§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
I am grateful for having the opportunity to put the case for the promoters of the Bill. It has created a great deal of interest in the country, and I think on both sides of the House. It has aroused a certain amount of feeling one way and another about how these proposals should be developed to the best national advantage.
The Bill seeks to achieve Parliamentary permission to lay a pipeline 70 miles long between Canvey Island in the Thames and Denham in Bucks. In the main, the route of the pipeline follows the property of the British Transport Commission. It runs 21 miles along the towpaths of canals and seventeen or eighteen miles along railway property. About twenty miles of it is within an easement of the North Thames Gas Board. The property of the various parties that would be asked to give way-leaves covers an insignificant mileage.
I think that the House ought to be grateful to the promoters of the Bill for bringing it forward. It has galvanised the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and of Parliament in general. It concerns a very important and urgent matter. I think that we can reasonably hope that when my right hon. Friend intervenes in the debate he will make a statement which will be reassuring to many people. It may be more reassuring to hon. Members on this side than to hon. Members opposite, but I do not think that even they will be too despondent about what he has to say. I feel that he is bound to say the sort of things that any Minister of the Crown must say about matters like this.
700 We are a little behind in this regard. America and the Continent already have in working order many hundreds of miles of pipelines such as those which we envisage. We shall have to take second place, but that may not be altogether a bad thing, because in planning our system we shall learn a great deal from them and we shall not, if I may borrow a phrase from one of my right hon. Friends which I thought was extremely apt, "land ourselves with a plate of spaghetti".
The difference between this Bill and the Esso Bill of last year is that this Bill seeks to be a multi-user Bill. In other words, what the promoters wish to have is a pipeline through which will pass all manner of liquids. They envisage, in the first place, to pass along the pipeline the liquids produced by the oil companies, and later, as other ideas develop, other materials. It has been said that it is possible to pass even such things as coal along pipelines of the type that we are discussing. We can, therefore, look forward to wonderful things in the use of these pipelines.
It would be as well to say a few words about the position of the British Transport Commission if the scheme which is envisaged should materialise. The promoters of the Bill have entered into negotiations with the British Transport Commission, as a result of which the Commission would get a share of the profits from the workings of the pipeline and, should leave be given later to extend the system a share of the profits resulting from the extension. I think that this is a much better idea than having a fixed royalty of so much for the right to use so many miles of railway, canal towpath or whatever it may be. It is obvious that these pipelines will be used a great deal and that there will, therefore, be a considerable and growing revenue for the railways and for the canals. Hon. Members know that I am not altogether disinterested in the last matter.
A survey has been carried out along the length of canal from London to Liverpool. If the pipeline were built it would undoubtedly be very beneficial to the revenues of the canals. In designing the pipeline the greatest care must be taken to save the amenities. I visualise that there may have to be a number of pipes going along certain tracks, as it 701 were, and, therefore, it might well be necessary to make a container within the towpath of a canal which would take as many as three, four, five or perhaps six lines. If that were done the container would have to be buried. It would, therefore, not be an eyesore.
The trouble about the Bill is that it is likely to cut across what might well be, and what ought to be, general Government policy. I believe that it is only right to say that the promoters of the Bill are well aware of this. I am authorised to say that if my right hon. Friend makes a statement which is acceptable to the House in general and to the pro moters, they are prepared to withdraw their Bill on the understanding that speedy Government action will be taken. Above all, we feel that whatever Govern-action is taken—
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, that if the Government undertake this contract they will withdraw the Bill?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
No. I have not finished explaining the position. If the Government undertake to study the matter quickly and to bring forward general legislation as quickly as possible—I mean legislation not for this particular pipeline but for the whole country—and provided there is within the format of that legislation a place for private enterprise to play its part, then the promoters would be willing cheerfully to withdraw the Bill.
I think that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the firm which has brought forward these proposals. A great deal of money has been involved—I understand about £70,000. This seems to be a large sum of money in the promotion of a Bill, but I assure the House that it includes the cost of the very careful survey which was made over the whole route of the proposed pipeline and over the route from London to Liverpool. The promoters had to spend the money to see whether they could lay the pipeline. They have found that they could. If the Bill is withdrawn they will have to pay the costs of bringing it forward. It is only right, therefore, that we should be grateful to them for bringing it forward and for galvanising us into action. It would be a good thing also if the oil companies generally should see what is being done 702 for them, because it is very much in their interests that this pipeline should be built.
Whether there will be pipelines devoted to a company's private use or whether there will be multi-user pipes such as is envisaged in the Bill are matters for debate in the future, but we should be grateful to the promoters of this Bill for what they have done. I feel that the debate will be a landmark in our history because we are about to embark upon something the application of which is bound to have far-reaching results in our national life. One of the small but, in my view, important things is that it will remove a great many lorries from our roads, with the resultant loss of all those dreadful fumes from which we suffer so much today. In addition, this development will be an important factor in contributing within the years remaining to the increasing, and indeed doubling, of our standard of life in twenty-five years of which the Leader of the House spoke some years ago.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think that it will be for the general convenience if I indicate that in due course I shall call the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) and others—the "six months" Amendment—and that the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) and other hon. MembersThat this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which anticipates general public legislation and which makes no provision for the comprehensive and co-ordinated development of pipelines under public ownership and control.is not selected.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Gunter (Southwark)
I am sure that many of us have heard with some relief the statement made by the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) that in all probability the Bill will be withdrawn, because I rise to oppose its Second Reading. But I must agree with the hon. Member that we should feel thankful that the Government have been galvanised into some sort of action as a result of the Bill being presented.
It was on 6th March that the Minister announced that the Government had found it necessary to legislate to secure in the national interest the orderly development of privately-owned industrial 703 pipelines. I am surprised that the Government have waited this long before facing up to what may be a major development in the transport industry not only of this country but of the world. It appears that if we had not had the discussion on the Esso Petroleum Bill and the presentation of this Bill we should be still floundering about and lagging behind other countries in this respect.
I should have thought that over the past few years the Government would have been grappling with the problems and the social and economic consequences that may flow from a development of this kind. Whatever we are able to do in this country, and I am not expert enough to prophesy how rapidly this project will develop or to predict its magnitude, there are bound to be various effects. It has been considered in the past that the comparatively short distance for which traffic has to be carried and the rarity of upsets by weather conditions of our normal transport did not necessitate this development to the degree that has taken place in other countries. But it is the duty of all people engaged in industry, and particularly in the transport world, and it is emphatically the duty of the Government, to watch closely and learn as rapidly as they can the lessons that can be derived from the experiments which are now being conducted on a broad pattern in other countries.
It is interesting to read of the great development nowadays behind the Iron Curtain in this form of transport. I understand that there is in course of construction a great pipeline running from Baku on the Caspian right to Poland, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and it is obvious from its length and the size of the refineries at the terminal points of this great pipeline that it is aimed at expansion westwards. Russian oil is already playing an important part in bilateral agreements. In the United States there is already a 110 miles long pipeline for the transport of coal. Experiments on a large scale have been conducted in the conveyance of such things as sugar, cement and flour, which are being increasingly carried in this country by tankers on the road but which we may yet see carried underground.
704 Although we are not quite sure, and I hope that the Minister will tell us more about the rate of development, I submit that there is urgency about ensuring that this form of transport is developed in an orderly and, I hope this time, an integrated fashion. There are obvious advantages about pipeline conveyance. It is cheap. I remember reading that to carry a 42-gallon drum of petrol from Philadelphia to New York costs 4s. and that it costs only 6d. by pipeline. We can therefore see the advantages that accrue in that respect, and such a development could do much to relieve congestion on our roads.
There are these advantages, but every page of transport history in this country shows that when we have a new form of transport there are inevitably great economic and social consequences. It is, therefore, very necessary and proper that enlightened legislation should be produced quickly to deal with this new form of transport that may—I put it no higher—develop at a rapid rate.
I beg the Minister to read and re-read the history and sometimes the tragedy of legislation affecting canals, railways and roads in the past in this country. I am not anxious to score any political point on this, but we all agree that the legislation that dealt with railways as they affected canals and the legislation that dealt with railways when they were hit by the roads was largely responsible for landing us in the mess and in the confused state that we find ourselves in the transport industry today. I do not want to be too harsh on our fathers, but at least let us produce legislation this time that will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Here I enter into the field of politics. I am convinced that if action of this kind is left in the hands of private enterprise to develop we shall have the same mistakes. We must reject the Private Bill system, therefore, as being completely inadequate for dealing with this kind of thing. On this point I can do no better than quote the paper of the top people. The Times, which in a leading article on 7th March dealing with pipelines said:The inadequacy of the Private Bill system is by now well-recognised. One of its weaknesses is that in some cases it does not give enough protection to owners of property affected, and it may well be questioned in any case whether private property rights should be overridden in favour of an unregulated private 705 profit-making enterprise. Local authorities are not sufficiently protected against longer-term inconveniences that they may suffer. Another weakness is still more fundamental—that only those directly affected by the proposed route of the pipeline may enter objections, and in consequence the choice of alternative routes cannot be properly considered in the light of the wider public and private interests involved. Nor, it seems, is there any means whereby the continuing obligations of this new form of transport can be satisfactorily laid down. The question of the specific weaknesses of the Private Bills procedure merges, in fact, with the wider question whether oil pipelines are not a public utility—not necessarily to be publicly owned but at any rate regulated as regards their powers and obligations by statute.I think, therefore, that there can be no disagreement in the House that Private Bill procedure is not suitable for this purpose.
