HC Deb 19 November 1974 vol 881 cc1108-241

Order for Second reading read.

3.48 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Bruce Millan)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The provisions of the Bill must be considered against the general background of the impact of North Sea oil on our economy. In moving its Second Reading, therefore, it is necessary to recapitulate on a number of crucial economic facts.

First, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer stressed in his Budget speech last week, we, along with many other nations, face the most serious peace-time economic crisis in our history.

Secondly, an important element in our problems, and one which the Chancellor emphasised, is the fact that oil prices have increased five-fold in just over a year and that we are this year paying £2,500 million more for 5 per cent. less oil than we imported last year.

Thirdly, there is a ray of light in the form of North Sea oil resources. Fourthly, to ensure that these vast resources can be used to the best effect they must be exploited quickly. The hope is that we might produce enough oil equivalent to our needs by 1980.

In the light of these considerations, it is plain that the Government must have a strategy for exploiting North Sea oil for the benefit of all our people. The strategy is well known and includes public participation in licences, taxation proposals in the Bill published today, improved controls to protect the environment and the creation of a British National Oil Corporation. Some of these are matters for legislation which will be introduced later in this Session.

One additional point which I should mention is the move of the Offshore Supplies Office from London to Glasgow—an indication of our strong intention that Scottish industry should get involved in offshore work to the maximum extent.

The Bill at present before the House is another important element in the strategy. Briefly, it is concerned with key activities associated with the exploration and exploitation of oil which will take place in and around Scotland. The Bill applies only to Scotland because the circumstances in which these powers are likely to be used are relevant only in Scotland at the moment. It is important always to remember that from the point of view of the public it is the effects onshore of developments in the North Sea that have the most immediate impact.

The Bill has two purposes. 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. That is the short-term effect and intention of the Bill. Secondly—and equally importantly—it is intended to ensure that developments are regulated and controlled in the interests of the amenity and general prosperity of the area concerned, and that land used for such developments can be suitably restored when the developments are no longer required.

It is important to emphasise that there is a short-term aspect and a long-term aspect of the Bill, because some public attention has been too much directed to the short-term aspect and not enough to longer-term considerations.

The policy on which the Bill is based was set out in the statements made on 12th August this year by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Energy. These statements were made with particular reference to concrete platform construction. But the Bill goes beyond that aspect. The establishment of a concrete platform construction industry in Scotland is crucial to the exploitation of oil in the North Sea. It is very much bound up with the question of getting oil out as quickly as possible because the work involved will be an important source of jobs and prosperity for the people of Scotland. I hope that nobody will underemphasise the importance of the concrete platform construction and other oil-related activities from that point of view.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)

There are two points of view when one considers the Minister's phrase when he says that there is a clear need to get the oil out "as quickly as pos- sible ". Will he accept that there is another point which will be represented to him by members of the SNP—and, who knows, by other people in the House—namely, that it is a good thing to get the oil out as slowly as possible?

Mr. Millan

I know that that is a point of view which has been expressed, and I shall come to the SNP later.

I was dealing with the production of concrete platforms and I was about to say that good sites are scarce and tend to be 'in socially and environmentally sensitive areas. Therefore, public ownership provides the right mechanism to deal effectively with the situation. It enables the maximum use to be made of sites and avoids proliferation. This is an important point to emphasise at present when concern is being expressed in some quarters that we are at risk of having too many platform construction sites. I do not think that there is a risk of this, but to the extent that people have fears on this score I hope that the Bill will help to put them at rest.

Public ownership also emphasises to oil companies and platform builders the Government's intention that sites will be available in good time for the designs favoured by the operators. It ensures that only the requisite amount of infrastructure is provided so that there is not waste. Finally, it enables strict control to be exercised over developments and ensures the ultimate restoration or adaptation of the sites. These objectives are basic to the Bill.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hill-head)

To put the public's mind at rest on the interesting point of proliferation, will the Minister say what is the maximum number of sites envisaged?

Mr. Millan

If the hon. Gentleman will read the statements which were made on 12th August he will get the answer to his question, since design was dealt with in those statements. As this is the Second Reading of the Bill, I hope that I shall be allowed to develop my argument. If I do not cover certain points I shall be happy to give way. Perhaps it will save time if I am allowed to deal with some of the general considerations before coming to the Bill itself.

At this point I should perhaps mention the previous Government's intentions which were announced before they left office. Their proposals—although they were never introduced as a Bill—as I understand them, involved measures to short-circuit planning procedures. At that stage, as hon. Members will recall, a decision on an application for a platform site at Drumbuie was before the then Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon Campbell, who indicated that the new powers would be used to allow what he regarded as essential development there. The then Conservative Government proposed abrogation of the planning procedures and the specific planning inquiry which was then taking place in Drumbuie. When Labour came into office we took the view that it would not be right to interfere with normal planning procedures, and the present Bill is drafted accordingly. We took the view that it would be wrong to abrogate the Drumbuie inquiry, and it was allowed to continue. Labour produced no legislation until that matter was disposed of, and, as the House will know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland refused planning permission for development at Drumbuie. What we have been trying to do in the last few months, and are doing in the Bill, is to achieve a sensible balance between planning procedures on the one hand and development on the other.

It is no use believing that environmental considerations can be allowed to be the determining factor in every case, but equally it is no use believing—and it is not right if we are interested in preserving the beauties of Scotland—that development considerations should always override environmental considerations. We have tried—and, I hope, increasingly successfully—to get a balance between the two sets of considerations.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

The National Trust has made the point that it would like 28 days rather than 14 days for consideration. May we have an assurance that that point will be seriously considered by the Government?

Mr. Millan

Everything will be seriously considered, but that is precisely the detailed point which I suggested to the House I should deal with not at this moment but at an appropriate part of my speech. I shall be glad then to do so. We shall take account of the views of the National Trust, which I shall be mentioning a little later, on these matters.

I have already mentioned the Government's statement of 12th August. For the first time as a result of that statement individual proposals for platform sites could be examined against a background of a clear indication of where the national interest lies. As an aid to the implementation of that strategy, we have published coastal planning guidelines which indicate, for the benefit of local authorities and others, those areas of Scotland, particularly coastal areas, in which oil- and gas-related developments would normally be expected to take place. I am glad to say that these guidelines, which build on work done by the previous Government that I am happy to acknowledge, have been widely welcomed in Scotland as a positive attempt to produce a general framework within which specific proposals can be considered. Guidelines of this sort are especially important in planning intrastructure, for example. This is an area where much work has already been done, often in very difficult circumstances, by local authorities and the Government working together. I should mention in this context, because again I do not believe that sufficient attention is given to the progress which has been made on infrastructure, the work of the Moray Firth Working Party in that area.

The task facing the local authorities and the Government, however, is a considerable one. We are determined to see by financial and other means that local authorities continue to receive the necessary support. In our view, this Bill completes the range of measures necessary to ensure the proper implementation of our policies.

Before going on to describe the Bill in some detail, let me make two other main points. The first is that before the Bill was introduced there were consultations with the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the Nature Conservancy Council. I also discussed the Bill last week with the Oil Development Council, which includes leading figures from not only the oil industry, the construction industry, the trade unions and local authorities but the environmental bodies, including the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the National Trust. These bodies gave a general welcome to the Bill as being a constructive step by the Government to ensure controlled development of the oil industry, although some of them had specific points. But the fact remains that the welcome given was a general one and a genuine one. I make that point because it puts into proper perspective the hysterical claptrap uttered yesterday by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson).

I am glad to see the hon. Member for Dundee, East in his place. I hope that we shall hear from him later. I consider it to be rather disagreeable that the hon. Gentleman should make these grandiose speeches outside this House, especially when they are compared with the somewhat pathetic contributions which he makes to our debates in this Chamber. Since he and his party are showing great solicitude for Orkney and Shetland, as we have heard again today, it is worth pointing out that in many respects this Bill follows the pattern for Orkney and Shetland which has been laid down already by the legislation which, with the support of the present Government, those authorities have introduced.

The kind of policy which we have from the Scottish National Party and from a number of other people in Scotland would at the end of the day lead to virtually no development in Scotland at all, with the result that the very considerable opportunities from North Sea oil development in general terms and in terms of employment—both the opportunities which have already been grasped in Scotland and the increasing opportunities that we shall see over the next few years—would be lost completely to Scotland.

Mr. Iain MacCormick (Argyll)

In view of the sickening example of mutual backslapping in which the Minister is indulging, may I remind him of his remarks when the previous Government announced their intention of introducing a similar measure? The hon. Gentleman then referred to the substantial dangers to Scotland's interests. Has he forgotten those now that he has become a Minister?

Mr. Millan

Not in the least. Our major criticism of the Conservative Government's announcement on 21st January was that it was clearly their intention to override planning considerations completely and make the question of development the only consideration regardless of environmental and other considerations. That has not happened under the present Government, either in the case of Drumbuie or in the case of Scotland generally.

Before dealing in some detail with the provisions of the Bill, I want to make one other main point. As I have said already, over the past few months we have been developing a strategy for North Sea oil on a coherent basis for the benefit of all our people. When I say that, I mean all the people in the United Kingdom. I do not mean the people of Scotland exclusively, though, in the nature of things and as a direct result of the Government's policy over the past few months, the people of Scotland, as is only right with these new developments, will gain disproportionately from oil development. But they will not gain exclusively, because it is not the purpose of this Government to exploit North Sea oil simply and exclusively for the benefit of the people of Scotland. It is for the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. The people of Scotland will share in that prosperity, because we believe that the prosperity of Scotland is bound up with that of the United Kingdom as a whole.

I take this attitude because the oil at the moment happens to be off the coast of Scotland but it would be the same if it happened to be off the coast of England. As a good deal of the gas has already been found off the coast of England, I should expect Scotland to share fully in those benefits as well.

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

I accept and welcome my hon. Friend's announcement that oil is being found off other coasts. But in that case why is not the Bill a United Kingdom Bill?

Mr. Millan

Because I am glad to say that the developments with which we are dealing at the moment, especially the platform site developments, can be sited only in Scotland. That happens to be true for physical reasons. Therefore, the urgency of and need for the Bill rests in a Scottish context. This means that the maximum benefits from North Sea oil exploitation will come to Scotland.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)

Will the Minister explain why natural gas found in English waters is sold to Scotland from England at the highest across-the-border price Europe?

Mr. Millan

I shall be delighted to debate the gas price situation with the hon. Gentleman in a Statutory Instruments Committee which is meeting later this week. Gas prices in Scotland are higher than those in England. That situation arises because we have home rule for gas in Scotland under the Scottish Gas Board. That is where the additional prices have come from for gas in Scotland. I hope that under the British Gas Corporation the differential between Scottish and English gas prices will be reduced and eventually eliminated. As I say, I shall have pleasure in dealing with that matter at the meeting of the Statutory Instruments Committee later this week.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Although the hon. Gentleman is right about the average price of gas in Scotland, does he agree that North Sea gas is being provided at a uniform price to all gas boards in Scotland and England? This was a concession made about four years ago. Although he is right about the price charged overall, the reason has nothing to do with North Sea gas.

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman is right. The reason why gas prices in Scotland are higher than those in England is that we have an independent, autonomous Scottish Gas Board.

Having described some of the background, I come briefly to describe the provisions of the Bill.

Clauses 1 and 2 are concerned with the public acquisition of land. The Secretary of State will be empowered to acquire by agreement or compulsorily any land in Scotland needed for the exploration or exploitation of offshore oil. For certain specified purposes which are outlined in Clause 1(2), he will be able, where required because of the urgency, to proceed by means of an expedited compulsory acquisition procedure. The characteristics of that procedure, briefly, are that there would be no requirement to hold a public inquiry related to the compulsory purchase order, but the order would be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

These are wide powers, but, in the Government's view, they are essential. They are drafted widely because, in a rapidly developing situation of the kind which prevails in this area, there is, as I hope the House will appreciate, little point in legislating narrowly for today's problems only. The provisions of the Bill must be flexible enough to cope—subject to the necessary safeguards and controls—with tomorrow's situation as well.

An immediate use of these powers which the Government have in mind relates to sites for concrete platforms. As was explained in the statements on 12th August, to which I have already referred, we intend that the necessary number of suitable sites should be taken into public ownership and leased to contractors.

It is not possible at this stage to name the sites. A number of planning applications for concrete platform production facilities are currently being considered, and it would be inappropriate in these circumstances to refer to particular sites.

In this context I would stress again that nothing in these provisions affects the operation of normal planning arrangements. Broadly speaking, however, subject to what I have said about the planning situation, we intend initially to acquire those sites technically suitable for the construction of concrete platforms, particularly those on the "preferred" list of designs, which are not yet operative. The powers will also be available in relation to existing sites, but where these are well established and operating efficiently public acquisition is not envisaged. If those circumstances changed the situation would be looked at again.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)

If a site is already owned by a public authority, do the Government intend to take it into public ownership?

Mr. Millan

I do not know which site my hon. Friend has in mind, but there are special provisions here. As I said, the question of applying these particular provisions to existing sites will depend on the circumstances.

The one additional point I would make is that, in view of the Secretary of State's statement on 9th July on the suitability of Hunterston for concrete platform fabrication, I envisage that the Hunterston site would be one of those to be publicly acquired under the Bill, assuming that planning approval for particular proposals is given.

At this point I must acknowledge with gratitude the co-operation that we have received, and are continuing to receive, from the Hunterston Development Company. There is a need for development to continue on the site, and I am grateful that the company has been so cooperative. It will have an important rôle to play if we are to get Hunterston operational quickly.

Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)

My hon. Friend said that he has had full co-operation from the Hunterston Development Company. What are the intentions of the British Steel Corporation? Is it still to be allowed to keep the land fenced off to prevent further development?

Mr. Millan

I think that my hon. Friend has got this wrong. The bits of the Hunterston site which are relevant from the platform construction point of view are not owned, and have not been taken over, by the British Steel Corporation. As I said, it is envisaged that the Hunterston site will be publicly acquired. If any particular problems arise in future the powers in the Bill would be available to the Secretary of State. As things stand, I do not envisage that we shall encounter the kind of difficulty that my hon. Friend seems to fear.

Under the Bill land would be acquired by the Secretary of State for Scotland as planning Minister. Full planning powers and responsibility for all planning matters would remain with my right hon. Friend. Planning conditions, all questions of infrastructure—roads, housing, and so on —are matters for him in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The Department of Energy is, however, responsible for platform construction and for the oil industry. It has the technical expertise for evaluating different designs and ensuring that site preparation work, to which the Government might be contributing, is consistent with future uses of a site. That Department therefore has a major rôle to place in the management of sites. The Departments concerned will work closely to achieve the Government's objectives, and a suitable management structure is being developed for that purpose.

The procedure to be adopted under the Bill would be a matter for decision in each case. The expedited acquisition procedure would be available where the land was needed as a matter of urgency. Sites for concrete platform construction are indeed needed urgently so that firms are able to tender for the current round of orders being placed by the oil companies for delivery in 1977. Where necessary, therefore, the expedited procedure will be used. Again, of course, it does not override the normal planning procedures.

Clauses 3 to 7 of the Bill are concerned with oil-related operations around the Scottish coast. The best example is the fabrication of the latter stages of concrete construction platforms. These must take place in sheltered water, and for certain purposes that water must also be deep. The stretches of water around the Scottish coast which meet these specifications are not numerous. Obviously it is important to get operations in these stretches of water under control. The Secretary of State will be enabled to designate areas of the sea around the Scottish coast for the purposes of these sea-based operations. Proper management will be assured by a licensing system. Anyone wishing to carry out such operations in a designated area will require a licence. Failure to obtain a licence or contravention of a licence condition will be an offence.

In addition, activities within the area would be governed by regulations. These would cover such matters as the control and protection of navigation, the safety of the public, and the control of pollution.

The operations will take place inshore, and one factor which must be uppermost is the need to protect the interests of those living in the area. In some areas—to some extent this can be achieved under planning law—a more positive and comprehensive approach is needed. This is provided in the Bill.

Again, it is not possible at this stage to identify particular sites with certainty. We shall need further discussions with the construction companies, the local authorities, and the other public authorities concerned. It seems likely, however, that there will be a need for areas to be designated in Loch Fyne and in the Inner Sound of Raasay. The Bill provides that in appropriate areas a harbour authority or a local authority might exercise powers under the Bill on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Clauses 8 and 9 deal with the important matter of reinstatement of land after its use for oil-related purposes. I should interpolate that part of the Government's policy in this sphere is to get as long-term use as possible for all these sites. That is one of the main purposes of the Bill. However, we must face the fact that some of these sites will have a limited life. In any case, whatever the life of a site may be for production platforms or for oil-related purposes, there will come a time when it is no longer required.

We in Scotland are only too familiar with the consequences of past industrial developments where lack of foresight and imagination, or sometimes neglect, has given us permanent scars on the landscape. We are determined that history should not repeat itself. The Secretary of State will have powers under the Bill to carry out works to reinstate land to its previous condition after the purpose for which it was acquired has been served. Alternatively, after consulting the local authority, he will be able to convert the land for an alternative use. That could be another industrial use or a recreation or leisure use of some kind. For example, a marina or harbour development may be contemplated in some area. Reinstatement will not be a matter only for the Government. We shall have to take account of the views of the local authorities concerned.

There is another aspect of the Bill relating to reinstatement which is worth emphasising. We are taking additional powers to deal with developments on privately-owned land. There is a gap in our present planning procedure. When granting planning permission, the local authority can lay down certain conditions relating to reinstatement, but it is unable to enforce those conditions in a financial sense. Certainly it is unable to impose financial conditions at the time of granting planning permission so as to ensure that the money will eventually be available for reinstatement. That power will be provided in the Bill.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

To what extent will private companies that have been using and exploit- ing land be involved in financing the reinstatement of that land?

Mr. Millan

That will depend upon the conditions that have been laid down by the planning authority in the first instance. In some instances there have been informal arrangements, but under the Bill we are making the arrangements formal so we can provide that the necessary finance will be available.

Clause 10 empowers the Secretary of State to carry out or defray or contribute to the cost of works on land and in designated sea areas. It may be necessary to use these powers, for example, to carry out preparatory work on sites acquired for the purposes of concrete platform construction. This approach would give the Government full control of the basic planning of a site and of the provision of the necessary services and facilities. In this way its future use in a flexible way by a number of developers—for example, the possibility of ultimate reinstatement— can be best assured. As the Bill's Explanatory and Financial Memorandum explains, it is intended that the Government's outlays under that provision should be recovered from the developer. The figure in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum is a gross one, and this operation is basically one that we wish to see reimbursed by the developers concerned. There is not in any real sense any additional Government money involved.

Clause 11 deals explicitly with the question of inalienable land, and this matter is likely to be the subject of some debate when we consider the clause. I merely make the point that although we are eliminating one kind of parliamentary procedure we are introducing a different kind under the Bill, so there is no question of eliminating parliamentary procedure completely.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

The hon. Gentleman said that the National Trust in Scotland and England had given general approval to these proposals. Does he not agree that those organisations are particularly anxious about this provision, in spite of what he has just said?

Mr. Millan

I know that the National Trusts have expressed reservations about this provision, and no doubt we shall debate the matter in Committee. I rest on the statement that we have made this explicit provision in the Bill because although one kind of parliamentary procedure will be removed another will be put in its place. I believe that in the whole context of the Bill this is a reasonable provision.

I hope that the House will welcome these proposals. I am sorry to have gone on for rather longer than I had hoped, but I trust that in doing so I have cleared up a number of points of detail and, who knows, I may even have reduced the length of the Committee stage. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) is nodding agreeably, but I do not believe that.

I repeat my hope that the House will welcome the proposals in the Bill and, in view of its importance in the context of the Government's oil strategy will give the measure a speedy passage. This is a measure in the public interest, to take greater powers of control of developments that are crucial in terms of the national economy and have serious environmental and social implications for those parts of the country where they must take place. As in relation to all oil developments, the aim must be to proceed quickly, but with adequate controls and safeguards. In this kind of situation, matters cannot be left to private enterprise and the forces of the market place. There is a vital job for Government to do, and this Government, I hope with the support of the House, are determined to do it.

Mr. Speaker

I call the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith).

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)


Mr. Crawford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be more useful for the House to have as the main and immediate reply to the Minister's speech a contribution from the party that is now the second party in Scotland, namely, the SNP?

Mr. Speaker

That is really a reflection on the Chair, which can be made only in a certain way. It is for me to select speakers. Mr. Buchanan-Smith.

4.26 p.m..

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If the views of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) and his party were more relevant to the needs of Scotland the House might be more sympathetic towards the kind of statement that he has just made.

May I start on a personal note by welcoming to the Government Front Bench the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith): This is the first debate on energy in the House in which the hon. Gentleman is taking part as a Minister, and I wish him well in his new office. I must, however, say that some people were surprised at the departure of his predecessor, the man who was acclaimed in the Scottish Press as "Mr. Oil". He disappeared quite suddenly after the October election, and all I can say in conjunction with his disappearance is that he may have found the waters of the North Sea rather less stormy than the waters to which he has now gone in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I suppose that the chief justification for the appointment of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North to his present office is the tremendous amount of legal work that will be involved in drafting Bills affecting the whole of the offshore oil industry, and instead of talking about "Mr. Oil" we shall in future talk about "Mr. Law".

The Opposition welcome the principles behind the Bill because, as the Minister said, the acquisition of oil construction platforms follows the statement made by a former Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Gordon Campbell, on 31st January. The principles behind the Bill are good, and I emphasise what the Minister said, because this is a matter of urgency. This development is of considerable importance to our balance of payments, and the strength of our economy is something that no one can afford to overlook.

There is one matter on which the Minister touched only briefly. If we do not take the necessary action, Scottish industry will fail to gain any advantage from the new technology that is developing off the coast of Scotland. It is a well-proven fact in the offshore oil industry that sub-contracts follow where the main contracts are placed. An oil platform costs about £60 million, but out of that, as the Secretary of State for Energy said on 12th August, about £25 million goes on ancillary equipment of one kind and another. If we do not get the advantage of being able to build the main structures, the opportunity for Scottish industry to share in this other technology will be diminished proportionately, and that is something that I do not want to see.

These developments are important not only for jobs in Scotland but for Scotland as a whole. They will enable us to become a base for future offshore technology not only off our own coasts but in other parts of the world. This is something in which our universities, research organisations and colleges of technology should become involved. If we miss this opportunity, the harm that will be done across Scotland will be far greater than merely the loss of jobs.

Another reason for supporting the principle of the Bill is the need to deal with the whole question of proliferation. Those who live in areas where this kind of development can take place have expressed a great deal of anxiety about the possibility of these sites proliferating. Anything which can be done to concentrate development in particular areas would make better use of the environment and put at rest some anxieties.

The other advantage which commends the principle of the Bill to me is its provision for restoration of sites. We must not fail to learn the lesson of the scars of the Industrial Revolution which are still before our eyes in Scotland. This, too, does not benefit Scotland as a whole, but it will help to allay some of the anxieties of those who live near the sites. Once the operation is over, they will not have an eyesore on their doorstep for ever.

Although I welcome this principle—despite the Minister's talk of urgency—I must also welcome the Government's conversion to the principle of the Bill. From the time they came to power in March, although their language was careful, they did not make out a case for urgency. They talked of leaving the matter until later and of "considering" it. Now at last they have come to a decision. I could not help but smile at the Minister's references today to urgency. If it is urgent today, I cannot see why it was less urgent nine months ago when the Government could have taken over or modified the existing proposals.

At least there is some joy over the sinner that repenteth. Throughout the summer, the Minister of State and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) were saying that the matter would be considered. Only now have they decided.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Could it not be said that it was the Government's view that the matter was urgent which led them to make such a mess of the arrangements for the oil companies that they were heavily indicted by the report of the Public Accounts Committee? Should we not be better off with a little less urgency, in view of those mistakes?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The first thing the hon. Lady should do is read the report of the Public Accounts Committee—

Mrs. Ewing

I have. That is why I mentioned it.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

That report referred to financial arrangements, on which this Government's predecessor made a commitment a long time ago. They would have been able to take action long in advance of any revenue flowing from oil. That kind of intervention merely shows the hon. Lady's lack of knowledge, not only of what happened in the House but also of the facts of life of the oil industry. No revenue of any quantity is yet flowing from oil.

My main difference with the Government is on the fact that, throughout the summer, in this House and in the Scottish Grand Committee, they kept putting the matter off and saying that it was not urgent. Yet the Minister today laced his speech with references to the need for urgency.

What is the cost of the delay since March? If it is now urgent, to benefit the balance of payments, to ensure that Scottish industry will get the benefit in jobs and technology, surely there were benefits to be had over the last few months in getting the planning moving and the sites prepared and enabling firms to accept orders. It is plain from what those firms have said throughout the summer that they get plenty of inquiries but no firm orders until they can actually construct the platforms. This is where the Government have missed out and must stand indicted.

The picture is summed up in two headings from newspapers. In the Scotsman on 24th July, we read: UK forfeits £150m in oilrig contracts. The Sunday Telegraph on 18th August said: Oil firms moving to Scandinavia. That was after the statement by the Secretary of State for Energy. The Chairman of Burmah Oil, who wanted to place an order in Scotland, was talking during the summer of having to take it elsewhere. How many orders were lost through this delay? There have been many reports about it.

