2) Only land for which planning permission for development has already been granted may be so acquired'. Amendment No. 30, in page 2, line 26, at end add: '(7) No operations shall take place on land acquired under this Act unless planning consent for such operations shall first have been granted'. Amendment No. 95, in Clause 11, page 9, line 34, at end insert: 'and only land for which planning permission for development has already been granted may be so appropriated'. and new Clause 3, "Saving for local planning policies".

Mr. Grimond

A great deal of attention was paid on Second Reading to the point with which Amendment No. 135 seeks to deal. It is agreed on all sides of the Committee that this is one of the most fundamental points in the Bill. The point relates to the fact that nothing in the Bill should exclude the need for planning permission. The Minister of State, Scottish Office said on Second Reading: I should like to clear up the matter quickly. The fact is that the acquisition will not take place until planning permission has been granted Later in the debate the Under-Secretary of State for Energy said: Let me make it crystal clear that the Government have no intention of seeking to bring into public ownership through the compulsory acquisition powers in the Bill any site for which planning permission has not been granted. Planning permission will be the sine qua non for the operation of the Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1227.] In view of that statement, I take it that the Government will this afternoon give some words of encouragement to me and to others who are interested in this matter. We are concerned at what is in the Bill rather than with Government promises. We have an obligation to make this Bill as simple and as clear as possible. I certainly do not think that it is clear to a layman who reads the Bill that all these provisions are subject to planning permission. Many people will take the view that we are giving compulsory power to the Government under an expedited procedure by which they can override planning powers. But that is not the case. Therefore, I am a little surprised that the Government have not tabled an amendment on this important point.

I have also tabled new Clause 3, which deals explicitly with the powers of the Secretary of State in authorising or undertaking works when initially he was to be concerned primarily with the acquisition of land. It seems abundantly clear that planning permission has to be obtained before any compulsory purchase can be carried out and also before the expedited procedure can be brought into effect where appropriate.

Planning permission depends on the elaborate plans which local authorities have prepared. I hope and believe that the Government have no intention in a general way to override the plans approved by local authorities and by the Secretary of State. At present the Minister can call in planning applications. It may be said that in some ways this would enable him to override the protection of planning permission as envisaged by the Government spokesmen in their statements on Second Reading. Therefore, we must take it that the Government do not intend to use their powers of calling in planning procedures to get round anything which was read on Second Reading.

I should like to call attention to a further statement made by the Secretary of State for Energy in column 1228 in dealing with the position of the Crown as a developer. He said that the Bill basically dealt with developments by private developers and went on to say: If the Crown takes over the land and leases it to a contractor, as is the Government's intention, that contractor as the developer, will require planning permission. Only in the highly unusual and unlikely situation of the Crown going into the construction platform business would the problem raised by the hon. Gentleman arise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1228.] New Clause 3 is aimed at that "unlikely situation". I hope that I shall be given the assurance that the Government do not intend to go into that business and that they can accept the spirit of new Clause 3, if not its wording.

It is a grave shortcoming that at present planning procedures do not extend to the sea. I have raised this matter on previous occasions, and it is a pity that we have never been able to tackle this point. I believe it is clear that the Government do not intend to override planning procedures, but I should like this matter to be written into the Bill in simple terms. I can see no objection to this course.

I come finally to the specific case of Shetland and Orkney. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that nothing in the Bill is intended to override the Orkney or Zetland County Council Act. I trust that he will be able to confirm that it is not intended to interfere with the planned developments at Sullom Voe. These developments are now going ahead under the Shetland legislation, which took a long time to get through this House. It would be disturbing both for the local authority and for the companies concerned if, having come to agreement between themselves, there were any suspicion that they would have to reopen the whole matter because the Secretary of State was stepping in.

Therefore, in addition to the general assurances which were given on Second Reading, I should like to see that assurance written into the Bill. I trust that the Minister will be able to say something about the purpose of new Clause 3 and about the Government's intentions towards developments in Sullom Voe in connection with the Shetland legislation.

Mr. Millan

I think it will help the Committee if I intervene now, because we might avoid a number of questions that hon. Members will otherwise raise.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) referred to the position regarding Orkney and Shetland. I should like to put on record the assurances that I have already given to representatives of Shetland County Council who came to see me.

It is not true that the Bill does not override the Shetland and Orkney Act because, in the nature of things, general legislation of this kind, when it is inconsistent with local legislation, overrides that local legislation. I was asked by the Shetland County Council—the Orkney County Council may take the same view —whether it could be completely excluded from the Bill. I said that that would be completely unprecedented and quite objectionable in principle. However, on the practicalities of the situation. I gave an assurance, which I am happy to repeat, that the Government do not intend to use the powers in the Bill to interfere in sites and developments where at present satisfactory arrangements have been worked out, particularly on the basis of legislation taken by the authorities concerned. Therefore, the Government have no intention of interfering in the Sullom Voe developments in Shetland or the developments in Orkney arising from the Orkney legislation. I put that in specific terms.

One point that confuses many people concerns the call-in procedure. It is not true that the call-in procedure that the Secretary of State can use in a number of different areas overrides the normal planning procedures. It is a particular procedure, but it does not override normal planning procedures, rights of objection, and so on. For example, although the Secretary of State called in the Portkil application on the Clyde for oil production platform construction, that has now gone to a public inquiry that has recently opened.

I now turn to the main point about this series of amendments. On Second Reading I made it clear on numerous occasions, but perhaps largely unavail-ingly, that the planning procedures are not affected by the Bill. If they had been affected, it would have been necessary to write something into the Bill. Nevertheless, there has been considerable apprehension about this matter which I want to set at rest.

The statutory position is that, since the Bill says nothing about planning, all the provisions of the planning Act remain effective. However, there is a fear that the Crown might acquire land and undertake development, thereby avoiding the constraints of the planning Act by virtue of Crown exemption. These fears are also groundless. Developments of the kind with which the Bill is concerned will be undertaken by private developers in normal circumstances, and normal planning permissions will be needed. If Crown development of Crown land were to take place, the practice, which has been the practice of successive Governments, would be continued of applying procedures similar to those applying to normal planning applications. Therefore, the position would be protected.

I recognise that it would help the Committee generally and people outside who are interested in the matter if there were something in the Bill to that effect. I should have been happy to produce such an amendment today, but, because in a sense it is unnecessary, it is a difficult amendment to draft. We are finding considerable difficulty in getting the drafting absolutely right for what we intend for this stage of the Bill. However, I give a commitment that we will draft a suitable amendment before Report. I should be happy, if we have an interval, as seems likely now, between now and Report, to allow the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, the Leader of the Scottish National Party the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and those of my hon. Friends who are interested to have a sight of the amendment when we put it down with a note explaining why we are putting it down in the terms in which it will be drafted. I should like to remove the difficulty and apprehension which may be felt by hon. Members.

I hope that with that assurance we shall not need to pursue this matter and that the Committee will be willing to wait until the Government have tabled their amendment. Obviously, if it is unsatisfactory or if hon. Members think that we have got the wording wrong—it is a very difficult drafting matter—they will be free on Report or in another place to suggest what they feel should be the appropriate wording.

I assure the Committee that we shall table an amendment before Report. I hope that, with that assurance, and as the rights of subsequent discussion are in no way prejudiced, we can pass reasonably quickly from this series of amendments.

Mr. Rifkind

I think that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will be grateful to the Minister for the assurance that he has given. It will certainly enable me to make my remarks much briefer.

It is clear that the revelation on Second Reading that the Government did not intend to exercise these powers, except if planning permission had been granted, came as a great surprise to hon. Members not only on this side but on the Government side, as I am sure the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) will confirm.

The Minister has made an important concession. I should like to place on record our reason for seeing such an amendment put into the Bill. It does not arise from any uncharitable view about the Government's integrity, but, without such an amendment, two difficult problems could arise.

First, it is clear that a subsequent Minister or Government might not take the same view as a matter of general policy.

Secondly, the courts have made it clear on many occasions that they are concerned not with Government or parliamentary intention but with the terms of the Bill. If the Bill were to go on the statute book in its present form, irrespective of the Government's intention, this assurance would have no legal force.

The Government have sought to indicate that the amendment that hon. Members of all Opposition parties wish to achieve is unnecessary. They claim that it would not profit them not to get planning permission first, because, except in the unlikely circumstances of the Government wishing to carry out their own development, planning permission would still be necessary. I concede that point, but suggest that that is not a satisfactory defence. Although planning permission and an inquiry might still be necessary, if the Government used their compulsory purchase powers in the first instance it would be a different form of inquiry, because the man who had had his land acquired by compulsory purchase would presumably no longer be a valid objector and would have no opportunity to put forward objections to the planning permission that the Government or some private developer had in mind.

Secondly, it would be a different matter for the Secretary of State, as final planning authority, to exercise his discretion over land already owned by the Government as opposed to land owned by a private individual.

So although the Government might still have to ensure that planning permission was obtained, even if they had already acquired ownership of the land, this would not be much protection to many of those who are vitally concerned in ensuring that a full and proper discussion of the objectives of those requiring planning permission shall be properly obtained.