What, then, should we be looking for in the general legislation which the Government have undertaken to produce? If we accept that pipeline transport is to be a major factor in considering transport problems, if we have to revise our previous judgment that Britain was too small a country and too well-equipped with other forms of transport, because of the cheapness and speed of pipelines and the relief of road congestion, and the fact that they may well become capable of carrying many other products, fluid or solid, then we have to face the consequences of this major change in transport and its influence upon economic and social life.
We are deeply aware of the effects of railway and road development in this country. Let me repeat to the Minister that I would not be dogmatic or prophetic about the future of pipelines in this country, but I think that he should tell the House tonight what the opinions of the experts are about the trends, so far as they can be ascertained, in this direction over the next decade and their effects upon industry and upon our people.
One thing about which I am quite clear—and I am sure that I shall take the Minister with me on this—is that if this new means of transport is found to have beneficial results for British industry, then, for heaven's sake, we should not allow any doctrines or party politics or conservative thinking to stop its development. The more effective and cheap we can make our industry, the better it is for us.
706 I should like to submit to the House certain of my and my party's thoughts on what the policy should be. First, I would say that when the Government are considering this matter they should evolve a coherent plan for the country as a whole, so that the history of the canals and railways is not repeated. The other thing that I would emphasise, and I think that it was conceded by the hon. Member for Nantwich, is that there should be a provision that the lines should be for common use and not restricted to the products of private concerns owning the lines. In other words, in this development we should seek to ensure common-user rights.
I and my party believe that there should be public ownership of the lines from the start. They will be a source of revenue; their extent and location will effect the whole economy; their construction and management will require continual contact both with local and central government. Development of this kind is likely to affect railway revenues. It is likely to effect employment in that section of our industry, and to effect it adversely. There is an offset if the pipes are laid, as far as possible, along existing railway tracks or canals. In so far as the lines will diminish the value of one public asset, this, I submit, is an additional reason for their being publicly owned. As I have said, pipelines will affect our traffic on the roads, but, as we hope that the whole economy is expanding, there may be no threat to employment, and the mitigation of traffic congestion will be a tremendous advantage to us.
Since the first and most obvious use of pipelines is for oil—and this is a point which is worrying our friends in the coal industry—they may, by making the distribution of oil easier, become a further threat to the coal industry. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the Government to press on their researches to make this modern means of transport available for the conveyance of coal. In our thinking on policy for the future we have to consider how we should handle this situation which may affect many in the field of local government in town and country planning. A pipeline terminal—it has already been proved on the Continent—may well become a centre from which road traffic radiates, and in this and 707 other ways a great nuisance to those living in its neighbourhood. We know that some pipelines—to a limited extent, I hope—will have to pass over or under commons, or traverse places of national beauty, and we want to be sure that there will be no desecration of our countryside.
We also know the anxiety felt by many of our local authorities on this matter, because the construction and maintenance and repair of these lines will probably involve the taking up of highways. This aspect of the Bill has already alarmed certain local authorities and they have made representations to nearly all hon. Members. We must be quite sure that general legislation will lay it down that proper safety measures are enforced. I have no desire to detain the House longer, particularly in view of what has been said by the previous speaker, but I hope that the Minister will make as comprehensive a statement as he can upon the Government's intention and how they propose to deal with this emerging form of transport. I hope that we shall not be laggardly in using every means to learn from experiments abroad so that what we may contribute a great deal to the prosperity and well being of our people.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
The number of hon. Members who are present in the Chamber this evening for a Private Bill shows the interest that is felt in this matter and reflects the interest felt throughout the country in the problem of how we should conduct our pipeline legislation. I do not think that there is any fundamental disagreement between any of us on this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), in the attractive way in which he put the case for the promoters, made it quite clear that the promoters did not expect the Bill to receive a Second Reading tonight, and that what they want is an indication of what the Government have in mind regarding future legislation.
Whether the Bill is withdrawn or is refused a Second Reading does not really matter. What does matter is that the Bill in its present form should not go a further stage. I say that, not because I have any views about the merits of 708 what the promoters seek to achieve in the Bill; they may well be unexceptionable. The reasons why I think that the Bill should not be allowed to go any further is that Private Bills are not suitable for dealing with pipeline authorisation. It is on this aspect of the matter that I would seek to enlist the support of the House.
When the Esso Bill came before Parliament in the last Session, and it had much in common with this Bill, the House, instead of sending it to a Private Bill Committee, thought that the whole principle involved was of such importance that a Select Committee, on which I had the privilege of serving as Chairman, was set up to consider it. I should like to pay tribute to my colleagues on that Committee on both sides of the House, a number of whom are in the Chamber tonight, for their hard work and robust common sense.
Our Committee on the Esso Bill reported unanimously that we were convinced that Private Bill procedure was not the best way of safeguarding the interests of owners, lessees or occupiers when a pipeline is to be constructed. We recommended that no further Private Bills for the construction of pipelines should be passed by this House. We went on to say—because we wanted to be constructive—that we were attracted by the idea that such measures should be authorised by Provisional Order, and commended to the House for consideration that a public enquiry should be held before the Order was made, and that the Order itself should be affirmed by a Provisional Order Bill.
The reason for this is that not only are landowners and occupiers affected, but also people in the vicinity, whom we must not forget. It is not only those across whose land pipelines pass who may be affected, but others in the vicinity. Two objectors, for instance, to the Esso Bill, were brewery companies in the neighbourhood who drew water from the area for their beer. Some of those affected may wish the pipeline to take a different course.
The weakness of private Bill procedure is that a Committee on a Private Bill has no power to alter the route beyond the "limits of deviation" on the plans deposited with the Bill, since this might involve affecting people who would not 709 have had notice and been given an opportunity of objecting. The Committee on the Esso Bill was, therefore, compelled to report that ithad been unable to give the full protection offered by the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946,which involves a local inquiry, held by a Minister, at which objectors may make their case.
If there is to be a local inquiry, together with some form of Parliamentary control, as the Committee envisaged, that means that there are three possible forms of procedure open to us—Provisional Orders, Orders subject to special Parliamentary Procedure under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, or Orders subject to affirmative resolution only.
The idea of local inquiries was supported by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, and I should like to take this opportunity of thanking him for the way in which he has kept me in close touch with his thoughts in the matter. In answer to a question which I put to him, he said that the Government proposed to legislate, and added:The legislation will provide that, where there are objections by public bodies or private individuals to a project, those objections may be heard at a public inquiry and that, in appropriate cases, the Minister's decision will be subject to the approval of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1961; Vol. 636. c.2.]He subsequently defined "appropriate cases" as beingthose where compulsory purchase orders are sought.My right hon. Friend went on to say that before he laid detailed proposals before Parliament he would consult the various interests that would be affected. From this it would appear that what he has in mind is not Provisional Orders, which the Esso Bill Select Committee recommended, but special Parliamentary procedure, since all Provisional Orders are subject to the approval of Parliament, and not merely "appropriate cases."
It is because I feel that it is important that my right hon. Friend should get his legislation right in draft rather than, having drafted the legislation, find himself up against a number of us who are trying to protect the functions of Parliament and the rights of objectors, 710 that I am venturing to detain the House a little longer. I also want to alert the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Urban District Councils' Association and the Rural District Councils' Association, not to mention the Society of Parliamentary Agents, whom I have no doubt the Minister will be consulting. If their previous representations are anything to go by, I think that they will have views highly critical of special procedure.
It seems to me wholly inappropriate that legislation which was designed specifically to deal with what was described in the White Paper, Cmd. 6515, as the "Reconstruction Period" when a flood of reconstruction Orders was apparently expected, and when it was felt that these should not be obstructed by private interests, should now be applied to an entirely new field—namely, pipelines.
It is not as if Special Procedure Orders were generally acceptable. In April, 1959, on the Leicester (Amendment of Local Enactments) Order, 1959, debates took place in both Houses in which the working of the Act was adversely commented upon by Members on both sides. Special Procedure Orders have the effect, which I am sure my right hon. Friend does not intend, of avoiding the Parliamentary scrutiny of orders. I should be grateful if he would indicate what attracts him to Special Procedure Orders as against Provisional Order Bills, because there are some very serious defects in them. One of them is that, except for the handful of Special Procedure Orders where objection is raised, Parliamentary scrutiny is actually less than that given to Statutory Instruments subject to annulment.
