HC Deb 15 December 1950 vol 482 cc1553-69

3.18 p.m.

General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)

I desire to raise today the matter of the proposed establishment of an oil refinery on the Solent coast, east of the Hamble River, and of the action of the Government in encouraging and supporting the Caltex Petroleum Company of the United States in its intention to establish a refinery in that area without the approval of, and even without consulting, the Hampshire County Council which, by Act of Parliament, is the local planning authority.

This project was first heard of in the spring of this year, and the Ministry at first requested, unofficially of course, the county planning committee to treat the matter, owing to its importance, as being confidential and to do nothing about it. Before long, however, information regarding the scheme began to leak out, and a strongly worded protest dated 19th June against this scheme was despatched on behalf of the county planning committee to the regional controller of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The matter came before the county council at the end of July, when the council strongly endorsed the objections to the scheme already expressed in the letter which I have mentioned from its planning committee.

In a letter dated 2nd August, the clerk of the council wrote to the Ministry as follows, and, with permission, I will read an extract from the letter: It appeared to the county council that the decision to establish the oil refinery in this area had been taken before there had been any consultation whatever with the local planning authority and that the observations of the county council were sought only on the choice of two sites adjacent to one another. In view of this, the county council do not consider that an inquiry conducted by an officer of the Ministry would serve any useful purpose. They wish to represent to the Minister that a public inquiry should be held by some eminent person in whose impartiality both the county council and the public could have complete confidence. The county council would like to suggest that a High Court judge should be appointed. To this letter, a reply sent by the deputy-secretary, a lady, and dated 19th August, was received from the Ministry, and, with permission, I will read extracts from it. The suggestion that the Minister should appoint for this purpose a High Court judge is in the circumstances entirely inappropriate; and I am to say that should it be decided to order a local inquiry the Minister would in fact appoint one of his inspectors to hold it.… The inspectors of the Ministry through their experience are, in the Minister's judgment, better able to do this impartially and comprehensively than persons lacking this particular experience; and the Minister believes that both local planning authorities and the public have complete confidence in the conduct of inquiries held by his inspectors. It goes on to say: The county council's suggestion is presumably made because of the Minister's statement that His Majesty's Government have already approved the proposal to erect the refinery somewhere east of Southampton Water. This is a fact; and it cannot be altered by the experience and standing of the person holding any inquiry that may be found to he necessary into the siting of the refinery.… As regards the portions of the letter which I have read, I would say that in Hampshire, at any rate, the local authorities certainly, and, in my opinion, the public also, have not full confidence in the conduct of inquiries held by inspectors of the Ministry, for these, however able, or in the case of a lady, however charming, are the servants of the Minister, and are bound to be biased in favour of the Minister's views. They are, in effect, in the position both of the judge and of the counsel for the Ministry. I would add that in Hampshire we do not subscribe to the doctrine that in all cases the "Gentle- man in Whitehall" knows best. In most cases we think he knows less than we do.

The House will therefore note, I hope, the statement that "The Government have already approved the proposal to erect a refinery," and that "This is a fact." In other words, the decision had been taken without any inquiry or consultation with the local planning authority. It is perhaps not surprising that neither the tone nor the subject matter of the letter of 9th August proved agreeable to the county council and, therefore, a letter was written making it clear that their objection was primarily to the procedure followed in this case, which resulted in the Government approving of the proposal to erect an oil refinery in an agricultural and residential area, without any consultation whatsoever with the local planning authority upon which Parliament has conferred certain duties under the Town and Country Planning Act, passed as recently as 1947.

They therefore asked what justification there could be for adopting such a procedure, and said that they would welcome some assurance that it would not be regarded as a precedent in the future. To this letter an answer dated 30th October was received, saying It is obviously desirable to give the fullest consideration to the views of the local planning authority and for this reason the Minister has decided that a public local inquiry should be held. It is all very well to say that, when a decision has been taken after omitting carefully to find out what the local opinion was, or what was the opinion of the county council. In consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the correspondence, the county council, at a meeting at the end of November, passed a resolution reaffirming their opposition to the proposal, and asking the Members of Parliament for the county to consider the best method of raising this matter in the House of Commons. It is in consequence of that resolution that I and my hon. Friends are raising this matter.