I welcome the Minister's assurance. We have always believed that some amendment was both possible and necessary. It is good to see the Government now taking the same view.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

When the Minister clarified this confusing problem, did he mean that in no circumstances would the Government acquire land compulsorily first and then seek to change the planning permission? Or is he saying that if they do acquire land they will nevertheless seek planning permission afterwards and go through the appropriate processes? If so, the interests involved are different. If one's land has already gone, one's objections to what it is used for are different from the situation if one still holds the land and worries about what will happen to it.

This is the nub of the Bill. It is an expedited procedure Bill. I agree with the Government that we want to speed up the acquisition of sites, and I should like better protection of people's rights. Does the Minister intend to have planning inquiries in every case, whether the land is Government owned or privately owned, before any change of planning? To what extent will this expedite the process? That is what puzzles me. What shall we gain as a result?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have great sympathy with the last remarks of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). Perhaps we can return to this when we discuss the question "That the clause stand part of the Bill". On Second Reading we elicited from the Government the fact that they would go through full planning procedures in advance of acquiring the land. One begins to ask what will be expedited at the end of the day. But perhaps we can return to that.

I welcome the Minister's assurance, and we look forward to hearing in what form of words he will frame his amendment. If he can give us a sight of his proposals before Report, it would help us to form an opinion. As we shall be able to debate the matter then, I would advise my hon. Friends not to press our amendments.

Mr. Grimond

I am grateful to the Minister, and, in view of his assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

We are glad that the Minister has made his statement at the beginning of the debate. What concerned me was what sort of planning control and public participation there would be. I wondered how many planning applications would necessarily be called in and whether the Minister, through no fault of his own, would be wearing two hats—as the acquiring Minister and as the planning Minister. If it is necessary in the commercial interest or the national interest to take over a particular area, there is an equal needs to safeguard the planning requirements.

This whole case was shown up in the recent business of Howard Davis at Kishorn, as reported in an article in the Glasgow Herald, which showed that this was an instance in which difficulties were experienced after planning consent had been given by the Government. The difficulty has been to get the developers to keep to the terms of the planning consent. Perhaps we can return to that aspect when we discuss the penalties to be inflicted on developers to ensure that they keep to the terms of their licences.

Mr. Millan

When everyone is so agreeable, I hesitate to point out that neither of the amendments is any use for the job that they are trying to do. However, in case there is any lingering feeling that they are, in case we do not produce an acceptable amendment I must say that I would not recommend hon. Members to table either of these again. They are technically deficient, for reasons that I will not go into now. It will be difficult, I admit, to get an acceptable amendment.

To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), in the first instance planning permission will be obtained before acquisition, but subsequently the concern of some people is that, the activity having carried on for a certain period and then ceased, to be replaced by an alternative activity on the same site, the situation would then be of development on a site which had been earlier compulsorily acquired. It is in that situation as well that we want to ensure that we do not abrogate the normal planning procedures. In other words, we want to cover every eventuality. That is what makes this task difficult.

Amendment negatived.

Sir John Gilmour

I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 1, line 13, leave out 'or other installations'.

The Temporary Chairman

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 12, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'or associated apparatus', and Amendment No. 13, in page 1, line 19, leave out paragraph (c).

Sir John Gilmour

The phrase "other installations" in this subsection seems to give a much wider application than is necessary. One can understand that when it comes to acquiring sites which are desirable because of deep water or other circumstances there may be a need for special powers, but "other installations" appears to cover a multitude of possible sins. I hope that we can have some explanation of what this means.

I was out in the North Sea during the Summer Recess and saw, for instance, the single mooring buoy in the Auk field. That type of installation does not need to be constructed on a site for which compulsory powers are necessary. A great deal of the work in tying up oil flow lines, and so on, is done with midget submarines and diving bells, and future exploration will be done by such things as drill ships, all of which can be constructed in existing yards. I do not see the reason for this wide drafting and I hope that the Minister can tell us what he thinks will be covered by these words.

Mr. John Smith

I understand the reason for the amendment, which I take it from the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) is a probing amendment. The reference to "other installations" is designed to take account of future technological developments such as undersea production installations and also such exploration facilities as drill ships, which are not covered by the term "platform".

The immediate purpose for which this paragraph is likely to be used is the acquisition of sites for the construction and assembly of production platforms. Sub-sea completion systems are unlikely to offer a substitute for platforms until at least the 1980s, but in the Government's view it is appropriate that the Bill should cater not only for today's problems in this field but for tomorrow's. In an area of developing technology there is some merit in allowing flexibility in this drafting. If the hon. Member is satisfied with that explanation, perhaps he will consider withdrawing the amendment.

Sir John Gilmour

I am slightly mystified by the Minister's mention of such things as drill ships, because that is exactly the sort of thing that is being constructed in the established shipyards and which we do not wish to be constructed in a specially contrived new installation. However, leaving that matter aside, I am satisfied with the rest of the hon. Gentleman's explanation.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Fairnbairn

I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in Clause 1, page 2, line 1, leave out 'housing'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this we are to take Amendments Nos. 136, in page 2, line 1, leave out from 'housing' to 'or'.

No. 15, in page 2, line 1, leave out 'sources of material' and insert:

'schools, clinics, health centres, community centres, sports grounds, recreational facilities '. No. 16, in page 2, line 1, leave out 'sources of material'.

No. 17, page 2, line 1, leave out 'or other services or facilities'.

No. 19, in page 2, line 4, leave out from 'above' to end of line 5.

And No. 20, in page 2, line 5, at end insert: 'or improvement of communities affected by such development or use of land'.

Mr. Fairbairn

The other amendments remove the remainder of the clause.

As we have already said, this is a very widely drawn Bill, allegedly taking special powers for special purposes for a special reason. If one reads in combination the beginning of subsection (2): The purposes mentioned in subsection (1) above include in particular the provision … of one finds that it is not an exclusive or a restrictive clause. We do not object to "means of access" but the words "housing, sources of material "which can be quarries, can mean anything. The phrase "or other services" can mean any form of service. It can mean electrical services, shopping services or educational services or facilities. In other words, that section means anything required for the development or use of land … or for meeting the needs of persons employed or to be employed in connection with any such purpose. That means anything.

It is perhaps relevant that someone who represents a constituency which has no shoreline should be concerned with this provision, which, as I understand it, is in a Bill which is allegedly concerned with maritime developments. But there is no activity or service required which is excluded, not just for a man on the site but for an man off the site providing a service for a man on the site. In other words, under the clause as it stands, the Secretary of State may acquire any part of Scotland, wherever that part is situated, or the whole of Scotland, for any reason. That is what the clause covers.

It seems that if it were to be construed by a court of law, the ejusdem generis rule could never apply, because it covers everything. If we leave the clause as it stands, what it is saying is that the Secretary of State may require any land for any purpose which satisfies any human need for anyone working on the exploration or exploitation of offshore petroleum. It is for that reasons that I move the amendment.

[Mr. JOHN WELLS in the Chair] 6.15 p.m.

Mr. Grimond

I, too, have tabled an amendment—Amendment No. 136—designed to achieve the same end. I shall not repeat the arguments about the wide nature of the Bill. We have heard them often today. Nevertheless, they are true. What worries me slightly is that, as I understand it, the accelerated procedure can be used for the benefit of private companies by the Secretary of State. There is no doubt that in Shetland the creation of the infrastructure necessary for oil is extremely important and urgent, and it is not receiving the attention it deserves. The Shetland roads are in a deplorable state through heavy traffic. As far as I can see, this subsection will not contribute anything to remedying that matter or help the local authorities in any way.

That being so, I should have thought that Parliament should not include housing without some sort of restriction on it. Nor, I should have thought, should Parliament include "sources of material", which might include anything. Regarding sources of material, the conservation associations are very worried because they can see that under this provision quarries of all sorts might be opened up, with grave damage to the landscape, and that these would not necessarily be of benefit to the local people. They may be opened up purely for the convenience of commercial companies which the Secretary of State wishes to further, no doubt for good reason.

I may have misunderstood the effect of this clause but I should like some explanation of what it will mean in practice. I believe that while it is an extremely serious matter in Shetland— and will become so in Orkney—to provide the infrastructure for oil, this is not really what the clause is doing. It will not assist the local authorities, and I have grave doubts whether it is necessary in this very wide form.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I have only one very brief point to make in connection with the proposal to take out housing. We must remember that on the coast most likely to be affected—the east coast —there are many extremely picturesque houses, some of which are very small. They have had help from the National Trust and the Historic Buildings Council, which have built up these conservation areas with considerable difficulty. The associations primarily concerned with preservation are very worried because they want to know that the area which they have preserved will be maintained. Perhaps we should have a special comment about housing areas which fall into that category.

Mr. Millan rose

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I was concerned with one of the amendments, but if the Minister of State wishes to reply to the other contributors to the debate, I shall be happy to leave it to him at this stage.

Mr. Millan

I am not too anxious to make a number of speeches, if I may reply to all the points at once.

The purpose of drawing subsection (d) in this wide form is that one of the worries of local authorities, as well as others, about major oil-related developments is that, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, (Mr. Grimond) very fairly said, insufficient attention is given to infrastructure in the widest sense. That includes means of access by road, and so on, to the sites. It includes the housing of the people concerned, questions of where the materials come from, and the rest.