This is because, in the first place, Special Procedure Orders are not referred to the Statutory Instruments Committee of the Commons and, in the second place, the time for their anulment by a Resolution of either House is only fourteen days compared with forty days for a Statutory Instrument.
My next objection to the use of the Special Procedure Order is that, unless a Petition is presented against the Order, it cannot be amended. Like a Statutory Instrument, it must either be approved or rejected as a whole. This means that settlements cannot be arrived at, 711 even when the promoters are agreeable and willing to make small alterations to meet people who would otherwise have to go to the expense of petitioning, unless the whole order is withdrawn.
It also means that drafting Amendments cannot be made. These are often very necessary, as has been shown with Unopposed Provisional Order Bills which have had the benefit of Government drafting. In the Second Reading debate on the Special Procedure Order Bill in another place, it was pointed out by Lord Mersey, who was acting Chairman of Committees, that, in a year taken at random, out of thirty-four Provisional Order Bills, fourteen were amended in one or both Houses. The lack of possibility of amendment seems particularly inappropriate to a pipelines Bill, when there must inevitably be a mass of detailed and complicated provisions, and where a large number of individuals may well be affected.
The place to consider matters of this kind is not on the Floor of the House but in a small Committee, assisted by counsel, maps, plans and witnesses as necessary. Yet if Special Order procedure is to be adopted, not only will this Order not come under detailed examination, but no officer or Committee of the House has the right—let alone the duty—to call for an explanation of any Clause.
Now I come to when a Petition is presented against a Special Procedure Order. In this case, even a Joint Committee can only make Amendments "to give effect to the Petition" and not other amendments which might improve the Order. This applies even although, as has happened with some Special Procedure Orders, an error has been discovered by the Minister and he desires to make an Amendment.
If someone wishes to object to the Order as a whole, as opposed to only a part of it, the position is even worse, since such a Petition "of general objection" can only reach a Committee after a Motion is agreed to by the House, referring it to a Joint Committee. The difficulties of organising this are almost insuperable.
The petitioner must—all in the space of fourteen days—consider the effect of the Order on himself and his property; 712 take any necessary professional advice; draft and deposit his Petition in conformity with a complex list of rules and Standing Orders; contact two Members of Parliament or Peers, one to put down a motion to annul the Order, the other to put down an Amendment to refer his Petition to a joint committee, and finally, still within the fourteen days, obtain a majority of Peers or Members to stay late at night and vote for him on a complex local matter, outside their constituencies and almost certainly against the advice of the Government Whips.
My final objection to the use of the Special Order procedure is its extreme rigidity. Firstly, petitioning time is only fourteen days from the laying of the Order, compared with two months in the case of Private Bills. Secondly, the time for moving Motions to annul is only fourteen days, compared with forty days for Statutory Instruments. These fourteen days may, in practice, be reduced to four or five working Parliamentary days. Thirdly, there is no procedure for relaxing the rules, for example, for late petitions, as is the case with Private Bills.
Therefore, I come again to the Esso Bill Select Committee and its recommendation of Provisional Order Bills as the proper way to deal with this type of legislation. This conclusion was only reached after the most careful consideration. Provisional Order Bills are more satisfactory, since they ensure adequate Parliamentary control and opportunity for Amendments, settlements, and so on, to be arrived at.
I have heard of only two objections to Provisional Order Bills. The first is that they are more expensive. That difficulty can be overcome if the Government legislation on pipelines includes provisions such as the waiving of House fees and printing requirements, and possibly requiring a hearing by a Joint Committee instead of Committees in each House.
The other objection is that Provisional Orders take longer than Special Procedure Orders. This would strike me as not such a bad thing, although they need not take so long if a hearing before a Joint Committee took the place of a hearing by a Committee in each House. One of the most recent Provisional Orders took only twenty-three days in the Commons.
713 I apologise to the House for having taken up so much time, but I regard it as important that, in what may become a substantial new field of legislation, we should get off on the right foot and that we should get our procedure right from the beginning.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) began his speech by congratulating the promoters of the Bill for galvanising the Government into action. I would like to express my thanks to the promoters, but in a more limited way, because I shall have some harsh words to say about this matter.
The promoters are to be thanked for providing us with an opportunity for a debate on an important matter of public policy. I also thank them for providing me with some information, and a useful folder in which to put my notes. But that is as far as I can go in my thanks.
After all, it was not the promoters who galvanised the Government into action. It was partly, as the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) said, the Select Committee on the Esso Bill, and also hon. Members who pressed on the Government during the Second Reading of the Esso Bill, the necessity for making a proper review of this whole and important developing new field of transport. Hon. Members must consider whether or not the promoters have acted rightly in pressing on with this Bill, first, in the face of the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee on the Esso Bill, secondly, the acceptance of that recommendation by the Minister with the approval of the House, and, thirdly, the thrice repeated opposition of the Minister to the Bill.
I do not take the view that the promoters were seeking to perform a public service in spending a good deal of money and time with going on with a Bill which, clearly, is doomed. I noted with some care the provisional proposal for the withdrawal of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill which was put forward by the hon. Member for Nantwich who said that withdrawal would be conditional on two things: first, an undertaking by the Government that there would be early legislation to deal with 714 this whole question; and, secondly, that the Minister would indicate that within the framework of public legislation, a way would be left for private enterprise. That, I should have thought, was the real motive of the promoters.
What they are after is to find a way of making further profits. They would not otherwise have gone on with the Bill, nor would they have sought to stake a claim in whatever may happen in the future. The specific proposals made by the promoters, so far as I can judge by the information they have supplied to me, and by the inquiries I have made, do not really add up to a carefully considered scheme which is worthy of the consideration of the House and of the Government. Frankly, it looked to me as being a half-baked scheme, and I am not altered in that view after having heard what the hon. Member for Nantwich had to say.
The promoters are suggesting the building of a pipeline running from the Thames Estuary, up to Denham, and, eventually, up to Merseyside, with various spurs. But we have not heard from the promoters, or from the hon. Member for Nantwich, what the requirements are. There has been no assessment of the likely traffic to be carried in this pipeline, no indication that any prospective users have said that they are prepared to make use of it, and no indication that the spur lines will serve a useful purpose or are even required. Neither is it explained where they should be.
There has been a great deal of publicity in the Press about the wonderful things which could happen in the future when these pipelines are fully developed; that they are capable of being used to carry not only oil, but semi-solids as well as solids. If that is the case, and if that is what the promoters have in view, why are they proposing to lay down only a 10-inch pipeline? What use will a 10-inch pipeline be in the light of future developments?
In America, where pipelines are used for these purposes, they use 24-inch pipelines. Thus, a 10-inch pipeline would be totally inadequate for the purposes envisaged in the future. Obviously, if the promoters were successful with this Measure, they would eventually have to seek new powers to lay down another pipeline along side the existing one, with 715 further disturbance to the properties over which they would have to pass. Altogether, one cannot regard this as a fully considered, rationally planned scheme which would be worthy of public approval.
The promoters of the Bill—we should be frank about this; we cannot really blame them—are only doing what private interests have done in this country and will no doubt continue to do for a long time until they are curbed. They are staking out a claim in something which looks like being a good thing in the future. They wish to get powers to acquire a semi-monopoly position in an important, new and developing field of transport in order to make profits. That is the position.
I say that it is altogether wrong that the Private Bill procedure, in particular, should be used to enable private persons to seek special claims and rights for the making of profits. It is perfectly true, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), that this happened in the nineteenth century in connection with canals and railways. In recent years we have witnessed the chaotic result of what was done then—the provision of a partly duplicated and partly inadequate system of transport.
That was done largely by the promotion of Private Bills in a piecemeal fashion in which each promoter was seeking special advantages for himself and for his group of friends. That kind of thing may have been good enough for the buccaneering days of nineteenth century profitability. It is not good enough for the twentieth century, and we can not allow it to be repeated. I would go further—
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
If the hon. Member is proposing to make excursions into railway history, will he admit that the "buccaneers", as he called them, provided a railway system within the short period of ten years? We were provided with a complete railway system by private enterprise at its own cost in a very short time.
§ Mr. Warbey
Without going into the whole of railway history, I would not suggest that they did not act without a great deal of speed and energy and that, in many directions, there were useful 716 and valuable results. But, nevertheless, the total result of these unco-ordinated private efforts was that, in the end, we had an unco-ordinated system which, as I say, was overlapping and duplicating in some places, and, in others, inadequate for the public purpose.
