HC Deb 22 November 1957 vol 578 cc715-38

Order for Second Reading read.

11.6 a.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

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

The Bill fulfils extremely practical purposes. It is a great many years since the Government set up a port authority of this kind as a single act of policy. Perhaps I ought briefly to give the history which leads up to the introduction of the Bill.

The tendency now in the sea-carrying trade is towards even larger ships, particularly for oil and ore cargoes. It may interest the House to know that at this time there are 260 tankers of more than 40,000 tons building or projected on a world-wide basis and that 59 of these are of more than 60,000 tons. It was, therefore, right to look ahead to a time when berthing and harbour facilities would be needed for these larger ships. The events of the past twelve months have taught the maritime world that it is wiser to be less dependent on the use of the Suez Canal, so, again, there is pressure for larger tankers and larger vessels of all kinds.

This tendency will continue. For example, atomic power certainly needs larger ships when it is translated into a method of ship propulsion. The Government foresaw this development, and an urgent examination was put in hand for all possible ports and harbours in this country which could be made available for these much larger ships. Milford Haven was obviously an outstanding choice. It had other benefits. It is in West South Wales, an area which has always been worrying from the employment point of view. I certainly remember its being so when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, when both sides of the House were worrying about the future of the small, hand tinplate mills and the other problems of the area.

It is only right to say that my colleague, the Minister for Welsh Affairs, put very strongly the point that this Bill is not only a beneficial development from the point of view of navigation and the berthing and harbouring of larger ships, but might offer great advantages in commercial and industrial development to West South Wales. So there was another reason why the House should welcome the Bill and why the development is essential.

There is no doubt that in the train of the Bill could come very important developments in that part of the country. I would remind the House that the British Petroleum Company, Esso and the Milford Docks Company have all received Parliamentary sanction to Private Bills which foreshadow very great industrial developments. The B.P. development, of course, is a pipeline to Llandarcy. The Esso development includes a refinery to which my right hon. Friend has recently given planning permission, while the Milford Docks Company has a most important development in major ship-repairing which could bring a new industry to this part of West South Wales. There will be further developments. The Steel Company of Wales is likely to bring forward a project at Milford Haven for the receipt of large ore ships and their cargoes.

With all this in mind, a meeting of the interests concerned, including the local authorities, fishing interests and everyone else, was called this year under my chairmanship to see how best the orderly development of this great port could be achieved. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks and the Government's thanks to those who served on the ad hoc committee which was set up as a result of that meeting. That committee has looked after the development problems while the Bill has been in preparation. It has done a very useful job in relating the projects to one another and in ensuring that they do not conflict, and I am very grateful to those who have done this work.

However, an ad hoc committee could not deal with this great harbour on a long-term basis. Therefore, following that meeting, and following the study by the Government of the whole problem, it was obvious that we must set up a conservancy authority to safeguard navigation, to regulate the movement of ships and generally to administer the harbour. That is the reason for the Bill.

I do not think that the House will want me to go through the Bill in great detail. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be only too pleased to answer any matters of detail that are raised in the debate. I should, however, like to point out one or two of the main provisions. I think the purpose is best expressed in Clause 1, which sets out that the Milford Haven Conservancy Board …shall be charged with the duty of taking such steps as the Board may from time to time consider necessary or expedient to maintain, improve, protect and regulate the navigation, and in particular the deep-water facilities… Later in the Bill the further duty is put upon the Board of doing all that it can to preserve the natural amenities and not to interfere with what is a very beautiful part of the coastline of this island.

Perhaps I should also refer to the First Schedule, which runs with Clause I and sets out the constitution of the Board. This has, I think, in general been agreed with all the interests concerned, and, therefore, the only aspect of the constitution that I wish to mention is that it was thought proper to prepare for some future date when the port was much more widely developed than it is at present. Paragraph 16 (1) of the Schedule says: At any time after the expiration of seven years from the passing of this Act, the Minister may by order made by statutory instrument appoint a date… for the election to the Board of certain members to take the place of the present nominated members.

What I want to make plain is that it is possible that that power will never be used. It depends entirely on the development of the port. I believe that this development may change the whole industrial character of West South Wales. It may lead to great developments. Therefore, I think we must prepare to bring in other interests at a later stage. The position is that election to the Board cannot happen for seven years, and it may never happen at all, but I think the provision must be made.