I have only today received from the county council a copy of a further letter from the Minister regarding the county council's resolution to which I have just referred. It states: There are exceptional cases where the broad location of the project is determined by considerations of national policy, and this refinery project is such a case. The conclusion was reached that, whatever the local difficulties, the refinery would have to find a site somewhere on the eastern side of Southampton Water. In the circumstances, the Minister thought it right to say so right away. That, again, is a clear confession that they entirely disregarded the existence, powers and duties, of the local planning authority. The letter again declined to appoint an eminent and independent person to conduct an inquiry.

It may be asked what is the motive for jumping at this proposal, as the Government have done, and for trying to push it through over the heads of the local planning authority. There is no doubt that the motive is purely and simply dollars. Desirable though it is to bring dollars to this country, they will come to this country equally well if the refinery is located in a more suitable and safer place than the shores of the Solent. Another reason may be that it is hoped from this scheme to provide employment. It means that the refinery will provide labour for some 2,500 men, of whom 500 will be key men who, I am informed, will be mostly imported from America. Probably half the remainder will have to be brought in from districts far away from Southampton.

On the other hand, the Hamble river alone, with its yachting anchorage and 12 ship and boat-yards, will be ruined, and probably at least 2,000 men or possibly more thrown out of work. There will not be very much advantage from that, apart from the damage to agriculture and horticulture, and apart from the fact that Southampton was a closed port for a great part of the war and will be very liable again to be a closed port in the event of another war. If another war were to occur, what would happen to the oil refinery?

I will now briefly mention some of the objections to the scheme. In our submission, it will have ill-effects on shipbuilding and yachting in the Hamble river, on flying and air service training, on navigation, and particularly on the School of Navigation, which is a national establishment supported from public funds as well as by the local ratepayers, on agriculture and market gardens, on amenities generally, both for residents and visitors, from pollution by oil of air, water and beaches. My hon. Friend will deal with all these in some detail.

For my part, I will say a word on the defence aspect of the matter. Can it be wise to site this refinery one mile from the Fawley refinery, in a target area which, if this scheme goes through, will include two oil refineries and three oil storage plants? Think of the possibilities of fire in case of any of these being hit. Besides aerodromes, there are a flying-boat base, a school of navigation, an aircraft factory, and the great ports of Portsmouth and Southampton flanking it at either end. The whole situation is one which presents a target, I would say, beyond the wildest dreams of a hostile bomber.

I wonder whether the naval, military and air authorities have been consulted; I do not mean the civilian authorities, but the considered opinion of the general staffs. It is hard to believe that they have been, and I trust that the Minister will think again, and think very many times, before he allows this scheme to be put into effect.

3.31 p.m.

Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)

We must consider the intention to establish an oil refinery somewhere in the neighbourhood of Hamble, in addition to the oil refinery which already exists at Fawley, in relation to the whole well-being of the national economy. These two oil refineries will, when in full production, save the country hundreds of thousands of dollars every week. The other day we welcomed the fact that we should now be able to dispense with Marshall Aid, but it was not said that we should dispense with Marshall Aid indefinitely. Marshall Aid is suspended, and it may be that we shall have to ask for it to be resumed in the not-too-distant future if our balance of payments situation does not continue to be as satisfactory as it is now.

The two oil refineries—the one it is proposed to establish at Hamble and the existing refinery at Fawley—will help us materially to maintain a satisfactory balance of payments situation. They will be very useful indeed to the national economy as a whole, and there will have to be extremely valid reasons for objecting to them before we can agree not to build the refinery proposed in the neighbourhood of Hamble. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) stated one or two objections which are in the minds of the residents in the locality. A number of other objections have appeared in the local Press, in reports of meetings reported by the "Southern Daily Echo"; and it is with those objections that I wish to deal as rapidly as possible.

The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield said that the establishment of this refinery would ruin yachting in the Hamble river. He did not adduce a vestige of proof to show that it would materially affect yachting or boat-building in the Hamble river.

