§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu (Huddersfield, East)
On a point of order. Set down on the Order Paper is a small piece of Government business, the Greenwich Hospital 1280 and Travers' Foundation Statement of Estimated Income and Expenditure. We have an opportunity to discuss this business once a year. Is there any way for private Members who are concerned with this business to have a chance of discussing it at a reasonable time, instead of what looks like being about three o'clock in the morning?
§ Mr. Speaker
As the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu) knows, I do not 1281 arrange the order of business, nor do I venture to suggest what is a reasonable time. If the hon. Member likes to wait, his opportunity will be there.
§ Mr. Warbey
That bears out what I was about to say, that it is rather unfortunate that the House should be called upon to discuss a Bill raising issues of such magnitude at so late an hour of the night. This happens to be a Private Bill, but, as indicated by the Instruction, it raises issues of tremendous magnitude. We ought to have had the opportunity to begin to discuss such a Bill at a reasonable hour instead of so late.
However, I do not propose to take up much more time and I conclude what I was saying when we were interrupted by the Division. An hon. Member drew my attention to the fact that I had not quoted fully from a leading article in The Times. I was saying that there was no intention on my part, or on the part of any Member on this side of the House, in principle to oppose the idea of constructing pipelines to carry oil. We merely want them to be constructed as and when they are required in the public interest in accordance with a proper plan and in conditions which will ensure the maximum safeguards for the private and public interests, consumers and other industries affected.
I emphasise again that The Times raises the point that a private company is seeking the de jure powers of a statutory undertaker and public utility. If that is so, we ought to go rather further and say that if we are to confer such powers then we ought to confer them on a publicly and not privately owned public utility. In other words, pipelines of this type ought to be owned and managed by the State and not by private companies.
After all, the State has a network of about 1,200 miles of pipelines constructed for strategic purposes in this country during the war. What is happening to those pipelines now? Are they being used for the transportation of oil? [HON. MEMBERS: "Some are."] I understand that some are, but I understand that some are not. I have already referred to one that is. It may be that others could be brought into use. I understand that some run across southern and western England and perhaps they could be used instead of the pro 1282 posed pipeline. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say that they could not and perhaps they are better informed than I, but that is the kind of information which we should have. I know where the proposed pipeline is to be, but I do not have a map of the Government pipelines to see whether the proposed pipeline is necessary, or whether we can make use of the Government pipelines.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
The Government-owned pipelines wore constructed during the war, when Fawley was not in existence.
§ Mr. Warbey
That is true, but there may be pipelines running to one of the South Coast ports—Portsmouth or Southampton—and it might be possible to run a short feeder connection from Fawley to the existing pipelines, all under the ownership and control of the Minister of Power. That would be a much more sensible idea than allowing what we shall allow if we pass this Bill and others of a similar character, namely, the building up of a network of duplicated pipelines serving the interests of a number of private oil companies and not the public interest.
I would like to see all the internal operations of the oil companies put under public ownership and control. The import, refining and marketing of oil—everything that takes place in this country—should be publicly owned and controlled. We would then be in a position to formulate a national fuel and power policy which would be in the interests of the whole country. Short of that, I would like to see these projected pipelines put under public ownership and control, so as to ensure that they could be developed according to a co-ordinated plan, in the public interest.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. In rising to support the Bill I propose to stick rather more closely to its terms than did the 'hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey). I would remind him that we are talking about a proposal for a pipeline from Fawley to London Airport, and for the carrying of ethylene gas in the case of the I.C.I. project at Avonmouth. The Bill is important, first, in regard to the 1283 whole question of the transport of oil. Whatever view one may have about the relative importance of different sources of power, there can be no doubt that oil has a major contribution to make during the coming years, as far ahead as we can foresee.
I agree that the Bill also raises important constitutional issues as to how far any concern, private or public, should acquire compulsory powers which affect the rights of people involved in the laying down of pipelines. It is not the fault of the Promoters of the Bill that this point has not been raised before, but it is important that it should be raised. It is clearly the duty of Parliament to protect such interests. Hon. Members will have seen the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) which asks that the Bill shall be specially considered by a Select Committee. Subject to a small Amendment which some of my hon. Friends and I have put down, I sympathise with this point of view, and consider that it would be a very good solution.
There is also the question whether, if more pipelines are to be laid down and a system of pipelines is to follow these projects, the Private Bill procedure is a desirable one for dealing with these schemes. I do not think that it is. I hope that my right hon. Friend will intervene to tell us what is the Government's attitude and future policy with regard to pipelines, and how future schemes should be dealt with by this House. There are clearly great disadvantages in the present procedure.
The hon. Member for Ashfield made various derogatory remarks about the Esso Petroleum Company, but that company supplies nearly one-third of the United Kingdom market in petroleum products at present. Its refinery at Fawley is the largest in the Commonwealth. In a large organisation like that various firms do business with it, and I ought to say that I am a director of a firm which does business with Esso, although that firm is not interested in this pipeline project. I should also say that the organisation has a very big research centre in my constituency.
Hon. Members know the powers which the Bill proposes to give in regard to 1284 acquisition of land and compensation. I know that many of my hon. Friends have anxieties and doubts about these matters so I shall not refer to them. I should like to refer to the economic reasons for these pipelines. At London Airport very big changes have occurred in civil aviation during the fifteen years since the war. There has been a tenfold increase in air transport. The hon. Member for Ashfield asked about the capacity and why all this was necessary.
He should know that in recent months a number of big jet airliners, the DC8s and Boeing 707s, have come into service, but it may surprise him to know that long-haul jet airliners require up to 16,000 gallons of fuel per plane and the turn-round needed by these aircraft is 45 to 60 minutes. All the refuelling has to be done in that time. The object of this scheme is to supply the point at which this refuelling can be done. It can be done at the rate of 1,000 gallons a minute. These figures indicate the tremendous changes which have occurred in the past eighteen months at London Airport.
Estimates for the whole industry—not only for Esso—are that sales of turbo fuels at London Airport, which were 6½ million gallons in 1958, will be 100 million gallons in 1960. Those are changes which have been brought about by taking into service these big jet airliners. That is the reason why this particular scheme for London Airport is necessary for Esso and, I think I may safely say, for the public interest.
A second good reason is the effect on road traffic which there would be if there were not this pipeline. I refer to this point, because it may affect all of us in our constituencies in view of the possible increase in the number of very large fuel tankers on our roads. If there were no pipeline to West London from Fawley the products would have to be transported by barge to the Fulham depôt from Purfieet, and from Fulham they would be transported by road tanker. Estimates, according to my information, are that by 1964 that would need 210 journeys a day through the west London area. That would create enormous congestion. By having this terminal away from the built-up area, the need for very large tankers on the roads would be greatly reduced and in 1285 fact only fifty journeys would be required from the west London point to Fulham for distribution.