That in no way says that the present basis of nominated members is not one in which I believe fully and not one which I think will work very well. This is a provision purely to prepare for the time when there may have been a great industrial development and we may have a completely new set of industries there.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I have not been able to discover whether there is any close contact between the new conservancy authority and the railway authorities in West Wales. It seems to me vital, if there is to be co-operation and co-ordination and the avoidance of disputes, that the railway authorities ought to be closely connected with this development, and I do not see any reason why they should not be represented on the authority.

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman's point is met in this way. The British Transport Commission already has an interest in the Haven, having a site there. I have looked into the matter carefully and I think I am right in saying—I will ask my hon. Friend to check the point before replying—that it was fully consulted. One thing of which I am certain is that nothing in the Bill in any way inhibits the Commission from going forward with its own developments in the Haven, but, as it has a separate site and is to some extent a separate interest, I thought that all we had to secure was that it was not barred in any way by the Bill from going forward with anything it wanted to do.

Frankly, at the moment I do not think that its present stake in the port is large enough to justify representation, but the situation is covered by what I have just outlined about possible developments at a future date. If the Commission decided to make large developments there, it would probably become a much more important element in the life of the port.

All I need say about the remainder of the Clauses is that they follow precedents in respect of other ports and harbour authorities. They provide the necessary safeguards and powers for such things as dredging work, raising wrecks, buoying and lighting the harbour. They provide a small sum of money to enable the Board to get to work before it raises any revenue. In general, I do not think they set any precedent. Indeed, they follow established practice in other authorities. I do not think that I need go through the Clauses step by step. As I have said, my hon. Friend will be pleased to deal with any detailed points that may arise.

We have been asked whether this is the right way to develop this great port. I think it is. I think that to have set up a more elaborate organisation, to have tried to set up, for example, a planning board or authority for the whole port, would have been wrong. Private enterprise now has a very great stake in the area. As I have said, three large concerns have already obtained Parliamentary approval to powers and are proceeding with major industrial works. The purpose of the Bill is merely to ensure that there is reasonable co-ordination between those works and that the navigation of the port and the future of the Haven as a great port are not interfered with or spoilt. I believe that to be a proper function for the conservancy authority, and I believe the Bill gives it adequate powers to carry out that duty.

I say with great sincerity that I think there is a very great future for the port, and I certainly hope and wish, as I know my right hon. Friends do, that it will have a great and beneficial effect in increasing the industrial development in West South Wales. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to the House.

11.18 a.m.

Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)

On behalf of the Opposition, I give a general welcome to the Bill. We think that the conception of an overall body to plan this general development is absolutely right. Here we have, I suppose, one of the finest natural deep-water ports in Western Europe. We have had to wait for the very large oil tankers to make its use almost essential in the modern world.

It is probable that we shall get the larger cargo ships there as well. When one bears in mind the development of the Common Market and the nearness of Milford Haven to the Continent of Europe, I think it is possible to see that there is tremendous potential in the development of the Haven both on account of the nation and on account of the immediate locality of West Wales. The Minister has referred to nuclear powered ships. They are bound to come. I suppose the size of the ships will be much bigger than anything we have today, and the one place in the United Kingdom where they can find adequate facilities and room to manoeuvre will be Milford Haven.

We think that the instrument chosen by the Government for the development is right. We consider that a Board of this type, which seems to follow the pattern set by the Port of London Authority, represents the right approach to the situation at present. We have reservations about the balance of representation on the Board, but these are fairly minor points when compared with the general conception.

Some of my hon. Friends may feel that we on this side of the House ought to be asking that the Board should be a municipal board. Since there is no municipality covering all the fringes of the Haven, it is fairly obvious, apart from other considerations, that it could not be a municipal board. The other suggestion was that it might be a county authority board. Here again, I think this is not quite up the street of a county authority, on the one hand, and a county authority would not, I think, have been strong enough either in resources or in experience to provide for the development of the Haven.

As to whether the British Transport Commission should have been charged with the responsibility, it seems to me that the Commission has quite enough on its plate already. Moreover, this is not quite up its street either; we are here concerned with navigation on the sea, a project of gigantic proportions, and I think it right in all the circumstances that we should have a mixed Board.