Sir G. Jeffreys

I said yachting and ship-building, which is a very different matter from yachting only. Also, in giving the list of those objections, I said particularly that they would be dealt with in detail by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett), if he is fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

Mr. Morley

I shall await the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Gosport and Fareham (Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett), but so far I have seen not a particle of valid evidence adduced to show that the effect of erecting this oil refinery would be to injure yachting or ship-building in the river Hamble. Even if it does interfere with pleasure yachting to a certain extent, surely we are not going to jeopardise the whole national economy in order to satisfy a few people who do some weekend pleasure yachting.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

The Attorney-General, for instance.

Mr. Morley

The Attorney-General, or anybody else. Objection has been made that the erection of this oil refinery would pollute Southampton Water with oil. At the Fawley oil refinery there are a number of observers who keep a careful watch over every patch of oil that appears in Southampton Water in the neighbourhood of the refinery. When any patch of oil is observed, it is immediately examined and analysed. It has been found as a result of this analysis that the oil that has been found in Southampton Water has been black oil, not oil which could have come from the refinery. It has been oil which has come from various oil-burning vessels, which are in the habit of using Southampton Water. At a recent meeting in Fareham, which was held in order to consider this question, an engineer said: It is almost impossible to throw even a bucket of dirty oil into the water without getting nabbed. Every captain with a quantity he wants to get rid of throws it into a lighter. As a matter of fact, no captain of an oil tanker is allowed to empty bilge oil anywhere except in the open sea. There is no oil coming from the oil refinery on Southampton Water. There will be no pollution of Southampton Water from the proposed new refinery in the neighbourhood of Hamble.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that this oil refinery will have a very bad effect upon our agriculture. That aspect of the case has been very closely examined, and we have had a statement by the Provincial Land Commissioner to the effect that the oil refinery had no deleterious influence whatever upon the land round about its area. Experience in the United States has also shown that an oil refinery has not a bad effect upon agriculture. I know it was stated at one meeting held in the district that there was oil film upon the crops and soft fruits in the district as a result of the operation of the oil refinery. The public relations officer of the oil refinery, in company with other local ladies and gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Fareham, made an inspection, and they found not a single trace of any film oil upon any standing crops or upon the soft fruits at all.

As to the pollution of Southampton Water by oil or interference by the emission of oil film with agriculture in the district, there is no evidence to show that the erection of this refinery will have any deleterious effect upon Southampton Water or upon agriculture within the neighbourhood. Those have been the chief objections which have been urged against the erection of this oil refinery.

It is by no means a majority of the people of Fareham who are opposed to the erection of this oil refinery somewhere within their locality. In the main it is the property owners in the district who are opposed to the erection of this oil refinery because they feel, with what truth I know not, that the erection of the refinery may lessen the value of their property in the future. In fact, they appear to put the value of their property over and beyond the needs of the national economy. The organised working class in the Fareham district are in favour of the erection of this refinery. The Fareham Trades Council have declared in favour of it, and the hon. and gallant Member for Gosport and Fareham (Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett) knows that very well, because he has had correspondence with them.

So far as the organised working class in Southampton are concerned, we are anxious that the refinery should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. In the past we have depended too much for most of our employment upon one industry—shipbuilding and ship repairing. As all hon. Members know, employment in that industry, even in the best of times, is very much subject to seasonal fluctuations. Had the refinery not been erected last year, we should have had a considerable increase in unemployment in Southampton during 1950, and it is feared that towards the spring of next year, when the winter lay-ups have been concluded, there may be some increase in unemployment.

The erection of this refinery, like that at Hamble, will provide employment for a great many people who might otherwise be faced with periods of unemployment when there is slackness in shipbuilding and ship repairing. For this reason, the organised working people in Southampton are anxious that the refinery should be proceeded with. I imagine that not only in Southampton and in Fareham, but in Portsmouth, where in the recent past there has been considerable unemployment, there are many people who are anxious that this alternative means of employment should be proceeded with.