Given the fact that we have lost nine months when great interest has been shown by companies drilling in the North Sea in placing orders for platforms, there has been a considerable change in circumstances, despite what the Minister said about urgency. I support the principle of avoiding proliferation and ensuring restoration, but I wonder whether the urgency of this approach has been overtaken by events.

First, some orders have gone to Scandinavia, where there are yards.

Mr. Millan

Could the hon. Member specify those orders?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

This is what I am asking the Government. I am saying that those firms in Scandinavia, in Norway, which are building platforms have had full berths during the summer. If we had been able to get started when it was known nine months ago that there would be sites available in Scotland, might we not have got these orders in Scotland instead of losing them to Scandinavia? I have referred precisely to a newspaper report and asked the Minister for information about those orders.

The second thing that he has not taken into account is the slippage in the exploitation programme. This has happened for a number of reasons, including the weather. It is also happening because of costs. The Secretary of State for Energy said on 12th August that by 1980 about 55 to 80 platforms would be required. In 1974–75, he expected 13 orders to be placed, with a run of about nine per year after that.

If that is to be the rate of orders, it appears that the number of platforms required will be at the lower end of that scale rather than the upper end. If the hon. Gentleman has not seen comment about this, he cannot have been reading his newspapers. There has been considerable comment by the industry on this slippage. In addition, we have seen the development during the summer of a number of sites. We have had the Ardyne site, with the McAlpine sea tank. We have now the Kishorn site with Howard Doris, for which the Secretary of State has given approval, and the Taywood site at Alness, for which planning permission has already been given.

If we add to that what is now proposed for Hunterston—again something which has been overtaken by decisions taken since March—and the Portavadie site which has the approval of the county council, the local planning authority, but has been called in by the Secretary of State, we find already in Scotland a potential of 11 berths for building these concrete platforms. As more than one platform is built per berth during the year, the potential capacity in Scotland for building these platforms is very much greater than simply the number of berths that may be available.

I merely mention this matter because we must get into perspective the urgency which exists now, and which existed certainly nine months ago when some of these decisions had not been taken. Events have moved during the summer. How much greater urgency exists today by comparison with that which existed nine months ago? I should like to hear the hon. Gentleman's comments on the upper limit of the number of sites which he feels necessary in relation to what has been provided or for which provision has been made during the summer.

I turn to one particular point, about which the Minister of State made particular play. He said that when the Conservatives were in Government in January—and when Gordon Campbell made his statement regarding our proposals—he said that our proposals abrogated planning procedures. For the sake of the record, I must say that the hon. Gentleman was less than fair in making that comment. They did not abrogate planning procedures. I notice that the hon. Gentleman looks quizzically at me, but I ask him to read that statement. We said that they would be subject to planning procedures, though of a shortened form, and there was no question of abrogating planning procedures.

That is a subject for which the hon. Gentleman has something to answer. He has tried to make out to the House that what he is proposing will keep in being and pay complete attention to such procedures, and that it will be different from what we proposed because of the way in which it will respect planning procedures in every detail and in every way possible.

But when we look at the Bill we see that the Government are seeking very extensive powers. I shall talk about those powers shortly. One of the powers that they want is in relation to compulsory acquisition, where it is needed urgently. On that point I do not differ from the hon. Gentleman. But the real issue I take up with him concerns planning procedures.

As recently as 16th November, the end of last week, the hon. Gentleman went on record as saying that this would not override normal planning procedures. By the strict letter of what he said, that may be correct. But I ask the House to reflect on what will happen when, as a result of a compulsory acquisition procedure, the Secretary of State takes over a particular site and that site is then vested in him. Then, the Crown will be in a privileged position in relation to the planning procedures. Therefore, to say that simply by taking over these sites one will be necessarily in exactly the same position as a private individual in relation to the planning legislation is completely ignoring the very special position of a Government Department in relation to the possession of a site.

The Minister of State's protestations about not overriding the planning procedures are a lot of eyewash. He is misleading the people of this country about the planning procedures because of the unique position of a Government Department.

Mr. Millan

I should like to clear up this matter quickly. The fact is that the acquisition will not take place until planning permission has been granted.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

It will.

Mr. Millan

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he has not understood the Bill. The Bill does not in any way abrogate the planning procedures. The expedited compulsory purchase will take effect only if planning permission has been granted.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that point, which is obviously a matter which we shall probe further in Committee. But if that is so, what is the urgency and need for the Bill at all? Surely under existing legislation we already have powers of compulsory acquisition. We are speeding them up by the Bill. Therefore, only an element of speeding up is in the Bill. If there is an urgency in this matter, we must ask where is the area in which delay takes place. As we know, and as hon. Members on the Government side of the House have said, the only other area in which delay occurs is in planning procedures. If the Bill does nothing concerning planning procedures, what will it do in expediting the exploitation of offshore oil? What is the purpose of the Bill?

Mr. Millan

I want to clarify this matter. I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand the hon. Gentleman's position. Is he in favour of overriding the planning procedures or not?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am not in favour of overriding the rights of individuals in relation to planning procedures. That was the one thing which Gordon Campbell specifically stated. It is on record in HANSARD. What we proposed to do was to shorten the procedures. That would have certain advantages—advantages which the Minister of State, amazingly, does not seem to appreciate, and advantages in the faster exploitation of North Sea oil.

A second point which the hon. Gentleman appears to have forgotten is the problem for individuals of the very great expense involved in planning procedures, as the Drumbuie procedures have shown. There are certainly advantages in that respect, and many people would like to see improvements.

That brings me to my next point. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not touch on it this afternoon. What are the Government doing to try to improve and speed up the planning procedures? If the Bill will do nothing about it, we in Scotland deserve to know what other proposals the Government may have. It is true that, certainly since March, the Government have carried on the consultations, which we started when we were in Government, with those who have an interest in planning matters to see whether there was some way in which they could be streamlined and improved. But what the hon. Gentleman said today makes me wonder whether there is anything in the Bill which will speed up the procedures and attain the objective which the hon. Gentleman has stated is the objective in the Bill.

Finally, I turn to something which, in the light of the information that we have elicited from the Minister of State, makes this question even more pertinent than I first thought. That concerns the powers to which the Secretary of State is to have under Clause 1. First, I refer to Clause 1(2)(d), in which we see a Draconian extension of State power which goes well beyond the immediate purposes of the Bill. I do not take exception to the powers contained in Clause 1(2)(a), which is quite specifically related to the exploitation of offshore oil. But subsection (2)(d) states: means of access, housing, sources of material or other services or facilities required for the development or use of land for any purpose referred to in subsection (1) above, or for meeting the needs of persons employed or to be employed in connection with any such purpose". These are extensions of powers far beyond the immediate purposes of the Bill and we shall certainly probe them in Committee.

I believe that the Government have allowed themselves to be carried away. The Bill has become an excuse for an extension of "Bennery" in Scotland, and I am sorry that the Scottish Ministers have fallen for this. I do not believe it satisfactory that these powers, given their extension beyond the purposes of Clause l(2)(a), (b) and (c) to the wider purposes in paragraph (d), should be exercised simply upon the negative resolution procedure as is proposed in Clause 1(5). Powers of this nature should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, as we made clear when we put forward our proposals in January.

My third point concerns the powers of the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation. The Minister of State did not touch on this point. Does he see an extension of the corporation's powers? Could it become a management corporation for production platforms, or is its function simply to be as it is at the moment, that of an agency for ownership and development of the site for a specific purpose where that site is operated by a third party? I hope that we shall be given an assurance on that point.

I turn to the designated sea areas. I accept the reasons for this provision. Assembly of these platforms will be continued away from the land site where the construction work actually began. I hope the Government will give an assurance to allay the very great fears of those who earn their living from the sea. There is deep concern in the fishing industry in Scotland over debris on the sea bed, sterilisation of areas of the sea bed because of pipelines, and so on. I urge that these sea areas should not be designated without the closest possible consultation with those who get their livelihood—as they have traditionally done—from the sea.

May we have an assurance, too, that the power is restricted to that which is absolutely necessary and does not go beyond the immediate purposes and needs of constructing these platforms so that the Scottish fishermen draw the maximum amount of benefit from the sea round our coasts.

I welcome the powers for reinstatement of the sites but I am most worried about the provision to enable the Government to use the sites for other purposes after they have been reinstated. Where land has been compulsorily acquired, the Crichel Down procedures apply. Would it not be right for land which was originally acquired compulsorily and was subsequently reinstated to be offered back to those from whom it was acquired in the first place? There is a danger here of the extension of State powers which we should want to resist and probe in Committee.

The main purposes of the Bill and its objectives are good in that they should enable Scotland and Scottish industry to take greater advantage of offshore oil technology and should better protect the environment and the interests of those who live in the areas of these developments. Nevertheless, the powers the Government are taking exceed what is necessary to achieve the limited purposes which are so essential now. In giving a qualified welcome to the Bill, I hope that by the time it completes its Committee stage its powers will be more closely geared to the true purposes of the Bill and not to the extension of Government powers generally.

4.55 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I join in the congratulations offered to the Under-Secretary of State for Energy on his appointment.

We shall oppose the Bill, and we shall divide the House against it. As long ago as 1972 I began pressing the then Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Gordon Campbell, saying that the planning procedures needed amending in view of the oil discoveries. I found it very difficult to restrain myself from interrupting during the remarks by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) when he attacked the Government for being slow. The Tory Government sat for two years and did absolutely nothing about the planning procedures. Now the hon. Gentleman is saying that the Labour Government have taken nine months to act. T dare say that he had some hand in drafting the soporific missives that came out of the Scottish Office to me which said that nothing needed doing.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith


Mr. Grimond

I hope not to be interrupted more than about 15 times, but I give way to the hon. Member.


Can the right hon. Gentleman put his hand on his heart and say that as much as two years before January, when the industry was in its infancy, he saw that this kind of provision would be necessary?

Mr. Grimond

Yes. At least, I did so more than a year before, and therefore when the Bill was produced I looked at it with great interest. However, it will not do, and therefore we must vote against it. I had hoped that we might be able to amend it, but the title alone makes it impossible to discuss, for instance, whether it should apply to the whole of Great Britain. Any amendments to it would have to be so extensive that the Bill would surely be more or less destroyed.

The Minister of State's speech seemed to be directed towards the statement of 12th August and not towards the Bill. The Bill goes far beyond that statement. He claimed that the Bill would remove uncertainty, but I believe that it will create uncertainty. It is so widely drawn that the Secretary of State can take practically any land related to the oil industry.

I wholly share the Government's view that the Tory Government made a completely bad bargain with the oil companies and were extremely dilatory in dealing with the whole oil question. However, the factor of uncertainty is becoming serious, and the oil companies are saying—and I believe them—that if the terms under which they operate are made more and more obscure or are altered, it may well become necessary for them to curtail their exploration.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

Will the right hon Gentleman give way?

Mr. Grimond

No, thank you very much.

It does not seem to be appreciated that the exploration for oil and the bringing of it ashore are fairly far advanced. The rules of the game cannot constantly be changed, nor can new swords be hung over the heads of the oil companies without fairly serious consequences.

I understand that the Government will shortly introduce a Bill dealing with all development land. It is at least worth considering whether we need two Bills to deal with part of the same matter. Also, it is agreed now by all the parties that in the foreseeable future we shall have a Parliament in Scotland. I get more and more alarmed about the state in which that Parliament will take over.

The Bill is bad, first, because it increases uncertainty. Secondly, it is bad because it removes most of the safeguards not only for individuals but for public authorities. It goes much further than the Government statement. To listen to the Minister one would think that it dealt only with oil rigs and platforms, but that is not the case. In Scotland it would empower the Secretary of State, if he so wanted, to take over Princes Street Gardens for an American firm to make valves, say, for exploitation in the sea off Cornwall. That is the position under the Bill. That could be done. It is not necessary to show that the site is on the coast. It can be anywhere in Scotland. It is not necessary to show that the oil extraction is in Scottish waters. It can be offshore anywhere in Britain. The Secretary of State does not have to hold an inquiry. He does not have to receive any evidence, except written evidence, and for that, if you please, Mr. Deputy Speaker, 14 days is to be allowed.

The Secretary of State must tell us on what principle he will be acting under the Bill. The House must inquire for whose benefit the Bill is being introduced. In all these matters of oil development there are competing interests. There are the claims of the companies, there are the claims of the economy, and there are the claims of the local inhabitants and the local authorities. There are also the claims of conservation of resources and claims about the protection of scenic beauty. The Bill has presumably been introduced for the companies and for the economy because it was found that the present procedures hamper development too much. It has been introduced for their benefit and for the benefit of the Scottish economy.

In the absence of any other indication, we must take it that the Secretary of State will exercise his powers very largely to speed up exploitation of oil—in the interests of the economy of Great Britain in general, as he has said, and of the companies. Certainly, the general interest has a right to be heard and in certain cases it may override local interests. But we ought to address our minds to the fundamental thinking behind the Bill, a Bill that is not favourable, apparently, to local interests.

It is an extraordinary affair altogether. Why is the Bill confined to Scotland? The Minister said that this sort of thing could happen only in Scotland, but platforms or rigs can be built anywhere, in big shipyards. They are being built in John Brown's shipyards and they can be built in Wales. They are also being built in County Mayo in Ireland. Much more explanation is needed to show why it should be confined to Scotland.

It is an extraordinary commentary on our way of government that Orkney and Shetland should have been forced to introduce local Bills because of the inaction of the then Government. Now another Government come trailing along behind, picking up ideas and getting them partly wrong, and hopelessly confusing the situation in the very centre of oil development.

Throughout the country there is growing dissatisfaction with government. One of the reasons for this is that, despite the enomous increase in its size, government gets more and more incompetent. The handling of oil has been a story of incompetence almost from the beginning.

What reason have we to suppose that the Scottish Office is in any way equipped to deal with this sort of matter? Who believes that the Scottish Office has people in it who can decide under the Bill not only about rigs and platforms but about every development associated with oil, and who can decide on a particular place as essential for a certain project and override most, if not all, of the safeguards for individuals? The Bill says that such duties will require 15 more people in the Scottish Office, involving an expenditure of £40,000 a year. God knows I am against extending the Scottish Office, but if we have a genius in the country who could carry out the provisions of the Bill he would be worth £15,000 or £20,000 a year himself. The Scottish Office has no expertise or experience in the oil industry. To entrust it with these powers in the Bill would be dangerous.

The Zetland County Council Bill alone involved skilled manpower for weeks, and cost thousands of pounds. It was accepted by Parliament and the then Government and is now being operated, and the Shetland local authorities, with the full approval and help of the Government, are dealing with the oil companies. Orkney is following suit. Now we are given this Bill which could create total uncertainty over the whole matter.

It is no good the Government saying that they do not intend to do that but only to apply the Bill to rigs, and that they will allow the Shetland authorities to go on within their own Act. But Parliament must have learnt by now that it is not our business to trust the words of Ministers. It is not our business to pass legislation which makes sense only if enforced by sensible Ministers. That would be a very long shot. Who can tell? We may, instead of having the flexible, tolerant and sunny present Secretary of State for Scotland, get a real devil at some future date—and what would happen then?

Mr. Millan

The right hon. Gentleman has complained about the previous Government's dilatoriness and lack of action, and he is now complaining about the Bill. Does he simply want us to take the Bill away altogether and thus have absolutely nothing, or does he want us to replace it with something else? If he wants the Bill replaced, will he kindly explain with what he would like it replaced?

Mr. Grimond

The alternative to doing nothing is not chaos, not throwing yourself out of the window; it is producing a Bill which might contain certain aspects of this Bill but would not be this Bill. I shall make certain suggestions about improving it.

Let us look at the Bill in more detail. Many points can be dealt with in Committee, but some should be considered now. Let us look first at Schedule 1.

Mr. Millan


Mr. Grimond

I find the sedentary mutters on the Government benches disturbing. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen would be quiet or would go out.

In Schedule 1 the duty should be laid on the Secretary of State to state the explicit purpose for which the land is required. He should have to advertise his proposals more widely. He is not even forced to advertise in the local paper. Only a period of 14 days is given for representations to be made, and that is absurd. It is all very well to say that this can be amended in Committee, but the sort of mentality which can write 14 days into such a Bill is suspect to begin with.

The Secretary of State should be willing to see individuals and delegations from local authorities or from the National Trust. It is proposed that there should be only 14 days between the coming of the order into operation and the action of the Secretary of State. Therefore, a man whose property is being taken over does not have much time to make preparations.

We are not entitled to rely on the niceness and good sense of the Secretary of State. Clause 1(1) is far too widely drawn. It empowers the Secretary of State compulsorily to acquire land for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum. Clause 1(1)(d) provides that the Secreretary of State is particularly empowered to take over means of access, housing, sources of material… and so on. None of this is essential for the speeding up of North Sea oil.

Clause 2(5) empowers the Secretary of State to extinguish any public rights of way or other public rights— For instance, in my constituency there are udal rights, guaranteed for hundreds of years, and these, I understand, could be extinguished under the Bill. Can the Secretary of State ignore the plans of local authorities? Under Clause 5(2) he can override the Orkney and Shetland Acts, which would be a disaster.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not want to mislead us. He said there was no requirement for proposals to be advertised in a local paper. But Schedule 1(1)(b) specifically requires the Secretary of State to advertise in a local paper.

Mr. Grimond

The Bill says "circulating in the locality". The Scotsman circulates in the locality [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]. Very well. I withdraw that point.

As has been mentioned, the Secretary of State can override the rights of the National Trust. What is not mentioned in the Bill—and I should be grateful for information on it—is the position of the Crown Commissioners. I hold no brief for the Crown Commissioners. They take large sums of money and do not do us much good. But this situation has been of considerable importance in my constituency. Are the rights of the Crown Commissioners protected under the Bill? Do we have to deal with them as well?

Great anxiety will be caused to fishermen. There is no protection for them. The area covered by the Bill is vague. Is it within territorial waters? Once the Secretary of State has decided to make an order, the fishermen have only 14 days in which to object. It is implicit that the Secretary of State need not see them or hear them. He can disregard their rights.

I come to the question of harbour authorities. In my constituency the Lerwick Harbour Authority is in the middle of a large scheme to improve the harbour for oil-related activities. The Bill does not make clear what its position will now be.

With regard to restitution after the oil activity is over, the Secretary of State is bound to reinstate land only in so far as, in his opinion, it is practicable to do so. At this stage there should be safeguards by way of inquiry or by some other means of deciding what should happen to the land. Without that, we shall be back to a Crichel Down situation unnecessarily.

The financial provisions will cause great difficulty, at least in my constituency. The Shetland County Council and the Orkney County Council are making arrangements with the oil companies for certain payments. Apparently, these could be taken over by the Secretary of State. It is not enough to say that he will not do it, because he will retain the power under the Bill, and local authorities cannot act upon the assumption that he will not do it.

The House should reject the Bill. I say that with regret because a Bill of a certain sort is necessary, but the present Bill goes far wider than is needed. I am very doubtful whether it will meet the case. I take the point of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns. If we are going through all the planning procedures as well as the Bill, where is the advantage? If we are not, the powers of the Bill, I am advised by lawyers, are greater than any powers taken in time of war. I very much doubt that even our present situation justifies our taking these powers late in the day, when the oil exploration is already under way.

The Bill must be scrutinised line by line, and we must at all costs alter the negative procedure. For one thing, nearly all orders of this type should be amended. They are nearly always wrong in detail, but under the negative procedure we cannot amend. Some other form of making our representations must be found than leaving it to the Secretary of State simply to receive written representations made in a great hurry, with him giving no public reasons for the urgency or for the type of development, or doing anything to justify his actions.

Therefore, we shall give the House the opportunity to reject the Bill. I hope that the Government will take it away and introduce a new one. Some sort of Bill is necessary, but this is not the one.

5.14 p.m.

Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is to vote against the Bill. He makes his announcement too early, before he has heard the wisdom of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden. He might change his mind after hearing me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith), who has been elevated to the Front Bench, is a nice fellow, but he will require his dictionary to understand what I say on occasions. I understand the strain put on the HANSARD reporters when I address the House, and I apologise for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) always appreciates a little Latin. My hon. Friend who has just been elevated to the Front Bench represents for me the four cardinal virtues, and for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire, instead of using English or Scots to describe them, I shall use Latin, as follows: Prudentia, justitia, fortitudo et temperantia.

Mr. Lambie

Muchas gracias.

Mr. Small

At the time of the 1964 election I had the greatest difficulty in convincing the county assessor that I was a legitimate man entitled to be a candidate. I had built a small bungalow, and my address in the directory was "Mr. William Small, Off Gray Avenue". "Off" has no destination. I had to hurry to the post office and get a number. That brought me here.

I am reminded of that episode by the word "offshore". I have seen the narcissistic impulses of the Scottish National Party on Scottish oil. The Scots lasses were shampooing their tresses in it. They were drinking the stuff. The great problem for the Scottish people is that they can never get drunk enough, so it was more and more oil.

I come to the atmosphere of the 20th century. If one accepts the doctrine of technological omnipotence, one supports the Bill. If one does not, one is part of a bygone age. The doctrine of technological omnipotence is established by such potent symbols as Scottish oil. An international audience is watching what we do, how we legislate, and what protections there are. The Bill addresses itself to an international audience, and it should be supported.

What is the motivation behind all the grandiose and expensive projects put before us at the two recent General Elections? The only possible justification for these gesture politics is that we adopt the religion of industrialisation. That religion fully justifies the sacrifices involved. The Liberal Party must make up its mind on the issue. A new industrial world is being created. It is an environmental whim to argue whether the natural interest is above the individual interest. I remember Crichel Down, but I have never known any legislator legislate for the remote, and Crichel Down was remote. It was a matter of individual conscience, one has to specify detailed matters in legislative form. That is to go back to native ideas, and we are way past that.

The philosophy behind the new paradise can be summed up in the Scots saying: The Lord send you readier meat than running hares. an oil diet.

In this area of economic activity in the depressed regions we must decide whether the Secretary of State or the oil companies should have control. When I first came to the House I was involved in a Bill called the Esso Petroleum Bill. It was then debated whether a private company should be superior to the State and should have the right to make compulsory purchase orders. We have now to make up our minds whether economic activity can be promoted by an Act introduced by the Secretary of State which seeks to take over land, and seas close to the land. We are presented with the situation of a willing seller and a willing buyer.

I have all the details before me but I shall not weary the House by going into them at great length. There is the question whether there should be concrete or steel structures. At present the balance is in favour of concrete structures. No big oil company would enter into any idea of using submarine submersibles and venturing into new technology such as bathymetrics unless it considered that its own position was secure. We are now talking about objects that are the height of the Eiffel Tower. It is necessary to find sites on reasonably level pieces of land. The speed at which a new technology can proceed is a matter to be decided between Ministers and the Scottish Office. There is no point in playing oil roulette when there are difficulties in obtaining suitable sites.

There must be a sense of activity. There must be the opportunity to explore. There must be the right of entry to land. That is the issue with which the Liberal Party is concerned—namely the right of entry for surveyors. If we take the matter to its logical conclusion and assume that there is not such a right on a willing seller and willing buyer basis certain results will flow. There is a time race in which new technologies are involved. It has already been said that in terms of new technology and design studies Norway is likely to win. There is the opportunity to win in engineering terms but that opportunity can be lost through a time lag.

I am a strong supporter of the Bill. If we examine it in terms of industrialisation it is seen to be relevant to the industrial metropolis that will exist in 15 to 20 years time in the Scottish counties. I do not know anything that will retard that trend. That is the situation and on that ground alone I support the Bill.

5.23 p.m.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrewshire, East)

I shall not seek to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Small). I think that the House will agree that it would be difficult to do so.

I must express great concern at the extent of the powers which it is proposed should be taken by the Bill. I entirely support the intentions behind the Bill but I must doubt the method before us. My understanding of Clauses 1 and 2 was clear until I came into the Chamber. I am now a good deal more confused than I ever thought I would be. Therefore, I shall not go into the details that I proposed discussing. I do not wish to enter a lengthy argument that might be more appropriate at a later stage.

The present planning procedures are cumbersome and long drawn out, but they offer a public forum for discussion. I would have thought that that was extremely important. In that way the public can be aware of what is happening. I do not see that that will be possible under the terms of the Bill. I have listened carefully to the exchanges that have taken place but I do not intend to say any more on the topic.

It seems to me that public awareness arises when an inquiry is held. If I thought that an inquiry would be held in every case under Clause 1(2)(d) that might be acceptable, but what is the purpose of the Bill? If the Bill is to expedite the procedure, and if full planning procedure is still to be followed, the speed with which the Bill's aim will be achieved will be only marginally quicker than at present.

Mr. Millan

I hesitate to keep interrupting on this point, but it seems that it is imperfectly understood. The Bill does not concern itself with whether or not there should be planning inquiries. From that point of view the planning procedures carry on as before. Not in every instance will there be a public inquiry, but not in every instance is there a public inquiry under present circumstances. It is thought by many people that if the Secretary of State calls for an application, it will eliminate a public inquiry. That is not so. We called in the Portkil application, but that will go to a public inquiry.