It would be wrong, however, to hand everything over completely to private enterprise. This is a great public property and it ought to be under general public supervision. It is right that a waterway which is vital to our national economy should have some sort of public body to run it. We agree that it is right that the companies which have gone there and which are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in the adjacent property and in the works should be assured beforehand of maximum co-operation in the operation of the Haven and should know that the facilities they will require to make their own works a success will be provided. In that sense, it is right that the private interests should have representation on the body which will be responsible for the overall planning.

For those reasons, we on this side of the House agree with the Minister that a Board of the type proposed is right. It is a Board representing national and local public interests together with national and local private interests. The new interests have not been given rights which exclude the rights of the local, already established interests, and the small fisherman has a place as well as Esso. That is absolutely right.

The right hon. Gentleman reminded us that the constitution of the Board is provided for in the First Schedule, and I should like to draw attention to that. According to paragraph 2 the chairman and one other member of the Board will be appointed by the Minister. One is to be appointed by the Admiralty, one by Trinity House, one by the local fisheries committee. The fisheries interest is an important one; it has been important in Milford Haven in the past and I hope it will remain so in the future. A further member will be appointed by the Minister after such consultations as he may consider appropriate, from among persons who are, or who are members of bodies corporate who are, owners of trawlers". We do not disagree with that.

Next, there are to be four appointed by the County Council of Pembroke of whom one shall be appointed after consultation with such persons or bodies representative of organised labour as that council may consider appropriate. The Minister has had great experience in the appointment of trade union representatives, and I should like to point out to him that it will be rather embarrassing for the county council to do this job. After all, it is, as it were, out on a limb; in the Pembrokeshire area, there are no very strong trade union organisations. Such trade union organisations as are there are small, and I should have thought that having to choose among the local, small unions would be a rather embarrassing task for members of the County Council.

I would press the Minister to consider the suggestion that the Pembroke County Council should have its four members and that he should make special provision for the appointment by himself, after proper consultation, of the union representative.

The remaining seven members of the Board are to represent private interests. These proportions, which are the proportions for the long term after the appointed day as well as for the interim, put the public interest a little at a disadvantage. The public interest is to be represented by only seven persons, and the private interests are to be represented by nine persons. That is a disproportion which might be remedied by giving the public interest better representation on the Board.

The Minister for Welsh Affairs will, I am sure, appreciate that in developments of this sort it is highly important to carry with one local public opinion in Wales. I suppose that there is no part of the United Kingdom where tempers can rise so easily, and if we can avoid any suggestion of friction by bringing in more public representation so that people will know what is going to happen and, having prior knowledge, will be able to give their approval, the whole project will be made much easier. I ask the Minister to reconsider the balance of public representation on the Board.

I turn now to Clause 1, dealing with amenities. We have in Pembrokeshire what is probably one of the most beautiful coastlines in the British Isles. There are little harbours and little dales, little stretches of coastline, which have a charm hardly equalled anywhere else. It will be a shame if we allow a "Rhondda" to come about in Pembrokeshire. Therefore, I make the reservation now that, in my view, the proposals for safeguarding amenities do not appear to be quite strong enough. They are to be found in subsection (6), in which the duty is placed upon the Board that In formulating or considering any proposals relating to their functions under this Act, the Board shall have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty and of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest. Who is to see that the Board does that? Who is to judge the way that the Board does it? We ought, I think, to have a much stronger protection to safeguard the amenities. I am a little apprehensive because this matter is taken a little further in the provisions relating to the Pembrokeshire coastal footpath which has been defined by the National Parks Commission, which seem to place a specific obligation on the Board. If there is a specific obligation, a specific prohibition, in relation to that matter, perhaps it would not be too much to ask that there should be specific prohibitions in relation to other spots.

I am of the opinion that these industrial developments in Pembrokeshire should not cause a great deal, if any, despoliation. Industrial buildings these days are not synonymous with squalor or even ugliness. They can be designed and located in such a way as not to impair the general surroundings. Some of the new factories in my area have been so sited and built as rather to improve the look of the area, and it is quite possible with modern planning for the same sort of thing to happen in Pembrokeshire.

I would make this suggestion. Would it be wise to have on the board a representative of the National Parks Commission so that he can keep an eye continuously on what is happening and can represent to the Board at an early stage of its planning the views of the National Parks Commission? I ask the Minister to consider such a proposition.