I have not mentioned the ethylene gas pipeline for I.C.I. That would not affect traffic, but I think hon. Members would agree it is a fair point that the petrochemical industry has grown vastly in recent years. Many of its products have found their way into different forms of manufacture of articles such as plastics, synthetic rubbers and chemicals. It is an important point.
I wish to mention one or two other points, for I know that other hon. Members wish to raise further matters about the Bill. In the sixty-five miles of 12-inch pipeline from Fawley to West London, the pipe is to be buried 2½ feet, as proposed by Esso at the moment. It has undertaken that it should be 3 feet under agricultural land. I hope that in certain cases the pipe will be buried deeper, down to 4 feet, where proper need can be shown that that should be done.
A number of bodies, of farmers and others, are concerned that there will be leakages in the pipeline. According to my information, 25 per cent. of the welding will be inspected radiographically. There is a method known as cathodic protection, by running currents down the pipeline, which makes another effective check. It is true that accidental damage may cause leaks to occur along the pipeline route, and I understand that Esso will have it patrolled on foot and also by air in order to check small leakages. Certain checks are therefore proposed. All these matters may well arise on the Petitions against 1286 the Bill in Committee, but I understand that Esso intends to meet all reasonable objections on matters of that kind.
It is true that pipelines have been used for some time. There are pipelines which were constructed during the war, but according to my information they would be quite insufficient and also in the wrong place to deal with the matters to which I have referred, such as London Airport and the I.C.I. project
Pipeline work in this country is in its infancy. In the United States there are about 250,000 miles of fuel pipeline at present. It is important that we should hear from my right hon. Friend what attitude he will adopt to pipelines in the future. Big problems arise in the laying down of a pipeline. For example, no fewer than 1,000 owners of land are involved in this 140 miles. When we debate the Instruction to the Committee, my hon. Friends—and I hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—would like to say something about that. The company has said that it is prepared to pay a fair market price for the easements for which it is asking under the Bill. It contends that once the pipeline has been laid beneath the soil, its presence will not be apparent, subject, of course, to the accidental leakages and other incidents which may occur.
Whatever one may think about the relative importance of various sources of power, oil will continue to be very important for a long time, and as I have said it has an essential contribution to make. I hope that by giving the Bill a Second Reading the House will take note of the need to find the most efficient and economical method of distribution.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
I oppose the Second Reading of the Bill and warmly support everything which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) on the ground that we have far too little information about the Government's intentions in general.
We are not convinced about the merits of this particular scheme, but I want to make it clear that we do not wish our remarks to be interpreted as a general attack on the principle of conveying petroleum products by pipeline. Of course not. It is obvious that a pipeline is an economic, efficient and up-to-date method of moving these substances about the country, very much needed in as small and as congested a country as this. We should welcome the rational development of an integrated pipeline system throughout the country, because it would bring substantial economies, which we should welcome, particularly if they were passed on to the consumer. It would also help, as the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has said to de-congest our roads. The figures I have of the effect of the Shellhaven pipeline indicate that at present it is the equivalent of about eighty tankers a day.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
My hon. Friend has probably given some thought to the possible effect at present on the railway system in carrying thousands of oil tankers?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I hope that my hon Friend knows me well enough to recollect that I represent one of the most important railway constituencies in the country, if not the most important, and so I have given a great deal of thought to this, and it is one of the subjects I propose to touch on, if he will allow me, in a moment or two.
When we question the Second Reading of the Bill we have three points particularly in mind. The first is whether this pipeline is in the public interest. The second is whether this method of constructing pipelines, the proposal to initiate an apparently quite unplanned and uncontrolled system of competing networks organised by different oil companies, is the right system. Thirdly and 1288 most important, is the point whether the present system of importing, distributing and retailing petroleum products in this country is really in the best interests of the nation as a whole and of individual consumers. I hope very briefly to show reasons why we think it is not.
We should, of course, warmly welcome a properly planned and integrated pipeline network throughout the British Isles, and we think that such a network should be publicly owned, and should be available for the movement of whatever products are suitable for it from point to point.
We are very puzzled by the demand which the promoters of this Bill seem to be making that they should be given all the privileges or many of the privileges of statutory undertakings without any of the duties involved in the case of those public bodies. We are already concerned that the oil companies appear to be prepared to enjoy all the privileges of a monopoly position, the privileges enjoyed by private-profit firms, without giving to the consumer any of the benefits of competition.
It has been said already in this debate that there is no detectable difference in price, in quality, or in service between any of the major petroleum products retailers in this country. There are seven major companies, two controlled by each other, making a total of five, and they will claim they are a good example of capitalist competition. But it is very difficult, from the point of view of the ordinary motorist or, for that matter, the ordinary airline operator, to see where that alleged competition helps the consumer.
Any motorist knows that the petrol he puts into his tank is exactly the same for all practical purposes, if he is buying the same octane-rating petrol, whatever company it comes from, and I would challenge the Minister of Power to tell us whether his experts can show any difference in quality or in performance between the brands now on sale and provided by the major companies in this country. He knows very well that, in spite of sales talk in advertisements and so on, there is really no significant difference at all. Millions of motorists 1289 —the and I perhaps—are constantly being taken as innocent victims of the oil companies when they allege that a particular magic additive in same brand or another has a particular effect. It is quite untrue. He knows, too, that there is no difference in price.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
Does it affect in any way the quality of petroleum, whether it comes through a pipeline or not?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This is very relevant to the Second Reading debate. We are worried about the whole system for the distribution and retailing of petroleum products, which is intimately affected by the Bill, and we are certainly entitled to try to find out what is in the Government's mind and to say that, though the present system and relationship between the five companies may be in the interests of the oil tycoons who control them, or most of them, it certainly is not in the interests of the ordinary consumer. It is not competition. It is a monopoly position wherein quality, prices and service are identical, and we are being made to pay very much more for the product than we should.
There is a particularly offensive example of the present system which upsets many of my hon. Friends. This is that the oil companies are now in a position where one individual oil company controls 93 per cent. of the retail outlets. Perhaps I did not phrase that very well, but the Minister and hon. Members will appreciate that what I refer to is the terrible growth of the solus site system. Before the war, if a retailer of motor fuel wanted to bring his products to a new point of sale, all he had to do was to install a new pump at an existing garage.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but he should direct his argument even on Second Reading to the Bill under discussion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I stand corrected, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was trying to illustrate the point that we are worried about this pipeline partly because, if the Bill is adopted as it now stands, there will be a new element in a system of retailing, distributing and importing 1290 petroleum products about which we have very grave doubts. I was under the impression that this question of the solus site arrangement was relevant to the Bill. It it is not in your view, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will leave the point and come to that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) about the railways.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Would it not be in order for my hon. Friend to use that as his objection to the Bill? Could he not object to it precisely because it did not cover that point?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his support, as I always am. I hope that he will provide me with many opportunities of returning to that theme, because I hope to do so. At this moment, however, I think I should, with respect to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, turn to the point about the railways.