There are obviously similar misunderstandings. We are saying that once planning permission has been granted there may be instances when it will be urgent for certain projects to go ahead. In that event we do not want the further delay that can sometimes be involved in going through the compulsory purchase procedure. That can involve a public inquiry and considerable delay. The acquisition procedure set out in the Bill will cut out that consequent delay which in certain projects could be crucial to the urgency of getting on with the job. The Bill does not mention at all the planning procedures, since it does affect them. There is, therefore, no need to mention them in the Bill.

Miss Harvie Anderson

With respect, I think that I probably have as much knowledge of planning procedures as most hon. Members. I am still uncertain what the Minister is driving at. At present planning procedures are long drawn out matters, whether or not there is a public inquiry. If there is not an inquiry the main focus of attention is dispensed with from the public's point of view. As I see it it is an either/or situation. The point which I made initially and to which I now return is the question whether the proposed powers are necessary. That is the matter about which I am anxious.

I am eager that there should be speedier oil development. I think that the need for that development is obvious and clear to all. It can also be understood that a Government determined to live on borrowed money that has to be repaid after the home supply of oil has flowed freely must find it necessary to hasten the acquisition of sites upon which the whole operation depends. I remember, too, that the last Conservative Government, greatly to my displeasure, had similar measures in mind. Therefore, I do not make a party point. However, I do not believe that it is necessary to seek to speed up the oil development by introducing the degree of power which is contained in the Bill. If such powers are necessary we must discover why they are necessary. We are told that approximately half a dozen sites are vital to progress, although it has also been said that "many sites" are required, whatever that many mean. If we assume that half a dozen sites are necessary for the building of essential platforms then the Bill oversteps necessity. I want briefly to quote from a reliable daily newspaper, which describes the Bill as permitting the Secretary of State to take over or usurp the rights of public harbour boards, to restrict navigation and access to sea areas, to liquidate public rights of way and footpaths, to override local Acts of Parliament and by-laws, and"— in general to take up land for industry which may be of great scenic beauty.

These possibilities have not yet been denied, so I am taking it that they are real. Nor must we forget that the Bill proposes taking over National Trust land which has been held unalienably up to now even throughout two world wars. This I give the present Secretary of State credit for. That is an aspect of the Bill that we should not overlook, and which certainly accounts for much public disquiet that exists.

There is in existence in the private Bill procedure of the House an alternative to this Bill. It seems to me that no one has seriously considered using it. It need not be lengthy or cumbersome. It is worth remembering that the whole of the railway network of the United Kingdom was carried out under that procedure and without undue delay. Now it might be necessary to ginger up the parties concerned—not for the the first time has it been necessary in the private Bill procedure—and see that they come to an accommodation with much greater speed before coming to this House.

But we are here today concerned with the procedures in this House. I suggest that, for the purposes of the Government and of most people in this House, the private Bill procedure should have been much more carefully considered before a Bill such as this, with all its extensive powers, was brought before us. The whole procedure, as I know to be the case, can be conducted in a period of between six and eight weeks, and I cannot see the procedure described in this Bill as being any more speedy than that. The point is that the private Bill procedure would leave the responsibility of decision in Parliament, where it should be, and the time scale would in reality be much the same as that now proposed.

I hope that we shall not forget that in this context we are considering a national heritage second to none in the world. However important it is to promote the industrial prosperity of the United Kingdom and of Scotland at the same time, we must not forget that overriding factor. We have an environmental responsibility to literally millions of people to whom the wide open spaces are ever more accessible and ever more scarce, and it is this that has aroused public concern.

If we have a responsibility—as I believe we have—to hasten the national procedures, we have in this House at the same time a responsibility to leave the decision to Parliament, and I think that we should retain here that power of decision.

I make one further practical suggestion. If pleas to modify the powers in the Bill fall on deaf ears, as they tend to do even with Governments with narrow majorities, if the Government's good will and good faith are real, there should be inserted into the Bill a provision to bring the matter back to Parliament within a reasonable space of time. I do not suggest a period of less than, say, five years, but it seems to me that many of the sites required at present may not be required for an indefinite period, as the Minister himself said. If that be so, it is the more necessary that we bring this legislation back to Parliament at a time when Parliament itself can discuss the future. That would cover to a great extent also the reinstatement considerations, on which I have not touched.

I shall not vote against the Bill, but I think that its powers are excessive and I do not think it is the only way in which the object which we all share can be achieved.

5.35 p.m.

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

I am glad to speak after the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) because I have myself been thinking along one of the lines she suggested in her practical proposals. I support the principle of the Bill. My only worry about the acquisition of land for construction is that in some senses we may be too late and that some of the developments which we wanted may already have gone elsewhere and be lost permanently to Scotland.

I support the Bill and its general application, and the desire as quickly as possible to get on with the benefits, not just through taxation of the oil industry but through employment, spin-off and all the technology involved. But there is a tremendous danger with all these modern developments, in a community wanting it both ways—in other words, "We want the end objective of the oil industry's wealth and prosperity and jobs, but we do not want the construction here. It and the pipelines and the refinery must go to another constituency."

I have encountered this attitude towards electric power. One can well imagine the sort of language my constituents would use in 1982 if they found that they could not switch on their electric blankets. Yet they do not want an electric power station built next to their town. They want it somewhere else, and in some other way. Nevertheless, we have to accept that we need oil industry constructions and electric power stations, and that there is a generalised public interest which can only be fully expressed by people speaking broadly, as representatives have to do, in the interests of the country at large.

I accept the principle of the Bill and the need for speed. Confusion has been created in the House about the planning procedures. But the Bill proposes only to cut out one public inquiry at the stage of the compulsory acquisition of the land. That purpose springs from the tremendous delays which have arisen in certain public inquiries recently. We can all think of examples, such as Turnhouse Airport, or Drumbuie. There is a cause for genuine concern about these inquiries, irrespective of whether they relate to oil or other major enterprises. They are so long, and relate basically to a protection of rights and interests. They are a little out of date, not in relation to the importance of protection of interests but in the manner of proceedings.

What is involved in the public inquiry stage being cut out by the Bill? First, there is the time taken to find a reporter of sufficient distinction. Then there is the time taken in collecting information —and sometimes Governments are guilty of not supplying sufficient information to the other side, which causes further delay while people are collecting their own expert evidence. Then there is the whole time taken up in conducting the inquiry according to the proper procedures. Then the reporter has to make up his own mind and check every statement of fact made by the objecting parties. The matter then goes to St. Andrew's House and lies on the table in some mysterious way. What happens is that the Secretary of State's advisers hold their own little public inquiry and then put before the Secretary of State the evidence which they think should have been led in the public interest but was not led practically and properly at the inquiry.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that all he has said about the long delays in planning inquiries would not be affected in any way by the Bill, according to what the Minister has said? The effect is only at the compulsory purchase order stage, which presumably comes later in the process. All that the hon. Gentleman has said about Turnhouse and Drumbuie would be ineffective in this case, since what is affected by the Bill is only the second compulsory purchase order stage.

Mr. Mackintosh

It precisely affects that kind of inquiry, although Turn-house and Drumbuie were first-stage inquiries. A great deal of time could be taken up by the whole compulsory purchase order inquiry. Such an inquiry can hold up the whole proceedings, and it is to obviate that situation that the Bill is brought in. If it did not cut out time, there would be no purpose to the Bill. Cutting out time is its primary purpose.

If it is not saving time there is no point in it. If it is saving this kind of time—I take that to be the purpose of the Bill—all I am pointing out is that there is a great deal of time wasted in these planning procedures, from start to finish—a great deal of time which is not essential to the preservation of individual rights of the kind about which many of us are concerned—scenic rights, historic rights and so on.

I put it to the Minister that it is a mistake to leap from a criticism of the time taken under the present procedure to abolition of the public inquiry stage and to the procedure by annulment order only. It is to move too far from one to the other to do this. I was interested, when I was trying to think of practical alternatives for a speeded-up procedure but one which still allowed people to put their objections, to hear the practical proposal put forward by the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East.

Let us be clear what are the essentials that we must have in any procedure before the acquisition of land from private persons or trusts or bodies by the Government is to be acceptable to the public. We must accept the fact that there is some suspicion of these procedures. There is some public unease about them. What are the basic essentials required? The first essential is that there must be the possibility of cross-examination of the civil servants and officials concerned by independent persons. Without such cross-examination there would be no public confidence in the situation. I do not wish to read chunks of evidence from past inquiries but it has become clear that some of the expertise quoted is not the expertise of the Government—who are reasonably impartial and interested in the public well-being—it is the expertise, at second-hand, of the developer—the oil company concerned.

We have to find out that the civil servants concerned have done their homework, have done the research and have considered the alternative sites. We have to find out, also, that they are not taking more land than is necessary for the objective in hand. Surely we can devise procedures for this. Surely we can devise a procedure which is sufficiently short but which nevertheless accomplishes this public examination. There are two procedures for this. Surely we can devise be available. One is the private Bill procedure, which the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East mentioned. We could bring a Bill into the House and ask a number of Members who represent the public interest, as well as constituency interests, to hear cross-examination and give some view and place a time limit on this. I agree that a period of from six to eight weeks is perfectly possible.

There is another alternative. I remember that when we dealt with the Town and County Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 there was an "examination in public" procedure. That is another approach by which we could achieve the same objective. While we want to speed the oil developments we also want the public to have confidence that they have been thoroughly examined as being the best way forward. Without an examination in public we shall not achieve this.

I move on to the other points concerning the Bill. Dealing with the restoration of land once the oil development has finished, I am a little bothered that the discretion as to restoration should be entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. The Bill says simply: so far as in his opinion is reasonably practicable". I am particularly worried about this when it comes to the question of taking over inalienable land. This is a new power which, to my knowledge, has not been in Bills in the past. Presumably it particularly refers to land which has been given by public benefaction, or by people, to the National Trust or similar bodies. It seems that if land of special historic interest or special scenic value is to be taken over there ought to be a special obligation on the Secretary of State's requiring the restoration of that feature of the land if at all possible.

I see that the Bill removes actions for nuisance. These can no longer hold against persons operating on these sites. Again, this seems to make an interdict impossible against polluters. I do not see why oil companies which go in to bits of land of this kind should escape pollution control by way of the interdict action. If this is not the case I would be interested to hear from the Minister. My own legal advisers tell me that voiding actions for nuisance should prevent interdicts under the Pollution and Protection of the Environment Act. I should be grateful if the Minister would explain this point in replying. Certainly the money that is to be made from these sites by the big oil companies should place a special obligation on them to avoid pollution and restore the sites. The old principle that the polluter must pay ought to be written into the Bill.

Apart from these reservations, it seems to be an admirable Bill in its general purpose of making haste. In a sense we have taken a sledge-hammer to crack a nut over the question of legal powers and I hope that this can be tidied up in Committee, although it is wrong for the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) to go as far as to say that the whole Bill is unacceptable and that we should start all over again.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

This Bill has got off to two bad starts, in the sense that there was a proposal, which was widely known throughout the House, that it should be taken today on Second Reading and then attempted to be railroaded through all its stages on Thursday. I am glad to note that this proposal has been changed and that the Bill, to which considerable opposition has been expressed, in principle and detail, will now go into Committee and receive proper scrutiny. Comment has been made about the exclusion of the Bill from the Scottish Grand Committee. There is a technical reason for that, in so far as Clause 7(5) relates to the United Kingdom as a whole, therefore qualifying this Bill for the honour of appearing before the whole House. The question of the Scottish Grand Committee and the kind of legislation it handles is important, because that Committee, for all its faults, which are legion, is in a sense a mini-Parliament, and the sooner that Committee deals with important measures rather than the trivia which frequently come before it the better.

The title of this measure is the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Bill. I lay emphasis on the word "Scotland", because it applies to Scotland with the exception of one clause. But the motivation behind it is not particularly Scottish. We well know that the real aim of the Bill is the provision of sites for private construction companies, to supply platforms to enable the oil to come out of the sea as soon as possible and to keep the Secretary of State for Energy and the Chancellor of the Exchequer happy. It is in the face of that criterion that the Draconian powers sought by the Government are set out in the Bill.

Is it the case that this Bill will stop proliferation, which has been one of the problems associated with this development? There is an argument that the Bill could be too late. At present, 16 platforms are complete or under construction, seven of these at four yards in Scotland. Of the yards concerned there are four which are in use. There is also Kishorn which has been approved and for which a contract is available, making five yards immediately available. There are, in addition, planning consents for Burntisland, Dalmore. Alness and Dunnett Bay, two berths at Hunterston, Portavadie and Campbeltown. With regard to Hunterston, Portavadie and Campbeltown, no decision has been taken about planning procedures, but there are indications that objections to the proposals are faint and there is a likelihood that these could increase to 13 the potential number of yards available for the production of platforms within Scotland.

This compares with Norway, which has the honour of originating the Condeep design of concrete gravity structure. Norway has only three yards, with the possibility of two further yards being developed as time progresses. It might well be said that in Scotland now there is a degree of proliferation, and perhaps the only saving grace is that, so far, in some of the sites which have been proposed, no activity has yet taken place. This must be set against Scotland's overall requirement for oil. We consume under 11 million tons of oil a year and our ideal production, with exports, would probably be about 50 million tons. Some of the production decisions which are being implemented have already preempted adoption of that ideal figure.

Mr. Millan

If the hon. Gentleman is leaving the question of proliferation and overproduction of sites, will he say something about Portavadie. Although no final decision has been taken about this, I understand that the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick), in whose constituency it is, is strongly in favour of the development.

Mr. Wilson

Is that so? I was not necessarily arguing against that site. I shall leave it to the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) to deal with that question. I am discussing the general question of the proliferation of sites and trying to relate the situation to the provisions in the Bill. However, my main point is that we are in no immediate hurry to obtain large quantities of oil, although it would be of benefit to everyone if some came on stream early.

Relating the industrial and commercial opportunities to the platform position, one can define the Scottish priority in this way: first, a limited number of sites is required, because if there are too many sites the number of contracts necessarily going to them will be smaller and the life span of the sites will be less. There is, therefore, a danger that the environment of Scotland will be spoiled from a number of short-term yards, whereas by restricting the numbers they could in certain instances last longer. We are talking largely in terms of a life span of five to 15 years in respect of most sites for platform construction.

In terms of the life span of industrial activity when the construction period ceases, there may well be problems of industrial disruption through lack of alternative employment in the areas. This factor could also influence the decisions which the Government will have to make about the need to provide houses, schools, clinics and sewerage services suitable to the longer period.

A recent television programme about Alness showed the dangers which might well develop. However, on the question of the reinstatement or readaptation of sites—which is one of the provisions in the Bill which I think meets with the agreement of all hon. Members—it is possible to consider that the smaller number of sites will be more capable of adaptation for other purposes. But this is set against an emergency. If the Government say that it is in the national interest—or, to use their terminology in terms of Great Britain, in the public interest—to get the oil out as quickly as possible, we could need—they say—additional sites. Two points arise. First, those four sites should be capable of identification in the Second Reading debate, so that we know what targets the Government principally have in mind. Secondly, are they right in their statement that, even allowing for their target production of 100 million to 110 million tons of oil, more sites are needed for platform construction?

That matter was debatable until it was settled by an answer which I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Energy yesterday, which contained an analysis not only of the number of construction sites, their locality and the fields to which they apply, but of the oil which should be capable of production. The Question asked: what is the peak production level expected from oil production platforms presently under construction for placement in the Scottish sector of the North Sea continental shelf; and what is the corresponding estimate for platforms for which definite orders have been placed, although with no construction yet started, giving in each instance, the operator, contractor, yard location, type of platform, delivery date and oilfield for which it is intended".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November 1974; Vol. 881, c. 290.] On reading the detailed answer provided by the Under-Secretary of State, for which I am grateful, it would appear that for the eight fields for which totals of estimated field production were given, 88 million tons were guaranteed from platforms which were either under construction or for which orders had been given. There was thereafter a reference to certain fields for which figures of peak oil production were not released. They were Thistle, Claymore, Cormorant and Heather. However, taking a minimum production from each field of 6 million tons, in line with the yield from Dunlin, that could lead in the four instances to a production of about 24 million tons per year. If my arithmetic is correct, that would give 112 million tons per annum, based on the production platforms which are already settled without regard to further production platforms which might be necessary.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why the Scottish Nationalist Party took out an advertisement—

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Not again.

Mr. Buchan

—or the SNP—the hon. Gentleman had better tell the hon. Lady to stop interrupting the debates in the House—in the Greenock Telegraph calling for the site at Port Kil to be started and saying that it was the view not of the Greenock SNP but of the Scottish National Party that development construction work should begin and that it was only the dilatoriness of the Labour Party which was holding it back?

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of many statements made by the Labour Party in my area which he would not wish to consider.

I make it perfectly clear that I am calling for sound planning in a national sense. It is easy to take individual areas and set one off against another, as the hon. Gentleman is seemingly intent on doing.

Mr. Buchan


Mr. Wilson

No. I have answered the question. I am in the middle of an argument on the question of oil production which refers to assurances which have been given by the Secretary of State for Energy that when he considers that there is British self-sufficiency in oil consideration will be given to the question of conservation. If, as we are told by the Department of Energy, 112 million tons will be produced from platforms so far ordered or under construction, when will the policy of conservation be announced?

The Bill contains very strong powers, and it is up to the Government to justify them. With regard to the question of planning, which will be a matter for further study and discussion in Committee, the Secretary of State wears two hats. As Scottish planning Minister, he can decide which procedures require public inquiry and which do not. Secondly, he is in charge of the matter of acquisition and no doubt is nudged by the Under-Secretary of State for Energy about what should be done. Had it not been for the urgings of the Department of Energy, I am sure that the preceding Conservative administration would not have gone ahead with their Draconian measure, which was, happily, lost sight of, and the present Government would not have attempted to take up this matter.

There may well have been a case for the special powers two or three years ago when there was a shortage of construction platforms and there was, in the British context, an urgent need to extract the oil as quickly as possible and in as large a quantity as possible. That urgency has gone, and with it, the need for many of the powers. Let it not be said that exception is taken to the proposal to bring the site under public control. That is acceptable in principle to many hon. Members.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman is against it. He has said so.

Mr. Wilson

I have not said that.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman repeat what he said on television in Scotland last night? He said, for example, that the Bill would mean that everybody's house would be in danger. He said that people away on holiday would come back after a fortnight and find that their house had been taken over. He spoke of the juggernaut of the public machine. Will the hon. Gentleman repeat what he said, so that his remarks may be dealt with in the House instead of being heard by an anonymous audience in Scotland—which is the hon. Gentleman's favourite ploy?

Mr. Wilson

No audience in Scotland is anonymous to any member of the Scottish National Party. According to the terms of the schedule, a person could return from 14 days' holiday and find that his right of appeal, such as it is, had been taken away. I will not go back on the statement that I made.

Mr. Dalyell

What did the hon. Gentleman say about people's houses being at risk?

Mr. Wilson

I said that a house which might be connected with the purpose of the Bill could be in danger if the Government followed to the letter the procedure laid down in the Bill. Other hon. Members have referred to that, apart from me.

I come back to the powers contained in the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friends will be able to add to the points to which I have referred as the debate continues. The aims of the Bill are too wide. Clause 1(1) provides that: The Secretary of State may acquire by agreement or compulsorily any land in Scotland for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum. The clause goes on to specify what is uppermost in the Government's mind. The Government can do all the things listed in the clause, including taking over land for oil refineries, which the Minister of State, Scottish Office has denied. It is not necessarily wrong that that should be so. The powers are contained in the Bill, and the Government should define the position.

The expediting of an acquisition order is justifiable only if there is a degree of emergency. If the information supplied by the Department of Energy is correct, there is no such emergency and therefore, no need for those powers. Let the Government go back to the compulsory purchase acquisition procedure which has worked in Scotland for many years. By all means, if necessary, let the Government improve it, but let us not cut it out by Clause 2(1)(b).

I echo the remarks that have been made about the need for statutory orders to be brought before the House for affirmation rather than being dealt with under the negative procedure, as is suggested.

Clause 2(5) affects common rights. Rights of way and public access immediately come to mind. These may well be important, but what will be the effect on hill grazings and common rights of peat, which affect many communities in Scotland? Is there not a need to specify that where such powers are exercised alternative rights should be given to the people concerned?

Again there are the effects on navigation. Compensation for holders of private rights may include the holders of rights to salmon fisheries, but not necessarily the rights of inshore fishermen who may have been fishing in the designated sea area in the past. That is important to the fishery interests concerned. Will they get compensation? I am informed by my advisers that they may well not, and that only holders of private rights will get it. What about the fishermen?

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

What about salmon poachers?

Mr. Wilson

It is for the hon. Gentleman to produce his own amendments to safeguard the rights of salmon poachers, if he is so advised.

Clause 5 gives to English courts the power to prosecute crimes and offences under the Bill. That is a novel concept. It is well known in civil litigation for the right of action to follow the object. In criminal matters I cannot see the reason for it, but I am willing to accept the Minister's guidance.

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

The hon. Gentleman might consider this possibility. If a ship which contravened one of the orders sailed out of Scottish territorial waters there would be no power to pursue it to a dock in another country unless the provision were included. The hon. Gentleman appears to want us to have no recourse against people who break the law. Surely he will agree that it is essential to be able to pursue offenders outwith Scottish territorial waters.

Mr. Wilson

It may indeed be essential, but will the provision allow for action being taken against such a vessel in a country other than the United Kingdom? I am indebted to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. Like many of his pronouncements, it will receive serious consideration, but it raises the question who will be in charge of prosecution in these matters and who will take the decision to prosecute?

According to Clause 11, land which may be held inalienably on behalf of the country can now by Government decision be used for private enterprise, for construction companies of non- Scottish origin. That is what the Government seek to do. [Interruption.]

Mr. Teddy Taylor


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has been speaking for quite a long time. Several of the matters being raised are Committee points. This is a Second Reading debate.

Mr. Wilson

I apologise if I have kept the House, but I was following the bad example of other speakers who have taken up Committee points.

I am told that compensation for nuisance might not extend to tenants. I hope that such compensation will be extended to tenants.

Although the Bill contains many good things, it is badly thought out. The honest and proper policy for the Government is to take the Bill back for reconsideration, to use the huge apparatus of government at their disposal and to bring the Bill back at an early date with many of the objectionable aspects removed. I describe the legislation as a piece of colonialist aggression showing the same smash-and-grab attitude to land as the Government and their predecessors have shown towards Scotland's oil resources.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Queen's Park)

In giving full support to the Bill I will attempt to answer the arguments put by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) the "shadow" Secretary of State for Scotland. They offered no alternative to the Bill as a means of ensuring that the oil is got ashore as quickly as possible.

Before that, the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) mentioned the railways which were built in the last century and the early part of this century, but they are a bad analogy. Looking back at the many debates in the House on railways, I can see a vast difference between the attitude which was adopted then and the safeguards in the Bill to which the Minister of State referred. We are not saying that we should do away with all prudent safeguards which the community needs against Government legislation. Indeed, we have said that planning procedures will still continue as they are. Anybody who has served on a local authority will know that the people in local authorities know their areas very well and are a good safeguard against any project, industrial or otherwise, which is proposed to be set up in their area. We shall do less than justice to many good people in local authorities if we seek to denigrate them in any way.

Clause 1 lays down that the powers in the Bill should be taken as a matter of urgency. We are saying that, although there should be powers to inquire into these matters—and we all remember the situation at Drumbuie, the environmental problem there and the need to safeguard the beauty of Scotland—we must be realistic and acknowledge the urgent need to get the oil ashore as quickly as possible. There is an economic consideration and I hope that we all agree, speaking for the working people of Scotland, that there is need to create job opportunities. These opportunities will be created more speedily if we can get the oil on stream, and this in turn will help the balance of payments of this country.

How do we resolve the problem of protecting all the various environmental groups and at the same time bring the oil on shore as quickly as possible? Evidence has been given to a Select Committee of this House that Taylor Woodrow needs 50 platforms and that BP will need as many as 80 by the year 1980. If that figure is required by 1980, then the question to ask is whether it can be achieved in time after all the various inquiries have taken place.

On the subject of urgency, at least it can be said that the Labour Government have taken a decision as against the delay in taking a decision when the Tories were in Government. I think it can be said that the Government certainly have not been assisted by the contributions on this subject by members of the Liberal Party or by members of the SNP.

There are at present eight planning applications for sites before local authorities on the west coast of Scotland, apart from Lochs Carron and Kishorn. I do not know whether that figure is too high or too low, but concrete platforms and the Norwegian Condeep type of platform are restricted to certain parts of the shoreline. They need at least 40 fathoms for main construction, 100 fathoms for deck and module, and for tow-out a depth of 40 to 50 fathoms. In other words, there are only certain areas where that type of operation can be carried out.

If in certain parts of our countryside there are difficulties for the local people and an area perhaps has to be spoiled in terms of the environment for a certain period of time, then that price has to be paid. We only have to think of Glasgow and other cities where the price of redevelopment has been paid by small shopkeepers and others—and they did not have the chance of a court of inquiry. The ordinary person, such as the small shopkeeper, must accept the decision or government for the common good. At the same time the landed gentry, because of their power and wealth, can engage experienced counsel, and hold back progress—progress which Scotland badly needs in the 1970s.