I come now to the question of accountability to this House. The Minister has provided in Clause 18 that a copy of the statements of account and the auditors' report shall be submitted to him each year. Some of my hon. Friends, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), who, perhaps, has done more than any single Member of this House to try to get this development in that part of West Wales, will, I am sure, want to know what is happening and will wish to have the right of questioning the Minister about that. We hope that the Minister will lay on the Table of the House the annual reports, and that we may be able to keep some ministerial accountability to the House, and be able from time to time to review the way in which the work is going.

I come to my last point, and it is one which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones)—

Mr. D. Jones

Where we have a conservancy.

Mr. Ness Edward

—and that is about the position of the British Transport Commission in this matter. I should like to see the Commission represented on the Board for the purpose of the inland communications which require a great deal of development if Milford Haven is to be a success. It might, incidentally, have a representative not only to represent its own interests but to have some regard for the responsibilities of the Ministry of Transport.

Here is a great haven and a great natural port which, in the future, may completely reorientate the sea traffic of Britain, but it will be quite useless to develop it if the road communications are to remain what they are today. This is where the Minister of Transport must bear a great deal of responsibility. It is no use to have goods coming into Milford Haven if the bottlenecks at Port Talbot, Newport and Chepstow are to remain. I may even whisper in his ear that the desirability of the Severn Bridge will be greater than ever because of the development of Milford Haven.

Those are the representations which I wanted to make to the Minister in consideration of this Bill, to which I want to give a general welcome. We shall do all we can to facilitate its progress through the House, and I hope it will be a message to the people in Pembrokeshire that there is a great future in front of them, and that this project can mean such a transformation of West Wales as can give our people an entirely new hope and outlook.

11.25 a.m.

Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)

I intervene only shortly to give a warm, whole-hearted welcome to the Bill. However, I do not think that we can be carried away by fervour, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has just been. I would call to his notice that there are other ports in the United Kingdom and that there are other road and rail developments needed elsewhere, particularly, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) will agree, in the North-East of England. So let us not overstate the case for the immediate and urgent consideration of this project irrespective of the need for developments elsewhere.

In considering this Bill the first thing that we should congratulate the Government on is that it is before the House at all. I should like to congratulate them also on learning, as my right hon. Friend said a few minutes ago, the lessons of some of the events of yesteryear, and particularly the need for the development of port facilities capable of accommodating the new type of tanker and other first-class ships which, obviously, will be in increasing use in the years to come. This project is to develop a haven and provide a new facility vital to the country on both strategic and transport grounds—on both of those grounds. The House must welcome the immediate attention which is being given to the development of this port.

I hope, however, that the House will not over-rate the immediate effect of a development of this nature on employment in South Wales. Over a long period, and if the port develops as we hope, it can have an influence on employment, but I cannot for the life of me understand the suggestion—I am not suggesting that my right hon. Friend made it—that its influence can be large rind immediate. I do not believe that it can possibly be so, because many of the developments being carried on by the oil companies are operations the mechanics of which employ relatively small numbers of people. If, however, in the future the shipbuilding industry can be developed in this part of the country, and especially if the ship repairing facilities are developed, that may have a great influence on the number of people employed in the area of the Haven.

I have my doubts, however, whether it would be technically possible to place in shipbuilding people who may fall into unemployment in other parts of South Wales, because in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries are crafts and skills which cannot be picked up merely at a weekend school, or even at night classes, but can be gained only from long experience from working in those industries. We should delude ourselves if we were to think that this development will automatically solve the problem of unemployment in South Wales. Therefore, we should not over-rate the influence this development will have on the general employment position in South Wales.

In dealing with the amenities of this part of the coast, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly was a little less than fair to the forthcoming constitution of the Board. I do not think that its members will not consider the amenities of the coast. I should think that people of the type designated in the First Schedule to be members of the Board will have awareness of the need for preserving the beauty of this part of the land of my fathers as well. I hope and believe that the Board will pay great attention to amenity values.

I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this Bill for this project, and I hope that it will be the success which, as sensible people, we must hope it will be and in the near future.

11.40 a.m.

Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

My constituency feels duly flattered that this Bill should come before the House this morning.

Of course, we have felt for a very long time that Milford Haven was not only the finest harbour in Europe, but in the world, and that it should long ago have been developed. The story goes back a long way, to a period when a gentleman called Mr. Hamilton married a lady called Miss Barlow, who owned a large proportion of the land around Milford Haven. Then Miss Barlow died. Mr. Hamilton and his nephew—who had very many wide and imaginative schemes for the development of Milford Haven—came down to see what could be done with Mr. Hamilton's recently acquired estates.