It seems that if one is to have an expedited acquisition procedure and to use that procedure for the basic site— and this paragraph is really ancillary to what will happen under the rest of the subsection—it would be quite remiss of us and would be doing a disservice to the local authorities and communities if we did not include these provisions as; well. That is because we should then gel: the anomalous situation that we could use an expedited acquisition order to get the land for the construction site, for example, but we might find that we could not then get the necessary land for the housing of workers going there or of the local people who would be working there, or the land for the other facilities or for proper access. There would be inconvenience, disturbance and dislocation for the local community and the rest.

Therefore, if we have the principle of expedited acquisition, which the Government are obviously anxious should be maintained in the Bill, it must include these items as well if we are not to produce solutions about which the local authorities and local communities would be very distressed.

In dealing with this, one has to provide a definition which is expressed in wide terms—although I do not see anything in the amendments tabled so far which would restrict that definition in an acceptable way without taking out important elements in the definition, which I think must remain in the Bill. If an amendment were tabled in a way that covered all the essential needs of the paragraph but, perhaps, cut out possible excrescences, I should naturally be willing to look at it. But, with respect, such an amendment has not appeared on the Order Paper so far. Therefore, I must advise the Committee against accepting the first group of amendments, namely, Nos. 41, 36, 16, 17 and 20.

I should mention the sources of material point. I understand that although people are generally in favour of housing, they are not so much in favour of quarries, and so on. In any event, planning permission would have to be obtained. Nothing can override planning permission.

Fears were expressed concerning conservation areas. They would be protected by the planning procedure. We are now speaking of the compulsory acquisition of land once the planning procedure has been gone through.

Two other amendments have been tabled by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and his hon. Friends which seek to insert items rather than to take them out of paragraph (d). They propose to add references to schools, clinics and health centres. This is where we have to draw a dividing line. I accept that it is necessary, when building up a new community, that schools, clinics and health centres should be provided. I do not believe that in these circumstances, and in relation to expedited acquisition, there is likely to be the same degree of urgency for these community facilities. I believe that we can obtain the necessary facilities provided for these services without specifying them here and without necessarily going through the expedited acquisition procedure.

I am willing to look at this matter again, although I do not recommend the acceptance of these amendments, since they are unnecessary. We are dealing with some of them on a different time scale. I am not saying that it is not important to build up a proper community. That is what is happening. It is necessary to get on with the job of providing schools, clinics, and so on. I know that the problem was a very important consideration in the minds of members of the Shetland County Council in relation to Sullom Voe.

We believe that the balance in paragraph (d) is about right. On the one hand, we are attacked for making it too wide—the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) suggested that schools and so on are already included, whether we mentioned them or not—and on the other, we are told that we should include even more specific matters. We believe we have achieved about the right balance, but I am willing to look at the matter again. If I feel there is anything that needs to be added to the Bill, I shall consider it before Report.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

What the Minister has said is of great interest, particularly in relation to Amendment No. 16, dealing with sources of material. I hope that his undertaking to look again at this part of the Bill includes the consideration of sources of materials. The powers granted in the Bill so far appear to justify the expedited compulsory acquisition of such matters as limestone quarries, sand and gravel reserves, fluorspar reserves for steelmaking, and many other minerals.

The fear has been expressed that such powers could cover most of the minerals in Scotland. I hope the Minister will include Amendment No. 16 in his undertaking to look again at the latter part of this group of amendments.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to look again at Amendments Nos. 15 and 20. I expected a great deal of sympathy from Government supporters on this matter.

Paragraph (d) says that the facilities will be provided generally for meeting the needs of persons employed or to be employed in connection with any such purpose. It must be conceded, first, that when we are about to engage in an area which previously might not have experienced much industrial activity, the fact of bringing in large construction works will change the nature and character of the communities concerned. It is in the interests of such developments that good quality housing be made available for the workers coming to the area. From that point of view, the clause as at present drafted would meet the demand.

However, we must think of the community as a whole. One of the tragedies of modern Scotland is that many housing developments leading to large housing estates have had the facilities necessary to community life brought in at a later date. Recently, some local authorities have found it necessary to introduce the clinics, the leisure centres, and other facilities, in a desperate effort to commence community efforts. I have in mind especially the existing large urban housing schemes.

This problem is not solely related to the industrial areas as we know them. The amendment is particularly relevant, because the Bill does not deal with those areas, either. The Bill largely applies to Ross-shire. An example may be found, for instance, in the development of Alness, because of the rapid development of that part of the country, which is related partly to oil development and partly to the aluminium smelter. I am informed by people on the spot that there is a lack of facilities in that new housing area.

The object of the amendments is to highlight two needs. The first is to provide the necessary back-up facilities to community living for all those who may live in a given area. The second is that some attention should be paid to the communities as well, in relation not only to incoming labour, important as it is to fit in, but to the needs of the community as it was, and as it will change and develop as a result of the oil activity which may be expected in terms of this Bill.

It is for those reasons that we have tabled these two amendments. Instead of carping at the very wide applications of the Bill, we are, in a sense, seeking in this instance to increase the application of the Bill to provide facilities. If the hint which has been given to the Minister about the need for social, recreational and health facilities is acceptable, part of the purpose of the amendment will have been achieved.

Having accepted the assurance given by the Minister, we could perhaps leave the amendments to another time. I hope that the Minister will find it possible to produce a specific provision to meet the points which have been made.

Finally, I turn my attention to the sources of materials. This was one of the items in the Bill which immediately met the eye of any hon. Member who consulted it in detail, because of its very wide application.

I noted a case mentioned in an edition of the Glasgow Herald, which is pursuing some sort of inquisitorial examination of the Kishorn developments. Reference was made to what was quoted in the newspaper as "a disturbing sidelight" on the Howard Doris activities. It refers to an application submitted for planning consent in relation to a quarry site to supply aggregate, some indication having been given to a local contractor, Coastal Concrete Limited, to withdraw a similar application on the suggestion that it might subsequently be able to apply for and get the benefit of the contract to supply aggregate for the business concerned. It appears, however, that Howard Doris has applied to quarry the same aggregate on its own. If this sort of arrangement is happening now under the existing regulations relating to planning, married to the proposals for expedited acquisition on the part of the Government, it may help to strengthen the hand of the developer at the expense of the local business man or the local construction firms.

I hope that the Minister will give consideration to preventing some form of abuse either by altering the Bill in some way or, alternatively, by considering the inclusion of some form of principle in the licence which will ultimately be issued to each such development.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Millan

Dealing with that last point, it is not for me to go into the merits of the Kishorn case, but what is at issue there is that there are allegations that some of the planning conditions have been broken by the developer. However, the importance of the case is that it demonstrates that the planning procedures allow planning permissions to be granted with a series of conditions attached to them. In the Kishorn case, the conditions were partly those of the local authority and partly those which were added by the Secretary of State when he gave his permission to the development. That is all covered under the planning legislation at the moment, and there is no need to underwrite that by inserting other provisions in the Bill.

All that we are concerned with is whether the activity concerned is one which should appear in subsection (2) and, therefore, potentially attract the expedited acquisition procedure contained in subsection (4) and beyond. I have given reasons why it is important that we should do that. We want to get a balanced development and not simply the quick development of one part of the project which is of interest from the developer's point of view, leaving that part designed for the protection of the local community to come much later. We want development in a co-ordinated way, for the benefit of the community as well as that of the developer. That is why the Bill is drafted as it is.

I hope that my explanations have been generally reassuring to the Committee.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am obliged to the Minister for his kindly assurance that he believes that the draftsmanship has achieved judgment and balance. I hope only that its application will achieve the same judgment and balance.

The hon. Gentleman's assurance that the draftsmanship means what he says it means leaves me still with some concern. Although I accept that it is difficult to draft a clause which gets it right, I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's assurance that he will try to improve on the clause before Report.

Subject to the possibility of my wishing to raise the matter on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 18, in page 2, line 3, leave out 'subsection (1) above' and insert 'this subsection'.

No. 151, in line 5, at end insert: '( ) The purposes for which land may be acquired under this Act shall not include the refining of crude petroleum, except so far as is necessary for its onward despatch.'.—[Mr. Millan.]

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to move Amendment No. 21, in page 2, line 5, at end, insert: '(e) sites or rights for alternative public rights of way or other public rights mentioned in section 2(5) of this Act'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this Amendment we are to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 32, in Clause 2, page 3, line 29, at end insert: 'but shall in exercise of this power be required where reasonably practicable to furnish rights alternative to those affected by such order of extinguishment'. Amendment No. 33, in page 3, line 29, at end add: '(6) Before extinguishment of any public right of way the Secretary of State shall provide an alternative right of way'.

Mr. Wilson

The interesting point which may arise out of this amendment is a practical one to local communities which have relied upon public rights of way or rights of access to the foreshore. If the Secretary of State considers that such a right should be abrogated to help with a development, it may give rise to considerable difficulty to the public in a given community.

It would not be helpful to give a specific example, but hon. Members can imagine that if public rights of way were removed—I refer to rights of way being exercised and not to those of marginal recreational use—there could be difficulty.

The amendment is designed to cause the Secretary of State to be under some form of duty, wherever practicable, to provide a form of alternative access, and to enable him to acquire rights or ground in order to fulfil the desire of the local community.