I should like to suggest to the Minister certain alternatives to the building of concrete platforms which at the moment appear to be so popular. Studies on this topic are taking place in other parts of the world. I understand that no British company has yet got down to considering the part played by sub-sea completion systems. There are two such systems—one operated by BP. and another by Lockheed in the Pacific. Therefore, we know that this technology is already in operation. The present methods being adopted in the North Sea will involve vast expenditure. Concrete platforms cost an average of £60 million each. However, within a few years, in the face of advanced technology and the development of sub-sea completion systems, the present concrete platforms might be rendered obsolete. This is the sort of point which must be considered. Will the Minister in his reply say whether any research and development has been done or is being encouraged by the Government?

My information, so far as I can check it, is that the present sub-sea completion systems working on the sea bed are perhaps more effective, more economical and more efficient than concrete platforms. I fear that within a number of years we may have introduced all these concrete platforms only to discover that they are not only uneconomic but are obsolete in the challenge which we face in the North Sea—and indeed when we go farther out into the North Sea to explore for oil.

Let us remember that the major oil companies have gone on record as saying that they are still not happy, and indeed are worried, about the range of platform designs available to them. We must take on board that important consideration, especially through the Department of Energy.

I wish to raise one or two other points with the Minister, and I hope that we can have an answer tonight. Clause 10 of the Bill suggests that the agent for the Secretary of State could be the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation. I am not against that body because it has carried out an excellent job in Glasgow and in other places, but I wish to ask whether there will be any conflict of interest between that corporation and the Highlands and Islands Development Board. The functions of the board are similar to the functions of the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation. I hope that we may be able to pursue this matter further in Committee.

I hope that any land which is compulsorily acquired will not eventually be returned to its original owners, namely, the landed gentry who have never developed the land. I hope that the land will be returned to the local authority. By that time those areas will have all the infrastructure, including schools and housing, and there could be a good deal of repopulation in those areas. Perhaps, once the oil wealth starts to flow within a few years there will be a viable economy in that part of the world. I hope that we shall see all the Scottish expatriates who are now living in England and other parts of the world returning to Scotland and that there will then be a healthy economic system there. The Scottish way of life is most attractive, and I hope that the Scottish Office will consider that idea. The Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation should ensure that all land which comes up for reinstatement should be returned to local authorities for the benefit of the people who reside in the area.

I should like to refer to a point which I know has exercised the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Hunter). If we are to consider defence cuts and the use of naval dockyards for other purposes, then the question of Rosyth comes to mind. At Rosyth there are excellent deep water facilities which could be used. I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline that we should benefit from the spin off from North Sea oil. I hope the Minister, in his reply, can give some assurance on this point. I hope that he will not be deterred by criticisms made by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) who is totally against the Bill. I also hope that my hon. Friend will not be deterred by the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland or by the criticisms of the Scottish National Party that the Government are taking rather harsh powers.

I repeat that there is a great need for urgency to create job opportunities and to bring the oil on stream for the benefit of the country as a whole. I welcome the Bill and I hope that it will be given a speedy passage. I know that it will benefit Scotland and its people and at the end of the day will assist to defeat the balance of payments problem which we face in this country.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) made a very interesting observation when he suggested that the oil companies might be looking for different designs. One matter which is just as important in relation to this Bill was brought out by a commentator in the Financial Times on 18th November. He wrote: The main problem, indeed, for the contractors may be less the possible shortage of sites than the possible shortage of orders in view of the slowing down in ordering from the peak of a dozen contracts once expected for the 1977 float-out. Instead the average rate of ordering may well be nearer six to nine platforms a year over the rest of this decade… I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind the effect of the oil taxation Bill. I will refer only briefly to it and possibly to other discouraging legislation which may make it unsatisfactory for many companies to go ahead with activities in the North Sea.

I am obliged to the Minister of State for clarifying one issue when he was dealing with planning permission. If I understood him correctly, he said that prior to the granting of planning permission the full procedure would be conducted. That means that there will be ample opportunity for those objectors who want to carry through their ideas to full fruition to have their way. If that is the case, I can see many stumbling blocks in the way to obtaining the right to get a platform site. It is only after planning permission has been obtained that the compulsory purchase procedure outlined in the speedy provisions will come into operation.

That has a fairly recent parentage. It comes from Sections 8 and 9 of the Land Commission Act 1967. It is rather similar to compulsory acquisition by what is called a simplified procedure. It is subject to annulment by either House. It is also dealt with in the Second Schedule to that Act. It is simply brought forward for the purpose of this proposed piece of legislation.

A similar provision is placed in the First Schedule of this Bill. The 1967 Act says: …the Minister…shall not be required by virtue of the provisions mentioned in the preceding sub-paragraph to cause a public local inquiry to be held, or to afford to an objector an opportunity of appearing before or being heard by a person appointed by that Minister for the purpose, unless in the circumstances of the case that Minister considers it expedient to do so. That appears in the Second Schedule of the 1967 Act.

This is most extraordinary. Either the Bill will be of some use or it will be utterly useless. If objectors are to come in at the planning stage where they can block the opportunity of a site opening for months on end, nothing has been secured. The speedy provision of the First Schedule will not be brought into operation.

I come, then, to the present position. Currently in the United Kingdom we have five sites. Four of them are for steel and one is for concrete gravity structures. There have been approvals already for a further five sites, one of them steel and the other four concrete. In the case of the steel one involving CBI Constructors Limited at Dunnet Bay, unfortunately the contractors have withdrawn. The others which are available are, first, at Alness, Easter Ross by Taylor Woodrow Construction—Taywood-Seltrust. Unfortunately, capacity is limited to structures operating in some 460 ft. of water because of the shallowness of adjacent water. Also at Alness, Easter Ross, there is Peter Lind—Campenon Bernard-Keir, where concrete platforms are limited to depths of 380 feet. The Secretary of State has granted an application by John Howard and Company and G. G. Doris, of France, for concrete structures at Loch Kishorn, but they have an advantage in that they can operate in 600 ft. depth of water. It is not surprising that two substantial orders have been obtained. Two more have been secured at Evanton and Dalmore, Ross and Cromarty, by Brital Marine Limited and Mid-Continental Supply. Therefore, even according to the statement by the Department of Energy on 24th August 1974 there is ample provision already, with the opportunities, which are being considered, for one or two further applications.

Andoc is waiting for a Government decision for a site at Hunterston, Ayrshire. Why do not the Government act on that one? Then, Costain, Bredero and Babcock have an application in awaiting a Government decision. That, too, is at Hunterston. This is the preferred area, and Andoc is a design which the Government approve. That would provide two of the necessary five which they have stipulated to be their requirement.

Then at Portavadie, Loch Fyne, there has been an inquiry and a Government decision is awaited for Subtank Constructors (UK). The project has been approved locally. How will this Bill assist in that one? That is the third possible site which is available.

Mr. John Smith

Is the hon. Gentleman advocating that there should be interference with the normal planning methods? If so, is that the policy of the Conservative Party?

Mr. Skeet

I am not speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. I am discussing this Bill. It is totally unsatisfactory, because it will not stop the blockages which are likely to occur. I am also suggesting that there are a number of decisions already on the stocks on which the Secretary of State could move virtually tomorrow.

I go even further. Taylor Woodrow and John Mowlem came up in Drumbuie, but the application was rejected last August. I fully understand that in August a decision had to be taken. There was a possibility that they would have appeared elsewhere. I am told that they have taken over the application of Leonard Fairclough at Campeltown. As this is the Condeep design approved by the Government, and as it is in an area on the Clyde also approved by the Government, that one could be approved without further delay. Finally, there is John Laing at Portkil Bay, Dunbartonshire. That has been approved locally. Why do not the Government act on this? That would complete their list and give them ample sites available for the time with which they are most concerned.

I think that I have dealt adequately with the sites that are available.

However, bearing in mind that the Government have indicated their requirements in the years ahead, perhaps I might refer to one other matter. They say that there are three platforms delivered to Forties and Auk, and a further 19 are under construction or on order. Eleven of these are in the United Kingdom, but eight are being secured from abroad. Perhaps I might give a brief list. The Piper and Claymore requirements are being ordered in France. That is for steel platforms. The order for a concrete platform for Frigg has gone to Norway. For the Dunlin field, a concrete gravity structure will be built by Andoc (Holland) at Rotterdam. For the Montrose field, the Amoco-British Gas Corporation has gone to UIE in France. In other words, the British Gas Corporation has bought a steel platform abroad. For the Beryl field, two Condeeps have been ordered from Stavanger, in Norway. For Brent, B and D—Shell/Esso—the platform will come from Stavanger in Norway. For the Alwyn field, Howard-Doris has gone to Sweden for a concrete structure.

It is extraordinary that if a decision had been taken when the Conservative Party announced its proposals in January of this year and if it had been treated as urgent at that time, no difficulties would have been incurred. Many of these contracts could have been secured for British manufacturers. I believe that it was only because of further possible delays at Loch Kishorn that the Government were prompted to act, thereby preventing one more contract from going abroad, and this stimulated the Government to make further allocations for sites.

I was disturbed by the statement on 12th August when the Department of Energy indicated that the purpose of the Bill was to deal with production platforms. Now we find that it can be used for almost any purpose whatsoever, including acquiring land for the building of refineries and other processing plants. The Minister will find that this is a valid point. Clause 1(2) provides: The purposes mentioned in subsection (1) above include in particular"— and it sets out a number of items. It does not rule out the possibility of a number of other matters connected with the North Sea being brought within the terms of the Bill.

I have a fair idea that the Government may be paving the way to enable the British National Oil Corporation to use the Bill for securing any sites that it wishes which may have some connection with the North Sea. I hope that the Minister will assure the House that there will be no attempt to provide powers for that body in this Bill.

Another matter that has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members is that this Bill will apply only to Scotland. This is an extraordinary situation. People talk about the possibility of establishing sites in Wales but they will find that they are not permitted to do so under this legislation.

It cannot be said that the only platform site builders are in Scotland. John Howard has a fabrication yard on the Medway in Kent, and there is a site on Teesside which is operating for steel platforms. Therefore, the Government would have been wise to consider broader proposals and to have mentioned them in a broader based national Bill.

Will the Minister tell us about the leasing of these sites back to the contractors? Will it be by short lease: The hon. Gentleman nods. If it is to be by short lease—

Mr. John Smith

By lease.

Mr. Skeet

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether it is to be by short or long lease? If it is to be by short lease, it will be up to the Government to provide all the facilities, because a contractor will not be able to recoup his investments on a short lease. Will the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that the oil taxation Bill will deprive the companies of profits? If the Government intend to skim off all the profits by high charges under this Bill they will drive people away from this activity. Will the Minister indicate what rents are likely to be charged?

I should like an assurance that anybody who has secured a site already will not find his site taken over by the State. If that is the position, may I ask why it is necessary to resort to the nationalisation of any particular site? Could this not be done with the normal planning powers which could be granted by the local planning authority or by the Minister if the application is drawn in for decision?

I agree that if a site is taken in an area which is particularly important there should be restoration. Will the Minister consider an annual payment by the companies concerned at a flat-rate sum payable into a trust scheme to allow redevelopment to take place at a later date? That would seem the fairest way of doing it. I hope that this suggestion will be given earnest consideration.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy)

The last time I addressed the House I had the unusual experience of following two maiden speakers. Tonight, in a Scottish debate, I have the unusual experience of following the English hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet). I am inclined to the view, having listened to his speech with great care, that he is not so much the representative for Bedford as for the oil industry because he seemed well briefed on the sites and the companies concerned.

Mr. Skeet

I have no consultancy in the oil industry and I have no directorships.

Mr. Gourlay

I accept the hon. Gentleman's assurance on that.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said that the Bill ought to have been referred to the Scottish Grand Committee. During my 15 years as a Member of this House, Scottish Members have always advocated that Scottish legislation should be taken on the Floor of the House where we might have ample opportunity for debate and the maximum publicity.

I welcome the general intention of the Bill, particularly as it will to some extent control the proliferation of sites. The Bill is again fulfilling an election promise. I think that that should be stated clearly now as no one else has mentioned it.

The rate of oil extraction is extremely important not only for Scotland but for the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Dundee, East repeated what has been said so often by many of his colleagues—namely, that we are in no immediate hurry to procure the oil. I wonder whether, if they were in control in Scotland, they would be in no hurry. If not, they would have no income to meet their grandiose promises of £25-a-week pensions, and so on. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman is not present. Otherwise, I should have referred to him in more specific terms.

In the economic climate facing us today it is not only urgent but the duty of the Government to ensure that the maximum production of oil is secured at the earliest possible moment. No doubt the time will come when it may be in the best interests of the nation to cut back the rate of production. However, unless one is completely blind or has no sense of responsibility, to suggest that there should be no hurry to procure the oil is a fantastic proposition.

I have a great deal of sympathy with some of the views expressed by hon. Member on both sides of the House regarding proliferation. There are three sites in my constituency. At one end of my constituency there is the Redpath-Dorman Long site which is building a steel rig for the Brent field. At the other end there is the Burntisland Engineering Fabricators site where modules are being built for the Norwegian field. Another company has recently been granted planning permission to build concrete rigs in Burntisland on a site which is presently owned by the Forth Ports Authority. When the rig for the Brent field is completed in Methil, I understand that there are no further orders, which will create a serious situation. In view of the number of sites already available in Scotland for building both steel and concrete platforms, I hope the Minister will have this position in mind and will have regard to it when deciding to use the powers provided in the Bill. To some extent I regard the Bill as necessary, but at the same time as having reserve rather than deliberate powers in the immediate future.

The hon. Member for Bedford referred to the company of Andoc now building a rig in Rotterdam. Originally it intended to build that rig at Burntisland. However, because of the geographical conditions on the site and the additional cost involved to build in Scotland, it was compelled to go across to the Continent. But for that the rig would have been built in this country.

The Minister in his opening remarks referred to the Offshore Supplies Office being sited in Glasgow. This is certainly welcomed. However, I should like to refer to the White Paper "United Kingdom Offshore Oil and Gas Policy", which on page 5 states: Fourthly, a British National Oil Corporation (BNOC) will be set up, through which the Government will exercise their participation rights. This Corporation will represent the Government in the present consortia (and will take over the present interests of the National Coal Board) and also build up a powerful and expert supervisory staff that will enable it to play an active part in the future development, exploration and exploitation of the Continental Shelf. It will also have powers to extend its activities ultimately to the refining and distribution of oil. The headquarters of the BNOC will be in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State may not be in a position tonight to state where the headquarters will be set up, but I hope he will give some indication that it should be sited in the east of Scotland. It having been decided to come to the East, I suggest that there is no better place for the headquarters than Kirkcaldy. If that does not suit the requirements of the new corporation, the Forth Estuary has many admirable sites where the corporation could be based. I make the urgent plea to the Government that, one part of the oil business having been sent to Glasgow in the West, the East of Scotland has a prior claim in this instance.

If the Liberals and the Scottish National Party decide tonight to vote against the Bill they will demonstrate once again that they are prepared to sacrifice the Scottish people on the altar of private enterprise.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. George Younger (Ayr)

I propose to be brief. I want to say one or two things about the way in which the Minister of State presented the Bill. As one who supports the Bill and the principles behind it, I say with great respect to the Minister that he failed to put across to the House what the Bill will do and why he wants to do it. I am sure the hon. Gentleman did his best, but I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Energy will try to fulfil the rôle that should have been better fulfilled earlier in the day.

The Under-Secretary of State must tell the House whether these accelerated acquisition procedures can be used before planning permission has been granted. He must tell the House whether the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation is bound to follow the normal planning procedures. My understanding is that, as a Government body, it does not have to do so.

If the answers to those questions are what I think they will be, it follows that the Bill could be used by the Secretary of State—and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith)—in a certain way. I do not say this is intentional, but the Secretary of State could use the accelerated acquisition procedure to take into the ownership of the Scottish Industrial Estates Corporation any sites that are required and then say that because they are owned by a Government Department there is no need for the normal planning procedures to be followed. I could be wrong about that and we require a crystal-clear exposition of this from the Minister because we must know where we stand.

Secondly, what will the Bill mean in terms of time? As I understand it, the Bill makes no change in the planning procedures. All the inquiries, the representations, the hearing of evidence, and everything else will go ahead as at present. The only thing affected by the Bill is acquisition. How much time will that save? What case can the Minister cite in which the acquisition procedure has held things up? By how many weeks has any case been held up by the acquisition procedure? If the answer is that there is no such case, or that the maximum time taken is a few weeks, the Minister will have failed to show any advantage to be gained from the Bill. In this respect the present Bill is different from the Conservative Government's Bill, because that measure was much criticised for the fact that it tried to deal with the time taken by planning procedures. If we are to be genuine supporters of the Bill, we must know the facts on those matters.

Is the Minister happy about using the negative resolution procedure? The House knows how uncertain that can be. A draft order is placed before the House. If it is not prayed against within 40 days it goes through, but if it is prayed against it has to compete for parliamentary time in order to be debated, and we all know that in many instances time is not available for that purpose.

In view of the strong feelings in the matter, I must ask the Minister whether he is sure that the negative resolution procedure will be fair to all the many interested bodies which may be involved. It may be possible for an order to go through without any opportunity for parliamentary debate. I trust that the Minister will consider changing to the affirmative resolution procedure, because that would be fairer to all concerned.

I hope that the Bill will be supported by the House. It is ridiculous for the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) to make his usual speech and then say that he will oppose the Bill even though he does not like anybody doing nothing about the situation. The right hon. Gentleman does not like what the Government have produced, but he has not said what measures he would bring in and he intends to vote against the Bill. If we were all to behave like that, Parliament would not get very far.

6.47 p.m.

Mr. Iain MacCormick (Argyll)

I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) on his appointment to the Government Front Bench. This must be something to do with his provenance in Argyll.

I should like to be brief and try to bring the level of the debate down from the cloud-cuckoo-land of the Department of Energy to the realm of practical politics and things that happen. I regard the speech made by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) as one of the most perspicacious of all the speeches made today. His views reflect my experience in my constituency.

It is apposite to say that Argyll is one of the most important areas in the whole question of oil-related development, and I should like to deal briefly with the situation there because it points to what is happening and underlines what the hon. Member for Bedford said.

To date, the County Council of Argyll has considered 17 applications connected with oil-related development. They include two for the setting up of oil refineries, and I shall refer to this later. Of the 17 applications, it will be known to the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North that three which apply to Ardyne Point have been approved and are in the process of operation. Of the others that were considered, the one at Portavadie received approval and the one at Campbeltown would have been approved had it got to that stage. But, as the hon. Member for Bedford said, the Scottish Office—or, perhaps, in view of the way it behaves one should call it the English Office—in its wisdom decided to hold—unnecessarily in the view of local people—a public inquiry into the Portavadie situation. That inquiry was demanded by hundreds of people who did not live in the area and who objected for reasons unconnected with the well-being of the area.

Campbeltown is one of the most depressed areas in the Highlands of Scotland, yet the Secretary of State has seen fit not only to call in the application but to delay any announcement. Had the ordinary procedures been followed by the county council, it is probable that the whole question would have been dealt with more quickly.

The point I am trying to make is that the county of Argyll alone has three sites for building oil production platforms and, so far as the county council and most local people are concerned, there are two other possibilities, making five in all in the county. It is not reasonable to expect one county like Argyll to provide many more sites than that, or indeed any more, but surely the expedition with which our local planning committee dealt with these matters makes it ludicrous to suppose that Draconian measures like those in the Bill should be required at this time. As the hon. Member for Bedford said, most of the delays so far have been because of the way in which the Government have decided to deal with these applications, rather than leaving the matter to the decision of local authorities.

One of my reasons for opposing the Bill relates to oil refineries. Two applications for outline planning permission have been received in Argyll for the setting up of oil refineries. One concerns the area at Chiskan near Campbeltown, which is the best agricultural land in Argyll and possibly amongst the best in Scotland. I should not support a Bill which would allow extra special powers to be taken by Government to set up a refinery on agricultural land like that. I would regard it as much more important to go through the existing procedures.

The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith), one of the Under-Secretaries of State for Energy, indicated facially, earlier in the debate, that he did not regard the Bill as referring to land for oil refineries. But it refers to any purpose connected with the exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum. Any of these developments about which we are talking are onshore developments; they are simply dealing with oil which is found offshore. For that reason also I am chary of supporting a measure like this.

The Government have made no attempt to make a case for the measure. I have already congratulated the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North, and I will do so again. He and his Department seem to have a tremendous hold, as did the previous Conservative Department of Energy, over the Scottish Office. Every day like this, when we see Government spokesmen shadow-boxing with shadow spokesmen of a shadow party, tens of thousands of votes are added to the total of the party to which I am proud to belong.

As I said, it is odd to see how the Minister of State, Scottish Office has changed his mind, and his priorities, now that he is on the Front Bench. Last January he was huffing and puffing about Scotland's interests. Now it is not the interests of Scotland which concern him but those of London and of getting the oil exploited as fast as humanly possible.

Mr. Millan


Mr. MacCormick

I promised to be brief, and I now intend to conclude.

The Bill is unnecessary and it is seen to be unnecessary by the more intelligent minds in the House. On these grounds I certainly intend to oppose it.

6.54 p.m.

Mr. Denis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

The Bill is concerned with the interests of the community and the possibility of conflict between different community interests, or between different sections of the community. The possibility of conflict lies between the community's need for economic and industrial development, to provide employment and a higher standard of living, and the legitimate desire of the community for the maximum preservation of our natural environment. The right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) rightly said that we in Scotland have a natural heritage second to none and that we are very concerned about retaining it. On the other hand, Scotland also has a higher unemployment rate that the United Kingdom in general, and there is an urgent need to develop Scotland's economy and industry quickly and efficiently.

Part of the duty of Government is to try to reconcile those two interests in an honest and forthright way and that is what the Bill tries to do. It is no use kidding ourselves. At the recent General Election, some candidates in Scottish constituencies, supposedly representing the same political party, were talking in terms of different rates of oil exploitation depending on the constituencies in which they were standing. In the industrial constituencies they wanted a high rate of exploitation because of the need to secure jobs quickly, yet in the rural constituencies they seemed to talk about a slower rate in order to conserve the environment.

One cannot have one's cake and eat it. One cannot be two-faced about this. Perhaps the real reason for the recent unanimity of the Scottish National Party on this question is that, for the most part, in this House they represent only rural areas and have little representation in the industrial heartland of Scotland.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that there are industrial seats represented by the Scottish National Party, and that his own party is in great danger of losing its hold in Scotland because we are now the challenging party in 36 of their seats?

Mr. Canavan

I take the hon. Lady's point—but she herself is the only representative from the central industrial belt of Scotland. I said that, "for the most part" the SNP represents rural areas. She is virtually the only exception.

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said that no one wants a big oil development on his doorstep. But in planning the industrial development of Scotland it is essential to see Scotland in toto and not let every little parochial objection by the few slow up a development which will mean jobs for the many. There is a need for large-scale strategic planning instead of piecemeal development. Government are the best instrument to ensure that that strategic planning takes place as efficiently and as rapidly as possible.

As for environmental considerations, we have seen how private industry has raped the Scottish landscape. In my constituency there are still bings which were left by the private mine-owners of another era, a sad era in the history of the Scottish fuel industry, when private profiteers exploited Scottish labour and raped the Scottish landscape to line their own pockets. Many of these people and their heirs are still living fat off the compensation that was paid when mines came into public ownership, yet it is now public money which is being used to clear up the sorry mess that they left behind.

We do not want that to happen again, and the best way of ensuring that it does not is to have maximum public ownership right at the start of this new industry. It is worth remembering that it was a Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who, in 1964, ensured that the oil would be publicly owned. The Bill now says that land required for oil development should also be publicly owned, and as quickly as possible. The more public ownership there is in this new industry, the better. We fought and won the election on that principle. Ownership means control, and public ownership will ensure public control right from the beginning.

We hear hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House shouting at elec- tion time about giving Scotland's land and Scotland's oil to the Scottish people. What Scottish people? Is it Sir Hugh Fraser, perhaps, or Ian Noble, or other Scottish businessmen with interests in multi-national oil companies? The Bill helps to ensure that the Scottish public interest will be there right at the start of this important new growth industry. That is why I shall be voting for it tonight, and why I think everyone who has the interests of the Scottish people at heart should do the same.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Hamish Gray (Ross and Cromarty)

I am glad to be able to speak after the hon. Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan), although I am sure that he would accept that I cannot agree with a great deal of what he said. He has come to the House as a Member only recently. I did not hear his maiden speech, but I am delighted to have had the pleasure of listening to him this evening.

The Bill is one which could affect every constituency in Scotland. It could have far-reaching effects for every constituency in the United Kingdom. I was one of those who came to the House today thinking that probably, although I had not intended to vote against it, the measure would be put right in Committee fairly easily. I am not at all sure that that is so. I hope that the Government Whip will make a note in the appropriate place to the effect that I do not think that the Bill will be able to sail through the Committee quickly, as we should all like it to do, because there is a great deal in the Bill which requires very close scrutiny. We in this House are the people who will have to give it that kind of scrutiny in Committee. The Government would not wish the Bill to go on unless it were as near perfect as possible. At present, it certainly is far from that.

This Bill goes very much further than the measure which the Conservative Government intended to introduce. I was not wholly happy about that measure but I was prepared to accept it. I happen to be one of those who do not believe that one should change one's view just because one happens to change the side of the House on which one sits. Therefore, I do not intend to oppose the Bill tonight.