The nephew put forward various proposals and Mr. Hamilton recalled that the nephew had a very beautiful mistress who lived in the Edgware Road. He, therefore, made a deal with him in which he said, "You can have the land if I can have the woman". The original proposals for development were undertaken on that basis. However, the lady was not very keen on Mr. Hamilton and this complicated the position. By this time he had become British Ambassador in Naples and she was finally persuaded to go to Naples on the pretext that she would be taught opera singing. She went to Naples and married Mr. Hamilton, now Sir William Hamilton, and she became Lady Hamilton.

Then Lord Nelson, on his way back from the Battle of the Nile, met her in Naples. She always had had a feeling for the young man, and the Navy was persuaded to build a dockyard at Milford Haven so that Admiral Nelson could receive refreshment when he returned home and also so that Milford Haven would have some basis of industrial development. All needs were to be met all round.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I thought that we would be talking about the Yarmouth Naval Hospital later this morning.

Mr. Donnelly

That is going a little bit wide of this Bill.

That was the original background. A lot has happened since then and we now reach this position. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), I would like to welcome the Government's decision to bring this Bill forward as speedily as it has. There were many doubts in people's minds whether this is the best way to do it, but when we examine the possible alternatives this kind of Bill remains the best method at this stage of the industrialisation of West Wales. Of course, there are limitations to this kind of scheme which we should be frank enough to admit in a Second Reading, debate, because we can then avoid the difficulties later.

The first point is that this Conservancy Board is intended to be a harbour authority only, a traffic-controlling authority for what goes on in the water. But what goes on in the water is directly related to what happens on the land, and vice versa. So far, we have considered only the use of the existing natural facilities of the Milford Haven berths that are available. In practically all harbours some of the extensions are manmade. It may well be that in the initial planning of the utilisation of the harbour facilities some further consideration should be given to what might be the physical man-made development that might be implemented in the future. In this way we might now make yet better use of the existing natural facilities.

I am not sure whether I am making myself clear, but if we are considering future development on the shore or off the shore it is not only a water traffic authority that is involved. This is the first point I want the House to bear in mind.

The second point is the relationship between the Conservancy Board, the Minister and the local planning authority. May we have an assurance from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that in all operations of the Board which affect the planning authority on the land—carrying out works, and so on—the planning authority will be consulted.

The second logical corollary of that initial argument which I have addressed to the House is that if we consider only the natural facilities available now, and not consider man-made facilities which might be created later, we tend to think in terms of only the individual users who have come forward at this stage. Will there be any proposal at a later stage for the co-ordination of the use of the existing water front as it is planned now? What steps and what powers will the Board have to group together possible users so that the best use can be made of what is inevitably the limited space available?

This brings me to the third point, a point which has been made already by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly. That is the question of the National Park. The Minister of Transport spoke, amongst the various possible developments likely to take place, about the possibility of a large iron ore storage depot at Angle for the Steel Company of Wales. The position at the moment is that no formal plans have been submitted for this development. However, it raises very controversial issues and many people are thinking that this development is likely to do the most damage to the amenities. They are also saying that this is the test as to whether the Government are serious about the National Parks.

May we have an assurance from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the Conservancy Board's terms of reference, whilst they deal specifically with water control, will be to constantly take note of the amenity interest as well? I know that it is mentioned in Clause 1 (6), but I would like it to be a little more definite so far as concerns the requirement to consult with the amenity authorities. We have to look to the Minister for Welsh Affairs as a guardian of what is one of the most beautiful parts of the British Isles, and which, once destroyed, cannot be replaced.

Another amenity point which we should like to have made clear by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is the Board's responsibility under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act. When we were considering all this development in Pembrokeshire, one of the things which concerned us most was the danger of oil pollution in the area, especially to sea birds. May we have an assurance that the Board will be required to prosecute its duties and, if necessary, to expend money on ensuring that this very important responsibility is fully discharged?

I now turn from these points to more detailed points. The South West Wales River Board is concerned about the effect of the developments further up on the two Rivers Cleddau. It is felt that the new Conservancy Board should be more clearly charged with the duty of ensuring that there is at all times an easy passage through the Haven waters for salmon to reach the spawning beds in the higher reaches of the river. May we have an explanation of what the Conservancy authority will be required to do?