Such an amendment could be of help to the Secretary of State. It might cause him to doubt the wisdom of interfering with a public right of way knowing that it would cause inconvenience to the local community. Given a power under the Bill to acquire speedily some additional rights which might take its place, he might find the situation improved to the advantage of all concerned.

I shall be interested to know the Minister's attitude to the amendment.

Mr. Gray

I support this amendment. The Minister may not be aware that rights of way are almost a way of life in the Highlands. We take them very seriously. Many legal cases have been fought about them, and they have been a lucrative source of income to lawyers, who for many years have been disputing rights of way in various parts of the country.

If it is necessary to close a right of way every endeavour should be made to provide some alternative. Many rights of way are used by people daily and not just occasionally. Their use results in savings in time and travel for people in remote areas. Since most of our oil developments and related developments take place in remote areas, because they are normally nearer the deep water which is so valuable, the rural parts of the country are likely to be affected most.

I do not suggest that the Minister takes this view, but very often when we deal with legislation of this kind we are apt to overlook the fact that although perhaps relatively few people are affected by a right of way those people have exactly the same rights as everyone else in the country. We are most anxious to ensure that these rights are not interfered with in any way. We hope that the Minister will consider the possibility of not interfering with them at all, but if it is essential to do so he ought to try to provide some alternative to them.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dunfries)

When the Minister comes to discuss rights of way in relation to an order, I hope that he will have gone over the issue at the planning stage. Consultations beforehand might save considerable legislation later on, quite apart from numbers of court cases involving civil actions about rights of way.

The hon. Gentleman may well know that in my constituency over the past year there has been a particular problem of this very kind—the extinguishment of a right of way, and building proceeding before all the objections had been clarified. Counsel's opinion in such cases can be very expensive. I would like to be counsel when I have to give an opinion on rights of way, as the fees they charge can be very high, and the proceedings can drag on and on for a long time. I hope the Minister will clarify at what stage consultation will take place over rights of way, the point put forward by my hon. Friend, particularly in relation to crofters and farmers, who have many such rights, and to landowners themselves.

Amendment No. 33 which is tied with the other two amendments, is to insert a subsection to follow subsection (5), which reads: The Secretary of State may by order extinguish any public rights of way or other public rights. … I want the hon. Gentleman to be quite clear about wildfowling on the foreshore, a pastime enjoyed by many people in Scotland. What is the exact position now? Is the Secretary of State to be able to say, "We are going to have no more wild-fowling because an oil rig is being built in the vicinity"? What are the rights on the foreshore above and below high water? Will the Minister in winding up make clear exactly where we stand in relation to wildfowling rights and wildfowl shooting on the foreshore and what position of the tide he is going to talk about? This may sound of minor importance in relation to the subject with which we are dealing, but if it is not cleared up now it may cause endless difficulties later on.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

Under this amendment I would ask the Minister to give some thought to common rights which are numerous in the Highlands and Islands. I refer particularly to grazings which may extend to the sea, and the right of crofters to cut peat in those areas, and the right of crofters and others to collect seaweed and have access to the beach and so on. If under the Bill these rights are to be denied in specific areas I hope the Minister will give an assurance that an amendment will provide for these to be replaced elsewhere.

Mr. Henderson

I intervene, if only briefly, because in my constituency we have already had an example of an abridgement of a right there as a result of oil development. The Minister will be aware that Peterhead Bay was acquired by the Secretary of State under the Peter-head Bay Management Act and the Peterhead Bay management committee appointed by the Secretary of State now controls the operations within the bay although not in the fishing harbour. Traditionally, it has been the right of people in Peterhead to go to the end of the breakwater in their cars and enjoy the bracing air, as the Minister would be welcome to do should he come to Peterhead at any time on a pleasant afternoon. The people are now prohibited from doing so by a notice issued by the Peterhead Bay management committee stating that admission to this part of the breakwater is now prohibited. When I wrote asking by what authority the company did so I was told, under authority vested in the company by the Act.

This is, perhaps, an early example of the way in which public rights can be abridged without any alternative being provided. That is why I support my hon. Friend in this amendment.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. John Smith

We have three amendments to consider. Perhaps I can satisfy the Committee by dealing with them fairly briefly in the light of what I am going to say. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) addressed himself to Amendments Nos. 21 and 32. Amendment No. 21 is the one which causes us to consider this matter slightly out of phase, since we are now dealing with Clause 1 and that matter really comes under Clause 2; but we may well discuss it now.

It seeks to give power possibly to acquire land in order to provide a right of way or public footpath. There would be some difficulty with this. It is one thing to tell a farmer that we need to take his land for an oil platform construction site, but we might get a quite different reception if we were to tell him that we want to take his land compul-sorily for a public footpath. That is one objection to be made to the technique which the hon. Gentleman has used here.

Amendment No. 32 is the more important. This amendment, and the one put forward by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray), are along roughly similar lines, but a slightly stronger duty is imposed by his amendment. Both amendments seek to put on the Secretary of State a duty to provide alternative rights to replace rights extinguished by an order under Clause 2(5). The amendment of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty goes further than the other in seeking to make it an absolute duty, whereas that of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East puts the qualifications "where reasonably practicable". We have received representations from the Scottish Rights of Way Society and the Ramblers' Association putting forward suggestions on roughly similar lines.

I make clear at this stage, and it may satisfy hon. Members who have raised these particular points, that we believe the principle of providing alternative rights of way is reasonable and we would accept it. In practice it is unlikely that subsection (5) would be applied to public footpaths and bridleways. Instead, the planning authority would be asked to use its discretionary powers to make an order under Section 199 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 to close the path and to create an alternative, or else to impose a condition of planning permission requiring the provision of an alternative path by the developer.

At this stage hon. Members will bear in mind that before anything is done under the Bill consideration is to be given under planning permission. As a native of Argyll I would assure the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty that I am not unaware of some Highland problems. I am not happy about accepting his invitation to visit Peterhead without knowing which part and which facility I would be asked to visit.

The hon. Gentleman raised the example of Peterhead, a matter which we cannot do much about under the Bill, as an example of the kind of problem that might be created. Although there are other ways of dealing with the problem, as I have mentioned, under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, we have considered the matter, and we believe it is possible to envisage a position in which an order might be made under subsection (5) with the result that a right of way would be extinguished without replacement, which would probably involve a degree of urgency. Therefore, the amendment put forward by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty would not help, because extinguishment must take place before the Secretary of State is asked to consider an alternative right of way.

I can say on behalf of the Government that I would be willing to accept the spirit of Amendment No. 32 proposed by the hon. Member for Dundee, East and we would undertake to produce a Government amendment later in the progress of the Bill. The amendment might run on lines confining it to providing rights of way, provided the Secretary of State is satisfied of the need to provide an alternative right of way. I hope that that will be regarded by hon. Members who have raised the matter as some comfort in relation to the attitude they take.

Mr. Buchan

Would the hon. Gentleman promise in the amendment to extinguish the word "extinguishment"?

Mr. John Smith

We will consider that. The hon. Gentleman raised what at first sight appears to be a very small matter in relation to an important consequence arising from the Bill. Nevertheless, we must be careful of people's rights and it is for this reason that the Government are willing to look at a future amendment.

Mr. Monro

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has accepted the spirit of the amendment of my hon. Friend, but is he saying he will put down an amendment on Report, and if so will he, when he moves it, be quite explicit in relation to wildfowling and foreshore rights?

Mr. John Smith

I cannot give that undertaking. I feel I have gone as far as it is reasonable for a Minister to go in the present circumstances, but we will put forward an amendment at a later stage of the Bill.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the assurance he has given in relation to rights of way and so on, but in relation to the point raised by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) about crofters' and grazing rights, while the hon. Member will have more experience of this than I, I know from those occasions when, as he knows, I have visited Benbecula that the whole question of rights in relation to the development of the rocket range there has caused a lot of trouble. When I was in the Scottish Office we had a considerable number of complaints about the way the Minister of Defence acted in relation to the continuance of those rights and the restrictions he put on the exercise of them. This has caused a great deal of distress to people who have limited facilities and resources in terms of land, grazing, and the rest. Interference to any great extent, therefore, may be very material to their welfare and their livelihood.

While I welcome the Under-Secretary of State's assurance about rights of way, I hope that he will also look at the question of crofters' rights in particular, and of common grazing rights, because of the difficulties already experienced in other areas.

Mr. John Smith

It would have been helpful if this aspect had been clearly focused in an amendment. It has come in on a side wind, and I cannot extend the assurance that the Government are considering the position with regard to rights of way. Of course we will look at the matters raised by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), but without commitment.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

The Under-Secretary of State's assurance is welcome. Will he consider consulting the Crofters' Commission during the next week or so to see whether some of the objections raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) could be taken care of in the Bill—for example, those relating to common rights?

Mr. John Smith

The hon. Gentleman can take it that the Government will make no changes with respect to crofters without consulting the Crofters' Commission.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to ask leave, to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to move Amendment No. 22, in page 2, line 6, leave out from beginning to 'the' in line 7.

The Temporary Chairman

With this amendment we shall take the following amendments:

No. 23, in line 12, leave out subsection (4).

No. 31, in line 33, leave out paragraph '(b)'.

Mr. Wilson

In a sense, Amendment No. 22 is consequential, because the real bones of the matter are contained in Amendment No. 23. We are now at the stage where, perhaps, we are dealing with the general disagreement about the Bill as it stands or, indeed, about the need for the Bill at all.