For all those reasons, because these two refineries are necessary in the national interest and will save millions of dollars each year, and because they will help to keep employment stable and diversified within the area in which they are situated. I hope that the Minister will proceed with the project as rapidly as possible. There is not a great deal in the argument that the refinery will be situated in a target area or that two refineries will be located in the same target area. Even without these refineries, Southampton is a target area and in the last war suffered very heavy destruction. The addition of one more refinery will not make it very much more of a target area than it is at present. The outlook for Southampton is that by the wisdom of this Government, war will be avoided.

Nor is there any substance in the argument of oil pollution or damage to agriculture, yachting and yacht building. There is, however, a great deal to be said, from the viewpoint of the national economy and full employment, for proceeding with the erection of the refinery, which I hope will be undertaken as early as possible.

Mr. Beverley Baxter (Southgate)

In the early part of his speech, the hon. Member raised what seemed to me an extremely important point, that the refinery might be a method of delaying the next appeal for Marshall Aid. We on this side are in difficulty in not knowing who speaks for the Government. Do the Government regard Marshall Aid as a sort of perennial Santa Claus gift for which from time to time we appeal? The Minister should tell us whether we have yet finished with Marshall Aid or are to keep on with it.

Mr. Morley

I said that Marshall Aid had been suspended and we hope we shall never have to have recourse to it in the future, but these two refineries would help us in the future.

3.45 p.m.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

I have taken some points made by the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) and he has rather scouted many of the objections raised by various sections of the population. He has said that the yachting business will not be affected, but I can hardly believe that a weekly turnover of 30 tankers will not only fill up the navigable waters, but will also foul them more than is being done at present. If the property owners are against the proposal, why is it that a great deal of speculation has been going on in the district already? If the fumes would not do any harm, why does the schedule of the construction of the refinery say that there will be a quarter of a mile area uninhabitable around it?

I deplore the secrecy about this whole matter. It has two aspects, not necessarily party aspects, a national and a local one. We must be grateful to the Caltex Company for getting us dollars and we must never reject the coming of this refinery to this country; I suggest that this is a national point from which I have never swerved. I only doubt, on local grounds, whether this is the best site which could have been chosen. People may find employment on the building of the refinery but as they will be building labourers we should hope they would already be employed elsewhere, even under this Government, building houses.

As to the question of the boat builders who may be thrown out of employment, we must be allowed to judge of the merits of that argument. The Navigation School is an important factor and it should never be displaced because it may never be possible to establish it anywhere else. As to shipping, I have reason to believe that the big shipping companies may find the navigable channel so obstructed that it may jeopardise the use of Southampton as a major port. If we are to have a major port at the head of Southampton Water thrown out of action by a minor port at the mouth of Southampton Water, I feel that what would be gained on the swings, would be more than lost on the roundabouts.

The strategic point is absolutely paramount. We already have one huge refinery, one very large depot and four aircraft factories within half a mile radius. This is insane planning from every point of view and I would suggest, with all respect, that the evasive answers given by the Minister of Defence to my questions on the subject suggest that there is something to hide. I should like an answer about this, and it may be that the Minister who is to reply will give an answer in terms of defence. That is not a problem for local people to raise, and they cannot raise it at a local inquiry, but it is a matter for hon. Members.

Why is the refinery to be built at Southampton when Sheerness and Canvey Island have facilities for it? Why is it to be at Southampton if it is not to secure the last cent of profit? I think this refinery must come to England, but, in the same way as we may all think a bull is an excellent farm animal it is not at its best in a china shop. We want this refinery, but I cannot see why it should necessarily be on Southampton Water, unless we have the clear results of a public inquiry to show that it should be there and nowhere else.

3.49 p.m.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

I entirely agree with many of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley). We do require a new industry in England in oil refining to save dollars. The hon. Member dealt with some cogency with some of the arguments advanced against the siting of this particular refinery at Southampton, but it seemed to me, that he dealt in the most summary and lighthearted way with the defence argument, which to my mind is a decisive matter.

I remember how in the war I was once asked by the Ministry of Supply to provide 500 Italian prisoners for work at Scunthorpe—I think it was Scunthorpe—and I found them, but there was nowhere for them to live. So I arranged for [...] camp to be built for them. The Ministry of Supply said that the security officers had not been consulted on the matter. I said that they would be consulted at once, and when they were consulted, they said, "This camp cannot be built there for strategic reasons." I asked, "What strategic reasons?" These turned out to be that it was too near an important point of production—in fact, the very place where the Italian prisoners were required to work. That is carrying security much too far.

