HC Deb 06 March 1961 vol 636 cc1-4
1. Mr. Arbuthnot

asked the Minister of Power if he will now make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on pipelines.

2. Mr. Warbey

asked the Minister of Power if he is now in a position to make a statement on his proposals for future pipeline development and for appropriate legislation.

The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)

The Government have decided that it is necessary to legislate, to secure in the national interest the orderly development of privately-owned industrial pipelines. 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. Before I lay detailed proposals before Parliament, I shall consult the various interests that would be affected.

Mr. Arbuthnot

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his statement, may I ask him two questions? First, what type of case would he think should be referred individually to Parliament, and how does it differ from the others? Secondly, what effect does he expect his statement to have on the future of the Trunk Pipelines Bill, to which objections have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Mr. Wood

In answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, Parliamentary approval will certainly be required in any case where compulsory powers are asked for. Whether or not Parliamentary approval should be required in the other cases is, I think, a matter for consideration. I shall place my proposals before the House in due course. 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. I would add that I shall take the opportunity, if there is a debate on the Second Reading of the Trunk Pipelines Bill, fully to explain the Government's 'position.

Mr. Warbey

Will the Minister publish a White Paper setting out a summary of the information on which his proposals are based? Secondly, is he aware that, in the view of many hon. Members, these important new developments in the field of transportation ought to be undertaken by a public authority and not by private enterprise?

Mr. Wood

I have taken note of the hon. Member's view in the second part of his supplementary question. With regard to the first part, I think the difficulty here is that there is a great deal of information which the Government will want to collect from the interests concerned with a view to framing proposals for legislation. I think that the hon. Member's need might best be served by allowing me to collect this information and set proposals before Parliament which Parliament can then discuss and criticise.

Mr. Skeet

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether his pipeline proposals envisage the introduction of common carrier obligations into the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wood

I think that is very much a matter that I should consider in consultation with other interests.

Mr. Gunter

May I ask the Minister, in the first place, as this is a matter of transportation, whether it is the intention of the Government that the whole matter in his statement is to be in the hands of the Minister of Power himself? Secondly, can the Minister give us any idea at all when the legislation will be brought before this House? Thirdly, and this is to re-emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), in the light of the development of canals, railways and road haulage, and the tragedies that have evolved from that unco-ordinated development, would it not be better that full power and authority should be given to a public corporation to develop this increasingly important part of our transportation system?

Mr. Wood

Regarding the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is a number of Ministers who would share responsibility, and I can think of a number of my right hon. Friends who would be concerned. No decision has been taken about which Department would be responsible. It would not be possible to legislate in this Session, but I see the need and I think the Government appreciate the need to make progress as quickly as possible. Thirdly, I should have thought there was a great deal to be said for continuing this development by private enterprise under suitable control.

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