Many people in the railway industry feel that one solution to the pipeline problem in the United Kingdom, which, incidentally, would solve many of the difficulties which are inherent in the present proposals embodied in the Bill, would be to run new pipelines along railway tracks. The railway system in this country provides a network serving all important industrial points on the map, and it would be a relatively simple matter, from a technical point of view, to install pipelines beside main line railway tracks. In some cases, it might involve a slight increase in mileage, but the problem of installation would be very much simpler than, for example, the problems involved in running the Fawley pipeline across Salisbury Plain through Wiltshire to London Airport. Such a scheme might, incidentally, provide British Railways with a valuable additional source of revenue if some payment were made to them by the interests controlling the pipelines in return for the facility of using the tracks.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
Has the hon. Member considered the technical difficulties in running an oil pipeline along a railway line when it came to bridges, level crossings and things of that kind? I understand that there are quite considerable technical difficulties.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have not studied those problems, but I understand that prominent people in British Railways have. They believe that the obstacles involved would not be very much more serious than the obstacles involved in the route to be taken by the line from Fawley to London Airport, which, as the hon. Member knows, the county councils consider to be very formidable indeed.
That brings me to another point which is—
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I thought that my hon. Friend had given way to me. I am sorry to intervene, but the point which I want to make is quite a serious one. I am not unmindful of the physical arguments about the possibility of laying these pipelines on the route of the railway tracks, but what I am concerned about is whether or not the British Transport Commission would receive by way of wayleaves for the renting of these sites as much as it would lose by way of freights once the oil was diverted from the tankers on the railways to the pipelines beside the rails. That is the important point.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I much appreciate the point which my hon. Friend has made. I understand that that is one of the reasons why the railway people to whom I have been talking are interested in getting the pipeline along the track because that would be one way of compensating them for the non-use of the conventional rail tanker.
I am bound to say that the railway system in this country will be able to make progress only if it can get up to date with modern methods of transportation. There are instances where the transporting of liquids by pipeline is very much more economical and efficient than transporting them by the old conventional methods, even though this may cause some difficulty to my friends in the railway industry.
I want to pass briefly to the concern felt at the proposals in the Bill by the local authorities involved. One of them, my own county council, has been good enough to summarise its views to me. I understand that a list of proposed Amendments and protective Clauses have been submitted by the Parliamentary agents representing these county councils to the agents representing the petroleum 1292 company involved. The negotiations are going on at present and the county councils are under the impression that many of their objections will be met. For that reason I do not refer to all of them in detail. I will, however, mention three of the most important.
One is that as the Bill now stands the company would have the right if it wished to lay a series of pipes perhaps as far apart as 200 feet. Thte county councils consider this to be very excessive and they have proposed an alternative of 5 feet. They believe that perhaps the company may in the end be prepared to accept an area of 20 feet. If we are to have these pipelines taking up to 200 feet of deviation it will be a very serious matter indeed.
Another of the important points made by the county councils is, I understand, that they wish to have a provision that if a pipeline is subsequently to be removed this shall be done at the expense of the company. This seems to me to be an eminently reasonable provision. If these pipelines are to be installed over the route proposed and if the company then wishes to move them, or if they have to be moved for some reason, it would be rather hard if the expense of moving them had to be borne by a local authority.
Finally, I wish to mention one further point which has been raised in negotiations with the Parliamentary Agents of the company. It is that the county councils want the company to be subject to normal planning control in connection with all the works involved. My own county council, Wiltshire, says that it is not as closely affected in this matter as Middlesex will be, where it is proposed that there shall be considerable works above ground, and also as Hampshire will be, where the pipeline will cross land which might be likely to be developed.
It seems to me to be very reasonable indeed that the people who will be constructing the pipelines should be subject to normal planning control, and I hope that perhaps at this stage the Minister will tell us that that is the intention.
I do not conceal from the House that many of my hon. Friends, looking at the issues raised by the pipeline, would much prefer a publicly-owned, properly integrated national pipeline system 1293 throughout the United Kingdom. What is more, looking at the present set-up within the oil industry, particularly as it affects the consumer in this country, many of us think that there is a strong case for a much larger degree of public control and, indeed, a degree of public ownership.
We look at the present situation in the British Petroleum Company, in which 51 per cent. of the shares are owned by the nation, and we wonder whether this principle should not be extended to the other companies, followed by a programme of rationalisation which would get rid of the monopoly position which worries us in connection with oil distribution in general and in connection with the proposals suggested in the Bill.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I have a particular constituency interest in the Bill, because the Avon-mouth pipeline, which, I understand, is to carry what are known as chemical feedstuffs, is designed to transport chemicals to an Imperial Chemical Industries factory to be built in my constituency. That I.C.I. factory is a welcome and valuable new industry in the area. Therefore, the arguments that hon. Members opposite have been putting forward, covering a rather wide view of fuel policy as a whole, are not altogether apposite concerning this pipeline.
In passing, the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) might be interested to know that I can tell him, from experience in my constituency, in which there is a large number of Government pipelines, that whatever else they are, they are not particularly leakproof.
I therefore welcome the general principle of the Bill and I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) that it must be in the national interest to adopt cheaper methods of transport to relieve congestion on the roads. There is something to be said from an amenity viewpoint in getting at least some of our transport facilities as far as possible underground and out of sight.
I also accept the proposition that, having accepted that this is in the national interest, we cannot permit a 1294 position to arise in which any private owner on the route would have a complete veto on the project. I therefore feel that compulsory powers as such must be accepted. There are, however, two important matters that follow from that acceptance. First, it places upon this House an obligation to ensure that both public and private rights that may be affected should be adequately safeguarded. Secondly, the powers of compulsory acquisition contained in the Bill should not be wider than is necessary for the purpose for which the Bill is designed.
The first of those two points is dealt with in the Motion on the Order Paper in my name and I should not wish to weary the House with arguments on it at this stage. Concerning the second point, however, I feel that the Bill contains powers that go much wider than are justified. I draw attention particularly to Clause 18, which enables the company to put down any amount of additional lines within the limits of 400 ft. deviation. I understand that the most the company is likely to want is, possibly, one additional line along the Fawley-Avonmouth route.