The next point is the definition or interpretation as to what the Minister means by "as far as the tide flows". As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is aware, there is a proposal to put a barrage across the River Cleddau to ensure that there is an adequate supply of fresh water for the various oil undertakings envisaged. Does the definition "as far as the tide flows" mean literally that, or does it mean as far as it flows now? If a barrage is to be put across the river, then there will be a limitation on the extension of the area for which the conservancy authority is responsible.

I agree wholeheartedly that there should be a trade union member on the Board. It is very important that the county council should not be placed in the invidious position of having to select a representative from two conflicting unions in the district. The Minister, with his experience at the Ministry of Labour, is the person best suited and equipped to appoint a trade union member, after consultation with the appropriate authorities, so that that person may be the best person to speak for the various organisations of labour in the district.

As to the chairman and independent member to be nominated by the Minister, I should like it clearly stated in the Bill that the Minister is required to appoint people who are completely independent and have no connection with any interest. I am sure that that is the intention, but I should like to see it written into the Bill so that the position of these two independent members of the Board is quite clear.

I agree about representation of the National Parks authority on the Board. It may save a great deal of trouble and difficulty. I know that we want to keep the number on the Board as small as possible, but such an appointment would get over a great deal of difficulty and would remove misunderstanding. These are detailed points about the Bill, which I warmly support in principle.

Another point which is germane to the whole future development of Milford Haven as a port is the supply of oil from the Middle East. Western Europe was importing oil from the Middle East last year at the rate of about 115 million tons a year, of which 75 million tons came through the Suez Canal and about 40 million tons through various pipelines. Estimates can be very inaccurate, but the requirements of Western Europe until about 1965, as far as can be reasonably forecast, will be between 175 million tons and 225 million tons.

In view of the fact that we now know the limitations of the Suez Canal, politically and physically, what steps are the Government taking to ensure alternative means for supplies of oil to come into the country? It is no use developing refineries and ports and then finding that the oil is not coming in. It is no use our being told, as one right hon. Gentleman once told us, that petrol rationing was going according to plan. We want the supplies to go according to plan. I know that this does not arise directly from the Bill that we are discussing, but there is also the political position and the Government's political policy in the Middle East. For several years now there have been serious mistakes in Government policy and, unless there is a change in that, the oil will not be available.

Mr. Speaker

A debate on Second Reading is very wide, but I do not think that latitude goes as far as policies concerning the Middle East.

Mr. Donnelly

I agree, Mr. Speaker, but our supplies of oil are largely dependent on that, and so is this development. I leave it at that. I hope that we shall have an opportunity of discussing points in the Bill in Committee of the whole House after the Bill has been considered by a Select Committee.

11.55 a.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

Somebody once said that this harbour is the only almost landlocked water space that we have in the country into which the whole of the British Navy could be put in safety. The amazing thing to me is that this water has not been developed long before now. I welcome the Bill, but I warn the Minister and the House that it will be folly to spend large sums of public money, even in West Wales where it is so desirable, if we already have unused dock and port facilities in other parts of the country. Therefore, it seems that the Minister has done well in this case to keep complete control over capital expenditure in providing for services other than the importation of oil.

Some mistakes can be avoided if care is exercised in the composition of this Conservancy Board. Those who represent constituencies on the north-east coast have experience of the operation of commissions of this kind. There is a very excellent one on the Tees, doing first-class work, and there is a port and harbour authority at the Hartlepools which controls the estuary and does an excellent job. The British Transport Commission is represented on the Tees authority.

It is possible to put the port facilities on both sides of Milford Haven. They can be provided at Neyland, at Milford Haven or alternatively at Pembroke Dock. Therefore, the question of how material is to be got away from the quaysides is the concern of the British Transport Commission. It may well be that in the interest of rail traffic it would be better to instal the quay facilities at Neyland or Milford Haven as against Pembroke Dock, or vice versa. Therefore, if at this stage when these things are being planned the British Transport Commission had representation on the Board it would save a good deal of trouble.

Mr. P. Williams

Surely one of the factors bound to influence development, whether the British Transport Commission is represented or not, is the economics of development in one position or another. Therefore, representation of the Transport Commission is quite immaterial.