Could there be greater folly than to site more than half, I think very nearly two-thirds, of the total oil-refining capacity of the country in an area of about one square mile? That is really a decisive point. Everybody connected with Southampton would like to see employment there diversified. I do not wish to go into any other argument in this short intervention except to say that we should require a great deal of convincing that it is a sound plan to site nearly two-thirds—I have heard an even higher figure mentioned—of the oil-refining capacity of the country in a very vulnerable area of a square mile. That is the point on which we shall have to receive a great deal of reassurance from the Minister.

3.52 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Lindgren)

The general tone of this debate has been very good indeed, and I appreciate the manner in which hon. Members have dealt with the matter. To sum the matter up, everybody agrees that we must have oil refineries in this country to save dollars and put ourselves more nearly on a basis of not requiring dollars for petroleum products. I also think that everyone will agree that refineries have to be sited in relation to the fact that tankers are required to bring the crude oil, and that they must have deep water and facilities which will enable those tankers to berth and discharge their cargo. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are always talking about efficiency in industry, and so forth, would, I think, also agree that it is in the interests of efficiency and economy that a refinery should be sited in relation to the area which its products are to serve.

It is no use having a refinery in the North of Scotland to serve the South of England. So, on the general basis—

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the port of Southampton was closed for three parts of the last war because it was such a serious bombing target? How does the hon. Gentleman think this refinery will serve that port if it is again a closed port, as is very likely, in the event of war?

Mr. Lindgren

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must remember that we live for peace and not for war.

Sir G. Jeffreys

The best way to preserve peace is to be prepared for war.

Mr. Lindgren

I am not arguing on that basis, but if war comes to this country—I shall deal with the defence aspect later—a totally different situation will arise. But we must organise the economy of this country and the lives of its people on the basis of peace. I should have thought that it would have been generally recognised that the function of Government is to enable people to live at as high a standard of life as possible, at peace with another, in their own country.

Sir G. Jeffreys

The first duty of the Government is to defend the country.

Mr. Lindgren

I really do not know whether we are dealing with this matter on the basis of siting of an industry or whether hon. Gentlemen opposite want it dealt with on the basis of defence.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett


Mr. Lindgren

If it is on the basis of defence then they have asked the wrong Minister to attend this debate and reply to it.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

The Minister of Defence will not answer.

Mr. Lindgren

I will deal with defence now. Hon. Members are not really so foolish as to believe that the siting of a concern or industry such as this would have been taken without full consultation with, and the approval of, those associated with the defence of the country.

Mr. Lyttelton

I hasten to add that I am so foolish as to suppose that to site two-thirds of the oil-refining capacity of the country in the area of a mile is a piece of strategic folly.

Mr. Lindgren

That may be the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, but it raises a question of defence and I am not here to deal with defence. The emphasis of hon. Gentlemen opposite has really been related to what they consider will be the depreciation of certain properties in the area. I can assure the House that the question of defence has been considered by the appropriate Ministries and they are satisfied.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

Might I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that it is not only the properties which might be depreciated—I have already said that I very much doubt if they would be—but it is the people who would be totally depreciated if this place became subject to attack by atomic bombs or anything similar?

Mr. Lindgren

I assure the House that the question of defence has been considered by the Defence Ministry.

Having considered the factors to which I have already referred, the Government announced that the refinery will be sited somewhere on Southampton Water. The actual location of the site will be decided in conjunction with the Hampshire County Council. If we get down to the rock bottom basis of this question, one of the problems of planning is that we must have an efficient Army, Navy and Air Force. Yet, the first time someone suggests putting a bombing range or a tank range in a constituency, the Member says that it should be put somewhere else. Everybody believes that we want more power stations, because we do not want power cuts; but no one wants a power station in his constituency or blocking the view from his house. Everybody agrees that we need aerodromes and airfields but everyone says that they should not he in his constituency or anywhere near him. That is the basis of the problem. Everyone says, "We agree, but we should have it somewhere else; put it in some area where somebody else will be inconvenienced." One cannot accept planning on that basis.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I know of local authorities who, unlike Hampshire, would like to have this in their area.