If that is so, I hope that minds will be made up quite firmly in Committee and that it will be inserted in the Bill quite clearly how many pipes the company will have a right to lay. I hope that the Committee will have the opportunity of considering in a reasonable degree of detail what is required and what powers are necessary.
The other important Clause which ties in with Clause 18 is Clause 24, which permits the company to sell or lease or otherwise dispose of any of the pipes which it puts down. When I first read the Bill I assumed that this was an effort to obtain powers to put down a series of pipelines and sell them off as a separate enterprise. I am assured that this is not so, but if it is not so the powers are far wider than is necessary.
I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon when he suggests that the probability is that Private Bill procedure is no longer suitable for this type of projects, especially in the context of a period when demand for fuel oil is rapidly increasing and with it the possibility of an equally rapidly developed network of pipelines. 1295 Subject to these reservations, which I think can be met by the method which we shall be discussing later, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
Like the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) I have a constituency interest in the Bill, but I hope to show that the considerations which affect some of my constituents directly and obviously are also matters of general and public interest. As the House has been informed, in the present circumstances, in the absence of a pipeline, some of the fuel comes by water from Southampton to Purfleet and then by barge up to Fulham. This means that in Fulham there are two depôts of considerable size from which the fuel is distributed by road throughout various parts of London.
One of these two depôts is in my constituency. The other is partly in my constituency and partly in the adjoining constituency. If we may look forward to the time when the pipeline is established, the depôt that is now in my constituency will cease to exist. Rather to my regret, the other one, partly in my constituency and partly in the neighbouring constituency, would still have to be there because the type of fuel with which it deals is not one for which the method of distribution by underground pipeline is suitable.
At any rate, the effect on my constituency would be that one of these depôts would disappear. That would be unquestionably good news to my constituents, the more so as I am assured that there is no risk to the employment of any of my constituents who are now employed in that depôt. Their interests will be looked after. The reason why I say that it is good news is that the distribution of fuel by road means a great deal of heavy traffic. That traffic must necessarily go to the points wherever there are customers who receive the fuel. That cannot be helped. Anyone whose home is in the neighbourhood of a garage or other considerable customer for fuel must accept that fact as an inevitable condition of modern industrial life. But there is also the 1296 concentration of traffic—of lorries coming in and going out of the depôts from which the fuel is distributed over the whole area.
At the present time there is this depôt in Fulham, on the riverside but in and near streets which at one time in their history were quiet residential streets. Over the years, with the steady growth in the consumption of oil and consequent growth in the amount of work done in the depôt, they have become a neighbourhood where a great deal of very heavy traffic plies. The result is partly the noise and the risk from heavy traffic, partly the danger of damage to house property over a long period through the vibrations caused by heavy traffic and partly a certain amount of noise, which is inevitable, from the work of the depôt itself. There is also a certain amount of smell and fouling of the atmosphere.
I think it fair to say that the inquiries which I have made into the matter lead me to believe that the company and the persons directly responsible for the management of the depôt have done their best to reduce these inconveniences to the residents to the minimum to which they can be reduced, but they cannot by any degree of skill be wiped out altogether. A somewhat inept attempt was made by some of the Conservatives in the neighbourhood to say that it was all the fault of the Labour borough council, but my own inquiries have also shown that there is no legal power which any public authority could use to require the depôt to stop doing the things which it is doing at the present time. It is possible, of course, to prevent, legally, an industrial concern from making unnecessary noise, but it is always a defence in legislation of that kind to show that the greatest possible effort is being made to reduce the noise to the minimum. I do not think, therefore, that there was any escape for my constituents to any considerable degree by efforts to mitigate the nuisance. The trouble arose as an essential part of the work of an oil distribution depôt.
When we heard, therefore, that as a result of the laying of the pipeline the work of distribution would now be carried out not from a depôt in Fulham but from a depôt in the area of London Airport, we naturally felt that this was 1297 good news. We might inquire—I did, of course, inquire—what was likely to be the reaction of persons in the neighbourhood of the proposed end of the pipeline near London Airport. I find that the situation there is rather different. The siting of the centre of distribution there will not mean, as it does while it is in Fulham, that there is a great concentration of traffic and noise in what would otherwise be a quiet residential area.
That seems to me to be part of a general public advantage. We are all aware that, whatever the future industrial development of this country may be, two things are fairly certain. One is that the consumption of oil fuel will increase. Whether it will increase proportionately or not with the consumption of other kinds of fuel I am not at the moment discussing, but the absolute amount of consumption of oil fuel will increase. Also, the traffic on our roads will increase.
In those circumstances, I should have thought that if it is possible to devise a way whereby one can transport oil fuel without taking it over the roads or reduce the extent to which it is taken over the roads, that is a general public advantage. That is the immediate effect that will follow from the construction of the pipelines.
I assure my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) and Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) that I am by no means unsympathetic to a great deal of what they have said. But I would ask them to consider this point. Their argument, as I understand it, was that the growth of the oil industry and the appearance of this method of transporting oil raises a number of arguments of high public policy and ought, if we had in power a Government concerned with the public interest, to be seized as an opportunity for asserting the public interest in certain matters connected with the oil industry, such as pricing policy, the extent to which it is a monopoly, and the whole question of how a network of pipelines should be developed over the country as a whole.
I would, however, say that if we have to wait until the Conservative Party is concerned with the public interest before we begin to modernise the method of distributing oil, we shall have to wait a very long time. Let us consider what 1298 would happen if this Bill were not passed now. It would not follow from that that the Government would do what they ought to do and interest themselves in the whole problem and assert the public interest.
The Conservative Party cannot do that because, as we know, it is paid to do the opposite. A number of Members opposite owe their seats to a propaganda campaign conducted by private interests against public ownership and against the public interest. Consequently, they are not in a position to assert the public interest. The people who paid for the propaganda of the Conservative Party want their money back, and they are going to get it back out of the public purse. That is what we were debating earlier today and yesterday.
It is quite clear, therefore, that if this Bill did not pass we should not get anything effective done in the field of public policy this side of the next General Election. Furthermore, the pipeline, I am convinced, would be laid whether the Bill was passed or not. Let us consider what would be the position if the pipeline were laid without the passing of this Bill.
It would mean that the Esso Company would have to set to work making what terms it could with every landowner on the route. Some of those landowners, of course, are public authorities, and, in view of the way in which Government policy generally has been swindling local authorities, I should not be sorry to see them get a bit back from somewhere. Some of the owners would be widows and orphans, because we know that they always own part of every important piece of property.
Many, however, would be comfortably-off landowners who would be in a position to extract almost any price, in or out of reason, for the concessions the company would get. We would get a levying of a tribute on the company, which, presumably, would ultimately be got back from the consumer, for the benefit of private landowners.