The Government would have been in a stronger position if they had been in office two years ago in relation to then wish to get the maximum British involvement, or Scottish involvement, in the plat- form construction business. The plain fact is, as admitted by the Department of Energy, that we have under order or under construction a sufficient number of platforms to enable 80 million tons of oil a year to be produced by the 1980s, with other platforms under order or under construction for unspecified periods which could give rise to another 24 million tons of oil a year.

That could bring us to the point of self-sufficiency without the need of new sites at all under the Bill. If that is so, it can be argued that there is no need for the expedited acquisition procedure and that, if there is to be United Kingdom self-sufficiency in oil by the 1980s through the platforms already under construction or on order, if any further platforms are required the normal compulsory acquisition procedures, which have served relatively well for years, can be applied, with or without the drastic modifications proposed in this clause.

It has been indicated during the last week that the Government's aim is to let oil production soar out of control until the early 1980s, perhaps rising from 150 million tons to 200 million tons a year. The fate of the pound today may be one reason why the Government are so anxious to obtain the oil as quickly as possible and—this is perhaps more objectionable in many ways from the Scottish point of view—in such quantities. The sooner the oil is used, the sooner it is finished, and in these days of worldwide energy shortages it is better to pursue a more gentle course in relation to the utilisation and exhaustion of a very precious resource.

If this is so, it will lead the Scottish National Party into conflict with the Government in relation to this clause. It may be arguable, and may be accepted in many ways, that there is need for acquisition of sites in the public interest, particularly where there may be guarantees about restitution or the reinstatement of sites after construction work has been completed. But on subsection (3), with the extension of the Government's power to take land out of private ownership with very short shrift indeed, any Member must stand up and defend the liberties of the subject, whatever political point of view he may have.

Where the public interest demands that land should be taken over, the purpose should be shown clearly and specifically. If we are going beyond the normal acceptance of the doctrine of public acquisition on the basis that the Government wish to take over land on an emergency basis by the expedited acquisition procedure, it is doubly necessary to show that there is a very genuine need which would benefit the public interest. I am not convinced that such a need has been proved by the Government.

In the circumstances, I must reiterate our objections to the provisions of the Clause. I suppose that it is too much to hope that the Government have had second thoughts about the Bill, but it would give many people great cause for thanks if, even at this late stage, the Government were to accept that the expedited acquisition procedure is not necessary and that the powers which may otherwise be contained in the Bill should be discussed without reference to this objectionable clause. In these circumstances, I have had the greatest possible pleasure in moving the amendment on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself.

Miss Harvie Anderson

The clause is causing universal objection, and a considerable number of organisations have made strong representations about the procedure suggested in it. In general, the concern relates to the form of parliamentary approval to which the expedited acquisition orders shall be subject. As I understand it, the Bill would empower the Secretary of State to process complete planning and land acquisition procedures on land of a very high agricultural or environmental interest within a short period and without necessarily any public inquiry or adequate parliamentary scrutiny. The organisations that have expressed the greatest concern have in common the fact that they are all concerned on a day-to-day basis with problems of land use. All of them are concerned in different ways with the conservation of the environment. I shall not weary the Committee with detail. I am sure that it is already well known to the Government.

I hope that the Minister will deal with the absence of safeguards. The absence of a guarantee of adequate scrutiny is at the root of the concern. What most of us would wish to see as a result of the amendments is that expedited acquisition orders should be subject to affirmative resolution.

7.0 p.m.

I suspect that the Government will put forward some offers but I do not believe that they will go far enough to satisfy me. The suggestion of a truncated procedure would still not meet the wishes of those who arc extremely anxious I do not wish to go into detail until I hear what the Government have to offer. It seems that if the Government go only half way public anxiety about the opportunity to express their point of view will not be allayed.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have a few words to say on Amendment No. 23. I shall be brief as I made my point following the intervention of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). I make the basic point again—namely, what is the expedited acquisition procedure to achieve in terms of time?

Mr. John Smith

I make it clear at the outset that the Government intend to resist the amendments. The effect of the amendments taken together is to remove from the Bill the power to make expedited acquisition orders. This is a matter that goes right to the heart of the Bill. It would leave the Secretary of State with only the power to acquire land by agreement or to use ordinary compulsory purchase orders.

The major justification for the Bill is speed in making facilities available for oil production platforms for the speedy exploitation of offshore oil resources, balance of payments benefits and the creation of employment. Where in the Government's judgment land must be made available as a matter of urgency for any of the purposes mentioned in Clause 1(2), it is necessary to have an accelerated procedure which will cut down as much as possible the delays normally attending land purchase in the public sector.

It is well known that the major holdup is the public inquiry procedure. It is a procedure that can be extremely time-consuming in the process of land acquisition. The expedited acquisition procedure will avoid such delay taking place. It is from the Government's view indispensable.

The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has referred to planning permission. We are allowing for certain appeals to take place in that we are allowing the full gamut of planning procedure to be gone through. We are doing so because we are aware of the view that it is in the context of a planning decision that the rights of the whole community can be considered. The people who are entitled to object to a compulsory purchase order made under this Bill or any other Bill have a much more limited scope than the people who can present their views to a public inquiry. The people who have rights in land on which attention is focused and take part in a public inquiry on a compulsory purchase order are able to have a much wider range of purposes considered. As a result, the whole community can better participate in making its views known at the planning stage.

Having been prepared to balance the interests of the community and of the environment against the economic need to proceed with the purposes of the Bill, we have decided to give way on planning to the interests of the environment. That means that we must cut down on all other matters. We believe that the rights; of the entire community will be better preserved if we allow planning permission to go ahead. We understand that the Bill that was to be put forward by the previous Conservative Government went some way towards knocking down the safeguards that exist under planning permission procedure. We believe that it is necessary to achieve speed but not at the expense of planning permission.

Having made a concession on planning, we need to move fast thereafter. If we had to deal with public inquiries we might find matters held up for a considerable time. It is important that the Committee should realise that delays of a short time can be important. If concrete or steel platforms are not completed at the right time it might be necessary to wait a complete year before they can be towed out and put into position. These matters are crucial and even a few weeks' delay might make a great difference. Such delay might lose for the country an important order with grave consequences for employment.

I do not believe that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) expects his misrepresentations of Government policy to be taken seriously. He will have read the statement made by the Secretary of State and he will have noticed that it is for the first time that a Government are seeking to take powers to control the rate of oil production. We have indicated our views. We believe that we must move towards self-sufficiency in terms of oil resources. That is the intention, and that is why my right hon. Friend made clear his powers in the short and medium term. The position is balanced by the fact that the Government are taking powers to control the rate of production.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the Minister accept that there are sufficient platforms under construction or on order to achieve self-sufficiency on a United Kingdom basis based on the information supplied to me by his Department? If he does not accept that, will he confess that his Department supplied the wrong information?

Mr. Smith

I thought that we had gone into this matter in some detail during a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I shall again explain the fallacy of the hon. Gentleman's line of reasoning. It seems that he has multiplied the number of platforms built or on order by estimating peak production. It takes some time for platforms to reach peak production. Once it is reached it does not last indefinitely. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) and the hon. Member for Dundee, East have already gone into this matter. The hon. Member for Dundee, East is making an assumption which he is not entitled to make when considering the realistic likely flow that will come from the platforms.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter and that he will not misinterpret answers that are given by my Department. I have twice tried to make the position clear. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will study HANSARD. If there is some fault in my reasoning I shall be glad to hear about it. We cannot be too proud about these matters but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be more careful to establish the facts before putting forward any further suggestions of this character.

The amendments go to the core of the Bill and the Government must resist them.

Mr. Grimond

I appreciate the Minister's difficulty in accepting the amendments. I am unhappy about one thing that he has said—namely, that the people whose rights might be drastically affected by the expedited procedure for the compulsory acquisition of land under the Bill will have adequate opportunities to put forward their case at planning inquiries. I agree that they will have such an opportunity, but there are many people, such as crofters and fishermen, who will have great difficulties in putting forward their case at planning inquiries.

I do not want to go over the ground that was covered by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart). I tabled an amendment concerned with a body subject to udal law. The udallers have no powerful associations to represent their rights. I leave the Minister with the thought that, although planning inquiries are all right for the sort of people who can employ lawyers or who are represented by powerful associations, people such as crofters and fishermen will not find such inquiries of very much use.

Mr. John Smith

Of course there is the public inquiry, but a public inquiry on a planning matter is in the same position as a planning inquiry on a compulsory purchase order. If the right hon. Gentle-

man is saying that his constituents would be better protected if the expedited procedure were removed and they had to rely on the compulsory purchase procedure he is attacking the remedy which he seeks.

We are aware that public planning procedures can be improved. The Government are studying whether they can deal with them more effectively from the point of view of both speed and hearing the widest possible range of views. However, the right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that a public inquiry would be necessary where the matter was proceeded with if this part of the Bill were deleted.

On planning inquiries, the rights of the whole community, not just the person who has rights in land, are considered, and that is a most important safeguard. Many people could have views about a projected oil development although they had no right in the land but merely lived in the area. Their views must be given as much prominence as, if not more than, those of the people who are fortunate enough to have rights in the land.