When we intended to introduce legislation of this sort it was to be restricted to land which was needed for platforms and terminal works, but this Bill goes very much further than that. From Clause 1 we see that it can be used virtually for taking over land for any purpose at all. I share, the view of the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick), who said that he was worried about the possibility of the Bill being used to acquire land for oil refineries. The planning authority for my constituency has been considering an application for an oil refinery. Therefore, this matter is very much at heart in that part of the country. The Under-Secretary, who has left the Chamber for the moment, was quoted in a newspaper yesterday as saying that the Government hope to make an announcement about the future needs for refining capacity in the next few weeks—before Christmas. This is very much overdue.

While I am speaking of that subject, I must say that it is disappointing that both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Energy have not found it possible to give local authorities which are faced with this kind of problem a great deal more help in coming to their decisions. The Ross and Cromarty Authority sought guidance, but the guidance which it was able to obtain was very limited. If this becomes the rule and if the Bill is used for such a purpose, there is virtually no limit to the kind of use to which the Bill could be put.

I was rather worried when the Minister of State referred to the question of existing sites. There was a sort of veiled threat concerning them. He said that it would not be the intention to use the Bill for the purpose of taking over existing sites as long as things were going all right. I think that was the phrase he used. That was rather terrifying, because it could mean that, perhaps, through no fault of those developing those sites, if something were to go wrong, there might be the threat of their being taken over by the Government.

On the question of refineries, which is very much part of what the Bill is about, I hope that when the Under-Secretary or, more probably, the Secretary of State makes his announcement he will also give some indication of the Government's evaluation of the amount of oil that is likely to be refined and processed in the United Kingdom, within, say, the first five years from the time when the oil starts flowing. I hope that he will also give an indication—my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) has just left the Chamber and he probably would not agree with what I shall say —that he will make it a requirement for the oil companies to present a detailed case for any crude oil exports which they proposed in the years ahead. Consideration should also be given to whatever the proposals for BP expansion may be. I hope that we shall be able to consider all these points when the statement is made.

I fear that the real danger of the Bill is in the nationalisation of these sites by the back door. I think that it was the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park (Mr. McElhone) who suggested that the Government agency involved in the Highland area, for example, could well be the Highlands and Islands Development Board. That board at present has the power to acquire land as it sees fit, but such has been its own apprehension about this power that the number of occasions on which it has used it is very small. I cannot think offhand of any occasion, but I know that there have been a few.

What provisions are envisaged for possible accidents, for example, in designated areas? The Government are taking over land and sea areas, so the Government are becoming the proprietor. The Government, presumably, will lay down the conditions of work in conjunction with local authorities, the port authorities or whomever they may appoint to be their agents. What is the Government's thinking on this matter? For example, what provisions are envisaged for possible accidents, such as the breakage of underwater pipelines and the resultant pollution? How do the Government see this sort of thing being controlled by the Bill? What part will the Bill play in that respect?

There is also the question of possible damage to a platform. These platforms are massive creations. If they were damaged on the way to their location, for example, perhaps by sabotage, or by any cause, what will be the situation then, and who will be responsible? How will a Government agency deal with that kind of situation? Are these eventualities covered by the Bill?

The Bill could have much wider implications. As we know, the oil industry became interested in the North Sea in the early 1960s. The discovery of natural gas off Holland and, slightly earlier, in Yorkshire drew attention to the whole area in between, which is the North Sea. Therefore, there has been a long time for consideration of the kind of action which is needed to take over land or to deal with the provision of sites. By the end of 1973, for example, we had 100 exploration drills in the United Kingdom sector of the northern part of the North Sea. Now there are about 30 rigs at work there.

I wonder just what purpose the Bill really has. The rigs and platforms which have already been built have been built on sites about which there was practically no difficulty concerning acquisition. How will the Bill speed up the extraction of oil? It is really false in that respect. The fixed steel platforms can operate up to depths of about 600 feet. The Forties field has a depth of about 400 feet, but these platforms can be constructed to operate up to 600 feet in depth. Beyond that, concrete platforms can operate in depths of up to 700 feet.

I was interested in what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Queen's Park said about depths between 700 feet and 1,000 feet for which existing technology is not suitable. He mentioned the CASUB method. I made a speech about this some time ago and did quite a bit of research into it. Unfortunately the design is not sufficiently developed to be made available yet, but I hope that the Minister will pay attention to what his hon. Friend said because the method has a great future and the whole question of sites must be considered in that context. What will happen to areas which have become dependent upon platform construction sites if in a few years' time they become obsolete when the CASUB method takes over? That could create major problems in areas like mine, in Argyll and in other parts of Scotland where platform construction is taking place.

This brings me to the point about the end of the exercise. It is most important that careful consideration should be given as to how these sites can be reinstated. I welcome the schedule which deals with money being available for this purpose, but there is also the question in certain areas of companies having already entered into an agreement to reinstate after they have finished the construction work. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) made an interesting intervention on this point earlier. How will the Bill affect negotiations which have already taken place? Will the companies still be committed to providing the money for reinstatement which they agreed to when the sites were sold to them?

I come now to designated areas. The Minister of State mentioned the Inner Sound of Raasay as a likely designated area. There have been considerable negotiations with the Ministry of Defence about the torpedo testing range at the Inner Sound of Raasay. I hope we shall be given some indication of how this situation will be affected by the creation of a designated area there. Presumably consultation has taken place with the Ministry of Defence and I should like to know what decision has been taken.

I should also like some clarification about the relationship between port authorities, local authorities and the Government. Presumably these other authorities will act as Government agents. This particularly relates to areas of sea—

Mr. Millan

They could.

Mr. Gray

The Minister says that they could, but if they do not how will this work?

I give the Bill a qualified welcome. It goes too far. A great deal will require to be done to it in Committee, and I sincerely hope that I am fortunate enough to be a member of that Committee. I shall certainly do my best to improve the Bill if I am.

7.14 p.m.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

It is a change to be able to deal with a subject that has been engrossing Scotland for the last few years and to be able to take part in general debates on it. I am particularly glad to be able to speak on the Bill because it contains a element of what I have believed in for a long time—the extension of public ownership. I agree that it represents public ownership only in a minor way over small areas and for a specific purpose. Nevertheless, it is a good principle, and the bigger the application the better.

I share certain views with three of the parties interested in the debate tonight. I was interested in the speech by the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) who was concerned with the heritage aspect. I was interested, too, in the points raised by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) because I was brought up in Orkney and I have a vested interest in the oil there. The only aspect on which I agree with the anti-Scottish and un-Scottish Party—the Scottish National Party—is in respect of what they have said in the past about the rate of exploitation. In fact, they are saying what I said a long time ago, and I am glad that they have caught up with me at last. Of course, this situation creates an enormous dilemma for them, but dilemmas have never worried them in the past and they seem quite happy to adopt contradictory policies.

We face one fundamental dilemma in regard to the Bill. We all know the problem. As soon as development begins everyone says "Yes, let us press ahead, but we do not want the development here."

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

As with bus stops.

Mr. Buchan

My hon. Friend is indeed correct. Everyone says that a bus stop is needed, but they want it 50 yards further along. There is a 700 ft. tower at Inverkip, at the bottom of my constituency. Everyone in the Clyde Valley wants electricity, but no one wants that tower. This is indeed a difficult problem. I cannot understand a party which says that it favours early development of oil but opposes that theme whenever it is useful to do so. In Greenock, for examples, its supporters say that the SNP is for development and that they are anxious to get Portkil, but that there is delay and that problems are created because of the greed of Scott Lithgow. How does one deal with that situation?

I think that in the Bill the Government have it about right. Indeed, I might have been a bit more Draconian. Instead of people discussing whether or not they want Portavadie, we need a more global approach. We need to say that we have spent some time looking at the question, that sites A, B, C, D, and E are under consideration for production sites. At some time we have to decide which one to go for. When the decision is made people will still feel aggrieved, but we shall get the right balance. It is not undemocratic to say that at the end of the day we have to consider the sites on the basis of a global Scottish concept —but the moment the Government do that they must behave in a Draconian fashion. Nevertheless, it is hypocritical to talk only in terms of Draconian measures. This is the only way in which we can readily and democratically deal with the problem.

Mr. Crawford

Surely the Government will have to be Draconian only in a United Kingdom and not necessarily in a Scottish context.

Mr. Buchan

I cannot understand what the hon. Member is getting at. Will he explain further?

Mr. Crawford

The hon. Member said that if the matter were dealt with in a Scottish global context the Government would have to be Draconian. Since Scotland does not need to extract the oil as quickly as does the United Kingdom a Scottish Government would not need to be as Draconian as a United Kingdom Government.

Mr. Buchan

That is the dilemma that the Scottish National Party faces. At some point construction would have to take place. It is becoming a bit sick when fairly intelligent Scotsmen begin to behave in this "cargo cult" manner. The South Sea Islands were bedevilled by that cult. The inhabitants believed that a mysterious ship would some day deliver a cargo to their islands. They ceased cultivation and they waited for the cargo to arrive. The oil will not just arrive—it will have to be worked for. When it comes it will not solve all the problems. Money that comes from the oil will be needed for other jobs.

Whatever the rate of exploitation—I must confess that the Scottish National Party's figure of 50 million tons is closer to my views than it is to the Government's—eventually the oil will run out. Hon. Members are accepting the ultimate concept of the cargo cult. They want to base the future history of Scotland on that cargo. I do not accept that. It is the politics of lunacy, and I believe that the Scottish people will recognise it for what it is—support for the peculiar, eccentric cargo-cultist ideology. It is no part of any Scottish tradition that the SNP has ever read about, nor of Scottish history that it hardly understands.

Mr. Crawford

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that if one extracts oil at 50 million tons a year it will last three times as long as if it were extracted at 150 million tons?

Mr. Buchan

That is very clever. SNP members can count. Three times 50 million is 150 million. This is an idiotic situation. There is a gap in the SNP's thinking, and that gap is even worse than that of the cargo-cultists, who said "Let us wait." The SNP says, "You have got to keep us going while we wait." That is the point. Oil will not be available for some years. There is little Scottish money going into the construction, but the SNP says that it is going to take all the oil.

If England and Wales suddenly said that there would be nothing more going north of the border in the meantime, would that be unjust? I would regard both as foolish and unjust. The SNP rejects the one which would cause it a little deprivation, but accepts the other.

If oil were found off Yarmouth would the SNP say, "Please keep it for England, and do not give us any?" What kind of people are SNP members? Is this the great radical and democratic tradition of Scotland?

Mr. Crawford

My conclusion is that the hon. Gentleman's argument is that the oil off Shetland or the gas off Great Yarmouth belongs to the world and not even to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Buchan

That is a good argument. We may be moving to that position. It is time the world grew up. But in the meantime we are operating as a single organised community—never mind whether we call ourselves a nation or a State.

The Shetland situation is perhaps the most bizarre of the lot. Here is a party that says it is willing to give independence to Shetland. Am I right? Half of the SNP's hon. Members nod, and half shake their heads. Which is it? Where is their leader? They are in favour of giving independence to Shetland.

Mr. Crawford


Mr. Buchan

They are now in favour of devolution. I hope that that is noted in the Glasgow Herald, owned by an SNP member, Sir Hugh Fraser.

What will they do with the devolved oil in Shetland? Ninety per cent. of so-called Scottish oil is not, in fact, Scottish oil—it is Shetland oil. Now the SNP is saying that it will give Shetland the right to be independent, or to have devolution. But it has already said that the oil belongs to Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Colonialism."] Colonialism, indeed.

Mrs. Bain

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in supporting the Bill he is supporting the continuation of the British Empire, with the natives being handed out baubles by a centralised institution in return for the rape of their resources?

Mr. Buchan

I do not want to argue the subject of rape with the hon. Lady. This is ridiculous. What the hon. Lady described is exactly what I was saying was her party's attitude to Shetland. This has nothing to do with the rape of empire or colonies. It has to do with the production of oil to try to keen us going.

One of the worst kinds of imperialism is that which says, "This is ours. No one else shall have it." There is an even worse form of imperialism, which says that the oil belongs to Shetland, but it will not get it because the SNP has already said that it is Scottish.

The SNP Members present have been in a mess this evening. Half of them have been shaking their heads and half of them nodding assent in response to the same question. Perhaps their leader—the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart)—who has just arrived, can straighten them out.

The SNP has a problem—the problem of the gap before the oil flows ashore. Perhaps it will borrow from the rest of Britain for the three or four years before the oil comes.

Mr. Crawford


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. This may be all right for the hon. Gentleman addressing the House, but it is not so exciting for other hon. Members who want to address the House. We must bear in mind other hon. Members.

Mr. Buchan

It is a shame, Mr. Deputy Speaker. They were learning. The SNP Members have been like a desert. Now the water has come to them. They have been blossoming under my gentle showers.

Let us now look at the other key question. If I was right in my initial attitude about the importance of deciding in a global way the better places, there is something to be said for the whole of the west coast of Scotland, from the beginning of the Highland area up, being removed from oil development. I was opposed to the Drumbuie development. I am equally opposed to the Kishorn development. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormack) is supporting the Portavadie development, especially as his main speech was about preventing the proliferation of construction sites. It was not, I hope, for narrow political purposes? There is a case for saying that it should occur in those areas where there is existing industrial development.

There is a dilemma here. For instance, in the Clyde Valley, with 1½ million people, should we continue adding to the industrial mess of the area? But that is also the background of those who live there, and their stamping ground. There is a colossal dilemma in deciding whether we should try to perpetuate the industrialisation of the Clyde or try to save it.

There may not be a dilemma here for my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), but there is for me. I accept many of the arguments of people who develop the amenity case that life is more than the production of oil and more than shouting "Scotland".

Mr. Sillars

Is my hon. Friend aware that some of those who have been developing the so-called amenity case have been talking about upper- and middle-class amenities and not about working-class amenities?

Mr. Buchan

I have a note here about that. It says "Middle class easier". It is a real problem. [Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) does not know better. She comes from an industrial area of Scotland but does not understand this situation. She should, especially as she is a teacher.

One of the great problems is that the middle class, and the professional people, who are articulate, find it easier to defend their case than do the working class. They are accustomed to putting forward their argument and they can employed lawyers and counsel. They have the confidence to say "We have the right to do this ".

The working-class people tend to say that they have no rights. If the hon. Lady does not understand that she has no right to speak for Scotland. We have been bedevilled by the inarticulate nature of our working class. This is precisely why I am a Socialist—because the working class must become articulate in order to win.

My hon. Friend is right to stress that amenity interests have been concerned with preserving private rights. But we must not throw out of the window the rights of the working class to enjoy space and beauty. They must have them, too. Let us not fall into the trap of saying that what the working class should be concerned with is only industrial development. We do not require Socialist planning merely to impose concrete over what should be there. The working class need recreation ground as well.

I have been questioned outside the House on Portkil. The advertisement in the Greenock Telegraph did not say that the Greenock SNP or its local candidate had said that the SNP wanted the oil construction development to take place at Portkil. It said "the SNP" and accused Scott Lithgow, among others, of holding it up because of wages. The SNP was not telling the people on the other side of the river that the SNP was opposed to the development at Portkil. That is dishonesty and opportunism. SNP Members do not seem to understand the enormity of what was done. It is one thing for me to say that I oppose the rate of oil development the Labour Party has accepted. I am not saying, in my own area, that my views are Labour Party policy. If we have that kind of honesty from the SNP we may be able to have a dialogue with it. It has adopted a propaganda technique of incredible vulgarity. For the sake of Scotland, it should snap out of it.

The Bill must be supported. The Government have a dilemma in trying to analyse the situation and decide on areas where the developments should take place. The only answer is a more global concept than we have had so far.

If we are not afraid of public ownership in construction, let us not be afraid of it in other aspects of oil development. The Scottish Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the SNP—above all, the SNP—have sold out Scotland to the oil barons by rejecting the concept of public ownership. If we want to make it Scottish oil, belonging to the Scottish people, we must have public ownership.

Let us be prepared to share what we have with those who shared their wealth with us—those south of the border whose help we needed in the past and will need again, as they will need us. Those who sell out Scotland are those who say, "Let it be Texaco oil, Hugh Fraser oil and Lord Thomson oil." That is fundamentally what the Scottish Conservative Party says. I am glad that it has given grudging support for the Bill, and I hope that it will support us when we go further in public ownership in the interests of Scotland and our great radical heritage, and of the well-being of the people of Scotland and those south of the border.

7.32 p.m.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

I am glad to be able to speak following the hon. Member for Renfrew-shire, West (Mr. Buchan) and to listen again to his oratory and debating skills, having contested his constituency four years ago and found that I had to go to the east of Scotland to get to London.

I had looked forward to the Bill very much. I had thought that with the promotion of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) to the Front Bench the Bill would make a real contribution to the planning scene as well as to the oil scene in Scotland, but it disappoints us, in that it does not meet two expectations. The Minister claimed that it would expedite oil development and might improve planning procedures. It is hard to see how either objective will be met by this rather poor legislation.

The Minister spoke almost emotionally about the importance of oil. He referred to the Budget and the United Kingdom economy, which we all agree is in an extremely serious state. He suggested that the Bill would be of some benefit with respect to our economic problems. However, it has since been established in the debate that the Bill will make little difference to the time-scale of North Sea oil operations.

What is particularly disappointing to me is that the Bill makes no contribution to improving planning procedures in Scotland or anywhere else. The Minister claimed that it would provide a sensible balance between the environment and planning requirements, but it has been pointed out that there are other, more significant, ways of improving planning procedures. My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) both made suggestions, but none of their ideas is included in the Bill. The only benefit of the Bill is in the compulsory purchase procedure.

Once again, the Labour Party has shown its obsession with public ownership, in this case the ownership of land. It does not seem particularly worried about improving the procedures whereby operations on the land might be subject to more democratic processes.

The whole question of planning inquiries causes the greatest amount of concern in Scotland and elsewhere. Anyone who has examined the inquiries at Hunterston, Turnhouse Airport and, recently, Drumbuie, will know that they were large-scale inquiries, carried out at great cost to the local inhabitants, the developers and the public purse because of the methods and procedures required. The Bill contains no improvement in the general procedures. That is particularly disappointing to those who care for public participation the effectiveness of public inquiries and, as we on the Opposition side of the House do, for means by which decisions can be speeded up and a general improvement brought about.

I am surprised that in this respect the Bill relates to Scotland only. I should have expected reserve powers to be introduced on a United Kingdom basis. Pipelines come ashore in the north-east of England, and the Bill relates to pipelines as well as platforms and other matters related to the development of oil and gas.

In considering ways of improving public planning procedures, the Government could have examined how other countries get round the long drawn-out delays of public inquiries. The Bill talks about public participation in the reinstatement of land, but does not bring public participation into account in planning procedures.

Individuals matter, in this as in other contexts, and individuals will remain at arm's length from the planning prccedures and the machinery of government. I have never understood why civil servants and Ministers cannot discuss matters with those responsible for planning applications, and with others who are involved and concerned, and at least initially try to find agreement. That is done in other countries, including the Scandinavian countries, where decisions are not fixed and hardened in Government offices but where there is a willingness to negotiate decisions on planning applications and related matters. Keeping people at arm's length and having fixed attitudes at Government level causes great concern when people are threatened with planning applications.

Mr. Millan

I do not want to keep interrupting on the question of planning, but the fact of the situation is contrary to what the hon. Gentleman has just said. The Government do not have fixed views. The Secretary of State must not have fixed views. He must deal with planning applications on their merits. He must not have pre-conceived ideas.

Mr. Fletcher

The Minister is dealing with planning inquiries at much too high a level. If he were involved in planning inquiries in the position of a simple objector to a scheme, he would find that developers, such as the British Airports Authority, or a contractor planning to make an application for a site for production platforms, make up their minds with civil servants years in advance. Those concerned then feel determined to see the plan through regardless of any evidence given to a public inquiry by a humble objector or by expert professionals hired by objectors. The weight of that determination appears to overcome all other attitudes and to overcome any discretion which the Secretary of State may be entitled to exercise but which apparently is rarely exercised in such conditions.

The point I am trying to make is that individuals should be considered more in such legislation. They should be brought into the planning picture much earlier. I do not believe that the Government have done their homework. They have had virtually all this year to examine planning procedures. I should have expected a Bill presented now to be able to introduce ideas for improvements in planning procedures generally, rather than to be just another club with which to hit on the head residents, objectors and others involved in planning situations, and to take more power to central Government rather than look for opportunities to disperse power and opportunities for argument among the people involved. The Government have not done their homework, and I find it difficult to support the Bill. I am sure that it will emerge from Committee with a great many amendments and alterations that will relate not only to detail but to the attitude which the Bill presents.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

The background to the Bill is the urgent need for oil revenues to come to this country. The whole strategy of my right hon. Friend's Budget depends on that. We are borrowing from overseas over the medium-term future to compensate for our massive balance of payments deficit till the oil revenue starts to flow into our coffers. We shall be substantially better placed in the new oil situation than many of our principal competitors. For that reason and for employment reasons it is clear that there are cogent arguments for pressing ahead as speedily as possible with the acquisition and planning procedures for offshore and onshore oil installations.

We must probe both the pre-parliamentary checks and those checks which exist in the parliamentary system. I make no apology for intervening in what has at least in large part been thus far a domestic Scottish debate. I do so partly because I reject the concept of Scottish oil. That is a concept that has already been exploded to a large extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew-shire, West (Mr. Buchan). We could talk about Orkney oil and Shetland oil. Where does it stop? We have heard a similar argument in Wales. We have our local brand of nationalists who argue —I think that their argument is mistaken when it is considered in terms of a single economy such as that of the United Kingdom—for separate accounting. We have heard about water, and now we are hearing about oil.

Another reason for my intervention is that the Bill, although it purports to relate only to Scotland, must act as a precedent for a similar Bill for England and Wales. The sort of powers of acquisition which will be accepted under the Bill will presumably be followed to a large extent by Bills relating to England and Wales.

I assume that when the Bill is considered in Committee it will be considered only by Scottish hon. Members. Therefore, any contribution that non-Scottish Members can make at this stage will be useful. The same position will relate to Wales when the Celtic Sea exploration starts proceeding apace.

There os an oil rush in Scotland and there is clearly a need for considerable public control. There is an obvious precedent—namely, the frantic and uncontrolled industrial development of the nineteenth century and the effect that that development had on so many industrial areas. There is a famous novel entitled, "Rape of the Fair Country". The extent to which the valleys of Wales were raped by the industrialists of an earlier age can be seen in many areas today.

In my constituency, in the Lower Swansea Valley, there is an area which a hundred years ago was considered to be one of the most beautiful valleys in South Wales. Poets waxed lyrically about the valley and it is said that tall pines brushed the skies. It is now one of the most substantial areas of industrial dereliction in the whole of the United Kingdom. That is the sort of area in which industrialists pocketed the profits. They left a scarred landscape and what has been called a sickness disaster area. Those industrialists left it to the local communities to pay the costs both socially and environmentally.

I welcome Clauses 8 and 9. I hope that the idea of reinstatement bonds will be developed more and more in future legislation. I hope that those who embark on these enterprises will be required to ensure the reinstatement of the land by depositing some form of finance. I hope that planning authorities will make reinstatement a requirement before development can take place. My only query relates to the stringency of the Government's directions which are referred to in Clause 9(3). I hope that the directions which central Government will be empowered to make will be as stringent as possible. If that is not so local planning authorities may well be allowed to neglect environmental considerations for short-term needs.

A problem that has already been mentioned by several hon. Members is the balance to be reached between conservation and the needs of exploration. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), that problem cannot always be put in a middleclass-working-class context. It is not always as simple as that. We must also consider the problem of the industrial areas as a result of the first Industrial Revolution.

It is unfortunate that oil is being discovered off some of our most delightful coastlines. In Wales exploration is taking place off the Pembrokeshire National Park. It is inevitable that people will be concerned by the effect of Clause 11. The clause allows the expedited acquisition order procedure to be used in relation to inalienable land. I trust that that matter will be probed further in Committee. There is also a general lack of parliamentary control under the expedited acquisition powers procedure. Concern must be expressed about that and I trust that it will be probed further in Committee.

We must also consider the broad scope of the powers that will be granted to central Government under Clause 1(2) I note, for example, that in Clause 1(2)(c) the new, expedited procedure can be used in relation to shore terminals. We all know about the Anglesey Shell terminal and the useful public inquiry which took place. That inquiry gave local residents the opportunity of making their views felt. At such inquiries the authorities may be asked to consider whether they are mistaken in putting forward certain proposals. The expedited procedure and the 14-day procedure do not give such scope. Similarly, in Clause 1(2)(a) the expedited procedure can be used in relation to materials. Even quarrying could be expedited as a result of the new procedure.

We need to control the developers but we also need to control the Government in their haste to seek the oil riches. What may be administratively convenient may for future generations leave the sort of problems which were left by the first uncontrolled industrial development. We should be aware of the mistakes that were made in the past. In the overzealous worship of the Mammon of those days great damage was done. We cannot bank on the Government being full of good will when they are asked to consider the protection of amenities and protection of the countryside for future generations. That is particularly so in the present economic climate.

I welcome the Bill in general, but I question considerably the reduced scope which it entails both for pre-parliamentary and parliamentary examination of a development which may have considerable implications for the future.

7.50 p.m.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)

I intend to be very brief because I had only a few points which I wished to put about the Bill and they have been dealt with in great depth by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick).