We must see that in this new and developing field of transport that story is not repeated. We must certainly ensure, as a matter of principle, that we do not allow public and Parliamentary sanction to be given to private groups to enjoy statutory rights over a monopoly or semi-monopoly system of transport which would enable them to make profit for themselves.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Will the hon. Member please explain why he says that there will be only a 10-inch pipeline which will not be big enough for the purpose, and then says that these people will have a monopoly and that no one else will have an opportunity to lay a pipeline?
§ Mr. Warbey
I was careful to refer to a semi-monopoly. In fact, as we see in the case of the railways and canals, and as we have seen in the case of the pipelines already developed in this country, there is no question of an absolute monopoly. Nevertheless, whoever gets in first, and gets into an advantageous position, will have very definite advantages over his competitors and the community as a whole.
We can see, that for example, in the case of a number of pipelines being developed, or which it is proposed shall be developed, toward London Airport. First, there was one, then two, then three, and now, in this Bill, a fourth is proposed. That is the way the thing goes on, without any consideration for the real needs of the community in respect of that form of development. At certain stages it confers a specific advantage on private individuals which ought not to happen. I would go further and say, as has been said by my hon. Friend, that this whole matter is so much a question of public interest and of sustaining the interest of the community in the co-ordinated development of transport that we cannot allow it to be subjected to any form of piecemeal private development, even within the framework of public legislation.
717 I hope that we shall have a much more explicit indication from the Minister of what the Government have in mind than we have so far been given. The hon. Member for Dover dealt with a question of particular forms of Parliamentary procedure which the Minister might have in mind. In particular, I think it important to know whether the Minister is thinking only of retaining parliamentary approval in those cases where compulsory powers are asked for. As I understand, if the promoters of the Bill were ever to get their way, and be able to put down a pipeline as far as Denham, it would be possible to extend it from Denham to Merseyside solely by agreement with the British Transport Commission regarding wayleaves and without seeking compulsory powers at all; and Parliament might be left out of the question altogether,
I hope that the Minister will go further. This is not only a matter of specific forms of Parliamentary procedure, even if we set up a system of general legislation, public inquiry, Ministerial approval, Parliamentary approval, and so on. Does it mean that this whole matter of pipeline development will depend on the initiation of applications by private interests? Will the Government wait for applications to come in from private interests? Will they deal with those applications in a piecemeal fashion, as inevitably they must, if they rely on the initiative to come from private interests? Or are the Government proposing to work out a plan for pipeline development as a whole in accordance with an assessed estimate of national need?
Will the Government set up a public body to ensure that whatever development takes place is in conformity with the national need and that there will be a continuing oversight over the development? That is the very least that can be asked of the Government by hon. Members on this side of the House and the very least that is asked by people who support right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
In the leading article to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark referred, The Times came to the conclusion very firmly that, sooner or later, public control over pipeline systems would have to be much more systematic and extensive. In a leading article on 718 the same day, 7th March, the Guardian definitely took the view that all this development would need to be closely co-ordinated and that public ownership under one authority might well be the solution.
Anybody who did not adopt a doctrinaire approach to this question would be forced to that view. In a matter which is expected to be one of national interest, what kind of system, other than public ownership and control, will ensure that this important development of transport takes place in such a way that there is no conferring of special rights on private interests, and so that it is in accordance with a co-ordinated plan of development and with the total national need? I do not believe that there is any other method. This is not a doctrinaire question. I am forced to the conclusion that the only way in which this development can be controlled in future is through public ownership, and I hope that the Minister will say so.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)
There has been some talk in several speeches about galvanisation and whether the Government were galvanised and, if so, by whom. It is not necessarily proper for me to enter that argument tonight, but I tell the company responsible for our debate that it has so far been extremely useful and I have no doubt that it will continue to be so, because from both sides of the House I have heard views which will be extremely important in the Government's efforts to reach the best procedure for the future to deal with the pipeline development which is certain to take place.
I want briefly to refer to one or two statements which I made on the Second Reading of the Esso Bill, and since. I apologise for quoting from my own speeches. I am reluctant to do so on the whole, and I occasionally find it rather embarrassing, but I have to do so this evening in order to put certain things on the record and to explain the attitude which the Government take to the present proposal.
The first quotation is from my speech on 28th June, last year, on the Second Reading of the Esso Bill, when I said:…the Government believe that it is most important that an examination should take 719 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1960; Vol. 625, c.1303.]After the Esso Bill was given a Second Reading that night, the next important step was the Special Report of the Select Committee to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) referred, especially its recommendation that no further Private Bills for the construction of pipelines should be passed by the House. I shall refer later to the very interesting speech that my hon. Friend made about the relative merits of the Provisional Order procedure or special Parliamentary procedure.
The noble Lord, Lord Mills, in a debate in another place in November, underlined what I had said and said that the Government were undertaking an examination of the general problem of pipeline development. In answer to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) in November, I repeated that undertaking and said that we hoped to make a statement before very long.
On that occasion, the first occasion on which it was possible to express a view on the proposal which we are now discussing, I said:I think it is impossible for the Government to give support to that Bill in the light of the recommendation of the Select Committee, and while we are also awaiting the results of the inquiry which I promised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1960; Vol. 631, c.9.]Finally—and it will relieve the House to know that this is the last quotation—on 6th March I announced the Government's intention about future procedure and I said:So far as the Trunk Pipelines Bill is concerned, I have said on two occasions that it is impossible for the Government to support the Bill. As the House will realise, it would not be subject to the new procedure which the Government have decided should be applied to projects of this kind. I think the House would agree that the Trunk Pipelines Bill deals with a very important project, and it therefore might be expected to need this new procedure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c.2–3.]The speeches so far made in the debate make it clear that those sentiments command the acceptance of every hon. Member who has spoken so far, and perhaps also those who will take part in 720 the debate. Everyone feels that this project is very important and, the Government having reached the conclusion that there should be a new and general procedure to deal with these matters, I think that it is generally felt that the procedure ought to apply to a project of this kind.
Since 6th March, we have been making preparations for consulting the fairly long list of interests concerned in order to get their views about what the best procedure for the future should be. The kind of procedure which the House and I have in mind is that proposals should be put forward—and I do not want to side-track the question raised by the hon. Member for Ashfield by suggesting that they need on all occasions be brought forward only by private enterprise—and that then there should be provision for a public inquiry—and this accords with the wishes of the House—where all the interests affected can make representations. The inquiry might be on the lines of those held when the Generating Board make proposals to build generating stations or place grid lines over the country, with anyone able to be heard and make representations, the subsequent procedure being to allow the House of Commons to express an opinion on the provisional decision reached as a result of the public inquiry.
The hon. Member for Ashfield made the point that it was important for Parliament to be allowed to look at all the proposals that might be made. He was quite right. An important project which did not happen to require compulsory powers might escape the net. I feel that the procedure which is eventually agreed upon must be such that important projects of the kind he mentioned should be those on which Parliament should have the right to express a view.
On the other hand, there may be small projects at the other end of the spectrum which, although involving compulsory rights, may merely involve the crossing of a small field between two parts of a works. Whether or not Parliament will necessarily want to concern itself with schemes of that kind, I do not know. Therefore the efforts I am making at the moment are to try, with the help of the interests concerned, to evolve a procedure which will not necessarily waste Parliament's time with the very small project, but which will give 721 Parliament an opportunity to express its view on the kind of projects Parliament obviously ought to have before it.
§ Mr. Gunter
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us, in respect of the consideration given to the project, how this will fit in with the intention of the Minister of Transport expressed in his White Paper on the reorganisation of the B.T.C. whereby it will be empowered to promote legislation?
§ Mr. Wood
I very much bear in mind the White Paper, but I do not think that need conflict in any way with the procedure which might be adopted. The view was expressed in the White Paper that this kind of development along the property of the British Transport Commission would be a very valuable feature of the future. I hope that it will take place, but I do not think it need necessarily create any difficulties in the procedure we have in mind.
§ Mr. Gunter
We did not quite understand that there were to be schemes on the Commission's own property, but we understood that the schemes would be mostly emerging from it.
§ Mr. Wood
I do not think the details are in any way firm and certain. I believe that the particular scheme we are discussing tonight involves an extremely small incursion into private rights. It may be that if that small incursion had been avoided the need for a Private Bill would have been absent. It would be right for Parliament to have the ability to scrutinise projects of this magnitude and importance even if they did not involve compulsory rights.
There is one thing more I wish to say on the question of public ownership. My belief is that the House and myself, in consultation with the interests concerned, can look forward to a procedure which on the whole will command general agreement. I am not suggesting that it will necessarily involve the public ownership of these lines. What I am striving for is that it should involve some measure of control over the lines. I could not help thinking when the hon. Member for Ashfield talked about a doctrinaire approach that my experience in the House since I arrived here has been that anyone whose doctrine is different from one's own happens to be doctrinaire.