We should notice what happened when the railway system sprang up. It would have been a very great public advantage then if we had had a Government which, seeing the social consequences of the whole thing, had brought the railways into public ownership at 1299 that time. Instead, it was left to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) to announce, in 1918, that it was the intention of the Government of which he was a member to nationalise the railways in the period 1918 to 1922. But the Conservative Party, of course, was again told that it must do what it was paid to do, and we on this side subsequently had to do it a good many years later.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that as long ago as 1845 there was a Railway Clauses Consolidation Act which dealt with this very problem?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) must be aware that the railway system began substantially before 1845. What I am saying is that it is a very great pity that the whole system was not brought into public ownership then. What happened was that the railways went ahead and had to pay extremely heavy tribute to land owners, something which had been a drawback to railway finance from that day to this.
Whatever view might be taken of the oil industry, I do not see that any useful purpose will be served by subjecting it to the same kind of parasitism.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend has produced a very good additional argument for my contention that it would be folly to have totally unplanned competing systems of pipelines run by individual companies. That is what happened with the railway system and that is one of the reasons for its present difficulties. My hon. Friend spoke of land owners holding the oil company to ransom, but there is an answer to that, as he will see if he looks at the map of the route from Fawley to London Airport and considers it in relation to the existing main-cline railway tracks. My solution is not as Utopian as some hon. Members opposite seem to think.
§ Mr. Stewart
I ask my hon. Friend to direct his attention to the simple and immediate question of what happens whether the Bill is passed or not. The point I am making is that if it is not passed, what will happen is that the pipeline will be laid largely where it is 1300 now proposed that it should be laid, but in a manner in which there will be considerable opportunities for profiteering. I agree that if we had in power a Government who were concerned with the public interest, it would be a totally different problem, but we cannot say that, because we have a Government who are concerned to serve the private and not the public interest, we must therefore resist every process of modernisation in industry.
We must face the fact that the laying of this pipeline, or, at any rate, some method of distributing oil by pipeline rather than by road, is a process of modernisation. With full respect for and giving full weight to what my hon. Friends have said, the problem we have immediately to consider is this: we have an industry in private ownership and a Government who are neither willing nor able to assert the public interest in the matter. In those circumstances, since it is a necessary piece of modernisation to make possible the distribution of oil by pipeline rather than by road traffic, we must in the present situation regard it as desirable that the Bill should have a Second Reading.
I conclude by returning from the general public interest to the particular interest of my constituents. It is a legitimate point for me to make when I say that in a crowded residential area we have a process going on which is totally unsuited to a crowded residential area. Here we have an opportunity to remove something which is a serious social injury to a section of the community and something which, if it persists, will become a more serious injury and will adversely affect a greater number of people.
I hope, therefore, that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and that, when we consider further Motions on the Order Paper, hon. Members will approach them with a desire to reduce unnecessary obstacles in the way of a construction of the pipeline.
§ 11.9 p.m.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)
I do not in any way want to frustrate the wishes of hon. Members to take part in the debate, but it might be useful at this moment if I try to state the Government's view of the Bill. It has been pointed out that the Bill covers two 1301 important developments. The Government agree with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), that these projects are not only necessary in the interests of those for whom he was speaking, but highly necessary in the national interest.
I will try to give the reasons why we believe it will be helpful if these developments can take place. First, both pipelines will be of considerable assistance to our home refining industry, which we all recognise as very valuable and would all like to help. Both will enhance the value of the Government's network of pipelines, to which they will be linked. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has mentioned the benefits that this will bring in transportation. The pipeline to London Airport will greatly help to keep down the costs and ease the very pressing traffic problems in London. He gave graphic figures—with which I entirely agree—to demonstrate the easement which the London Airport pipeline will exercise on the transport problem in the next four or five years.
A further advantage for the chemical plant in Gloucester is that it looks like being one of the most important industrial developments in the immediate future. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is satisfied that the economies that will accrue to I.C.I. through the use of the pipeline will make an appreciable difference to its export potential. That is another reason why we should welcome this development.
Various matters have been introduced in the debate. The hon. Member for Fulham started an interesting discussion about the possibility of nationalising the railways a hundred years before they were nationalised, and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) began discussing one of his favourite topics—resale price maintenance—on which we are all glad to hear from him, if not particularly on this occasion. It would not be right for me to try to follow those hon. Members into those wide discussions. On the other side, various detailed points have been raised in the course of the debate, and we all agree that there should be adequate opportunity for discussion of detailed points during the various stages of the Bill.
1302 I will try to explain the view which the Government take in this matter, and it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the details now. One of the important questions which have been discussed this evening, and to which we shall give renewed attention when we discuss the Motions after the Second Reading, is exactly how these points of detail are best to be examined, either in relation to the Bill or in relation to possible pipeline developments in the future. I have already said that I am most anxious that the Bill should be given a Second Reading. Therefore, I hope that I may be allowed to state my view of the Motions which will be discussed shortly, because it might have an effect on the remainder of the discussion on Second Reading.
If, as I hope, the House shortly gives the Bill a Second Reading, we shall discuss two possible proposals by which the House might give greater facilities and provide greater safeguards to any objectors, and might be able to deal with any difficulties that the existing Private Bill procedure does not meet. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) wants to institute a procedure on the basis on the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, and he also wants—as I sense a number of other hon. Members do—an inquiry into the desirability of general public legislation in the matter of these pipelines. On the other hand, the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon suggests that he would be satisfied, if adequate safeguards of objection were available, that they should be provided with the 1946 Act, not as a pattern, but as a general guide.
I have already emphasised the national importance the Government attach to this project. Naturally, I should like to see it carried out with the minimum of delay. There I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Fulham. On the other hand, I am most anxious, as I am sure we all are, that the fullest opportunity should be given for the examination of any difficulties, such as those mentioned in the debate, which may be thought still to exist. Therefore, I should be prepared when the time comes to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon to the Motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for 1303 Gloucestershire, South on the understanding that the Committee would have every regard to the need for speed and avoidance of unnecessary delay. It is my conviction that we should press on with this, and I believe that that is a conviction largely shared by the House.
As to the future, the Government believe that it is most important that an examination should take place on the general problem of pipeline development. In fact, they have already begun to examine this problem and to examine procedures which they think should be followed in future in regard to these matters. I shall undertake to make a further statement to the House when that examination is complete. I hope that the House will be willing shortly to give a Second Reading to the Bill. When the time comes to discuss my hon. Friend's Motion, I hope that he will be willing to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon, which seems to me, and to the Government, to offer the best hope of making speedy progress with this present development while at the same time ensuring that any outstanding objections may be examined.
§ 11.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I wish briefly at this late hour, to support what the Minister has said and also what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said.