Mr. Lindgren

Those authorities may be at the top of a hill, and one cannot get a tanker up a hill.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett


Mr. Lindgren

There are already refineries in existence in the Thames Estuary, and the question of defence also arises there. With all respect to Southampton, I would point out that London is a target also. It is not very far from London down the Thames to Purfleet, and there is the river to guide one all the way.

Mr. Drayson

Has the hon. Gentleman considered South Wales? Is that area ruled out for any reason?

Mr. Lindgren

There are refineries in South Wales. There are refineries all over the country. Surely, the basis of good planning is the correct location of national functions. It is on the basis of national requirement that this refinery has been located in this area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Wilkes), who is to initiate the next debate, has just informed me that he is prepared to allow me to continue for a few minutes, and I am grateful to him.

Sir G. Jeffreys

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with the point which I made as strongly as I could, about the procedure employed by his Ministry in dealing with the local planning authority.

Mr. Lindgren

I agree that is desirable and essential that, as soon as possible, local planning authorities should be brought into consultation on projects which are to be located in their areas. That was done.

It being Four o'Clock the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. K. Robinson.]

Mr. Lindgren

Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been emphasising the defence aspect more than anything else. There is a defence aspect, and, therefore, in the initial stages, they were informed, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman admitted, on a basis of secrecy, and they were asked not to noise it abroad. So far as the general location is concerned, it is obvious that, in regard to certain projects, the nation as a whole must decide within broad terms, and that was done in this case. After the broad terms of the location have been decided, there should be local consultation and decision in regard to its application, and, again, that will be done in this case. As soon as the actual location has been decided, planning permission will be applied for to the Hampshire County Council, and that authority will have the opportunity, as well as the firm concerned, if they like, to appeal to the Minister, if one side or the other does not agree with the decision of the county council.

I am sorry that I cannot deal with all the other points raised, but I want to say a word or two on the question of an appeal. I really do resent the suggestion that an inspector of the Ministry, because he receives his pay from the Ministry, is in fact biased in regard to his decisions by the Ministry. After all, hon. Gentlemen have asked for a High Court Judge. I am not over enthusiastic about the legal fraternity, but, equally, does not a High Court Judge receive his pay from the State? In this House the other day we devoted our time to giving them better pensions, but they receive their money from the State, and so do these inspectors of the Ministry.

Sir H. Williams

On a point of order. Surely, it is improper to argue that judges are in any way subject to pressure because they receive their salaries from the State? They are protected persons.

Mr. Lindgren

I have admitted that, and I say that a judge is in that position, but, when we have gentlemen of professional integrity—surveyors, engineers, civil engineers, architects and the rest—is not their professional integrity—

Sir H. Williams

Further to that point or order—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Lindgren

These gentlemen, highly qualified in their professions and fully competent to undertake these inquiries, are in no way affected by the source from whence their salary comes.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett

Is it not a fact that they are part and parcel of the Ministry, which, eventually, they have to defend?

Mr. Lindgren

They have not got to defend anything. We are operating the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, under which we have applications for planning permission to the planning authority, and, if it is refused, the other side have the right to appeal. This appeal is to the Minister, who has to make the decision. That is what the Act of Parliament provides, and the function of the inspector is to hold the inquiry to ascertain local facts, views and opinions, and to submit those facts and those opinions to the Minister, who has to make the decision. I suggest that architects, surveyors and the rest, who do know something about town planning, are likely to be far more efficient in providing the Minister with the right information than is a High Court judge, who knows nothing at all about the question of town planning.

Here we are considering the question of the location of a particular industry, and we are not discussing anything else. The inquiry would be into whether it is right or wrong, on the basis of the planning of national requirements, for a particular industry to be sited in a particular place. The decision for the project to go has been made, and it will go on. The question of siting is not really definitely decided at the present time. When that is decided there will be an application to the Hampshire County Council for planning permission and, in the event of either side not being satisfied, my right hon. Friend will give full facilities for the inquiry and his decision will be made in the light of the facts revealed at that inquiry.