722 My feeling is that there would be a great many difficulties in insisting on public ownership of these pipelines. One of the difficulties would be that the Government would be required to lay out a very considerable amount of capital expenditure largely at the behest of private companies. As we can see, it would be useless for Governments themselves to decide where pipelines should go if the private companies were not willing to co-operate and to put anything in them.
There are many respectable precedents of this kind. It seems sensible that we should leave largely to the initiative of private enterprise the development of this pipeline system, provided—here I hope that I shall carry the hon. Member with me—that there is public control of a recognised plan and pattern, which I think all of us on both sides of the House think is most important.
I hope, and this will be my endeavour, that as my discussions progress with the interests involved—and I shall be willing to discuss the matter with any hon. Member—we can reach a new procedure as quickly as possible to deal with this development, which may be very considerable in future, a procedure which will command the assent of the great majority of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Does my right hon. Friend hope—I will put it no higher than that—that it will be possible for him to introduce legislation in the next Session?
§ Mr. Wood
It is certainly my intention to hold discussions with interests in order to provide legislation as soon as it can possibly be done. I hope that, possibly, it will be practicable to introduce it in the next Session in order to provide a framework in which proposals of the kind which we are discussing can be dealt with.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I wonder whether the Minister would amplify some of his remarks? I refer to his consideration of the procedure to be adopted, bearing in mind the need for a public inquiry and for further consideration by Parliament. If a public inquiry is held into a whole project, which presumably involves the delineation of a route from 723 point A to point B, that is one thing; but some of us were concerned in the Select Committee with the rights of the individual to have an inquiry into a proposal affecting his own piece of land. I envisage the possibility that a whole project would be approved following a public inquiry, as in the case of a new town, but that provision must still be made for the individual objector to be fully heard.
§ Mr. Wood
This is a most important point. It has always been my view that the whole concept of a public inquiry into projects of this kind should facilitate a change in the direction of the route of the pipeline in order to accommodate any interests which might be affected. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dover mentioned, it should also take into account the breweries, who may be some way away from the route of the pipeline but who may be affected. I am only thinking aloud, but the best solution seems to be to make the public inquiry procedure pretty wide so that any interests concerned, whether directly in the route of the pipeline or away from it, could make their objections on that occasion.
§ Mrs. Hart
This is a very important point, as the Minister agrees. Let us suppose that Mr. Brown, living in a suburb, knows nothing about a public local inquiry which is being held into a trunk pipeline which it is proposed to construct. Let us suppose that he knows nothing about it until, six months or a year later, he is suddenly presented with the fact that his back garden is to be dug up. His opportunity to make this objection will have gone. I am concerned with the basic right of the individual, which might be threatened, and indeed might still be threatened under the procedure which the Minister has outlined.
§ Mr. Wood
It is very difficult to ensure that everyone who is affected knows about it except by widespread advertisement of the project, as in the case of electricity wayleaves. Any procedure should require the advertisement of a route in proper circumstances so that anyone who is reasonably wide awake has the chance of making his objections heard.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The Minister has given his reply to the appeal made by the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) and it is not for me to say whether the hon. Member regards it as satisfactory. I thought that it was a very reasonable approach to the very big problem which is before us.
Let us not think that in dealing with this matter we are dealing with a purely temporary problem not of great significance to every part of the country. We must be very careful that we do not repeat the mistakes which our ancestors made over 100 years ago in framing the original way of dealing with railway development. We saw grow up all over the country small railways connecting towns eight or ten miles apart—a system, as it ultimately turned out, of such fragmentation that in the end much time had to be spent in trying to bring all these little bits together in a service which would serve the public adequately.
The right hon. Gentleman said there might be two big stretches with one field between. It is important that a connection be made across that field in order to make a connected and wide system available. Let us be certain of that. The House must give very serious consideration to any schemes which the right hon. Gentleman is able to arrange between the limited vested interests to be quite sure that the overall national interest is served when all the smaller private groups have had settled the little pieces which they regard as being especially remunerative.
Unless we are very careful we might create for ourselves the same kind of difficulty as was created in the railway world when Mr. Hudson and a few others were trying to pick out all the lucrative parts of this new service and to establish, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ash-field (Mr. Warbey) suggested, a vested interest with the aid of which they could resist a new proposal because it would interfere with the monopoly which Parliament had given them over a small area of the country. As a result, on some occasions necessary connections of a cross-country kind were prevented.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and those who will advise him will bear in mind that it is almost certain that this will become a vital national service 725 within a very few years. We do not want to have the same kind of problems as arose about the railways and even about the electricity supply of the country, in respect of which, under a Measure passed in 1888, Orders were made in regard to separate parishes, and even to parts of parishes.
When, in 1934, I was appointed chairman of the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority, I had to deal with cases in which part of a parish was served by a municipal electricity service and the remainder of the parish by an electricity company, each under separate Orders which expired at different dates. That created very great difficulties in getting a co-ordinated system in comparatively small areas, and over wider areas it reduced the problem to something that was only finally solvable by nationalising the whole lot. The main justification for nationalising the electricity industry was that it had been established in such a fragmented form that, in the end, a national scheme was the only way out.
I do not want to get involved in what has been called doctrinaire problems. I believe in what the right hon. Gentleman said; one's own doctrine is completely sound and every reasonable person should agree with it, but the fellow who differs from it is inspired by selfish, narrow, doctrinaire motives that make the reasonable solution of any problem almost impossible.
I hope that the Minister will be able to proceed quickly with the negotiations so that in the next Session of Parliament a Measure may be brought forward. I imagine that it will have to be brought forward under some quite novel procedure. While I am quite sure that those hon. Members who heard him must be very grateful to the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) for the way in which he went through the details of the existing systems that can be employed, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman at least to consider whether it might not be desirable in this case to have a special procedure to deal with this problem in the light of all the troubles we have inherited from the past in other similar systems, such as railways, electricity and gas, which, as those engaged in local government and in the promotion of those services know, very often led to inefficiency and needless expense necessary 726 because of the requirements laid down by this House.
It is high time that we gave some consideration to this matter on a national basis, and that those—whether they be local authorities or private companies—who promote proposals should be expected to fit them into the national scheme that has been laid out. Otherwise, we shall have a repetition of some of the evils of the past.
It is desirable that this should be done quickly, and that there should be a discussion in the House on the general scheme before we proceed with the promotion of any other Bill. I must say that when I hear of half a dozen 10-inch pipes running side by side we must be very careful how we deal with such a problem. We do not want to inflict on a good many parts of the country the hideous monstrosity of the London outfall sewer which goes through the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), and other places on that line—curiously enough, almost the line proposed by the Bill for, at any rate, part of the way. An eyesore has there been created, and a hindrance to the reasonable development of the area which this kind of line bisects and makes it almost impossible to create an ordered community there.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us every indication that he has the gigantic nature of these proposals in his mind, and I wish him well in the consideration that he gives to it. I hope that those who negotiate with him on behalf of the various interests will be inspired by the Minister's spirit of concern for the public interest, so that we can get a reasonable way of dealing with this problem. I hope, too, that, before he comes to us with any proposals, he will keep in mind the possible future development that may flow from this. I heartily support the views generally expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) and for Ashfield. As I say, while I wish the right hon. Gentleman well in the task that he is undertaking, I hope that those who meet him may be inspired by his own sense of public service in the negotiations into which they enter.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I oppose the Second Reading of the Bill for precisely the same reasons 727 as I expressed in the debate on the Esso Bill. I certainly do not want to weary the House by going into them again. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) has reminded the House that the Esso Bill was sent to a Select Committee instead of to the ordinary Private Bill Committee and that it went there with an Instruction—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Am I right in thinking that the hon. Member rises to move his Amendment?
§ Mr. Corfield
That is so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I thought that it would have the same effect as opposing the Second Reading.
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
I move this Amendment for the same reasons as I expressed on the Esso Bill. That Bill went to the Select Committee with an Instruction designed to incorporate the safeguards of the public inquiry system with the parliamentary control that we regard as necessary. It also went with an Instruction asking the Select Committee to consider the suitability of the Private Bill procedure generally and to report whether general legislation was desirable.
I moved that Instruction at the time solely on the ground that I did not consider the procedure suitable for a Bill of this type. My right hon. Friend the Minister undertook to consider the question of legislation. He has advanced somewhat further in the meantime and he has made a statement today which I very much welcome. In the light, however, of the recommendation of the Select Committee and of my right hon. Friend's undertaking, I have difficulty in joining my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) in his welcome and congratulation for all the galvanisation that has gone on. I would have thought that most of the galvanisation was caused by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover and those of us whose work in trying to draft these complicated matters, ably assisted by the servants of the House, has made it possible for the Committee to study the matter in the way that started the galvanisation.