I want to tell a story. Once upon a time there was a British Empire on which, it was believed, the sun would never set. It was believed that there would be happy co-existence between the mother country and her children, the colonies. Under the guise of democracy, the mother country raped the colonies, bled them of their resources, used them for her own wellbeing and then got rid of them. The well-being of the constituent parts of the empire was irrelevant to the mother country.

We in Scotland do not intend to be treated as yet another colony, because we in the Scottish National Party believe that the well-being of the people of Scotland is very important, but it is my great fear that the British Empire is alive and well, and kicking and living in this Bill, which is going to give totalitarian powers to St. Andrew's House in Scotland under the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The baubles that the Scottish people are being offered include employment. They are told time and again, "If you do not accept these developments there will not be jobs for our people." Fair enough: we need the wealth to create employment. However, to talk of oil platform development as a real asset in terms of employment is to fool the Scottish people, because it is only a temporary form of employment. What we in the Scottish National Party are looking for is more permanent forms of employment so that we can guarantee jobs to the Scottish people in the long-term future and not just for two or three years.

We are told that we must participate, that we must have public ownership. Why is it, then, that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture is on record as saying, when he was Under-Secretary of State for Energy, that the Labour Party took over the SNP's policy in terms of participation in the oil industry so that it could "do down" the SNP? I suggest that the Government check up on the hon. Gentleman's recent speech in Stavanger.

We are told that to participate in this situation will bring the people of Scotland great wealth. It is utter selfishness of any British Government to talk about giving wealth to the Scottish people. It is ridiculous. They have never done it in the past. The Scottish people have suffered under Westminster Government for too long.

Indecent haste is manifested in the Bill. Yet when the SNP asks for devolution quickly to the people of Scotland because we have discussed it for years, we are told "Hang on. We must get it right. We must take our time and think about it." When the British Government want to take over land for their own oil developments they steamroller ahead and do not pay attention to the people.

It has been said in the debate that there is need for research. Yet the one university in Scotland which has set up an offshore technology unit is starved of research capital. It was pointed out to me in reply to a Question last week that less capital expenditure per student is spent in that university than in any other university throughout the whole of Great Britain. So much for research.

The hon. Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) has referred to the rape of Scotland and industrialisation. This Bill is not so much the rape of Scotland as necrophilia.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. James Sillars (South Ayrshire)

I do not know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you meant me to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) or the hon. Lady herself. I will not rise to the bait either way.

I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) that he has made the mistake—and I hope that other of my hon. Friends do not repeat it—of underestimating the importance of oil in Scottish politics. This fact has to be registered by the House and by policy-makers outside it. Sir William McEwan Younger has made the same point to the Conservative Party in Scotland. Given that Scotland is a nation within a nation, it is legitimate for Scotland to take account of the contribution that Scotland makes to the United Kingdom economy from time to time.

I agree with the Bill in principle because there is a need for the extraction of oil at a swifter pace than we are likely to get without the Bill, given that our objective is to assist the United Kingdom over her current and future balance of payments difficulties, and given that we have agreed to the United Kingdom not decreasing the standard of living of the people of the United Kingdom by any great extent over the next years and, indeed, that the United Kingdom has incurred an enormous borrowing requirement in order to avoid doing just that.

I expect that someone from the Scottish National Party will have taken mental note of what I am saying and will retort "That would not arise inside Scotland as we conceive it". But the SNP will have to accept the fact that that is not Scotland as conceived by the majority of the Scottish people at the General Election.

Mrs. Bain


Mr. Sillars

Not at the moment, if the hon. Lady does not mind. I have been asked to follow her frequently.

I do not dispute the right of the Scottish people, if they come to a majority decision to do so, to leave the Union. But they had the opportunity on 10th October. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and I made what we both impartially consider to have been the best party political broadcast of them all in Scotland shortly before the election. My hon. Friend was the anchor man, and he ended by saying to the Scottish people through the television that if they wanted a completely independent sovereign State they should vote for the SNP because they had a perfectly clear choice before them. However, the majority of the Scottish people decided not to go along that road.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten how long it took the Labour Party to break into the two-party system? It took it about 40 years, after which it got one Member elected, who later lost his seat. The media then wrote the Labour Party off, but everyone with any sense knew that it was not written off. The Scottish National Party is doing the same thing.

Mr. Sillars

I am not going to argue with the hon. Lady about the future ups and downs of the SNP. She has failed to see the point I was making—that this Bill arises out of the necessity and the need of the United Kingdom, and that on 10th October the Scottish people, by majority vote in a clear choice, opted for continued unity with the United Kingdom and are, therefore, getting the policies they voted for. That has nothing to do with the philosophical and long-term point that the hon. Lady has made. Neither she nor I can forecast with any accuracy what will happen in the future.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), the Deputy Leader of the SNP, is not in the Chamber. The Leader of the SNP has come in. I know that the Deputy Leader probably aspires to be the Leader one day, but at the moment he is only the deputy, and I am sorry that he is not here. I thought that the first part of his speech was very good. But he went on to make perhaps the worst argument I have ever heard for Scottish nationalism in the sense of becoming a sovereign independent nation. I will come to him in a moment. Perhaps by then he might be in the Chamber.

I support the Bill because there is a need to direct more of the industrial benefits associated with oil into the Scottish economy. A number of people have asked why this Bill relates only to that part of the United Kingdom known as Scotland. I hope that the Minister can tell us this when he replies, but I can take one guess. It is because the powers in this Bill, once enacted, will enable Scotland to acquire enormous planning benefits that will allow Scotland to obtain developments which other parts of the United Kingdom could not get.

If a company is faced with a problem in terms of the time between the application and the execution of that application in relation to the erection of structures and there is the prospect of the work being carried out more quickly in Scotland we all know where that work is likely to go. It is not due to any anti-Scottish feeling that this is a Scottish Bill. Enormous benefits will accrue to the Scottish working people as a result of its being allocated to one part of the United Kingdom known as Scotland. Without the Bill, or something similar, I do not believe we could meet the objectives either of securing benefits to the balance of payments or of providing working benefits through employment to the Scottish working class.

I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have argued that this Bill does not necessitate any interference with the normal planning procedures. To be frank, there is a question mark over that to my mind. It will be an interesting Committee stage. We could do with some candour. The first three lines of Clause 1 say: The Secretary of State may acquire by agreement or compulsorily any land in Scotland for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum. It does not say "any land which has received planning permission". We all know that when land passes into State ownership it is possible, given that the Secretary of State is the man who will determine whether a public inquiry takes place, to bypass some of the planning procedures as well as the compulsory purchase order.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

All of them.

Mr. Sillars

I hope that the hon. Member is not seeking to interrupt me, because he can make a speech later.

Mr. Taylor

I am supporting the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Sillars

Supporting me! It will be an interesting Committee.

I want to concentrate on the way this proposal bypasses the CPO procedure. There can be great delays in this procedure, even after planning permission. Consider for example, the Tweed Bank development in the Borders, where it took years before we entirely overcame all the various legal obstacles to the finalisation of the compulsory purchase procedure. Even if we are given assurances on the planning aspect there are still great benefits in terms of the saving in time in removing the CPO procedure. The job benefits will be great. Other hon. Members have referred to the "Current Account" programme on BBC Scottish Television on Friday evening, which went to the north-east of Scotland to discuss a number of problems.

There are several problems arising out of the economic developments associated with oil. There are questions of housing, recreational development, schools, hospitals, social provisions. All of these go to make up the difficulties inherent in the establishment of a new community. I do not mind tackling them, because they are the problems of industrialisation and the creation of employment. If we do not vote for this Bill tonight we shall still be struggling in many areas of Scotland with the worst problem of all, unemployment.

I have no basic objections in principle to the Bill but a number of detailed questions have to be posed. Before I come to them I will deal with the speech of the Deputy Leader of the SNP, who, I am sorry, is still not here. I read in the Glasgow Herald—the Hugh Fraser paper —today of the statement made by the Deputy Leader of the SNP in Scotland yesterday: The party "— that is the SNP— is opposed to smash and grab raids by Westminster to provide sites for English platform consortia to make a 'quick buck' from Scotland and then vanish leaving Scotland to deal with the resulting mess and unemployment. That betrays part of what I find contemptible in the SNP, and I use the word advisedly. I do not hold any individual in contempt but I believe that the general philosophy is contemptible. The general philosophy is based upon a basically anti-English attitude. I do not believe we can build any future nation upon the bitterness and viciousness of such an attitude.

Mr. MacCormick

Does the hon. Gentleman not appreciate that we in the Scottish National Party have far more in common with our English friends on all benches than we have with many of those in the parties representing Scotland?

Mr. Sillars

If the hon. Gentleman has read Scottish history as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has done he will realise that that is an inherent problem in the Scottish nation. The only time I remember going to one of the large football matches at Hampden Park when fights did not take place was on the night we beat Czechoslovakia to qualify for the World Cup. That was the exception rather than the rule. As it is on the terraces, so it is in politics and several other areas. So it was with the road haulage dispute, between Scottish workers and Scottish employers.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (South Angus)

If the SNP is so anti-English why are so many of its members Englishmen? Why is the national treasurer an Englishman? Why do so many English people stand as candidates?

Mr. Sillars

I do not think that invalidates the accusation. Those people would have to explain themselves much more clearly than I could. I have studied the SNP for some considerable time. I have read its propaganda and I have attended the odd meeting at which its supporters have spoken. There is this factor which comes through time after time, "Do you want an English Government, English companies, to rob you? Why should English workers be paid more? Scottish pensioners should get more than English pensioners." That is the theme running through SNP propaganda, and it illustrates that, however many statutory Englishmen there are inside the SNP, it is basically an anti-English party in its attitude.

I return to the quotation by the Deputy Leader of the SNP. If for: English platform consortia he substituted "Scottish capitalists" I take it there would be no objection from the SNP whatever. If those capitalists made off with that "quick buck" south of the border and put it into an English corporation that paid a higher interest rate—because in an independent Scotland there are to be lower interest rates according to the SNP—if the capitalists did the usual capitalist trick and took their "fast bucks" south of the border, would that be patriotic? The only way to stop them taking their "fast bucks" south of the border would be to put a border on the border, to which the SNP says it is opposed. I will not deal with any more of the contradictions involved there.

Instead I come to some of the detailed queries about the Bill and my points of reservation. I agree with many who have referred to the Government opting for the negative procedure in relation to statutory instruments. In my view, it would be far better, given the sweeping nature of this measure, if we opted instead, in Committee, for the affirmative procedure. I know that all Governments tend to say that they would prefer the negative procedure, for sound reasons. But we are unlikely to get hundreds and thousands of statutory instruments emerging once this Bill becomes an Act. It would be a necessary parliamentary safeguard if we opted for the affirmative procedure.

I also hope that the Government will take into account the point of view put forward by the National Trust. Here I must declare an interest, certainly not a pecuniary one, as a member of the National Trust. I believe that 14 days in which to make representations against compulsory purchase is somewhat short and that 28 days is a much better figure to go for.

Clause 8 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State in terms of the reinstatement of land. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum points out that: Clause 8 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State so far as in his opinion is reasonably practicable to reinstate land once the purpose for which it was acquired has been served". We shall probably have to strengthen that provision in Committee, and I hope that the Government will adopt a positive attitude to the points which we put forward.

I should like the Government to give more specific guarantees about the reinstatement of land when we proceed with measures associated with oil development in Scotland. We require an environmental trust fund, primed from either the oil revenues or a levy on the oil companies and, together with them, people engaging in production platforms, of about £20 million to £30 million a year so that we can guarantee that, even if it does not suit the Secretary of State for Scotland, we can make a fair job of reinstating the beautiful land of Scotland.

8.11 p.m.

Mr. John Corrie (Bute and North Ayrshire)

We have had a wide-ranging debate concerning many areas of Scotland and it is plain that in Committee many points will be put forward by all parties. I agree that they should be put forward because the Bill has wide consequences for Scotland. There is, however, one point on which I think we are all agreed, namely, that the oil which will flow from the Scottish coast will calm the troubled economic waters for Britain.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) and I are closer to the problem than anyone else in the House because it affects us directly. I hope that the Government will look beyond the question of building or of finding the right sites and will consider the problems which will arise once the sites have been found. There is no doubt that since the Ardyne site was built considerable problems have arisen in my area. Many small businesses in the area, particularly on the islands, have lost people who were building boats or working in garages and on the land. They have gone to highly paid jobs in the oil industry. I hope that the Government will look at this problem so that the same thing does not happen in the areas of development.

It is plain from what hon. Members on both sides have said that the Bill has frightening powers. I shall not be surprised if it is changed to a large extent in Committee. I wonder how many Members visualise the sort of areas which can be grabbed under the Bill. I think that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) went too far when he suggested that Princes Street Gardens might be taken for development, but it is not specifically provided that coastal sites will be developed and it seems that anywhere in Scotland could be used for development.

For generations we have ignored Scotland's environment. Having destroyed one area, we have taken over another and destroyed that. Fortunately, that has happened mostly in the Central Belt, but without doubt, under the Bill, moves will be made to the coastal areas of natural beauty which no one can visualise unless he has visited them. What is the use of petrol from the North Sea for cars if beautiful areas are swamped by development? I welcome the fact that under the Bill such development will be controlled. I realise the importance of building oil rigs quickly and that for this purpose deep water is needed, but someone must speak for the interests of the environment, and I hope that I do so.

I am one of those who believe that the great oil boom in Scotland might not be such a boom after all. Perhaps when the oil starts to flow the Arab countries will drop the price of oil and increase production to bring in the same amount of money and the oil for which we are borrowing so much money might not be worth as much as we thought it would be.

The part of the Bill which worries me is in Clause 1, the main provision, which empowers the Secretary of State to acquire any land in Scotland for any purpose relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum". It also makes provision for an accelerated aquisition procedure. It seems to me that the Government have in mind an unreasonably short time.

To appease the residents of any area where such development may take place, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states that Clause 8 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State so far as in his opinion is reasonably practicable to reinstate land once the purpose for which it was acquired has been served. Like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), I am extremely worried about the situation because, as I read the Bill, there is a sting in the tail, as the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum goes on to say that alternatively the Secretary of State may adapt the land to an alternative use". That phrase seems to change the meaning of the whole Bill and allows any land to be taken over and eventually to be used for any purpose. I wonder whether the person from whom the land has been compulsorily taken will have the first chance of getting it back.

As I have said, the hon. Member for Argyll and myself are probably more affected by the Bill than anybody else. We represent constituencies which have deep water around them. My constituency has already been raped by new development at Hunterston. I am pleased that, development having started there, oil rigs will be placed in an area which has been spoiled.

Just across the water there is a proposed development on the island of Little Cumbrae. The boffins in Edinburgh seem to think that this is merely an uninhabited island a mile off shore with deep water and is an ideal site for rig construction. To the local people it is a bird sanctuary and a holidaymakers' paradise. It is half a mile from Millport where the winter population may be only 1,200, but, because of holiday potential, it has about 12,000 people there almost daily throughout the summer. They go to the area because they want to get away from the industry and mess of central Scotland and to enjoy themselves on the shore. It is opposite the new Hunterston ore terminal where huge ore carriers, and, no doubt eventually, huge oil tankers, will berth. It is beside one of the busiest shipping lanes in Scotland. It is within a mile of a nuclear power station. The safety rules say that only a few personnel should work within a two-mile radius of it.

Surely this is the wrong place to put development of this kind. The hon. Mem- ber for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) said that we all wanted development to take place but not on our own back doorsteps. He may think that that applies to what I have just said, but I still feel that this is the wrong place for this type of development.

I therefore hope that, as in the past, the Secretary of State will consider all the environmental problems as well as the economic advantages before using the powers in the Bill.

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Harry Selby (Glasgow, Govan)

I cannot rise to the heights of eloquence of the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain), who has graphically described the rape of the British Empire by the mother country, and included Scotland among the countries raped by the mother country.

There are one or two points in the Bill which I warmly welcome. The first is the speed-up in taking over the necessary land and other accoutrements for development of North Sea oil. Coming from an area which has had to wait for years for approval to take over land to house the people of Govan, I must welcome this measure. The frustration experienced by the people in the area which I represent is hard to believe. Day after day they say to me, "When will we be rehoused?" I say, "We are waiting patiently for the necessary approval. We must go through the formalities of inquiries." People have objected, saying that they have had to wait for six, nine or 18 months or two years to be rehoused. I therefore welcome the Bill for that reason.

The second reason why I welcome it is that it spells out in detail that action will be taken against contractors who do not carry out their obligations to look after the environment. This is another problem in my constituency. We are busy building beautiful roads to bypass Glasgow and to speed up the traffic flow, but the contractors and sub-contractors have neglected to carry out their statutory obligations.

People come along to me day in and day out to complain about mud on the roads, and the attack on the environment. The Bill, I hope, will give the Government power to ensure that the contractors and the people they employ will be forced to carry out the necessary work.

I am sorry that one item in the Bill is not spelled out very clearly. The Bill says that compensation is to be paid. But compensation should be paid only to people who can prove that they or their ancestors did not steal the land from the people of Scotland. I have challenged the Scottish National Party to spell that out. I hope that the people who have possession of the land will have to prove that they are legally entitled to it.

8.21 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I was interested in what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby) said. If he is correct in his determined view that the Bill will help the people of Govan, he certainly expressed much more eloquently than any Opposition spokesman the wide powers the Government seek in the Bill.

I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) suggest that, historically, Scotland has been subject to the rape of London, in the same ways as the Empire, and that the iniquitous procedure to which Scotland has been subjected repeated the history of the Empire and the United Kingdom. Scotland has played at least as meritorious or as terrible a part in the history of the Empire as has any other part of the United Kingdom. One needs only to look at the history of Canada, New Zealand, Southern Africa and the rest of Africa to see the part that has been played by Scotland and, whether it is to be praised or condemned, Scotland played a major part.

In bringing forward the Bill the Government suggest that they have two primary objectives. First, they seek to prevent the proliferation of oil sites and oil development throughout Scotland. Secondly, they seek to accelerate procedures to ensure that there is no unnecessary delay. I think most hon. Members agree that those are worthwhile objectives, and few would seek to deny the Government that right, but we have to consider two matters. First, do the Government require legislation to achieve those aims, worth while though they may be? Secondly, does the Bill simply give them power to achieve those aims, or does it go way beyond that?

Let us consider, first, the proliferation of oil sites. I suggest that the Government already have a great many powers available to them whereby they can control proliferation. They have already issued a statement which gives guidelines as to the parts of the Scottish coastline which are suitable for oil development and which are preferential development zones. I know that they are only guidelines, but, bearing in mind the manifold powers of the Secretary of State, I do not believe that he cannot use those guidelines as a means for determining who should or should not be granted planning permission for all related developments. The Secretary of State already has power to call into his office any development which he believes to be in the national interest, and he can thereby express his view and the Government's policy on any proposed oil development.

Equally, if the purpose of the Bill is to control proliferation by reserving to the Government alone the right to own the land on which development will take place, that will not be achieved by the Bill. According to Clause 9, the Government envisage a situation where companies or individuals will own land over which controls have to be imposed. There is no doubt, notwithstanding the passing of the Bill, that much of the oil development in Scotland will take place on land which the Government do not own and for which planning permission may be granted notwithstanding the powers contained in the Bill. The Bill in no way gives the Government powers of controlling proliferation that they do not presently have.

Much more important is the intervention which the Bill makes in the normal procedures for determining the granting of various forms of permission and for dealing with delays in considering the procedures. I do not maintain that the right to a public inquiry is so sacrosanct and so valuable that it must be preserved at all costs.

Many hon. Members will recall the infamous example of the inquiry into Turn-house Airport. Despite the lengthy evidence, the enormous expense and the tremendous efforts of all concerned, and although the reporter was convinced, the findings of the inquiry were turned down by the Government of the day. That is a clear indication that at the end of the day any Government of whichever party, if they believe sufficiently strongly in a particular policy, will overrule a public inquiry or any other procedure. As an aside, it is disgraceful that neither the previous Government nor the present Government have seen fit to award expenses to the objectors, who at least managed to convince the people before whom they appeared of the rightness of their objections. Both Governments deserve to feel thoroughly ashamed of that.

Equally, inquiries can sometimes be valuable and helpful. Before I became a Member of Parliament I was privileged to take part, in a legal capacity, in an inquiry held on the Zetland County Council Bill. The Zetland County Council sought, at a local level, compulsory purchase powers not dissimilar from the powers sought by the Government in the Bill. The results of that inquiry give an instructive example, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) will agree.

When the county council first put down that Private Bill the powers it sought were compulsory powers to entitle it to take land both in the Sullom Voe and Balta Sound. As the result of extensive evidence heard in the inquiry it became increasingly evident that there was no case for the oil development at Sullom Voe also taking place in Balta Sound, and that what the county council was trying to achieve would create uncertainty among the people of Unst. But for that inquiry the local authority might have been given powers that it was unlikely to use and that would nevertheless have been the permanent cause of uncertainty, frustration and fear amongst the people in the area. Inquiries can be useful.

I come now to the powers sought by the Government in the Bill. When I first looked at the Bill I assumed what the Government had in mind was to acquire land by compulsory purchase and, by so doing, take away any need to hold a public inquiry into the planning aspects. I understood that to be the objective, because as a planning authority once they owned the land they would not need to carry out an inquiry. But we heard from the Minister of State—I presume it represents Government policy—that the Government would not seek to exercise the compulsory purchase powers they will obtain under the Bill unless and until planning permission has been obtained, presumably by the firm, company or individual who is to carry out the work.

If that is true it raises two interesting points. The reason why I say "if" will become clear in a moment. There is no control of that nature in the Bill. One Labour contributor suggested that it would have been easy for the Bill to provide that the powers exercised in Clause 1 would be applicable only when planning permission had been granted. However, that control has not been put in the Bill, and is indicative of the sort of power which the Government could exercise if the Bill were to pass unamended.

I hope that the Minister will say to what extent the delay which previously prevailed will not now happen as a result of the Bill. If the procedure outlined by the Minister is correct, there will still be a full-scale, extensive and lengthy public inquiry—[Interruption.] I hear a cry from the Government Front Bench of "Perhaps". But if these public inquiries are to be allowed and the normal planning procedure is to be permitted, surely the Government do not intend to make the process a useful facade. If they are to allow this right, we must assume that it will be meaningful and that the public inquiry will not be a farce.

If the procedure will not save time in planning terms, what will it achieve? Instead of having one public inquiry as at present, will we have to go through two public inquiries? There will be the normal public inquiry, and then, unless the accelerated procedure is used, we may well have to face a further inquiry in respect of the compulsory purchase aspect. Instead of the present situation, there will be a deterioration in the process rather than an improvement.

Will the Minister say in his reply whether, once planning permission is granted following a lengthy public inquiry, it will be possible for a further public inquiry to take place on the subject of compulsory purchase? If that is not to be the case the prospect is that the Bill, with its enormous powers, will not make any useful contribution to curing delays. I wonder what benefits the Government hope to achieve by the measure. Perhaps they hope that under the compulsory purchase powers nobody will bother to go to the expense of effort of undergoing a public inquiry on the planning aspect. Since at the end of the day the Government are the planning authority, they will probably override any objections, since they will become the owners of the land involved. The result will be that the planning controls will have no meaningful part to play in the protection of individual rights.

The debate today has concentrated on the principle of the Bill. Many hon. Members have an open mind on this subject but if after all stages the Bill returns to the Floor of the House in substantially the same form as it now is, I shall find it extremely difficult to support it. The Bill asks for Draconian powers of a kind which no previous Government have sought to exercise. The powers relate not only to the shoreline but to every village and hamlet throughout Scotland. Although the Government disclaim any desire to use the powers in the Bill, they are asking the House to pass a measure incorporating overwhelming powers. This is a dangerous Bill which, in its present form, will do nothing but harm to the people of Britain.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)

I welcome the Bill. It is probably the only piece of planning legislation I have ever welcomed. I remember that when I served in a local authority we used to groan whenever we heard that a piece of planning legislation was on its way. The speech made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) filled me with dismay. If what he said turns out to be true, we shall have the terrible prospect, not of one planning inquiry but two. It will be a lawyers' dripping roast. I'm sure he is mistaken. He said that planning inquiries were useful. I agree—but they took a terribly long time in proving it, and they took an even longer time to say "No".

If the Bill does anything, it certainly seeks to short-circuit planning procedures. On that matter my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby) spoke from the heart when dealing with his native heath. Speaking from a constituency point of view, involving the needs of the people of Springburn as a result of long drawn-out planning procedures, I know that there are large tracts of building land lying derelict.

We in the Labour Party welcome the Bill because it is one of many steps that we must take to keep the promises which our manifesto made to the people. The Bill is about oil. We would be very foolish if we risked losing our oil production. It may be right to say that the need for oil may disappear in the future, as the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) suggested. How far ahead it is impossible for anyone to say, but certainly the need for oil may lessen in the future. What is considered at this moment to be our most valuable industrial asset may turn out to be less valuable than we had hoped. However, the Bill is a necessary step if we are to develop this new industry. We are all concerned about unemployment, and the building of oil platforms will create employment. It is difficult to understand, therefore, why there are objections to Bills of this kind.

