HC Deb 24 February 1971 vol 812 cc541-2
3. Mr. Lambie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what consultations have taken place between his Department, the Clyde Port Authority and other interested parties about the construction of ocean terminals at Hunterston.

The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)

My right hon. Friend's officials keep in close touch with the Clyde Port Authority and other bodies concerned with port development on the Clyde.

Mr. Lambie

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is his job to see that a lead is given to the Clyde Port Authority and the British Steel Corporation, and that there is a tremendous feeling in Scotland that if this great national asset of deep water in the Clyde had been an English channel we should have had a decision years ago?

Mr. Younger

This is a matter between the Clyde Port Authority and the British Steel Corporation. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that negotiations are going on between those two bodies as to how they can forward this project. I think that a decision is not very far off.

Dr. Dickson Mahon

Is it true that there may be another inquiry at Hunters- ton? If so, may we be assured that it will not be of the same marathon length as the last inquiry at Hunterston? Are the Government being consulted about the projected agreement between the British Steel Corporation and the Clyde Port Authority on the construction of an ore terminal port?

Mr. Younger

I certainly hope that any new inquiry would not be as long as the first. My right hon. Friend has just circulated the additional evidence on the demand for home refining capacity and so on, which he promised to do. It is too early to say whether there will be objections that will need a further inquiry. If there were to be such an inquiry it would probably take place some time in May. This is a matter between the British Steel Corporation and the Clyde Port Authority, and the Secretary of State's interest, apart from his general economic interest in Scottish affairs, is a planning interest, and he will be ready to step in as soon as he is needed.

Mr. Lawson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is about three months since his right hon. Friend gave the all-clear for this to proceed? What has his Department been doing and what is it doing, to get rid of the difficulties which seem to have cropped up? What precisely are those difficulties?

Mr. Younger

It is not a question of difficulties. Negotiations are going on in the perfectly normal way between the two bodies concerned. I can at least assure the hon. Gentleman that no time is being lost and that technical investigations and site borings are proceeding to ensure that no further time will be lost when the decision is reached.