Mr. Jones

I should not have thought so. If the hon. Member had spent more time in his father's native country he would have realised that the provision of facilities at Milford Haven, as opposed to Pembroke Dock and vice versa, makes a tremendous difference to the haul that the British Transport Commission has to undertake. Therefore, in the interest of traffic, one site might be better than another, and the opportunity to have the technical advice of the railway experts at the earliest possible stage would be of great advantage.

I reinforce what my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) has said about trade union representation. I should have thought that the Minister ought to assume the responsibility himself in consultation with the national trade union organisations, and by "national" I mean Welsh organisations and not trade union headquarters in London. Every trade union of importance has an office in the Principality. Whilst I hesitate to say this at this stage in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly and my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), I believe that a knowledge of Welsh on the part of one or other of the members of the Board might be of considerable advantage in that part of the world.

I suggest, therefore, that the Minister ought to resume the main responsibility for consulting the Welsh trade union organisations with the aim, I hope, of appointing more than one trade union member to the Board. After all, there will be workers concerned with dock facilities, there will be fishermen and seamen and railwaymen and all sorts of other workers. However capable trade union officials might be, they are not capable of expounding the technical point of view on all these multifarious types of trades. Therefore, I should have thought that it would have been appropriate to appoint at least two people for trade union representation to the Board.

We ought to profit in the establishment of the Board by our experience of other commissions in the country. If he profits by that experience I am sure that the Minister will avoid the mistake made by other boards. I wish the project all possible success, because it is well deserved in that part of the country.

12.0 noon.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Airey Neave)

The Government are grateful for the general support and approval given to this Bill, because it is a project of the highest importance for the future of South Wales and for the transport of oil to the nation.

My right hon. Friend has explained that its main purpose is to provide the necessary framework within which the oil companies and other commercial interests can develop facilities for handling bigger and better ships, and, in particular, bigger and better tankers, and he also explained the world advance in tanker construction. No one can say at this stage what number of tankers we can expect to see arriving at the Haven when its total capacity is developed. One thing is certain, that under this scheme there will be ample capacity for tankers of the largest kind under construction. It is for this reason that the scheme is of the highest significance for the future economy of the country.

I undertake to reply briefly to the various points put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and by the hon. Members for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and Sunderland, South (Mr. E. Williams) in their contributions to the debate. Before dealing with those matters in detail, I want to say that we will certainly look at all of them.

It has been said that the composition of the Board could have been approached in a different way, and for that reason I shall deal with its constitution in detail. It must be remembered that this a Conservancy Board and that it will not be a planning authority for the land. So, in deciding its constitution, we had to think of certain special requirements. We must give adequate representation to the interests substantially involved. One point I will make here in answer to the right hon. Member for Caerphilly is that it is the private interests which are putting up most of the money in this case.

The Board must be reasonably balanced between the members who represent the various sectional interests and those which represent none, and provision must be made to ensure that as far as possible it is not continuously dominated by any one interest or any combination of interests. So far, I am entirely in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for The Hartlepools said. However, I think that the Board ought to be small enough to work efficiently, and that it should have sufficient flexibility to provide for the future trends of traffic and activity within the Haven. I think, therefore, that we should rest on those general principles.

Apart from the chairman, who is appointed by the Minister, the membership of the Board is made up of four groups, each of four members. One group represents the users of the Haven. One group represents the providers of docks and piers in the Haven. One group is represented by the county council, mainly because of the planning considerations which will be so important in the development of the Haven. The last group represents the official interests with responsibilities in the Haven, such as the Admiralty, Trinity House, and the local Sea Fisheries District Committee. As right hon. and hon. Members will have noted, there is provision for fishing interests, and there will be two fishermen's representatives on the Board.

That brings me to the trades union representation. We took the view that it was essential that fair and adequate provision for local trades union interests should be made in the composition of the Board. However, my right hon. Friend will look again at the point made by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly, and also by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools, as to what type of trade union representation would be the best in this case. We will look at the points because they seem to me to be important, and should be considered carefully, having regard to the vital significance of this scheme to the industrial aspect of South Wales.