The representative of the Scottish National Party who opposed me in Springburn in the election—for whom, incidentally, I have the highest admiration—did not make it clear where he stood on this issue. He held no meetings to tell anyone.

We hear concern expressed about the proliferation of sites and about oil platforms being constructed here, there and everywhere. The restriction of these sites depends very much on their availability. Probably the best site of all for such a construction is at Drumbuie. Despite the necessity for and the urgency of getting oil ashore, the Secretary of State considered the application, and his considered opinion was that no oil platform should be built there. We have this safeguard in having a Secretary of State who loves Scotland as much as anyone in this House.

We should be building as many platforms as possible. We should not be hiving off their construction to other parts of the world. The maximum number should be built in Scotland, especially taking into account that the dangers of proliferation are very restricted by the number of sites available. The Orkney and Shetland and Ross and Cromarty authorities have taken private action to fulfil their obligations to the people whom they represent, and the Secretary of State would be failing in his duty if he did not take the measures proposed in the Bill.

We have not exactly been over-energetic in the pursuit of our objective. The Labour Government have not been indolent. The indolence lies at the feet of the Conservative Government, as the Public Accounts Committee makes clear in its excellent report. We could have moved much faster. We could have been further ahead than we are today. The estimates of future requirements are for between 55 and 80 of these platforms, averaging nine orders a year. That is a huge investment, and it pushes known technology to its limits. Yet we hear hon. Members saying that we should wait a while and that the Government are taking too many powers. This is probably the reason why the country is in the state it is in today. Far too many people are saying that we should wait and see what happens—that we should wait and see whether someone else from overseas does it for us. If we are to do anything, we have to do it ourselves.

I am glad to see that the compulsory purchase procedure and the planning procedures are to be short-circuited and that there are safeguards in the Bill which can be used. I suppose that we shall have to put up with one planning inquiry, but I hope that amendments will be introduced in Committee designed to make it as short as possible.

The Bill denotes the urgency of the matter. Who would deny that, given the state of the nation at the moment? We are in a state of emergency, and if we are to use the best sites it is probable that they will be the sites with the maximum facilities, which will give rise to a great many objections. Objections mean inquiries and consequent delays.

I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly. I hope that my hon. Friends will ensure that it is given a Second Reading tonight, and that its Committee stage will be expedited, with as little alteration as possible.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)

The Bill is concerned with the resolution of two public conflicts: first, the economic and social necessity to obtain as soon as possible the benefits of the oil under the Continental Shelf; secondly, the equally important public claims—I do not like the attitude that these are, on the one hand, working class claims and, on the other hand, middle or any other class claims—of amenity and of land. Oil is a passing heritage and land is an eternal heritage.

It has been said that anything spent on speed is wasted. However, any improvement in present planning procedures can only be welcomed, even if that improvement were to involve a cut in the future income of the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) if he had to return to his former profession. But we do our best for him.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

The hon. and learned Gentleman himself is more likely to do that.

Mr. Fairbairn

I am not more likely to do that, with respect.

The present procedures are clumsy and expensive, and planning, as much as anything, brings the law into disrepute. The intention of this legislation is to reduce planning control and increase the powers of the Secretary of State. If it is intended—this is purely the Minister's assurance, and he may have successors—that the normal planning permissions are first obtained, the Bill should necessarily say so. It is not enough to have a Minister's assurance about something which is not contained in the Bill.

This is a simple Bill—very few Bills are simple nowadays—but the great question is: what does it mean? The answer, in the words of the Red Queen, is that it means whatever the Secretary of State will say that it means.

Looking at Clause 1(2)(d), I can think of no activity on earth which is not covered by it. If the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) wished to build a house or premises in which to carry out necrophilia, it could be embodied in and covered by that clause. It could mean any activity. Indeed, making toothbrushes is covered by such an activity. In my opinion, Clause 1(2)(d) is contrary to all principles of planning and gives powers which cannot be foreseen.

The recent report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology indicates that hon. Members and the public involved in the industry did not anticipate—I do not believe that they now anticipate—the scale or the extent of the impending operations. If everything that can remotely be connected with the oil industry is to be covered, the clause gives the Secretary of State power to take over any land at any time and to keep it.

The difficulty is that the Secretary of State will be advised by his advisers in St. Andrew's House, who hitherto have not been noted for their perspicacity in getting things right in planning matters or for their sensitivity to their surroundings. There are no safeguards in the Bill. Furthermore, the rather weak reinstatement clause gives no hope whatever that such land will ever be reinstated.

There are in this conflict of principles higher values than an immediate commercial rush to solve the economic problems of the country. The lasting heritage of Scotland is greater than the passing heritage of oil, and I hope that the Bill will be amended drastically to ensure that these dictatorial powers are not placed in the hands of those who have exercised such limited powers as they already have with such a lack of judgment in the past.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

I should like this evening to impress upon the House the dangers of piecemeal legislation such as the measure before us. I go so far as to say that this is a pathetic little Bill. It is ironic that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is not here. He, too, must think that this is a pathetic little Bill, and it is particularly impertinent of the right hon. Member to speak about the Nationals as part-time patriots when he does not even bother to join us this evening. This is a pathetic Bill, because it takes too much power in one direction and takes none at all in other more important matters.

I ask the Government to get their sums right this time. There are already many sites all round Scotland that are suitable for constructing platforms. The Bill will speed up the procedures to get still more platform sites, but my question to the Government is: do they honestly need them? That is why I ask the Government to get their sums right. If they do not, we shall be left with a great many derelict sites all round Scotland.

Already we are moving out of the age of the first generation of oil exploitation rigs. We are moving to the second generation, which is concrete rigs, but already, on the drawing boards and in the minds of Scotsmen and people who are developing new technologies in oil, third and fourth generation platforms are being developed and will soon come on stream. That being so, many of the platform sites could have an extremely short life, and this is why I ask the Government to get their thinking right.

This measure is entitled the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Bill but it talks not at all of what is happening offshore, and it is with that aspect that I want to deal primarily tonight.

It is surely ridiculous to control all development on shore and pay no attention to what is happening on the sea bed. There is nothing in the Bill that will control the operations of the oil companies or of the supply boats that service the oil rigs. It is all very well for the Minister to say that some things come under the Department of Energy and other things come under the Secretary of State for Scotland. The fact is that between the two Departments the oil companies are getting off virtually with murder.

Every day those concerned dump debris over the side of their boats or oil rigs. They are polluting the sea bed, and it is pollution that will last for generations to come. Not one week goes by but the owner of a fishing boat comes back and says "I snagged my nets and lost my gear on rubbish that was never on the sea bed before." Anyone who contravenes the provisions of the Bill will be fined £400. I said that it was a pathetic little Bill, and that is a pathetic little fine. The gear of these fishing boats costs anything from £1,600 to as much as £3,000, so it is pathetic to suggest fining an oil company £400.

Mr. John Smith

I hope that the hon. Member will be reassured by the fact that he is reading only part of the Bill. The fine he mentioned would arise only if a company were summarily convicted. If it were proceeded with on indictment the fine would be unlimited.

Mr. Watt

I welcome that intervention, but one thing that I should like to see in the Bill is provision for withdrawal of operating licences. There are cowboys in every industry, but there are more in the oil industry than in any other, and there are too many of these cowboys operating off our shores. Until something is done to bring these supply boats and oil companies to heel, this debris dumping will continue.

The Bill, which one would expect from its title to cover every aspect of oil exploitation, makes no provision for compensation for fishermen who lose all their gear and a day's fishing and have to put up with dragging up filth from the sea bed. A figure of £400 would not pay to lift the anchor of one of these rigs. There is nothing in the Bill to pay fishermen back.

I would ask the House to note that almost every Scottish fishing community is represented by a member of the Scottish National Party. These communities are more patient than others, but they have just about had enough from the oil companies. One cannot blame them for being frustrated when their fishing is lost and their gear ruined. They pick up drums filled with caustic soda and drums of paint which have been deliberately speared to make them sink; they pick up bags of sawdust which make the nets unusable for catching fish for human consumption. The Government are doing nothing to help those fishermen.

Mr. Buchanan

Almost the first thing that this Government did was pass a Bill called the Dumping at Sea Bill, which I myself put through the House, precisely to deal with this problem. So it is dealt with under other legislation.

Mr. Watt

I am well aware of that Bill, but we should like to see a compensation fund to make money readily available. At the moment, someone who loses gear must claim against an oil company or whoever dumped the stuff, if he can prove it. We should set up a total oil compensation fun from which any skipper or crew can draw if they lose their gear in a place where gear was not lost before.

The two Ministers must get together to sort out this oil business. Fishermen have been losing gear for far too long, and they cannot afford it. There is no way in which they can get some sense into the situation. That is why I ask the Government to take back the Bill, to go more deeply into what is happening in the oil industry and to ensure that our fishermen get a fair deal from now on. It has been bad enough having to put up with awful legislation introduced by a Conservative Government, but it is too bad when we see that the present Government are doing nothing whatsoever to remedy a ridiculous and hopeless situation.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

It is a great pleasure, as always, to speak after the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt). We have had the pleasure today of hearing four speeches from Scottish National Party Members. I shall be commenting on each of their speeches.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) opened his speech by welcoming to the Government Front Bench the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith), who is to reply to the debate. I am sure that we all welcome him in that way and are looking forward to what he has to say.

I should also welcome myself to the Opposition Front Bench, when speaking on this matter.—[Interruption.] No one else has done that so far. This is the first occasion on which I have had the pleasure of speaking in an oil debate. The reason is that we have a large number of talented Members on the Conservative benches who have a great deal of knowledge of oil matters and, as the Minister would rightly appreciate and admit, there is not any immediate threat, I understand, of platform building in Cathcart or of refineries there. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Gray) said, this is an important Bill which directly or indirectly will affect every constituency.

This has been an interesting debate. To some extent it has been an unusual debate. The one thing which has been made quite clear by Conservative Members is that our attitude to the Bill is one of positive neutrality—which will strike a cord in the hearts of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Selby) and others of the Labour Party who take that point of view generally.

The Bill is not welcome in the normal sense of that word, because I doubt whether any democrat or member of the Conservative Party could be entirely happy with a Bill which takes away democratic rights. We are aware that this is something which was set out by the previous Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Gordon Campbell, in a statement on 31st January, in which he also suggested that something similar should be done, but I think that we are all aware that no Bill which to any degree takes away the rights of individuals is welcome in the full sense of that word.

As the Minister has rightly said, we are in an emergency situation. The previous Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon Campbell, said on 31st January that it was a matter of extreme national importance that we should procure this oil in quantity as soon as possible. The emergency has not changed. I am sure that all Opposition Members would agree that the only thing that we can be quite sure about is that with a Labour Government in power the emergency is certain to continue and perhaps get considerably worse.

The one thing which has been emphasised by Opposition Members, and indeed by some hon. Members on the Government side of the House, is the apparent magnitude of the steps which are being taken in the Bill. First, we have the obvious question of the diminution of the rights of individuals when it comes to the matter of holding public inquiries. That is quite clear so far as the compulsory purchase inquiries are involved. There are some doubts about other inquiries.

The second problem, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) said, lies in the fact that only the negative procedure is set out for orders calling for the expedited acquisition procedure. That is unfortunate. It is quite clear that in Committee, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) said, this will be a matter which will concern democrats on all sides. Another matter of serious concern is that Clause 11 contains the power to overturn inalienable rights. That will call for some very serious consideration.

On the other hand, we have to set the difficulties in the Bill against the other arguments that the Minister put forward. First, there is the supreme national need to get the oil ashore, and just as important—more important for Scotland—is the need to make sure that Scotland benefits fully in terms of jobs created in the manufacture of oil-related equipment. I believe that this is more important in the present circumstances than the oil itself.

This matter was considered in detail by that splendid Select Committee on Science and Technology which recently produced an important report. The Committee reported the former Under-Secretary of State for Energy as saying that the offshore market was now around £500 million a year. He said that within five years … we are likely to see a situation where the total value in expenditure on the development of offshore oil and gas exceeds even the British aircraft industry. So we are talking about big business, and if there is anything to enable Scotland to benefit through jobs in the manufacture of equipment everyone who has Scotland's interests at heart would want to encourage that.

One of the big problems for us is that while most of us came to the House with a clear understanding of what the Bill provided our understanding has been subjected to revision by the Minister of State. While we respect the Minister's opinions, we cannot honestly regard speeches by Ministers as being the basis of law. As a previous Minister of State, the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon), will admit, we have found that speeches by Ministers are not substitutes for the law. We must carefully clarify precisely what we are supposed to be accelerating with the Bill.

The only thing that has not accelerated in the last nine months has been progress by the Government which would be helpful to this country. The only thing that has been accelerated has been the nationalisation plan for oil, and that will scare away investment and damage the country. There has been no acceleration by Ministers, and even the Minister of State will admit that the present occupants of the Scottish Office are not exactly whizz kids.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns was challenged to give details about the loss of orders caused by the delay of nine months before the Government brought the Bill forward. It is impossible to relate specific orders to specific delays, but four major contracts for concrete platforms have gone to foreign manufacturers. An article in the Financial Times of 1st November 1974 gave details. There was the Mobil order for the Beryl field. That was placed with Norwegian contractors. Shell-Esso placed an order for a platform for the Brent field with a Norwegian firm and an order for a platform for the Dunlin field with a firm in Holland. There was a statement in the Financial Times by Mr. Adrian Hamilton, whose views are respected on both sides of the House. He said: The result has not just been that orders have been lost to foreign competitors (of the eight concrete platforms ordered so far for the U.K. North Sea, five have been ordered from Norway), but also that the whole rate of development of the finds seemed likely to become restricted by a shortage of available sites throughout Europe to build the platforms. What matters, and I hope the Secretary of State for Energy will clarify, is precisely what the Bill is designed to accelerate. The previous Secretary of State, Mr. Gordon Campbell, was quite specific in his statement last January. He said that the accelerated procedures would apply also to planning permissions required for the projects themselves or for urgent and essential supporting activities. There was no doubt in the House when that statement was made that our accelerated procedure would apply to compulsory purchase and to planning permission. On that there was no doubt. The statement was quite clear. It was contained in c. 626 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 31st January.

It was interesting that that statement was not received with enthusiasm by hon. Members on the Government side. We found only one hon. Member who seemed to give a general welcome to it. That was the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow. There were caustic comments from Members of the Labour Party, but the statement was clear.

Now in this debate many hon. Members were obviously under the impression that what was in the statement by Mr. Gordon Campbell was still the case. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) obviously thought that the Bill was exactly the same as what the Gordon Campbell Bill would have been. The hon. Member talked about long delays over planning inquiries at Turnhouse and at Drumbuie. Several hon. Members on both sides of the House clearly thought that this Bill was along the same lines as the Gordon Campbell Bill would have been.

However, the Minister of State was precise in saying that this is not the situation with this Bill. He said that no effort was being made to change the planning procedures. With regard to the planning procedures the rights of the public would be exactly the same, he said.

We want to know about the point made so effectively by one of my hon. Friends. Is the Minister of State saying that in every single case the full planning procedure will be gone through, including a public inquiry, if necessary and if permitted, and that only after that will the possibility of using accelerated compulsory purchase procedures be considered? If so, this is certainly a Bill different from what we thought it would be. It would also mean that the acceleration envisaged would not be very considerable except in special cases.

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman has interpreted accurately what the Bill does. The hon. Gentleman referred to the statement by Mr. Gordon Campbell on 31st January. Perhaps for the sake of completeness I should quote another part of the statement, so as to deal with a point raised by some hon. Members who have said that the Bill goes beyond concrete platforms and that that was not what was intended by the Tory Government. Gordon Campbell said: The categories of project associated with oil and gas would not be limited to concrete platforms. It is our intention that the Bill should cover platform building and should include installations for pipeline landing. The categories can be described exactly and investigated when the Bill comes before the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January 1974; Vol. 868, c. 632.] Perhaps we could lay that canard to rest as well.

Mr. Taylor

I can assure the Minister that we are not trying to score points but to get the substance of what is in the Bill. It appears to me that in some respects the Bill does not go as far as the Gordon Campbell Bill.

In other respects it goes further. It refers to means of access, housing, sources of material, which could be quarries, and the like. It is clear that the Bill goes beyond what was said in the Gordon Campbell statement. In this respect the wording of the Bill goes considerably beyond that.

We have to remember that we have only the word of the Minister for this. I am not doubting his word, but if acceleration is to take place only after full planning procedures have been gone through would it not be better to spell this out in the Bill and not simply make it subject to a ministerial speech? There is nothing in the Bill that states that compulsory purchase procedure would take place only after the full planning procedure, and, if necessary, an inquiry, had taken place. It makes a fundamental difference if we have compulsory purchase before that. There could be a case of a planning application, a compulsory purchase and the project being abandoned. A further planning application could come forward. With Crown land planning procedures are totally different and the normal protections available to the public are to some extent not present.

We want from the Minister a clear statement on what we are accelerating. If we are being given the assurance that it is only a question of compulsory purchase procedure being accelerated why can we not have that set out in the Bill?

Let me ask the Minister these questions. Is it not the case that planning permission will always be granted before accelerated CPO will be considered? Secondly, why do we not say so in the Bill? Thirdly, why have accelerated CPO at all? My impression, from what the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) said, was that this Bill was not so much an acceleration Bill but a nationalisation Bill, a Bill to take land into the ownership of the State.

Apart from this general surprise we also had a surprise today from the minority parties, within a United Kingdom context.

First, we had the revelation from the Liberals that they were to oppose the Bill. I was rather surprised by the speech of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). Having been a Government Minister, admittedly for very short periods of time in the last Conservative administration, I can say that the right hon. Gentleman is a very difficult man to please. He was constantly accusing us of doing nothing in all areas of activity. When we did do a little he said that we had not got it right and he would vote against us. This is what we have had today, and it rather surprised us when we found that the powers in this Bill are no greater than those contained in the Private Bill dealing with Shetland.

The greatest surprise was in the speeches we had from the SNP. When we heard the speeches of the hon. Members for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and South Ayrshire it seemed almost as if we were having a debate on Scottish nationalism.

Mr. Grimond

So far I have listened to most but not all of the hon. Member's speech. I have not heard one word in favour of the Bill. It does not seem entirely irrational that his party should vote against it.

Mr. Taylor

If the right hon. Gentleman had been listening he would have realised that what I was saying was that while we looked upon any Bill which took away the powers of individuals as being dangerous to some extent we accepted, in the situation of Britain today, that it is as important as it was at the time of the Gordon Campbell statement to have oil coming ashore and to make sure that Scotland receives the benefit of the jobs in oil-related production rather than that those jobs should go abroad.

I must say a word about the nationalists because there was a very unfair attack by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West on the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). He said it was wrong for the hon. Member for Dundee, East to make fiery statements in Scotland rather than make them in the House. This was most unfair, because it was clear from the speech we heard today from the hon. Gentleman that for the sake of the SNP he would be well advised to continue to make speeches in Scotland rather than in the House, accused the Bill of representing colonialist

It was certainly a strange speech. He aggression. He also said that there was a danger that the Bill would be used to help the non-Scottish company. What precisely is that? It is a question I have asked several times and I hope that we can have further clarification on this from the SNP. On the other hand, it was interesting that for the first time for a long time we had a number of speeches from SNP Members which showed just how disunited they are on many matters.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Wishful thinking.

Mr. Taylor

I refer to one example about which the hon. Lady will know and in which I have a personal interest. Not long ago I was travelling to, of all places, a caravan which my father-in-law has in a place called Roseneath in Scotland. Everywhere I moved there were notices on the trees saying, "Let's kill Portkil." I assumed, knowing the area, that Portkil must be the name of the chairman of the local Conservative Association and I immediately thanked God that, for once, we had a chairman who did not have a hyphenated name or a title.

I later found out that Portkil was not a gentleman but a place where they were considering oil-related developments. There was an advertisement suggesting that we should go along and hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) speaking at an important public meeting. My father-in-law did go along and, much to my surprise and disappointment, because he is one of my constituents, said that he was greatly impressed by the speech made by the hon. Gentleman and was convinced that if they went ahead with the oil developments at Portkil it would be one of the worst things for Scotland and for the people—the caravan dwellers—in the locality of Roseneath.

However, within two days we went across to a place called Greenock, which you will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although some English Members will not. There in the Greenock Telegraph, which is one of the outstanding local newspapers of Scotland, there was an advertisement by the SNP saying that the only people who wanted to hold up the Portkil development were the Labour Party and Scott Lithgow shipyard. I hope that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) will accept that we cannot have a situation in Scotland in which the Greenock Telegraph tells me that the Scottish National Party is in favour of the Portkil development and that only the Labour Party and Scott Lithgow are against it, and yet my father-in-law is told that the SNP is the only body which wishes to stop the Portkil development. The SNP will have to make up its mind whether it is in favour of the development or against it.

Mr. Iain MacCormick

I am loth to break into the latherings being engaged in between the Conservative and Labour benches. I ask the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) to consider a fact that I tried to bring out earlier which I regard as most important. It is clear that some oil developments are right and proper, and it is equally obvious that other oil developments are not.

Mr. Taylor

That reminds me very much of the present Prime Minister when he was speaking at a dockyard in the South of England and which was called Chatham. He said that he was in favour of an extended naval shipbuilding programme. He then said "Why do I say that?" The answer came from the crowd "Because you are speaking in Chatham". I think that that is relevant to what the hon. Member for Argyll was saying. It is right that there should be disagreement within a party, but we cannot have statements that the SNP is in favour of Portkil and further statements that it is against it. It is right that individual hon. Members should disagree, but that does not apply to the party.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

I remind the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) that it does not escape the attention of the House that there are those Conservatives who are in favour of the Common Market and those who are against it.

Mr. Taylor

Yes. I made my position clear. Allegedly, the Conservative Party—I believe that this is still the position—was in favour of the Common Market, and it was said that if I was against it I should have to say that I disagreed with my party. We want a consistent policy from the SNP. We cannot have a party that has one policy in one constituency and other policies in other constituencies.

There are a few detailed questions that I wish to put to the Minister on the Bill itself. First, why do we have the dramatic extension of powers that is set out in Clause 1(2)(d) that relates to: means of access, housing, sources of material or other services or facilities required for the development or use of land for any purpose". That is, for any purpose connected with oil development. Is it necessary to go that far? It goes considerably further than the Gordon Campbell position.

Secondly, I ask the Minister a question which has been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) and was asked in another way by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson)—namely, why are we restricting this legislation to Scotland? I know that there are strong arguments in both directions, but it must be clear that if we are to have oil discoveries elsewhere, and particularly in the south-west of England, it is likely that the same powers will be required. Would it not be wiser to extend the Bill so that it became a United Kingdom measure?

Thirdly, I turn to reclamation. The Minister of State made a great deal of the fact that the Bill will be taking powers to take over land for the State. He said that it would be ensured that it was adequately reinstated. I hope that English hon. Members who have not studied the Bill as carefully as my Scottish colleagues will refer to Clause 8. It is quite clear in that clause that the land must be reinstated, but there are two exclusion clauses. One exclusion is that the Secretary of State may decide that the land is not to be reinstated. To that extent it does not appear to be a strong safeguard. Perhaps the Minister will tell us why we have that situation.

I wish to ensure that we give adequate protection for the environmentalists, although I am not an environment fanatic—at any rate, not to the degree of some of my hon. Friends. It sickens me to hear from time to time about the need to stop oil development because we must protect certain areas for the working people. Very often such areas include land controlled by individuals who have surrounded the land with barbed wire, machine guns and fierce dogs. It is sickening to hear that the public must be protected when that is the position. Whenever there is the prospect of industrial development we hear that we must protect an area of natural beauty and recreation for the working population. There is no doubt that the reinstatement provisions are weak. All they say is that the Secretary of State shall require land to be reinstated unless he decides that it does not need to be reinstated.

Next, I turn to compensation. Under the compulsory purchase procedure we have clear guidelines for compensation. If we have an accelerated procedure it is to be presumed that exactly the same compensation arrangements will apply. However, we have the extension in the Bill of sea designation areas. Could the Minister indicate the extent to which the normal compensation arrangements under compulsory purchase orders relating to owners, tenants and proprietors apply to damage and loss sustained by sea designation orders? The hon. Member for Banff made an interesting speech about the problems facing the fishermen who are out in the North Sea. This process will also involve problems for certain fishermen. What compensation could arise from sea designation orders?

Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of what sites he has in mind? The Minister of State said that it would be inappropriate for him to be specific about sites because certain applications were now before the Department. If we are looking for speed, if the intention is to cut down on time wasting, and if the Department has some idea of what are the appropriate sites for development, it would save a great deal of time and expense on the part of potential developers —and, indeed, worry—if an early statement could be made about which sites the Department has in mind.

We are to go through a procedure whereby, if a developer wants to develop a site, he comes forward with a planning application. He may be subject to a great deal of expense in doing so, only to find that in fact he has struck lucky and that it is one of the sites which the Minister has in mind for accelerated compulsory purchase and that all will go smoothly and well. It would be better now to have some clear indication of what sites the Secretary of State has in mind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, in an excellent speech, talked about problems facing small businesses in oil development and of the danger of too much development in one area, such as the Firth of Clyde. This is an important point. We must also bear in mind the danger to traditional industries like shipbuilding by too much oil development in their vicinity, especially since shipbuilding is prospering —in the Glasgow area, for example.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland accused me of not saying much in support of the Bill. We in the Conservative Party have pointed out, rightly, some of the problems we believe will arise from it. We have pointed out some of the changes we want to make in Committee, which will probably be a long stage but, I am sure, constructive.