728 In the light of the recommendation of the Select Committee, I am in doubt as to the propriety of any Private Bill promoter bringing forward a Bill into this House after that has been done. I am glad to say that I am not a shareholder in the company. If I were, I should want to ask several questions. I am not concerned with the merits of the Bill. I have no doubt that it may be a good Bill. I am not against pipelines, but I firmly believe that we have to bring this question under general legislation and I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. I hope that his proposal will not be too long delayed.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
I understood from the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), who introduced the Bill, that the promoters had spent £70,000 on the promotion of it by way of survey, printing, fees and the rest. I hope that they are satisfied with what they have got for their £70,000. While I applaud wholeheartedly what the Minister said from the Front Bench, I must put an additional burden upon him by quoting part of one of his speeches. On June 28th last year he said: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…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1960; Vol. 625, c.1303.]That was about ten months ago. Allowing that the Government had already begun to examine the problem, we can say that they have been at it for a year. I do not know how much longer they will be at it or to what extent they have been speeded up by the £70,000 expended by the promoters. I should have thought, however—I say this to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield)—that there is an air of impropriety after the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Esso Bill when the present Bill is produced in this form.
I sat as a member of the Select Committee on the Esso Bill under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot). I wish to take this opportunity—I speak, I am sure, on behalf of those of my colleagues on this 729 side of the House—of saying that we were impressed by the ability of the hon. Member for Dover, by the way in which he conducted the whole of the inquiry, by his patience, his good humour and his tolerance for the many questions that we were forced to ask those who were present and also we thank him for his guidance to the Committee. We can say without being immodest that we did our best to do a good job and that our recommendation, which was arrived at unanimously—there were five Conservatives and four Labour Members on the Select Committee—was forced upon us by the arguments that were presented during the twenty hours or so we sat.
I come back to the question of what might be called impropriety, although I do not want to use too harsh a word. I am sure that the hon. Member for Nantwich will not misunderstand me in referring to the impropriety of the way in which the Bill has been presented. I say "impropriety" only in relation to the recommendation of the Select Committee on the Esso Bill. We knew who Esso and the Esso Company were. It is true that the promoters, the Esso people, roughly took Mr. Charles Wilson's line when he said that what was good for General Motors was good for the United States, for they were taking the line that their Bill was good for Esso and, therefore, it was good for the country. They claimed that the powers they sought under the Bill were right because they sold 10 million gallons of petrol a day, or whatever the astronomical figure was. But, as I say, we knew, roughly speaking, who the company was.
I may be ignorant—perhaps other hon. Members have the information—but I do not know who the promoters of the present Bill are. I know the name and that it is a company of shareholders. I do not know how many shareholders there are, who they are, who the directors are or what the capital is. I know nothing about the firm. It is asking a a little too much of the House to suggest that a company that is a société anonyme should be given powers by this House to have such tremendous authority over people whom they regard as being in their power and to say, "It is expedient to us to go across your backyard and therefore we propose to do so." That is the impropriety of the proposition.
730 I was impressed during the proceedings of the Select Committee on which I served with one of the arguments which was put forward, although I do not think that it should be relevant to us here, whether we are sitting as a House or in Committee. The argument was that money had been spent by people with an interest in the matter and therefore it was proper that the Bill should go through. I remember the argument which was put forward on 28th June. I think that it was referred to by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). It was said that three years before June last year, I.C.I. had bought some land in Gloucester for the purpose of setting up a new factory to which the pipeline was to carry a certain product. This was adduced—the hon. Member complained about it—as a reason why Parliament should give the promoters of the Bill powers which it would be chary of giving even to a Government Department.
I cannot understand why the Government have not listened carefully to us on the question of the Provisional Order. It is no fun being a member of a Select Committee. It takes up a lot of one's time. At the end of a morning's session one is exhausted. We were faced with an array of counsel who were getting more for one day's sitting than we get for a year's work in this House. They also receive refreshers, which we do not receive. They are clever to a degree. They are capable and they talk with the tongues of serpents. One has to be alert the whole time. One cannot sleep on these Committees. When at the end of a long period of consideration and a comparatively short but quite painful period of gestation we come to a unanimous decision, we expect the Government to listen to what we the representatives of the House have to say. The decisions are not arrived at lightly. They are not produced in a doctrinaire fashion. I assure the House that there was no doctrinaire difference between the five Conservative Members and the four Labour Members on the Select Committee. We were convinced intellectually that it was necessary that a Bill similar to this one should be produced under the Provisional Order procedure.
I wish to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. When on the 731 Esso Bill Select Committee I had it borne in on me while listening to the evidence of the complainants, of the Petitioners and of the promoters at our five sittings that what we need in Britain is a Pipeline Authority. I do not think that we can deal with this matter piecemeal any more. What my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said about the development of the railways is true. We do not want to produce new Hudsons in this country, people who get in and out quickly after they have made a profit. We do not want people to build these pipelines just to meet a temporary situation which enriches them. We want a national survey of the pipeline needs of this country. That can be done properly only by an authority composed of geophysicists, engineers and hydraulics people, an authority which can advise the Government from its experience, and as a result of conversations with all the interests concerned, on how the pipelines should develop.
We have authorities for all sorts of things in this country. For instance, the Government delegates responsibility to the Independent Television Authority for commercial television. Heaven forbid that I should suggest that a similar organisation should be set up. We want an authority which is not controlled or influenced by other interests but is concerned only with the future of the economic development of this country, and one other thing.
On the Select Committee we learnt that no one can build a pipeline here without its affecting the Ministry of Defence, for obvious reasons. But the Ministry of Defence should not be canvassed by interests. It ought to have a relationship with an overriding statutory authority which takes into consideration our national defence needs as well as our economic needs. I do not urge the Minister to be in a great hurry. It is very important that we should do the thing properly, and I suggest that he should take time over it. There is no harm in our going on a little longer with the present position.
However, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in the spirit that he himself showed that he should give careful consideration to the establishment of a Pipeline Authority which will devote itself 732 to a study of the economic and defence needs of the country, which will consider the aesthetics and which will ensure that no private individual or association of individuals shall have the power of ingress, or taking over, or of compulsory acquisition, which, as I say, the House would not give to any Government Department except in a dire emergency, such as a war.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
I agree that it is unfortunate that an expenditure of £70,000 has been already made on this line, but I think I should say that a dine of 10-inch diameter is not too small. A crude oil pipeline is of considerable dimensions but a product line such as Trapil is of that dimension.
Coming to matters which are more fundamental, I was rather impressed by the remarks of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) when he pleaded that we should stop making some of the errors of the past years. When, however, the hon. Member indicated that he was in favour of a common carrier I thought that that must lead inevitably to the nationalisation of the pipeline system. Surely we have learned from past experience over the years in th United States that one must approach the common carrier system with some trepidation.
In America legislation governing oil pipelines is the Inter-State Commerce Act, 1887, and the Hepburn Act, 1906. This legislation has meant that America is now stuck with a common carrier system. Whether they like it or not, pipeline companies have to carry the obligations of common carriers. The traditions which are applicable in the United States are certainly not applicable in the United Kingdom. This should be borne in mind when we are on the threshold of installing product lines and crude-oil lines. In the conditions operating in the United States it has been found rather embarrassing to have such legislation perpetuating the practice of common carriers.
It would be a great error if we in the United Kingdom fell into the same trap and provided that all lines established here should be common carriers. The adoption of a common carrier system means that if an adequate tender is presented at one end of the line the 733 load is bound to be carried. Hon. Members should think of all the complications that would follow if for example our pipelines had to deal with foreign suppliers. What would happen, for example, if a Russian supplier presented his products at one end of the line? They would be bound to be carried although such a course might be of great detriment to this country. Last year, the Italians made a contract with the Soviet Government for the purchase of 12 million tons of oil. If a common carrier pipeline were established in the United Kingdom, we might find Russian oil being imported into this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will come to that point. I thought that it was argued from that side of the House that we were having some difficulties in the coal-mining industry because of the competition from oil supplies.
While it is a good argument that oil products supplied from our own refineries, or imported on balancing operations should be admitted, we should nevertheless be careful what additional supplies of products come from random sources abroad. We would be getting into great difficulties with the people of the Middle East if we took oil supplies from the Soviet Union and not from our traditional sources in the Persian Gulf. If we had the common carrier system which is envisaged in Clause 51 it would mean that as soon as a suitable tender was presented at the end of the line the operator would be bound to carry it, and, as I have said, there would be great difficulties with miners and others if we had Russian oil supplies coming into the country.