Question put, That the amendment be made: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 15, Noes 179.

Division No. 25.] AYES 17.12 p.m.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Pardoe, John Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Crawford, Douglas Penhaligon, David Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E.)
Eyre, Reginald Reid, George
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Mr Douglas Henderson and
MacCormick, lain Thompson, George Mr. Andrew Welsh.
Mudd, David
Allaun, Frank Coleman, Donald Ewing, Harry (Stirling)
Anderson, Donald Concannon, J. D. Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Archer, Peter Conlan, Bernard Flannery, Martin
Armstrong, Ernest Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Ashtort, Joe Corbett, Robin Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.) Ford, Ben T.
Atkinson, Norman Cryer, Bob Forrester, John
Barnett, Joel (Heywood) Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten.) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Bates, Alf Dalyell, Tarn Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Bean, Robert E. Davidson, Arthur George, Bruce
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport H) Davles, Ifor (Gower) Golding, John
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric Gould, Bryan
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Gourlay, Harry
Boardman, H. de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Grant, George (Morpeth)
Booth, Albert Dempsey, James Grant, John (Islington C.)
Boothroyd, Miss Belly Doig, Peter Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bradley, Tom Dormand, Jack Hamling, William
Bray, Dr Jeremy Douglas-Mann, Bruce Harper, Joseph
Broughton, Sir Alfred Duffy, A. E. P. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.) Dunn, James A. Hatton, Frank
Buchan, Norman Dunnett, Jack Hayman, Mrs Helene
Buchanan, Richard Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Heffer, Eric S.
Caliaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.) Edge, Geoffrey Hooley, Frank
Cartwright, John Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.) Horam, John
Clemitson, I. M. English, Michael Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) Evans, loan L. (Aberdare) Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Small, William
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Mikardo, Ian Smith, John (N. Lanarkshire)
Janner, Greville Millan, Bruce Snape, Peter
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride) Spearing, Nigel
John, Brynmor Moonman, Eric Spriggs, Leslie
Johnson, James (Kingston, W.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Stallard, A. W.
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Murray, Ronald King Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Newens, Stanley Stoddart, David
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Noble, Mike Stott, Roger
Kaufman, Gerald Oakes, Gordon Strang, Gavin
Kelley, Richard O'Halloran, Michael Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Kerr, Russell Orbach, Maurice Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Ovenden, John Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Kinnock, Neil Park, George Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Lamond, James Parry, Robert Tierney, Sydney
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.) Pavitt, Laurie Tomlinson, John
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Pendry, Tom Urwin, T. W.
Lomas, Kenneth Perry, Ernest Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Loyden, Eddie Prescott, John Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)
Luard, D. Radice, Giles Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Lyon, Alexander (York) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Ward, Michael
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Wellbeloved, James
Habon, Dr J. Dickson Rodgers, George (Chorley) White, Frank R. (Bury)
McCartney, Hugh Rodgers, William (Teesside) White, James (Glasgow, P)
McElhone, Frank Rooker, J. W. Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Mackintosh, John P. Roper, John Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.) Rose, Paul B. Wise, Mrs Audrey
McNamara, Kevin Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock) Woodall, Alec
Madden, Max Rowlands, Ted Woof, Robert
Magee, Bryan Sedgemore, B. Wrigglesworth, Ian
Mahon, Simon Selby, Harry Young, David (Bolton E.)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester) Sillars, James TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Silverman, Julius Mr. James Hamilton and
Maynard, Miss Joan Skinner, Dennis Mr. Thomas Cox.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Millan

I beg to move Amendment No. 152, in page 2, line 20, leave out subsection (5) and insert: '(5) A statutory instrument containing an expedited acquisition order shall not be made unless a draft of it has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament. (6) Any such statutory instrument shall proceed in Pariament as if its provisions would, apart from this Act, require to be enacted by a public Bill which cannot be referred to a Select or other Committee of either House under Standing Orders of either House relating to private Bills.'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this amendment we shall take the following amendments: No. 25, in page 2, line 20, leave out subsection (5) and insert: '(5) No order under subsection (4) above shall be made unless a draft of the order has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament'. No. 27, in page 2, line 21, leave out from 'shall' to end of line 22 and insert: 'be laid in draft in each House of Parliament and not take effect until such draft shall have been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament'.

Mr. Millan

We are dealing here with the procedure relating to the expedited acquisition order. In the Second Reading debate there was considerable criti- cism from both sides of the House about the negative procedure. The Government always recognised that there was a strong case for the affirmative procedure provided in the amendment. The difficulty about the affirmative procedure, which makes the second part of the amendment necessary, is that under the standing orders of the other place an instrument affecting private interests which is subject to an affirmative resolution must be dealt with under the Lords' procedures for hybrid measures. They could involve reference of an order to a committee, with opportunities for those affected to petition the House, to be heard by the committee, and so on.

When we are introducing a procedure to expedite acquisition, it would be absurd and inconsistent to have a procedure in the other place which effectively frustrated that intention. That is one reason why the wording of what will be subsection (6) is necessary—to disapply the normal Lords' procedures.

There are precedents, but I do not wish to argue them now. The matter will be argued in the other place. I believe that the House will take the view that the affirmative procedure is much preferable to the negative procedure, and that the disapplication of the other place's standing orders is a price that this House, at least, will be willing to pay for the insertion of the affirmative procedure.

From the Government's point of view, the choice must be between a negative procedure and an affirmative procedure with the disapplication of the special Lords' standing order. There can be no question of having an affirmative procedure allowing another procedure under the House of Lords standing orders to frustrate the purposes of an expedited acquisition order.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Is it not a fact that the extra time involved would not exceed 21 days? Is there any real objection to an unamended affirmative procedure?

Mr. Millan

That is not the advice I have received. If we were dealing with a procedure guaranteed to be completed in a short time, we should not have been in the difficulty in which we found ourselves in considering the matter in the first instance. I am not an expert on procedure in the other place. I do not say that there have not been occasions when the procedure has been used quickly, but on such occasions there will have been little opposition to what was proposed. If there were opposition, the procedure could be protracted. That is not a risk the Government arc willing to take, because that would frustrate the basic aim of our expedited acquisition procedure.

We have tried to meet the wishes of the House, and therefore I hope that the amendment will be accepted.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Where gracious-ness is deserved, one should be gracious. The Government deserve to be complimented for having listened to what was said on Second Reading about the need to avoid the dreadful negative procedure that they had at first intended. Second thoughts can sometimes be good. The only question is whether third thoughts might be even better.

I am informed—like the Minister, I am not an expert on the procedures of the other place—that one of the effects of our passing the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), myself and my hon. Friends would be that there could be a procedure for an inquiry in the other place. Although at first blush that would not be attractive to me and many of my hon. Friends, it would be better than no inquiry.

I am also given to understand that if our amendment were passed an order could be satisfactorily dealt with in the other place within three weeks. I think that that understanding was behind the intervention of the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson). I am told that if the petition procedure were adopted, which happens when there is an objection, it might be two and a half months before the Select Committee of the other place reported. But there would be provision for avoiding the elongated procedure if the Whips were put on by the Government in the other place. In other words, in an emergency the application of the normal devices of acceleration of business could ensure that the emergency was dealt with. If there were no emergency, a period of two and a half months might not seem out of order to consider a matter that might be controversial.

The Government amendment is welcome. I hope that there will be other interventions before I need to make up my mind how to advise my hon. Friends on the possible fate of Amendment No. 25.

Mr. Farr

I, too, wish to express concern about the course the Government have taken. It is a sad thing to see any Government tampering with the time-honoured procedures of Parliament. Despite the compliments that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has just paid the Government, that is what they are doing.

We have long-established negative order and affirmative order procedures. Clearly, the negative order procedure was not adequate here. Instead of bowing to the wish of the House—expressed clearly on Second Reading—that the negative procedure should be replaced by the affirmative procedure, the Government have introduced an affirmative procedure in one part of the amendment and in the second part have more or less taken away the privileges conferred by the first part. They have destroyed nearly all the good done in the first part.

7.30 p.m.

Government Amendment No. 152 is; difficult to follow, but would appear to seek the leave of the Committee not for art affirmative order procedure as we know it, but for a truncated and dehydrated one. This would take much of the effectiveness out of the affirmative order procedure that we know. It is a special concoction by the Government of the day to meet what they regard as the requirements of the Bill. I particularly object to the inclusion of the second paragraph in Amendment No. 152. When this matter was debated on Second Reading the Under-Secretary of State for Energy—the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith)—expressed his concern. He said: Hon. Members have raised several points of detail on the Bill. One which has been mentioned frequently is the reference in the Bill to the use of the negative procedure on expedited acquisition and the sea designation orders. We have technical problems about using the affirmative procedure because of the question of hybridity if the matter goes to the other place. It is a technical matter, and the Government will listen carefully to what is said in Committee. We take fully the poinis which have been raised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1974; Vol. 881, c. 1231.] It is apparent that the second paragraph in Amendment No. 152 is the Government's response to the pleas made on Second Reading.