I have no personal direct constituency interest in this matter, but I represent an area which is now fast developing as a very important oil port. As a result, I am now being brought into touch with some of the daily practical problems and especially some of the problems which are likely to arise in future in regard to the oil industry. To that extent, I have some interest in what is likely to happen about pipelines and otherwise in future.
As I see it, there have been three major objections to this Bill this evening. The first was the Objection of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), who basically did not like oil companies. He liked them even less when they made large profits and less still when they happened to be American. I think that was rather outside the context of the practical prob 1304 lem of what we should do about this particular pipeline.
§ Mr. Warbey indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Donnelly
My hon. Friend dissents from that view, but I feel I am equally entitled to the view that we are discussing these pipelines and not the wider industry tonight.
Secondly, there was the abjection of both my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield and my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), who in turn said very much the same thing. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield referred to the need for a publicly-owned public utility, a national pipeline system. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon spoke about a publicly-owned, properly integrated pipeline system in this country.
The short point about the present development of the pipeline system is that pipelines at the present stage are likely to be built only from large units of production to large units of consumption, and this place is a very important limiting factor on a national pipelone network. At the present stage, it is difficult to envisage a national pipeline grid, although that may come in time and I very much hope that it will come. Some of the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon about the possible use of the wayleaves which the railway companies possess may be of advantage in this respect.
There is a whole range of possibilities of the use of pipelines, not only for oil but even for bulk solids. This will begin to be opened up only in the next ten to fifteen years. One of the industries most likely to benefit directly from the expanded use of such a pipeline is the coal industry, which is connected with the constituency of my hon Friend the Member for Ashfield. But at the moment we are concerned with a pipeline from a large unit of production to a large unit of consumption, and there are certain limiting factors, as I have said.
The third objection was voiced by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), who spoke of the obligation of the House, and the need, to safeguard the public and private rights affected by this venture. I suggest to him that one of the best examples of trying to enable people to safeguard their own private rights is the brochure which 1305 has been issued by the Esso Company entitled, "Facts about the Proposed Esso Pipeline". It is well produced and is an admirable example of clarity.
§ Mr. Donnelly
It is a very accurate representation of what people can achieve in respect of their own land. It is certainly not a legal guidance but it is a very good exercise in enabling people to understand the implications of the pipeline through the hon. Member's constituency. I only wish that the hon. Member took a leaf out of Esso's book and enabled his constituents to understand the implications of his own actions with equal facility.
The hon. Member also referred to the dangers of the compulsory acquisition of land for purposes which were not necessary. He said that wider powers were being taken in the Bill than might strictly be necessary. I suggest that that is basically a Committee point and not fundamental. Indeed, it was implicit in his remarks that he appreciated that it was not necessarily a major obstacle to Second Reading.
As a concluding point, I should like to mention a subject touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. The importance of oil in the national economy, whatever may happen to other fuels, is bound to grow. This is an important industrial country and it is essential that whatever fuels are made available to our industry should be made available at the cheapest possible cost, because on that will depend the viability of the British economy, the competitive nature of our exports and the whole basis of British industry. If our fuel costs are high, the economy will suffer. unemployment will be created and a very serious problem will arise. Anything which reduces the costs, in particular the handling costs and the capital costs, involved and the burden on other forms of transport systems, such as a pipeline system of this nature, has a very beneficial effect.
Lastly, I would come back to the point which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. 1306 Stewart) about the need to go wider into the implications of pipelines altogether, and I would say how much I welcome the statement of the right hon. Gentleman tonight, in which he said that he was prepared to undertake a review and to report back to the House.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has given the assurance he has, and I think that at this stage something should be said about the Esso Petroleum Company, particularly after the derogatory remarks which have been made from the other side of the House.
I think we should bear in mind that the crude oil refining capacity of Fawley refinery has grown from 750,000 tons in 1938 to 11.5 million at the end of last year, and that this company has made a considerable contribution to the export trade. In fact it exported approximately £12 million of products last year. It is certainly an English company. The debenture stock of £42 million has been placed here, and also the pension fund aggregating about £23 million has of course been placed in the United Kingdom. Therefore, I think that, from whatever aspect we consider the company, its refining capacity or any other, we can say that it has made a great contribution to our economy.
The question of safeguarding the rights of private landowners, which is troubling my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) is a rather important matter, but let us get the whole thing in the right perspective. In 1957, 1958 and 1959 there were three Acts of Parliament which went through this House with little difficulty. The first affects the pipeline from Milford Haven to Llandarcy which has now been completed. Apart from one gentleman who wrote to The Times, I do not think there has been any objection either to the works or to the compensation which has been paid, and most of that will have been cleared within the next three months.
I think it is quite significant that these matters passed off so well, but perhaps there is one other even better illustration.
1307 If we take the Rotterdam—Ruhr line one has only to refer to the Financial Times of this morning to know thatTo build a pipeline they needed some 500 licences from Government, municipal and other bodies and negotiated all rights of way with 2,500 landowners in Holland and Germany.When one bears in mind that this line runs 185 miles as opposed to the total length of about 140 miles for the line under consideration, one would not have thought it would not be extremely difficult to obtain those accommodations. It is worth observing that the Petroleum Times on 17th June said thatNegotiations with landowners were carried to a successful conclusion, on an entirely voluntary basis without recourse either to compulsory acquisition or similar measures.I think that it is rather important to stress that with a very important crude oil line which goes through the central part of Western Europe, and which affects a large number of landowners, negotiations should have been brought about voluntarily with the people concerned. There is no evidence either of profiteering by individuals or of trampling on private rights, and, while I sympathise indeed with some of the suggestions put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South, I say that this must be looked at in correct perspective. I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
I beg to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to include provision to ensure that all coins, relics, articles of value or antiquity and structures and other remains or things of geological or archaeological interest discovered on the lands or in the process of the works authorised by the Bill shall be deemed to be the absolute property of the Minister of Works, and that the promoters take reasonable precautions to prevent the workmen of the promoters or their contractors or any other persons from removing or damaging any such article or thing and upon discovery thereof, and before removal to acquaint the Minister of Works of such discovery and to carry out at the expense of the promoters the Minister's orders as to the disposal of the same.This Instruction deals with disturbance to antiquities, and I hope that, even if the political arguments I was using a 1308 short while ago do not appeal to the Minister, this aspect of the matter will. I am sure that he will appreciate that Wiltshire is a county containing very many extremely important finds. I have often raised in the House matters connected with the Great Stone Circle at Avebury and the Roman roads. I see that the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works is in his place. The House will recall that he has taken part in debates in the past on this subject.