§ Mr. Skeet
It would be very much better if we considered what has happened to the railway system. A common carrier system has been imposed on it, which has been a drag on the railways for years. That same obligation might be imposed on the pipeline system, and, if it were, similar difficulties would arise. Perhaps I could go a little further. We 734 should learn not to have the experiment of the Hepburn Act of 1906 applied in the United Kingdom. Let us start off in the year 1961—and have legislation that is most suitable to our requirements.
I appreciate what my right hon. Friend has indicated, and I think that it is exactly the right idea, that there must be some residual control by the House of Commons. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) for indicating the procedure that might possibly apply. It is the companies that know where the line should be laid, but I hope that it will be possible in certain cases for them to have wayleaves alongside the permanent ways of the British Transport Commission. It should not, however, be obligatory; it should be permissive. To go back to the point of the common carrier, we are thinking well ahead and possibly in the terms of moving coal. There the common carrier is quite out of the question because there is only one owner. If we are not to have a common carrier for the National Coal Board, I do not see why we should enforce on the oil companies a common carrier service.
Would it not be better that there should be private owners of lines for integrated lines between the terminal and the refinery, or a joint venture by a number of companies operating together, or open-ended systems? In a certain minority of cases it might be suitable to have what is known as the common carrier system.
I would emphasise that it may be possible in future years to have pipelines for the movement of china clay, possibly from Cornwall, or the movement of milk from our outlying districts to our great cities. For the movement of chemicals it would be quite unsuitable that the common carrier system should operate. I think that it is entirely wrong for hon. Members opposite to indicate that the common carrier system should be utilised in all circumstances. It might be very much better to adopt the procedure laid down by my right hon. Friend and to indicate that there should be a variety of methods of ownership. It is not necessary to have a proprietary interest in the State. All that we should have is a system of 735 general control or supervision to ensure that the pipelines are laid out in an orderly formation.
§ Sir L. Plummer
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me which hon. Member from this side of the House advocated that there should be common carrier system? I do not mind the hon. Member knocking the Bill about at all; no one on this side of the House promoted the Bill.
§ Mr. Gunter indicated assent.
§ Mr. Skeet
That is why I have to address certain of my remarks to this rather important point. I think that it is a matter of very great importance that we should concern ourselves with the guarantee of private interests. In examining the Bill, I noted that only 0.6 miles are measured over private land but that there are 20 miles held by the North Thames Gas Board which would require to obtain further easements from property owners to carry pipes not owned by the Board.
May I make one or two further suggestions on the merits of the Bill. Is it advisable that this line should come right through the heart of London? Even Trapil does not cross the heart of Paris or follow the course of the Seine. It might be advisable, if the Minister is going to consider this, to have a pipeline approaching the outskirts of London with depôts around it. I do not know. These are several matters for consideration, and they should be considered at higher level. Another point which needs clearing up is whether this line should come to the centre of London and out again to Merseyside. It might be more convenient to have a more direct route. These are matters which the Minister would ultimately have to consider in deciding which is the most economic route when a number of people are making proposals. Obviously, if we have an enabling Bill it may be necessary to make a number of regulations under it. I should like to read out a summary, by an eminent American lawyer, on the 736 question of safety regulations affecting the American lines:In 1942 the I.C.C. after intensive investigation of the matter concluded that while the Commission had ample authority the safety record of the pipeline industry and its situation did not warrant the development of a safety code to apply to oil pipeline operations. This conclusion of the Commission still stands.While we have heard in the past a great deal about what happens when these pipelines are installed, they are safe in practice. We in this country are starting with a comparatively new system. Although there are one or two product and crude lines available, it may nevertheless be useful to start off with a satisfactory code.
If we are to have pipeline systems could they be equitably rated? If the Minister is desirous of having a common carrier system to some extent, would he put into the Bill what he considers to be a reasonable tender? Will he also say whether he is to adopt the American procedure of limiting earnings on a common carrier system? I think that that is, possibly, the wrong approach, but he should nevertheless consider it. Will he also consider the other special procedures which apply to such a system in the United States?
We are very grateful to the promoters of this Bill for giving us an opportunity to express our views on this important topic. A lot has been said about it on both sides of the House. We are generally in agreement that we are going ahead with a very important form of development, and we hope that my right hon. Friend will have it under his Ministry and that it will not, at a later stage, be transferred to the Ministry of Transport. This is an exceedingly technical matter.
I want to make one point clear. It may appear to be a cheap form of transportation, but it is cheap only if it is used largely up to full capacity. If it is used in such a way that the operator pushes through the line products of another company to the exclusion of his own, the line might not prove economical. If a line has a certain amount of spare capacity then that could be made available to others. Full consideration must be given to this matter and safeguards written into whatever Bill is eventually presented.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I am tempted to follow the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) with some further exploration into international problems, because it would seem that this subject has opened to us the whole question of Middle East oil supplies and many other topics, including the political reason which should govern our imports of oil. But this is not the appropriate occasion on which to do that.
I support everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) and particularly his remarks about the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) of the Select Committee on the Esso Bill. It was my first experience of a Select Committee and I was able to participate in the deliberations partly because of the excellence of the Chairman and the clarity with which he carried out his duties.
Tonight we are discussing two issues in one; firstly, what should be the attitude of the House of Commons towards Private Bills—in this case the Trunk Pipelines Bill—and, secondly, the whole question of what we hope will be contained in the Government's recommendations about the pipeline system. With regard to the first point, I welcome everything the Minister has said tonight and I hope it will be clearly realised by every hon. Member that whatever a private company may seek to do by promoting a Private Bill, the duty of the House of Commons is to protect the people of this country from any evil effect that may result to them as a result of passing a Bill which may not be a good one.
One of our main concerns on the Esso Committee was the protection of the individual, and it was extraordinary that as a Socialist I found myself being concerned with and associating myself with, the comments and remarks of, for example, the Association of Property Owners and other land-owning organisations, because they were the people during the consideration of the Esso Bill who represented the interests of the ordinary man occupying land. I am more interested in him than I am in the companies or even the local authorities, because they can look after themselves. Local authorities have town clerks and 738 lawyers to seek out any eventualities which may affect their interests.
The same is true of large companies or organisations. It is when one considers the individual that the facts must be faced, and I do not consider myself to be doctrinaire in asserting that one of the main conceptions of any legislation must be to reconcile the needs of the nation with the freedom and the rights of the individual. It would be wrong for the House to permit this Bill to be passed, simply because the consequence would be that the Select Committee's recommendations about the best possible way of preserving the rights of the individual would be ignored.
The Bill is concerned with only one mile of land in which a new set of easements would have to be achieved. But there is the whole question of the population from Denham to Merseyside to be considered. Although we are not being asked to consider that specific point at the moment, if the Bill is allowed through there is no doubt that the promoters will return to the House in a year or two and say, "You have allowed us to build a pipeline as far as Denham, surely you will now have no objection to our extending it to Merseyside"?
In the pipeline to Merseyside, all the questions that arose when the Esso Bill was discussed will have to be debated anew. Occupiers of land, local authorities, firms and transport undertakings, will all be concerned about their rights even more than they were during the course of the Esso Bill, which proposed to construct a pipeline to Fawley and Severnside. I hope that when the Minister is considering what form an oil pipeline system should take, he will bear in mind a number of other factors. One is that responsibility should be placed firmly on the promoters of a Bill, whatever form it adopts, to ensure that individuals likely to be affected are made fully aware of all the possible effects on them before any public inquiry is held.
In other words, in addition to the normal public inquiry procedure, it should not be the responsibility of the individual to make himself aware of what is happening from reading advertisements in the newspapers. It should be the duty of the promoters to 739 inform him and in that way the difficulties may be overcome. I confess that at the moment I cannot see how it could be done, but it might well be advisable, after the public inquiry, to allow minor local inquiries at various stages in order to give people opportunities to voice further objections. As I say, I do not see how that can be done, but something along those lines might be considered.
On the technical side there are many questions which have not been touched on tonight. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford; I think that there is no hurry about this matter. Obviously it is such a new step to be taken by the nation that whether the project takes the form of a State-owned pipeline system or a private enterprise system controlled and planned by the State—which I gather the Minister has in mind—it seems clear that it should not be embarked upon without the most adequate consideration of all the factors involved. Of course, opinions among hon. Members will differ on this matter tremendously, according to the side of the House on which they sit. If consideration conflicts with the need for speed, then the need for speed must take second place.
We ought to have technical advice on the possibilities of future use of pipe lines. Many things may be mentioned and then one talks to an expert on some subject—for example, an expert on coal—and he says, "That may be, but it will take many years. We are not yet beginning to do research on this matter". I think it necessary that we should gather together all the existing scientific evidence and even promote more new research—
§ Mrs. Hart
Indeed, yes. I should say that it would be entirely wrong for the Government to rely on the practice of private enterprise abroad. I say that it is the duty of the State to inform itself on the evidence that there is in this country and even to carry out further research. 740 I know of no other subject about which the hon. Gentleman would even suggest such a thing or about which he would say that the Government do not need to do any work themselves but might go and ask how, for example, Shell operated in the Middle East.