I regard this as entirely unsatisfactory. If the provisions of the Bill are not subject to the normal affirmative procedure order it will mean that the provisions of this affirmative order procedure—if the second paragraph in the amendment is included—will not be the subject of the special orders procedure in another place. That procedure, which is part and parcel of the affirmative orders procedure, is not slow or cumbersome or, I suggest, inappropriate in the circumstances. The procedure has been set up by Parliament to deal with matters of this nature and has operated effectively for many years. There are certain rules and criteria to guide it. Roughly speaking, the criteria employed by the Special Orders Committee are extremely stringent in determining whether to recommend a further inquiry into an order.

The committee must decide a number of points as soon as the affirmative order is put before it. These include: whether the Petition discloses substantial grounds for complaint; whether the matter has been so dealt with under a departmental inquiry that a further inquiry is necessary; whether the submissions in the Petition could have been brought before a local inquiry and were not; whether, having regard to the answers to the preceding questions and to the findings, if any, of these inquiries and to other circumstances of the case, there ought to be a further inquiry by a Select Committee. This special orders procedure in another place has stood the test of time and has proved its worth. It is often a speedy procedure. There are not many cases in which an order will be delayed for more than three weeks. If it is decided in a special case that a Select Committee is called for, it is anticipated that the full processs from start to finish could be concluded within six or seven weeks.

I suggest that what the Minister has apparently so generously given to the House is, in fact, nothing whatsoever. It is merely a play on words, to put in the Bill, in the first paragraph of Amendment No. 152, what would be taken away in the second paragraph. Moreover, the Minister is abusing the customs and procedures of both Houses.

I apologise for intervening in what appears to be an entirely Scottish matter, but it is also a national matter. The Scottish oilfields are of concern to Britain as a whole. If, as we hope, oil is found in the Western Approaches this Bill, when enacted, may become a pattern or an example for a Western Approaches oil Bill which may be rushed through the House at some future time as this Bill is being rushed through now. That is why some of us are concerned with getting the Bill right today. I am sorry that our present parliamentary programme is so congested that not as many of my English colleagues, who I know are interested in various aspects of the Bill, can be present.

[Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair]

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I speak with some temerity in a Scottish debate, though I live just over the border and have a great interest in this matter. I speak as a member of the executive of the National Trust.

I am aware that the National Trust in England, as well as the National Trust for Scotland, has made representations to my hon. Friend the Minister, and I thank him for taking some account of these representations. Although he has not conceded the whole of what many of us might have wished, he has given a real concession. Here I disagree with the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). The difference between even this modified affirmative procedure and the negative procedure is decidedly real and provides opportunities here in the Chamber that many of us wanted in order to assure ourselves. To that extent we welcome the Government's amendment, although there are other matters later in the Bill on which I may not be welcoming my hon. Friend's decisions.

On this particular matter, however, I feel that my hon. Friend has made a valuable concession. We must see what attitude is taken in the other place on this matter of procedure which particularly affects the other place. Some of us at least recognise that there has been a step forward. While we would have wished to see a full procedure, including that in another place, we recognise what has been done.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We warmly welcome the interventions by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), because the principles of the Bill are very important not only for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom. I greatly welcome the United Kingdom interest shown in the Bill, and there is no need for my hon. Friend or the hon. Gentleman to apologise. I hope that we shall hear them both again later tonight, because there are matters of considerable principle to be considered on which I am sure their contributions would be welcome.

I am also glad that the Government have moved at least part of the way—I personally think a considerable part of the way—towards meeting the criticisms which a number of us, including myself, made on Second Reading of the Government and of the Bill as originally drafted. I would have preferred a simple amendment, such as our Amendment No. 27. However, I appreciate the argument, although I have not wholly followed it, put forward by the Minister of State, about the necessity of inserting subsection (6). I suggest to my hon. Friends that we do not divide against the amendment.

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has said. He has made some valuable points with which I hope the Minister will attempt to deal. I would like to have the opportunity further to study what my hon. Friend has said. In the knowledge that, in another place, this matter will be dealt with again by those whose procedures are being affected, I suggest that it might be sensible to approve the amendment and give the other place the opportunity to express its opinion upon it. We may subsequently be in a better position to express a view upon this.

The Minister has said that this is a complicated matter. I appreciate that he is not trying to steamroller us. Perhaps he can deal with some of the matters which we have raised.

Mr. Millan

As has been said, this is a considerable improvement on what was in the Bill when it was first published. The full affirmative order procedure will apply here. That has a considerable advantage over the negative order procedure. I do not in any way devalue the improvement which the Government have made. It is possible to argue cither that we need an expedited acquisition order procedure or that we do not. What would be an absurdity and would make the Committee look foolish would be for us to agree to a Bill which ostensibly introduces an expedited acquisition procedure and then fail to insert provisions which would exclude the possibility of that procedure being frustrated.

We are dealing here with exceptional cases in which there is a need for great urgency. I am not willing to accept that we should embody provisions in the Bill which would allow the expedited acqui-sion procedure to be frustrated.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Will the Minister consider looking further into the time scale of this, because I think he has an exaggerated idea of what he regards as the delay?

Mr. Millan

I have looked into the time scale before the amendments were tabled. In certain circumstances the procedure can be comparatively quick. In others, however, it can take a considerable period. We are introducing here an expedited acquisition procedure which provides for compulsory acquisition at 14 days' notice. By a later amendment we shall seek to provide for compulsory acquisition at 21 days' notice. We are not talking about a procedure extending over months, when it does not matter whether we add another 21 days or two months. We are dealing with a situation when, having gone through a fairly protracted planning procedure, we want to get on with the job. We have made no pretence about doing anything different. It can be argued that this is a bad thing to do, but it is not sensible to make provision for doing that and then allow such provisions to be frustrated.

I would not be willing to recommend to the Commitee that we should do that. If this is not acceptable, I would wish to go back to what the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) in another context called "the time-honoured procedure," namely, the negative resolution procedure. It is as much time-honoured as the affirmative resolution procedure. The Committee does not want that. What we have offered is more than half the loaf. I would be happy if this is what the Committee would accept.

Amendment agreed to.

7.45 p.m.

Sir John Gilmour

I beg to move Amendment No. 29, in page 2, line 26, at end add: '(7) Before acquiring any land for the purposes of subsection (2) above, the Secretary of State shall prepare and publish a survey of all areas which are in his opinion suitable for the purposes of subsection (2) above and this section shall apply only to land included in such a survey or surveys'. When I served on the Select Commitee on Scottish Affairs which dealt with land use in Scotland I realised how helpful it would have been if we had had available in advance a register of possible sites. The Drumbuie inquiry might never have taken place if a proper register of the best sites for work of that type had been available. If we had such information we could cut down on the unnecessary planning applications and thus help promote the objects of this Bill. There would not be the turning down of unnecessary planning applications leading to further applications, in respect of other sites.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour). We talk nowadays about greater participation in planning and many other spheres. I have not heard anyone criticise the efforts made by the previous Tory Government and by this Government to attempt to publish in advance their ideas of the areas in which certain activities should take place. Indeed, both Government have been criticised for not doing enough. Publication of such information helps concentrate people's attention. It also helps remove a great deal of anxiety felt by those living in the affected areas.

Dealing with technical matters, this method provides a certain amount of expert guidance about the kind of structure which is regarded as appropriate. This has a bearing on where such structures might be built. I do not expect that in principle the Minister will find any fault with what is being proposed. the hon. Gentleman has given us plenty of assurances so far but has not accepted any of our amendments. Perhaps he will accept this, the last amendment to Clause 1.

Mr. Millan

I am sorry that I have to disappoint the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour), although I appreciate the intention behind his amendment. It is a worthy intention. Through their publication of the coastal planning guidelines and the various planning surveys for parts of Scotland—for example, of the Clyde—the Government have tried to give everyone concerned as much information and guidance about planning considerations as is reasonably possible. These surveys do not, and could not, have the same authority as Government decisions and could not indicate a definite Government preference, leading to the exclusion of the normal planning procedures. By saying that development should take place only on certain land, thereby excluding all other land, the Government would be abrogating planning procedures. We have always tried to avoid doing that.

We cannot accept the amendment. It is impracticable in terms of time and the work involved, and it is likely to have undesirable effects about which local communities would be unhappy. In the coastal planning guidelines, these are areas of Scotland which are specified as areas of preferred conservation rather than areas of preferred development. Although that makes some people who live in the areas very happy, some local authority representatives have said to me, informally, that they resent seeing so much of their coastline being put down as a conservation area because they wish to have development in some areas. If an area is included in the coastal planning guidelines as a preferred conservation area, there is an implication that the Government think that development in any circumstances is undesirable.

That applies when we are giving guidelines, but in providing a structural plan for the whole of Scotland, if we divided Scotland into areas in which certain types of development would be preferred to the exclusion of all others we should be doing tremendous damage both to the planning procedures and to local communities. I do not think that the Opposition would appreciate a provision of that sort, and I ask the Committee not to accept the amendment.

Sir John Gilmour

In view of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We have reached the end of our discussion of the most important part of the Bill and much that follows will flow from our decisions on the Clause.

I ask the Minister in a kindly way not to misrepresent some of the proposals which the Conservatives put forward in January this year. The powers which we proposed were extremely limited. When I criticised the Government for taking certain powers, the Minister of State said that the Conservatives would have taken exactly the same powers. What is the Minister's authority for saying that? Mr. Gordon Campbell, at the time, said that the powers would be limited to the purposes of exploration and landing the oil. They would not have extended so far as the powers which the Government have taken in the Bill.