Wiltshire is a very historic county. It has many valuable antiquities within its boundaries, and no doubt there are very important ones still underground. Several learned bodies and many people concerned with the preservation of antiquities have expressed grave anxiety about the provisions of the Bill. This is the reason prompting us to move this Instruction, which we very much hope the Minister will be able to accept. Failing that, we hope that he will give us an assurance which will allay some of the anxieties which are very deeply felt.
There must be many remains of value still undiscovered underground along the route of the pipeline. It will cut through two Roman roads and go close to other existing and valuable sites. We ask, therefore, that provision should be made for looking after these things. I understand that it is common nowadays to include a Clause relating to such discoveries in most public contracts, and it seems logical that similar provision should be made in the Bill. In view of the hour, I shall not detain the House further. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give satisfaction not only to hon. Members who take an interest in these matters and to myself but to the very many people in Wiltshire and elsewhere who believe them to be of great importance.
§ 11.33 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. Harmar Nicholls)
At the Ministry of Works we appreciate very much any interest which is taken to preserve archeological finds in this country, and we have much sympathy with the spirit behind the Motion which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker) has moved. I am sorry that we cannot, for procedural and practical reasons, accept 1309 it as it stands. I think I can, however, do the other thing which the hon. Member asks me to do.
I can give a clear assurance that should allay any apprehensions which the hon. Member may have that the excavations which will take place in the construction of the pipeline are likely to rob us of any archaeological finds or treasure trove which may be in the way. I assure him that the Esso Company could not have been more co-operative than it has been. We are absolutely satisfied that it is prepared to co-operate all along the line, ensuring that any likely finds, be they archaeological or anything in the nature of loose finds or treasure trove, will be properly cared for, and the company will give us and the museums an opportunity to step in and look after them.
The reason why we do not want to accept, and could not accept, the Motion in the words appearing on the Order Paper is that it would give to the Ministry of Works ownership of the finds. This would mean that in just one narrow sector we should be taking on an ownership which we have not in any other part of the country where archeological diggings have gone on or any finds have been made.
I can give the hon. Member full assurance that we are satisfied that the interests he has in mind will be looked after. Indeed, already by negotiation, as a result of words I had with the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), we have arranged a re-routing of the pipeline in order to avoid the particularly well-known spots which I know the hon. Member has in mind. I am certain that it would not be a good thing, on this very narrow sector, to give to the Ministry an ownership which it has not hitherto had.
Through the coroner's court on treasure trove and through the inspection we intend to give to the excavations in connection with archeological finds which may be in the way, I am quite certain that the main interest which the hon. Member and his hon. Friend had in mind will be well looked after. I assure him that we are with him in the spirit of what he has said, and we intend to carry out with care what he would have us do in order to protect 1310 these finds. I hope that, with that assurance, he will feel able to withdraw the Motion.
§ Mr. F. Noel-Baker
In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, and as I do not wish to press the Instruction, thank him for the assurance that he has given and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
That, if the Examiner shall report that the Standing Order not previously inquired into has been complied with, the Bill shall be committed to a Select Committee of Nine Members, Five to be nominated by the House, and Four by the Committee of Selection.
That the promoters of the Bill may be heard in favour of the Bill by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents.
That all Petitions against the Bill be referred to the Committee and that such of the Petitioners as pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, be heard against the Bill, if they think fit.
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records.
That Five be the Quorum.—[Mr. Corfield.]
§ 11.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Corfield
I beg to move,That it be an Instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill in such a manner as will ensure that the safeguards to the interests of owners, lessees and occupiers of land likely to be affected are similar to and no less effective than those available under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, and that the interests of the public bodies referred to in paragraph 12, Part II, First Schedule to the Water Act, 1945, are similarly protected; and to inquire whether general public legislation relating to the laying, maintenance and operation of pipelines is desirable, and to report thereon to the House.I have already referred this evening to the need, as I see it, to insert safeguards for bath the public and the private interests that are likely to be affected. In my view, that is a corollary of the granting of compulsory powers of acquisition, and I believe that it is particularly necessary when we are giving these powers to a private company as opposed to a public body responsible to Parliament.
It is significant in this connection that the House has deemed it right to devise relatively elaborate safeguards where compulsory powers are exercised by 1311 public authorities. Generally speaking, these safeguards are contained in the compulsory purchase order procedure which is laid down in the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946.
In the ordinary case it is a public general Act, such as the Housing Act and the planning Acts, which confers the compulsory powers, and the actual identification of the land is left to the compulsory purchase order procedure. That procedure provides for notices to be sent to owners, occupiers and lessees and provides an opportunity to such persons to object and for their objections to be heard either at an informal hearing or perhaps, more usually, at a public inquiry where that is more appropriate.
That has to be done before a compulsory purchase order is confirmed and it is only then that the public authority, whether it be a local authority or a Government Department, can exercise its compulsory powers. It has to be admitted, I think, that the Private Bill procedure with which we are here concerned does not readily admit those particular types of safeguards. It is very frequently the practice in local authority Bills to incorporate the 1946 Act and to include those safeguards in that way. But in this type of Bill, which confers both the powers of compulsory acquisition and notifies the land, it is not easy to incorporate the 1946 Act provisions.
We have to realise that once the Bill becomes an Act the alterations which could be made to the route, however valid were the objections to any part of the route, are very limited indeed. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) upheld this document as an admirable bit of safeguarding of private interests. On page 7, we are told thatAll owners and occupiers of property will be visited by representatives of the company or their agent to plan the exact route of each pipeline. We can assure you we shall be pleased to consider any suggested deviation to the proposed route which is practical.The hon. Gentleman suggested that perhaps I had not made my intentions clear to my constituents, and therefore I will take this opportunity of warning those who read the debate not to be misled by that paragraph. The fact is that, however valid is the objection, the company will not be able to move its pipe 1312 line outside the deviation of 200 ft. of the line drawn on the map. It may be argued that once the pipe is completed it will make very little difference to the use to which the land can be used and that valid objections are not likely to arise.
Why I think that it is as well to remember that the Bill provides a prohibition against building over the pipeline at all is that, quite clearly, that can affect very considerably the value of the land in the event of it becoming at any time in the future ripe for development and receiving planning permission for development. Clearly, valid agricultural interests can arise when there are good reasons why a farmer or landowner should wish the pipeline to go along the headland of a field instead of across the middle. For instance, where a field has been tile-drained, the digging of a 3-ft. or 4-ft. ditch across the middle of a field is difficult to replace in such a way that the tiles will drain the field. There are good reasons, therefore, why a farmer should be able to say that he does not mind the pipeline crossing his land but he wants it deviated that distance.