I ask the Minister to consider setting up a technical inquiry not only into the present-day possibilities of the use of pipelines but beyond the present evidence to future possibilities and to take account of factors which may form the subject of technical papers in two or three years' time. If there is need for more research to arrive at a decision on possible new future uses of pipelines, Government money should be spent on such research. This kind of technical consideration should be borne in mind. It would be wrong, just because we were in too much of a hurry to construct the kind of pipeline suggested by private enterprise, to construct something which would be out of date in ten years.
There is a consideration which ought to be remembered when one is thinking of the relative advantages of private enterprise and State ownership of pipelines. It may well be that it would be found to be far more practical and, from the national point of view, more economic in the construction of pipelines to consider constructing them in conjunction with a national network of roads. In the course of the next twenty years, we shall be extending the country's road system, and it would be infinitely cheaper and more economic in engineering and surveying manpower generally to construct the two together, carving one great way from one major centre of industry to another, with a combined pipeline and new road system. It would be difficult to do that by a combination of private and State enterprise, but it may well be that, not for doctrinaire reasons which hon. Members opposite are bound to oppose on every possible occasion but on grounds of sheer national economy and because it is the sensible and practical thing to do, such a system would have to be arranged. Hon. Members opposite are always anxious to persuade the Government not to waste money, and that system would avoid the waste of money and manpower and national resources. It might be that the sensible thing to do would be for the State to construct a pipeline system which would 741 be integrated with the other main means of transport.
§ Mr. Costain
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) ought not to give the impression to the world that British engineers have not built pipelines. British engineers have now been building pipelines for two generations. The British Petroleum Company, which is half owned by the Government, has thousands of miles of pipelines. No doubt the hon. Lady has heard of Finart and Milford Haven. Lloyds of London have a special specification for pipelines which is accepted in every Continent. The hon. Lady ought not to give the impression from the House that we do not lead the world in this sort of work. We do not need inquiries to tell us that.
§ Mrs. Hart
It is precisely because British scientists and technologists lead the world that I am anxious that they should do so in this case. I am not concerned with pipelines which have been built in the past but with those which are to be built in the future as a result of new engineering and scientific techniques. The hon. Member seems completely unaware of that. I want British scientists to show the value of their own work and not to rely on work based on what has been done far back in the past. I want to look to the future. Perhaps the hon. Member does not.
§ Mr. Costain
From my own personal knowledge I can tell the hon. Lady that pipelines are now being built by British engineers. We lead the world in this respect and we do not need inquiries to show that that is the case.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
It is very pleasant to welcome the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) as a defender of the rights of private property and as a defender of the rights of individuals, and to have such a charming recruit for that cause. If ever a Socialist Government come to power, we shall look forward to her support on this side of the House against any depredations by nationalisation.
We need not get into a cold sweat about this question, for there is nothing revolutionary about pipelines. Many miles of pipelines were laid before the war. There were large gas grids, such as that at 742 Sheffield, which was laid over hundreds of miles of country before the war. The Government themselves laid a pipeline system in this country during the war, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) said, there is a great deal of British engineering experience in this matter. There were a certain number of private pipelines before the war.
When I lived in Yorkshire, the United Steel Company laid a line of about 18 miles of gas pipe from one of its coke ovens to a steelworks North of Sheffield. That was regarded as one of the biggest pipelines of its kind in the world at the time. I believe that it was a 12 in. or 18 in. line over a distance of about 15 miles. There is plenty of experience in this country about the laying of pipelines, and we need have no fear that the job cannot be done properly.
What appealed to me about the Bill was that it envisaged a multi-user type of pipeline which would be a great advantage to the transport system for the carriage of not only oil and petrol, but liquids like milk. The carriage of such liquids would not affect amenities, for the pipelines would be hidden under the ground. I understand that the promoters of the Bill would accept the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), which says:That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to include a Clause to ensure that wherever the Transport Authority requires the promoters to bury or otherwise conceal the pipeline this shall be done.The Bill also appealed to me because the pipeline envisaged would be of assistance to the finances of the British Transport Commission. In Essex the line would be laid along the railway lines of the Transport Commission and the promoters would have to pay money for the wayleaves. If the line were carried on through Buckinghamshire up to the Merseyside, I understand that it would be laid along the Grand Union Canal, and again the promoters would pay money to the Commission. The Bill has many merits.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
That is true. If the Transport Commission did not want it on its land another line would have to be found, but I think the Commission would think twice before refusing an offer of fairly easy money for the laying of this pipeline.
In any event, as my hon. Friend said, the promoters are willing to withdraw the Bill after the assurance given by my right hon. Friend. I express the hope that general legislation will be proceeded with very quicky, if possible in the next Session. I do not think there should be great difficulty over this matter.
I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the decree of the French Parliament, Decree 59/645 of 16th May, 1959, in which, over fourteen pages, the French Government have gone into great detail about the requirements of pipelines in France. The French have had considerable experience which we could imitate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) said, there is a pipeline from Havre to Paris of 150 miles with a capacity of over 2 million tons of oil and other products a year. If it would interest the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), that pipeline, the Trapil pipeline, is only 10 ins. in diameter but, because it is carrying the finished products of the oil industry, it is quite capable of transporting over 2 million tons of oil a year from Havre to Paris.
§ Mr. Warbey
I was referring to the suggestion that at some time in the future this pipeline should carry some other substance besides fluids. This is actually referred to in the Bill, apart from what the promoters have said about it. I suggest that a 10-in. pipeline would not be suitable for carrying solids or substantial volumes of traffic which are expected in future.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Solids would have to be carried along in the stream of liquids. I am not an expert, but I think it could be done in a 10-in. pipeline.
With regard to the general legislation which I hope my right hon. Friend will be introducing in the autumn, it seems that the feeling of the House today is 744 that there should be a supervisory body which should control the routes of pipeline operators. There is plenty of precedent for that. The Air Registration Board tells airlines which routes they may follow and licensing authorities for road and bus transport, in particular for bus transport, lay down the best routes for companies.
We ought to see in this legislation plenty of opportunity for public inquiries at which owners of pieces of land and others could make their objections heard before a pipeline was laid. It seems that it should not be difficult to produce legislation of a general character in which all sorts of operators, perhaps nationalised corporations such as the British Transport Commission and also private operators, could lay these lines. I hope that we shall see private operators laying lines about the country. Then I think we should get the full benefit of speed of operation.
As has been pointed out in the debate, in the last century the railways did a wonderful job in building several hundred miles of railways a year. The backbone of the railway system was built in the ten years from 1840 to 1850. Likewise, we could see private enterprise companies laying a series of pipelines throughout the country to meet their needs and the needs of the public. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not fall into the trap of setting up any public corporation to build the pipelines because, as a member of the Estimates Committee which from time to time has to examine accounts, I should be horrified at the thought of having to examine the accounts of a public corporation and the possible losses which might follow.
I throw out the idea to my right hon. Friend without in any way wishing to derogate powers from him or his Ministry. As I see it, these pipelines will develop to carry a large number of products, not only heavy oil, but petroleum products and other sorts of liquid such as milk. In the end they will to an extent take the place of road transport and railway transport. We ought to look on these pipelines of the future as part of the transport system of the country. I suppose that logically we should envisage them being supervised eventually by the Ministry of Transport. I do not want to take away from the powers of my right hon. Friend, although perhaps 745 he will find himself overloaded in the future, but the day will come when we ought to look upon these pipelines as part of the transport system which will relieve road congestion by carrying oil and other liquids about the country.
I congratulate the promoters of the Bill on bringing it forward. I hope that they will not feel that their money has been wasted. I think that they have given us a good object lesson of what can be done. In my opinion we have plenty of experience in this country, from before, during and after the war, and experience overseas, in laying pipelines which can take care of public interest and benefit the country without doing harm to any individual.
§ Mr. Gunter
I take it from his last remarks that when the hon. Member talks of this as part of the general transport system, he means that he is in favour of a co-ordinated integrated transport service?
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I will not go so far as to say that, but I am certainly in favour of the supervision of the routes along which these pipelines should be laid.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
On behalf of the promoters of the Bill, may I ask the leave of the House to make a short statement?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
The promoters are very well satisfied with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister and feel that it gives them confidence to go ahead with planning for the future. Therefore, if the mover of the Amendment would see fit to withdraw his Amendment, I would then, if I may rise again, ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I will now put the Question and then we shall see.
The Question is that "now" stand part of the Question.
§ Mr. Corfield
I am willing to withdraw the Amendment on the undertaking which my hon. Friend has given. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.746
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.