The impression has been given that the Conservatives would have short-circuited the planning procedures. That is not so. Our proposals were not described in detail, because the election intervened, but Mr. Gordon Campbell, in his statement on 31st January, was clear that planning permissions would be required. He said that there would be a streamlining of the procedure for these limited purposes. It is unfair to say that the planning procedures would have been overridden in the way in which the Minister suggested.

At the conclusion of our debate the clause remains more or less as it started, with the exception of one major change by the Government on the affirmative resolution procedure. Otherwise, the Government have not moved to limit or restrict the powers which they have taken on themselves. I welcome the assurances that the Minister has given to look at certain matters again between now and later stages.

The major question is whether, by the clause, the Government save any time. On that question there is a fundamental difference between the Government and ourselves. If we are to achieve expedition in offshore oil operations there must be included some form of streamlining of all planning procedures. It is possible to do that without necessarily overriding the rights of the individual. The Government have made clear that they are not expediting planning procedures, yet planning procedures are probably the main cause of delays in the development of offshore oil.

All that the Government are doing is to provide an expedited procedure for acquiring land for the purposes of the development of offshore oil. I question whether, even with that expedited procedure, much time is saved. Compulsory acquisition of land has not to any great extent been the cause of delay. I question whether the expedited procedure will speed up matters in future. It may in certain respects cause delay.

The Minister gave us assurances about Hunterston. He said that everything was sweetness and light between the Government and the Hunterston development company, and that nothing in the Bill would delay development at Hunterston. I accept those assurances in the spirit in which he gave them, but information has been given me from individuals who are involved to the effect that they are concerned that the Bill could cause delay in platform building operations. I am concerned that in certain circumstances the Bill might delay rather than expedite procedure.

I question whether the wide powers for expediting acquisition procedure do not go far beyond what is necessary to speed up offshore oil development. The powers are excessive in relation to what the Government are achieving in an improve time scale. For that reason, I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the inclusion of the clause.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Millan

It would not be profitable for me to go over the points again because we have discussed the clause exhaustively. I do not wish to debate what might have appeared in the Conservative Government's Bill, because that Bill was never published. All we have to go on is the record of what Mr. Gordon Campbell said in the House on 31st January.

I shall confine myself to drawing attention to two matters. First, I wish to refer to the argument that even if they did not completely override the planning procedures the provisions would at the very least have truncated them, and in the case of Drambuie, would have abrogated the public inquiry which was then taking place. Secondly, it is clear that the kind of development provisions which the then Government had in mind went beyond the question of oil production platforms, as Mr. Campbell explained in the House. What else would have been in the Conservative Bill is not a matter for me. It was not disclosed to me, and I certainly would not wish to debate it now.

We have taken the view that planning procedures should continue. We believe

that by so doing we have met a majority opinion in Scotland and the opinion of the overwhelming majority of those concerned. We are considering what kind of administrative procedures might be introduced or developed to avoid unnecessary delay in planning inquiries but without cutting into the essential rights of objectors.

Frankly, although one can do certain important things in speeding up planning, there is a limit to what one can do administratively if one wishes to maintain the genuine right of objection and to ensure that objections are properly deployed and answered. A truncated procedure which did more than that, and which eroded the rights of objection to a substantial degree, would not, in my view, be acceptable to Scottish public opinion and is not acceptable to the Government.

The expedited procedures were debated on an earlier amendment, and I need say no more on that matter than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy said in replying to that debate, namely, that there are certain circumstances in which the degree of urgency is great and the time scale critical. In those circumstances, further delay in terms of compulsory purchase provisions in the case of land for which planning permission has already been granted would not, in our view, be acceptable. For that reason the expedited purchase order procedure is entered in the clause.

I believe that we have got the clause right, subject, perhaps, to detailed drafting points that may arise later. The clause is very much the essence of the Bill.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 176, Noes 140.

Division No. 26.] AYES [8.07 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Boothroyd, Miss Betty Corbett, Robin
Anderson, Donald Bradley, Tom Cox, Thomas (Wands, Toot)
Archer, Peter Bray, Dr Jeremy Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow M.)
Armstrong, Ernest Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow Pr.) Cryer, Bob
Ashton, Joe Buchan, Norman Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Buchanan, Richard Dalyell, Tarn
Atkinson, Norman Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.) Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood) Campbell, Ian Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Bates, Alf Cartwright, John Deakins, Eric
Bean, Robert E. Clemitson, I. M. Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Bidwell, Sydney Coleman, Donald Dempsey, James
Blenkinsop, Arthur Concannon, J. D. Doig, Peter
Boardman, H. Conlan, Bernard Dormand, Jack
Booth, Albert Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Duffy, A. E. P. Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rooker, J. W.
Dunn, James A. Kinnock, Neil Roper, John
Dunnett, Jack Lamond, James Rose, Paul B.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)
Edge, Geoffrey Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Rowlands, Ted
Edwards, Robert (Wolv. S.E.) Lomas, Kenneth Sedgemore, B.
English, Michael Loyden, Eddie Selby, Harry
Evans, Ioan L. (Aberdare) Luard, Evan Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Lyon, Alexander (York) Sillars, James
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Skinner, Dennis
Flannery, Martin Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Small, William
Ford, Ben T. McCartney, Hugh Smith, John (N. Lanarkshire)
Forrester, John McElhone, Frank Snape, Peter
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.) Spearing, Nigel
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) McNamara, Kevin Spriggs, Leslie
George, Bruce Madden, Max Stallard, A. W.
Golding, John Magee, Bryan Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)
Gould, Bryan Mahon, Simon Stoddart, David
Gourlay, Harry Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Stott, Roger
Grant, George (Morpeth) Marshall, Jim (Leicester) Strang, Gavin
Grant, John (Islington C.) Maynard, Miss Joan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Thomas Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Hamling, William Millan, Bruce Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Hardy, Peter Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Harper, Joseph Moonman, Eric Tierney Sydney
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tomlinson, John
Hatton, Frank Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Urwin, T. W.
Hayman, Mrs Helene Murray, Ronald King Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Heffer, Eric S. Newens, Stanley Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)
Hooley, Frank Noble, Mike Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Horam, John Oakes, Gordon Ward, Michael
Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson) O'Halloran, Michael Wellbeloved, James
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Orbach, Maurice White, Frank R. (Bury)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N.) Ovenden, John White, James (Glasgow, P)
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Park, George Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Janner, Greville Parry, Robert Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Pavitt, Laurie Wise, Mrs Audrey
John, Brynmor Pendry, Tom Woodall, Alec
Johnson, James (Kingston, W.) Prescott, John Woof, Robert
Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Radice, Giles Wrigglesworth, Ian
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Richardson, Miss Jo Young, David (Bolton E.)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Kelley, Richard Rodgers, George (Chorley) Mr. James Hamilton and
Kerr, Russell Rodgers, William (Teesside) Mr. Tom Ellis.
Aitken, J. W. P. Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Arnold, Tom Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.) Luce, Richard
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles MacCormick, Iain
Bain, Mrs Margaret Fookes, Miss Janet Macfarlane, Neil
Banks, Robert Fry, Peter MacGregor, John
Bell, Ronald Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mates, Michael
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde) Mather, Carol
Benyon, W. R. Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald
Biffen, John Goodhart, Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Biggs-Davison, John Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Mayhew, Patrick
Bowden, Andrew (Brighton) Gray, Hamish Meyer, Sir Anthony
Brotherton, Michael Grieve, Percy Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Grimond, Rt Hon J. Miscampbell, Norman
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Grist, Ian Monro, Hector
Buck, Antony Grylls, Michael Morrison, Peter (Chester)
Bulmer, Esmond Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nelson, Anthony
Burden, F. A. Hampson, Dr Keith Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, Mark Harrison, Sir Harwood (Eye) Newton, Tony
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Osborn, John
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, S) Hayhoe, Barney Page, John (Harrow West)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Henderson, Douglas Pardoe, John
Cockcroft, John Holland, Philip Parkinson, Cecil
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Hooson, Emlyn Pattie, Geoffrey
Cope, John Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Penhaligon, David
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, John Percival, Ian
Corrie, John Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Costain, A. P Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Reid, George
Crawford, Douglas James, David Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rifkind, Malcolm
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rocgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Durant Tony Kitson, Sir Timothy Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knight, Mrs Jill Shelton, William (Lambeth St.)
Elliott, Sir William Lane, David Shepherd, Colin
Eyre, Reginald Lawrence, Ivan Sims, Roger
Fairbairn, Nicholas Le Marchant, Spencer Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Fairgrieve, Russell Lester, Jim (Beeston) Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Speed, Keith
Spence, John Taylor, Teddy (Glasgow C.) Wall, Patrick
Spicer, James (W. Dorset) Tebbit, Norman Warren, Kenneth
Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester) Temple-Morris, P. Weatherill, Bernard
Sproat, Iain Thatcher, Rt Hon M. Welsh, Andrew
Stainton, Keith Thompson, George Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E.)
Stanbrook, Ivor Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon) Young, Sir George (Ealing)
Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) Townsend, Cyril D. Younger, Hon George
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Tugendhat, Christopher
Stokes, John Vaughan, Dr Gerard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Stradling Thomas, J. Viggers, P. J. Mr.Michael Roberts and
Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V) Mr. Fred Silvester.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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