I turn now to a number of other matters which have been raised in the debate. It has been suggested that the safeguards about amenities of this very beautiful part of the British Isles are not sufficient as at present set out in the Bill, and that was specially mentioned by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly. As I have said, the Board is not the planning authority for the land, but it must work carefully in conjunction with the planning authority. To begin with, the powers of the Board in that respect are bounded by the high water mark on the shores of Milford Haven and the approaches thereto. That, of course, does not obviate the necessity for the Board to have regard to the amenities of the district and its great natural beauties.

If the right hon. Gentleman examines the Bill in further detail he will find that there are a number of safeguards. First, I want to draw the attention of the House to Clause 1 (6), which requires the Board to have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty and of conserving the flora and fauna of the district. That is the first safeguard, of which there are a number. The second one is in Clause 4 (1, a) which requires the Board not to deposit dredged materials in such a way as to prejudice the establishment of the Pembrokeshire coastal footpath. I can understand the concern of the right hon. Gentleman about the footpath, but this sub-paragraph provides a basic safeguard for that part of the coastline.

The third safeguard is that the Board will be a harbour authority under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act. This point was made by the hon. Member for Pembroke. As a harbour authority, the Board will have full powers to enforce that Act within the Haven. That meets the point about the danger of oil pollution.

The fourth safeguard for amenities is in Clause 22 (5), which provides that for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, this Bill shall be deemed to be in force at the passing of that Act. This is extremely important, because the effect is to make the Board subject—except for certain permitted de- velopments which can also be controlled—to the provisions in the Town and Country Planning Act for the planning and control of the development and use of land.

I do not desire to do so unless asked, but I could give the House details of the permitted developments that would be necessary. They involve developments required for the purpose of shipping, for the use of any land for the spreading of dredging, and developments authorised by Act of Parliament.

Finally, the composition of the Board allows, as has been pointed out, for full representation of the Pembrokeshire County Council, which is the local planning authority, and I am sure that the two bodies will work closely together. I think that the representatives of the County Council can be relied upon to ensure that the effects of the proposals of the Board on local amenities are not overlooked.

This applies, of course, to the activities of the Board itself as a harbour authority. It will not itself be erecting any major installations in the Haven. Those will be built by the individual interests concerned, which will have to obtain the normal statutory approval for doing so. I hope that what I have said will meet the points which have been raised on this important aspect. I am sure that those who know and admire the wonderful natural beauty of the Haven will be glad that there are safeguards in the Bill to meet the points which have been raised.

It was said that railway and road communications to the district ought to be examined. My right hon. Friend is urgently looking at the road problems there, and is in touch with the British Transport Commission about the railway communications.

It has been suggested that the Commission should play a greater part in these matters and should actually be represented upon the Board. We have been in consultation with the Commission about the Bill, but it has not suggested that it should actually be represented on the Board. One realises that it has certain interests in the matter, but I do not think it would have any specialised knowledge of navigational matters as such, and, although it will no doubt work closely with the Board, I do not think we should be justified in saying that it must be represented upon that body.

Mr. D. Jones

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Commission, with its Dock and Harbour Authority, controlling nearly half our ports, has no specialised knowledge of harbours and docks?

Mr. Neave

Naturally, it has knowledge of harbour matters, and so forth, but I should have thought that the specialised harbour conservancy matters with which the Board will deal were not a matter for the Commission. At Southampton, for example, the Commission has extensive docks, but the conservancy work is done by the Southampton Harbour Board. I should have thought that was a good example that the specialised navigational work ought to be done by the harbour board and not by the Commission, and I should think that illustration meets the hon. Gentleman's point. One has to have regard to these matters in deciding what is the most efficient type of harbour authority for the conservancy work to be done at Milford Haven.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the publication of accounts. I should have thought that the provisions of Clause 18 were sufficient to meet the point. I am not aware whether other harbour authorities have to lay their accounts, but I do not think I could undertake to say that the Board should do that. I should have thought that examination of the Clause would show that the Board would have to keep proper accounts and that that would be sufficient for the right hon. Gentleman's purpose.

I hope that I have answered all the points that have been raised in respect of this very imaginative and vitally interesting project, and I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Select Committee of Seven Members, four to be nominated by the House and three by the Committee of Selection:

Any Petitions against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, to stand referred to the Committee, but if no such Petition is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee to be discharged and the Bill to be committed to a Standing Committee:—

Any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the prayer of his Petition, to be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents, upon his Petition provided that such Petition is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill to be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against such Petition:—

Power to report from day to day Minutes of the Evidence:

Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Watkinson.]