Basically, we are in favour of these developments, not just because we are facing a national economic crisis in which we need to get a lot of oil quickly, but because, by going ahead with oil development speedily, particularly platform building, and all that will stem from development, we have a glorious opportunity to revitalise Scotland.

The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn referred to the Common Market. Those of us from Scotland who voted against it were worried primarily about the danger to Scotland in becoming an area from which decision making, investment and the top jobs went to the centre of the EEC. The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian would disagree fundamentally with me, but it was a fear that many of us had. I believe that now, with the oil development, we have a unique opportunity to make sure that, at least with the oil and related industries, Scotland is a centre of decision making, attracting investment and gaining a multiplier effect on jobs.

Mr. Sillars

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm or deny my suspicion that what he has just said is the prelude to a public declaration that he has changed his stance on the Common Market?

Mr. Taylor

If I were to change my stance on the Common Market I would not announce it in a speech on a Bill designed for this purpose. I am being quite consistent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shared my misgivings.

We have a unique opportunity. There are two things that we could do. We could ask for all the oil-related equipment to be produced abroad, and, we hope, have a higher living standard in Scotland spilling over to England simply from the oil revenues. I am sure that we could have a higher rate of welfare provision and unemployment benefit and many of the good things in life that are provided simply by money in the same way as a small Arab sheikhdom might.

The other opportunity is to take advantage of the industry and jobs that will stem from the oil-related industries. The Bill gives us a chance to do that. That is why we support its principles. It is a question of getting not just oil revenues for Britain but jobs which will continue and industries which will grow for Scotland. I do not look upon this as just a five or 10-year development. The interesting thing in the splendid article with which my right hon. Friend provided me is the number of orders for the North Sea going to American firms. They are expensive orders for platforms costing a great deal to bring across the ocean. Those orders are going to America because, having had an oil industry, America has the expertise to build the technological equipment needed.

My hope is that long after the oil in the North Sea has dried up we in Scotland can have the technical expertise, know-how, ability and industry to produce the oil-related industrial products which will be needed for the oil industry throughout the world. It is because we see that as the future for a Scotland which will be growing and prosperous that we support the Bill. We want to get ahead not just in producing oil but in revitalising Scotland.

9.26 p.m.

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

I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the kind words they have addressed to me on the occasion of my first speech from the Government Dispatch Box. I thank them most sincerely for their kind thoughts.

Today's debate has been a little unusual, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has revealed that he does not intend to vote against the Bill. I now understand much more clearly than before what a qualified welcome is, after listening to the hon. Gentleman's criticisms.

We have had a wide-ranging debate. I doubt whether many hon. Members would have predicted that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) would see the Bill as a legislative way of continuing the British Empire, or giving statutory sanction to necrophilia. However, lion. Members on both sides of the House have addressed themselves seriously to the problems that arise with the industrial development in Scotland resulting from the oil industry. I assure the House that both the Department of Energy and the Scottish Office will carefully consider the questions raised and some of the suggested improvements, with which I do not have time to deal in detail tonight. I shall answer as best I can the various points raised.

The question of planning permission, referred to by a number of hon. Members, is a fundamental matter. 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. If there were doubt about that before, I hope that it has been cleared up in the debate. If there were room for doubt, it did not arise from anything the Government said. The Government have made the position clear all along. It is also clear that the Conservative Party would have introduced a Bill that would have interfered with planning provisions, and that must mean that it would have diminished the rights of people to object under the existing planning procedure.

Mr. Rifkind

I am grateful for what the Minister has said, but does he agree that a future Government, of his own party or of another, would be entitled under the Bill, notwithstanding the statement he has just made, to acquire by compulsory purchase land for which permission had not been granted?

Mr. Smith

I shall come to that point directly.

It is only the Crown that does not require planning permission in the normal course of events, and that is only where the Crown is the developer. In the Bill we are basically talking of developments by private developers, who will build concrete sites which would be bound by planning Acts. 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. That is the effective answer to the point legitimately raised by hon. Members on both sides. If the Government's assurance is not enough to satisfy them, I hope that that explanation will do so.

Mr. Skeet

In the initial part of the procedure, when an application is made for planning permission will there be any method of curtailing the discussion or number of queries which may be raised, or will the present protracted procedure have to be carried out?

Mr. Smith

There is nothing in the Bill which will interfere with the rights of the public under existing planning procedures. It would be wrong to interfere with them. There is a difference of view between the Conservative Party and the Government, but we think that it would be wrong for the Government to change the planning provisions in a Bill of this sort. If it is alleged that delays arise because we do not short-circuit the planning procedures and deprive people of their rights under them, we make no apology for the delays. It is difficult to balance the necessity for speed with the rights of individuals to object under the planning procedures. In order to keep that balance, we have preserved the planning procedures. They are not interfered with by the Bill.

If I correctly interpret the remarks of the hon. Member for Cathcart as meaning that there is some culpability on the part of the Government in not proceeding faster, it must mean that he or his Government would have overridden people's planning rights. We make no apology for retaining those rights in full.

The hon. Members for Cathcart and North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) alleged that the Government had been negligent in allowing orders for platform sites to go to other countries and that the Government, in the nine months in which they have been in office, bear some responsibility for this state of affairs.

It is only right that the House should know the facts about the orders for platforms which have been placed with foreign countries. Two, for the Beryl field and Brent field, went to Stavanger. That happened in late 1973 when the Conservative Party was still in power. The order which went to Le Havre for the Montrose field occurred in late 1973 when the Conservative Party was still in power. One order for the Brent field went to Stavanger and one order for the Dunlin field went to Rotterdam in May 1974—a few months after the Conservative Party left office. Only one order—that for Claymore in August 1974—happened within the period in which the present Government could take any action.

It is therefore clear that if there is any responsibility for orders going to foreign yards it lies fairly and squarely on the backs of those in power when the orders went to those places.

A number of points have been raised by hon. Members relating to the problem of the proliferation of sites. The Government are conscious of the need to protect the precious heritage of the Scottish coastline. The hon. Member for Cathcart was right in stressing the industrial development which will fall out from the oil developments, which is perhaps the most important thing for Scotland, but we must balance it against protecting our environment. Therefore, it makes sense for the Government to work towards a policy whereby we can achieve the maximum use of the minimum number of sites, provide continuity of employment in fixed areas, and make the maximum use of the land available. That is very much the strategy behind the Bill.

That will be an ongoing problem. It will not simply be a problem of matching sites to designs to orders for the 1977 float-out, which is our most immediate problem. There will be a problem of matching designs to sites in 1978, 1979, 1980 and perhaps throughout the 1980s. That is why the Bill must be seen not simply in the context of the short-term problem of getting going quickly, which is very important, but from the long-term aspect of making sure that the Government have powers to make a flexible response to the demand for sites and maximise the industrial opportunities with the minimum amount of environmental disruption.

It has been said that there is already a proliferation of sites. Again I remind hon. Members of the facts. There are at the moment only five berths for which planning permission has been given for the construction of concrete platform sites in Scotland. Those are the three at Ardyne, the one at Alness and the one at Kishorn. Four of those have orders. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) referred to the large number of possible sites, some at stages of consideration for planning permission and others more speculative. None of the sites on the east coast is suitable for concrete platform construction. One of our major concerns is to provide sites for the concrete platforms which are currently in demand by the oil companies.

I cannot say that there is much foundation for the feeling that there is an over-proliferation of sites when at the moment there are only five with planning permission ready to build. Our projections are that by 1978 there are likely to be up to 18 orders for concrete platform construction sites. Other matters are in the pipeline, but it is not for me or for anyone else to anticipate the decisions of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or of the local planning authorities on any planning applications that might come forward.

Mr. Skeet

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are two companies in Easter Ross which have approval for concrete gravity structures but, because of the shallowness of the local waters, they cannot build structures suitable for North Sea requirements?

Mr. Smith

That is another matter. The Government cannot do much about that. If there is a physical restriction on the site there is little we can do. We are concerned with the areas where there is deep water, and they are on the west coast of Scotland. That is why the concentration of interest has been in those areas.

There has not been as much evidence brought forward on the proliferation of sites as would appear from some speeches when we get down to the facts. Of course, the Government will be accused from time to time of under-provision of sites. That was the cry not so long ago. Now the cry is that there is over-provision of sites. If the Government are being accused by some people of under-provision and by others of over-provision, I feel that it is likely that we have the position about right.

We must keep a flexible response to the situation. That is why the Government have adopted the attitude behind the Bill and why they issued a statement on 12th August trying to identify the designs that would run. That was intended to be a guide to planning authorities in the granting of planning permission. That is very much at the heart of our proposals. We see the Bill as giving the Government the legislative authority to make a flexible and constructive response not just for next year and the year after but throughout the long life of the concrete platform industry in Scotland.

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 Government will listen carefully to what is said in Committee. We take fully the points which have been raised.

Reference has been made to the 14-day notice of an expedited order. Perhaps a little too much has been made of this. The normal compulsory acquisition period is 21 days. The Government will look carefully at this in Committee. It is really a Committee point, but the Government will listen with an open mind to the arguments put forward.

The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) referred to the Bill perhaps removing actions for nuisance against oil companies on grounds of pollution. He referred to the provisions of Clause 12. It is true that Clause 12(2) removes the right of an action for nuisance, but Clause 12(1) substitutes a statutory method of compensation in place of that right. The fact that we have introduced a statutory method justifies us in removing the common law redress. On balance, people are likely to be more satisfied with the statutory method than with the other. If hon. Members wish to proceed further with that in Committee the Government will look at it again carefully.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) described the Bill as a Draconian measure which overrode and usurped the rights of individuals and trampled underfoot property rights and individual rights. What surprised me was that it was the same right hon. Gentleman who supported the Zetland County Council in its own measure, which I am sure the House would agree was much more extreme than is the Bill now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman did not dissent from any of the provisions of the Zetland County Council Bill when it was before the House —indeed he recommended that measure to the House. What the right hon. Gentleman thought good for Orkney and Shetland he surely should think is good for Scotland as a whole. We wonder how sincere are some of the right hon. Gentleman's protestations on this Bill, in view of his history of activity on that other front.

I should like to deal with the fishing aspect of the Bill raised by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt). I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not the Government's intention to limit fines to £400. It will be open to the prosecuting authority to prosecute companies or individuals on indictment, and there will be unlimited fines available to the courts. I do not think Parliament can give any greater power to the courts to implement legislation than to give them power to impose unlimited fines.

The Government appreciate the problem faced by fishermen. However, there are not many oilfields which operate in fishing areas. It is a unique example which is occurring in the North Sea. The House will know that the Government set up a consultative group on which is represented the offshore operators and the fishing community, and which seeks to meet to discuss problems and to work out solutions. Some of these problems are not easy to solve, and will require a spirit of compromise. The House need be in no doubt about the Government's involvement in trying to secure a meeting point between the oil companies and the fishing community. The consultative group has already made a number of important contributions.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

I welcome what the Minister says—and I also welcome him to his present post—but does he agree that one of the difficulties in any prosecution relates to the simple elementary matter of proving whose gear is involved and whether there is a statutory remedy on the subject of compensation?

Mr. Smith

I shall deal with that subject in a moment. I am now dealing with what the new consultative group has done. It has been in touch with the oil companies and has given guidance on many matters. Furthermore, it has conducted publicity campaigns to try to drive home the message that the dumping of debris is a dangerous hazard to fishermen as well as being illegal under the legislation relating to dumping at sea.

Furthermore, the oil companies have agreed to consult with fishermen at an early stage on plans for pipeline routes. The group is looking urgently at the question of compensation suffered by fishermen as a result of the activities of the offshore industry. It is difficult to establish the exact liability. There are some cases where a company can be identified perhaps by marking of gear. The Government and the relevant Committee will look sympathetically at the question of establishing some compensation fund to be organised within the industry in an effort to solve these problems. This involves improvements in charting and means of broadcasting emergency information to fishermen. These matters have been proposed and will be debated. The House should rest assured that the Government are alive to the problems and will try to help solve them. Hon. Members are right to raise these matters.

The debate has been enlivened by the comments of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). We had some premonition that he would make some sort of speech following extensive publicity in the Scottish Press yesterday and announcements on the early-morning radio programme "Today". The hon. Gentleman tends to make different speeches outside the House of Commons from the speeches he makes in the House. There are always wild, fulminating and aggressive speeches announced to Press conferences organised by the Scottish National Party where not too many dissenting voices are present, but on the Floor of the House of Commons, where he is subject and liable to contradiction and attack, we find that the hon. Member has a quite different presentation.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

What evidence has the hon. Gentleman for that statement? He suggests that my speeches in Scotland are made in the absence of dissenting voices. Is he implying some latitude on the part of the Press?

Mr. Smith

I thought that the hon. Gentleman might make that sort of objection. That is why I took the precaution of bringing with me a monitored report of his statement this morning, together with some quotations from the Scottish Press. For example, he said yesterday that the Scottish National Party …is opposed to 'smash and grab' raids by Westminster to provide sites for the English platform consortia to make a quick buck from Scotland and then vanish, leaving Scotland to deal with the resultant mess and unemployment. In the concluding sentence of his speech tonight, the hon. Gentleman referred to "colonial exploitation" being perpetrated by this Bill. He said it under the stimulation of one of my hon. Friends who asked him why he made different speeches in Scotland;—

Mr. Wilson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the prompting to which he refers was made before I had reached the end of my remarks? I assure him that I intended to end my speech in the fashion that I did.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend was right not to take any chance about it. It is just possible that the hon. Member for Dundee, East might have forgotten on this occasion, because we have the suspicion that his memory has failed him on previous occasions.

On the radio programme "Today", the hon. Gentleman was telling us that, as a result of this Bill, people would have their houses acquired during the 14 days that they were away on holiday—

Mr. Wilson


Mr. Smith

If there were a planning inquiry which went on several months and one's house was the subject of it, one would be very foolish to go away on holiday for 14 days in the knowledge that compulsory purchase might come forward. That indicates the level of exaggeration as well as the element of cowardice involved in making one kind of speech in one place and a different kind in another—

Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for one hon. Member to accuse another of cowardice?

Mr. Speaker

It depends on the context. I do not think that what was said this evening was out of order.

Mr. Smith

I do not think that it is worth while continuing to refer to the hon. Member for Dundee, East. He is normally a very sensible Member when performing in his House of Commons style. I recommend him to change his style when he is in Scotland.

I referred to the basic reason why we are so anxious for the Government to have the powers under the Bill. It is one of the main priorities of this Government that British and Scottish industry commands the major share in the vast market for supplying equipment for the extraction of offshore oil. Far too little attention has been paid to it in the past, when we think of the vast opportunities that there are for the supply of equipment to the oil industry.

It was for this reason that the Government moved the Offshore Supplies Office of the Department of Energy to Glasgow. It now functions in Glasgow as a United Kingdom office responsible for the promotion of industrial activity in terms of oil all over Britain, working from a base in the west of Scotland and with a branch office in London. This is an excellent example of industrial devolution in practice.

If we are to win the lion's share of the markets which the new industrial revolution based on oil has created, our industry must rise to the challenge—not just in Scotland but in the whole of the United Kingdom. We calculate that roughly half the market for offshore equipment is provided from Britain, and we are determined to ensure that this share is expanded as quickly as possible. The oil industry moves with speed and both Government and industry, public and private, must match the pace of events.

The Government have identified as one of our main targets the construction of oil production platforms. They are of vital importance not only because they are an indispensable ingredient in the process of bringing oil ashore, but because they provide a large new market for our industrial capability.

Taking concrete platforms alone, the cost of the gravity structure is about £35 million. That is for just one concrete structure. Of this the cost of the basic structure, together with the site costs and overheads, is £15 million. The remaining £20 million covers the cost of deck structure, the flotation and control and storage pumping, equipment, insurance, towing and installation. In addition, the deck equipment installed on the structure costs about another £25 million. Therefore, the total value of the installed platform can reach £60 million.

We calculate that on present trends up to 18 platforms will be required for float-out in 1977 and 1978, of which the majority are likely to be concrete. Our longer-term projections indicate that by the early 1980s between 55 and 80 new platforms will be required. It is clear, therefore, that we are talking about a vast new market and vast new industrial opportunity. But it is a market to which speedy response must be made. That is why the Government have not rested on their oars, but are content only to indicate the possibilities and to exhort our industry to respond.

We have taken a series of initiatives, of which the Bill is but one vital example, to make sure that our industry gets in on the ground floor. In the statements of 12th August the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Energy have produced a coherent strategy for development.

First, the size of the market was identified and the likely timing of demand was assessed.

Secondly, the Department of Energy determined that the market would sustain only a limited range of designs. It is clear that to make an impact on the market United Kingdom contractors must offer those designs which are currently regarded by oil companies as suitable and must themselves be regarded as competent builders. Accordingly, the Department of Energy made a judgment, supported by advice from independent consultants and by direct contacts with the oil companies, that certain designs were likely to be most favoured by operators.

In the statements of 12th August those designs were identified. It was necessary to make such an identification to show clearly to planning authorities and others what designs had the best chance of making the break-through to catch the new market. That list of designs will be kept under constant review. If there are changes in market conditions the list will be changed. However, the main criterion for inclusion in the list is whether the design is likely to succeed in the market.

The next stage of the strategy is to find suitable sites in Scotland, paying due regard to the environment in which successful projects can be constructed. They must be in Scotland because of the deep water there, particularly on the west coast.

Mrs. Bain

Is there any guarantee that deep water sites will always be required for platform construction? Would it not seem logical to claim every deep water site in Scotland?

Mr. Smith

We are far from claiming every deep water site on the west coast of Scotland. It is not such an essential for steel platform construction. This arises on concrete platform construction. Fortunately, there is a lot of deep water round the Scottish coast. It is not our intention to use more sites than necessary.

These sites will require planning permission, and that is a matter wholly within the province of the Scottish planning authorities and of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was suggested that the Department of Energy would give a nudge to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Those who know my right hon. Friend will realise the kind of response that giving him a nudge is likely to get. He is rightly jealous of his province as Scotland's planning Minister. Hon. Members may be assured that my right hon. Friend is the only man who will take planning decisions which are suitable to be taken by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Corrie

Does that mean that if oil is found round the coast of England and there are no sites where concrete platforms can be built, they will have to be built in Scotland?

Mr. Smith

It is in our interests to encourage the industry to prosper in Scotland. I think that most hon. Members would agreee with that.

The Bill gives the Government power to take sites into public ownership. This is not back-door nationalisation; it is front-door nationalisation. We think that it is appropriate to take these sites into public ownership because that is the only way that they will be effectively managed and restored. We cannot trust the forces of the private market in a matter that is so important to the future of this country. We do not apologise for saying that this is front-door public ownership.

One other matter to which not sufficient attention has been paid during the debate is the effect of the reinstatement clauses in the Bill. During the last century, this country went through the first Industrial Revolution, and in many parts of Scotland—as in England and Wales—we still have to live with the scars of that era. There was a headlong and heedless rush to tear out of the land minerals which fuelled the industrial effort and private interests, hell-bent on profit and profit alone, were permitted to leave behind, for others to solve, the debris and value of their exploitation.

We are determined, in the context of this industrial revolution, not to let that happen. That is why the Government are taking powers to time the development of the new industries against the background of properly-thought-out plans for the long-term future within parts of Scotland that will play host to oil-related industries for the foreseeable future. We produce in the Bill the means of bringing that about. We intend to have the right of reinstatement of the land, and the right of the Secretary of State to use the land for another purpose if reinstatement is not thought desirable. It is recognised that perhaps the most likely outcome will be for the land to be devoted to another purpose, and I say that for one simple reason.

We are concerned not just with physical reinstatement but with the management of employment in the area where the sites are set up. For example, if the production of concrete platforms, as an industry, comes to an end in an area that has been dependent upon it for 10 or 15 years, the most urgent problem will be not to give the land back to the previous landowner—I should regard that as a minor matter—but to provide employment opportunities for the people in that area. Our plans and legislative proposals are designed so that the Government will be able to take effective action in that field.

We also give wider powers to local authorities, not just in the context of land that is compulsorily acquired, but land that is used for oil-related developments so that they can require financial guarantees from companies that the promises and conditions in the planning permission will be carried out. Our enforcement procedures for conditions of planning permission are too weak in many instances at present, and we are strengthening them in the Bill.

We are concerned in this part of the Bill to make sure that things are done properly. The eyesores of today are often the industrial archaeology of tomorrow.

We do not want to give any more encouragement to industrial archaeologists. They will get little satisfaction from the Bill, and we are concerned with the continuity of employment. It is to this end that the reinstatement provisions are most likely to be used constructively.

This is a Bill which uses public ownership to get us the speed of development that is required to match the pace of events in the North Sea. It is a Bill which uses public ownership to safeguard public rights when the Industrial use is over. From that point of view, it matches our industrial needs and the speed of response that we need to achieve with due concern for the environment and the rights of all individuals. These include the right to continue with prosperous employment in the same way as there is a right to own land, to use rights of way, and the other incidents of private ownership.

I am sure that this is a sensible measure. There will no doubt be some opposition to it tonight, but those who oppose it must remember that they may be standing in the way of Scotland's industrial progress.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 30.

Division No. 11.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Crawshaw, Richard Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Anderson, Donald Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony George, Bruce
Archer, Peter Cryer, Bob Gilbert, Dr John
Ashton, Joe Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Ginsburg, David
Atkinson, Norman Dalyell, Tam Golding, John
Barnett, Joel (Heywood) Davidson, Arthur Gould, Bryan
Bates, Alf Davis, S. Clinton (Hackney C) Gourlay, Harry
Bean, Robert E. Deakins, Eric Graham, Ted
Benn, Rt Hn Anthony Wedgwood de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Grocott, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bishop, Edward Dempsey, James Hardy, Peter
Blenkinsop, Arthur Doig, Peter Harper, Joseph
Boardman, H. Dormand, Jack Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Booth, Albert Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hatton, Frank
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Duffy, A. E. P. Hooley, Frank
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dunn, James A. Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Pr) Eadie, Alex Huckfield, Leslie
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle) Edge, Geoffrey Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Buchan, Norman Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Buchanan, Richard English, Michael Hunter, Adam
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Canavan, Dennis Evans, Ioan L. (Aberdare) Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Carmichael, Neil Evans, John (Newton) Jenkins, Hugh (Wandsworth)
Carter, Ray Ewing, Harry (Stirling) John, Brynmor
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fairgrieve, Russell Johnson, James (Kingston W)
Cartwright, John Faulds, Andrew Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Clemitson, I. M. Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cohen, Stanley Flannery, Martin Judd, Frank
Coleman, Donald Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Kaufman, Gerald
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Kerr, Russell
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Foot, Rt Hon Michael Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, M) Ford, Ben T. Kinnock, Neil
Lambie, David Murray, Ronald King Spriggs, Leslie
Lamborn, Harry Newens, Stanley Stewart, Rt Hn Michael (H'smith, F)
Lamond, James Noble, Mike Stoddart, David
Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Oakes, Gordon Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Lee, John Ogden, Eric Thomas, Mike (Newcastle)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) O'Halloran, Michael Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) O'Malley, Brian Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Lipton, Marcus Ovenden, John Tinn, James
Loyden, Eddie Palmer, Arthur Tomlinson, John
Luard, Evan Parker, John Torney, Tom
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Parry, Robert Urwin, T. W.
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Pendry, Tom Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
McCartney, Hugh Perry, Ernest Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
McElhone, Frank Phipps, Dr Colin Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Mackenzie, Gregor Prescott, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mackintosh, John P. Price, Christopher (Lewisham W) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Maclennan, Robert Richardson, Miss Jo Ward, Michael
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.) Ridley, Hon Nicholas Watkins, David
McNamara, Kevin Rodgers, George (Chorley) Weetch, Ken
Madden, Max Rooker, J. W. Wellbeloved, James
Mahon, Simon Roper, John White, Frank R. (Bury)
Marks, Ken Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock) White, James (Glasgow, P)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Sandelson, Neville Whitehead, Phillip
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Sedgemore, B. Whitlock, William
Maynard, Miss Selby, Harry Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Meacher, Michael Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wise, Mrs Audrey
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Short, Rt Hon Edward (Newcastle C) Woodall, Alec
Mendelson, John Sillars, James Woof, Robert
Millan, Bruce Silverman, Julius Wrigglesworth, Ian
Miller, Dr M. (E. Kilbride) Skinner, Dennis Young, David (Bolton E)
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Small, William
Moonman, Eric Smith, John (N Lanarkshire) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Snape, Peter Mr. Thomas Cox and Mr. James Hamilton.
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Spearing, Nigel
Adley, Robert Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (Devon)
Bain, Mrs Margaret MacCormick, Iain Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Beith, A. J. Pardoe, John Watt, Hamish
Bowden, Andrew (Brighton) Penhaligon, David Welsh, Andrew
Corrie, John Reid, George Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)
Crawford, Douglas Ridley, Hon Nicholas Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Winterton, Nicholas
Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Freud, Clement Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Mr. David Steel and Mr. Russell Johnston.
Henderson, Douglas Thompson, George
Hooson, Emlyn

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Dormand.]

Committee tomorrow.