In these days, the size of fields, particularly in Wiltshire and the southern part of Gloucestershire, is generally relatively large—for example, 18–25 acre fields. In many cases, ability to deviate 200 ft. will not get the pipeline substantially nearer to the headland than if the line as drawn is adhered to. There should, therefore, be a means of hearing these minor objections along the route and enabling the company to meet them, which it cannot do, however willing it professes to be, under the provisions of the Bill if it is passed into law in this form.
Clause 14 gives an idea of the wide public interest that will be affected. What is much more important in a project of this nature, however, is the danger of leaks. On page 7, the pamphlet states:The possibility of any leakage is, therefore, very remote. However, should this occur, compensation would be paid for any damage sustained and you will be indemnified against any third party claim arising from it.If it is necessary to put that in this document, it is surely necessary to pay regard to the danger of a leak to the public services, and particularly water 1313 undertakings. That is why, in the Instruction, we have incorporated the various bodies that are mentioned in the First Schedule to the Water Act, 1945, which are the bodies primarily concerned with matters of water supply and which could be seriously affected if there was a leak in either of the pipes.
It may also be argued that the Private Bill procedure to some extent provides safeguards, but I regard that as only partially true. Certainly, the promoters and opponents can be heard on petition, but petition against a Private Bill is an extremely expensive undertaking. Even such large bodies as the National Farmers' Union hesitate to undertake this sort of expense. Even if they did, they could not possibly represent the interests of each farmer all the way along the two routes of approximately 75 miles each and in a way that would be able to take into account the objections and demands for small deviations such as I have mentioned. On petition, it would be possible to make objections of a general type only, which would not give the opportunity to the small man to state his case.
The object, therefore, of the Instruction is simply to permit the ordinary safeguards which would be applicable to a public undertaking exercising compulsory powers to be made applicable to this exercise of compulsory powers by a private company. Furthermore, because pipelines, as several hon. Members have said, are likely to become more common, as they have done in other countries, the House should have the opportunity of considering whether it is not time to introduce a general code covering the laying of pipelines—a sort of Oil Pipelines Clauses Act, similar to what has been done in the past for railways, canals, roads, electricity undertakings and the like. If that is the proper way of going about it, clearly the House should consider the type of Act of that nature which should cover this procedure.
I understand that Standing Orders governing Private Business, and particularly Standing Order No. 175, would not permit the House on a Bill of this sort to pass a wide Instruction to the Committee which would allow it to insert these safeguards as the Bill is already drawn. It is for that reason that we have chosen this idea of a special Select Committee. I hope that it will not be out of 1314 order in this connection if, in passing, I paid tribute to the enormous assistance that I have had from the Clerks in the Private Bill Office. I should like also to take the opportunity of apologising to them for the innumerable times that I have interrupted them in the last four days when clearly they have had other work to do.
I am sure 'that this procedure, although relatively rarely used—I think that it 'has been used nine times in the last fifty years—is the appropriate procedure for a Bill of this sort and one whereby the wider issues which ought to be considered can be considered. The Instructions simply insert the safeguards which are absolutely similar to those in the 1946 Act, but because that Act was mainly concerned with occupiers and lessees and owners of the land to be acquired under that Act, it has been necessary to include those other undertakings of a public nature which are likely to be affected by this Bill.
The other argument which my right hon. Friend has put forward is that a complete following of the 1946 provisions, including that for a public inquiry, might introduce inordinate delay. Although I should be perfectly willing to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), leaving it to the Committee to have a wide discretion about the actual safeguards to be inserted, and to accept my right hon. Friend's undertaking to have a Government inquiry about provisions in the wider field that should be applicable in the future, I hope that it will not be taken by the Committee that public inquiry is to be ruled out in all cases. In many cases it may be the only appropriate method of safeguarding interests and of dealing with specific objections that may arise.
I am less impressed by my right hon. Friend's urge not to cause delay than I am by the rest of his arguments. In the first place we must remember that the sole purpose of the Avonmouth line is to feed the I.C.I. factory that I have already mentioned. I.C.I. first started to acquire land in Gloucestershire three years ago. If it has delayed in deciding what chemical it wants to bring or how to bring it, or if the delay is the fault of the Esso Petroleum Company, that is unfortunate but it is no justification for 1315 demanding of the House that its procedure should be influenced in any way by the fact that delay has occurred, or for asking us to allow the riding over of interests which otherwise we would not allow because of a delay which is entirely in the hands of the directors of these two companies.
As for the pipeline to London Airport, no doubt the delay may again be unfortunate. No doubt the company may not be able to fulfil its obligations to its customers, as it puts it. That means that it may lose some customers to Shell whose pipeline was laid some years ago and which perhaps was more fortunate in the Members for the constituencies through which it was laid. I cannot believe that the danger of Esso losing customers to Shell should seriously influence the House of Commons in altering what it believes to be the right procedure.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
I think my hon. Friend has failed to appreciate that the delay would cause inconvenience to the people of London by causing additional tanker traffic which could not be met by the existing pipeline.
§ Mr. Corfield
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, but I have no evidence at all that the Shell pipeline is working to full capacity.
I believe that these safeguards are right and that it is right that we should make efforts to ensure that they are written into the Bill. It would be wrong to allow the Bill to pass without them. I further believe that, as I am advised, the method adopted by way of the Motion and Instruction is that most appropriate and suitable for the purpose.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Will the hon. Gentleman clear up this point? He said that the company could not, even if it would, deviate more than 200 feet from the line laid down. But if it is dealing with a land owner who says "I do not mind your pipeline coming but I should like it a quarter of a mile this side or that", is there anything to prevent the land owner and the company voluntarily agreeing upon that and the company not using its powers of compulsory acquisition?
§ Mr. Corfield
The hon. Member will appreciate that once one deviates a quarter of a mile one will eventually come up against somebody who will not agree and the compulsory powers will be necessary, and for that purpose one has to get back into the 400 foot channel. Unless the land owner will agree about the land to be used for the deviation or bringing the pipeline bank again, it will be an impossible undertaking except for a rare piece of luck.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Neave (Abingdon)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Instruction, to leave out from "ensure" to the end of the Question and to insert instead thereof:adequate safeguards to the interests of owners lessees and occupiers of land likely to be affected, bearing in mind the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, and to the interests of the public bodies referred to in paragraph 12, Part II, First Schedule to the Water Act, 1945".In view of the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire. South (Mr. Cot-field), in which he apparently accepted my Amendment. I move the Amendment formally.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That it be an Instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill in such a manner as will ensure adequate safeguards to the interests of owners lessees and occupiers of land likely to be affected, bearing in mind the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act. 1946, and to the interests of the public bodies referred to in paragraph 12, Part II, First Schedule to the Water Act, 1945.