HC Deb 10 November 1971 vol 825 cc992-5
16. Mr. Lambie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now allow the Chevron Oil Company to go ahead with its £50 million development at Hunterston, so giving immediate employment to 3,000 unemployed constructional workers in North Ayrshire.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

My planning decisions on Hunterston have zoned the area for industrial development and a deep waiter port. To stimulate the economy and bring down unemployment the Government have introduced a number of measures, including the very large programme of immediate public works which I have announced for Scotland.

Mr. Lambie

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that when he turned down Chevron's original proposal he said that Britain's future oil supplies would be guaranteed by the B.P. expansion at Grangemouth, further developments at Shellhaven and by Burmah and Total plans for development on the Thames? Has no one told him that B.P. has postponed its development at Grangemouth and that we have heard nothing further of the other two developments? Why is not the right hon. Gentleman honest and why does not he clearly state that he does not want the Chevron Oil Company development at Hunterston at any price?

Mr. Campbell

I am aware of the announcements by B.P. The situation there was one of many factors which were taken into account in these planning decisions. As the hon. Member must know, this was a planning decision similar to the one which the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) made—

Mr. Lambie

It was the right hon. Gentleman's decision.

Mr. Campbell

—concerning another company, Murco, about the particular place to which it had applied to go. May I also point out that the figure of 3,000 given in the Question as the number of construction workers who would be employed is very much overstated? The Chevron Company itself said that the number would be 2,000, and they might not all come from North Ayrshire.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we would not sneeze at 2,000 jobs, quite apart from 3,000? He must realise that there have been two changes since he made his decision—first of all, the cancellation or postponement of the B.P. development, which was a substantial part of the excuse given for turning this down. The Murco decision was quite different because it was based on pollution, and no pollution factor is involved here. The Secretary of State rather curiously, in a way which we have not been able to elicit, is associated with the Hunterston Development Company. We should like to know when the feasibility studies are to be completed, and whether his development company is in discussion with Chevron Oil and other interested developers on their possible position in the development of Hunterston.

Mr. Campbell

On the question of employment, this project, if it had gone ahead at that place, would have provided some construction work, but when that was finished the number of jobs would have been very small—not more than 300.

As regards the Hunterston development, I have been associated with this for a long time—at least three years, as the hon. Gentleman knows—and recently the Government joined in establishing the Hunterston Development Company and assisting it with a study; that is the preliminary work which has to be carried out anyway, before industrial development can be carried out at Hunterston. This is going ahead now and, therefore, time is not being lost.

Mr. Galbraith

Will my right hon. Friend hold firm to his view that it would be wrong to let a foreign firm despoil a most important area in Scotland while our own firm is forced to pump its oil inland? Will he stick to that line?

Mr. Campbell

I cannot open up all the considerations which were behind the planning decision, but I would point out that the affirmative planning decisions which I announced last December, at the earliest possible moment, have opened the way to the industrial development which can provide the most jobs in that area and can be most valuable for Scotland. As regards the Firth of Clyde, very large tankers are using the deep water there to pump oil from Finnart to Grangemouth.

Mr. Ross

To what extent is the Secretary of State himself or the Scottish Office financially involved in the feasibility study and the Development Company? The right hon. Gentleman could well prejudice the position, since he has effectively taken unto himself the decision in relation to planning applications.

Mr. Campbell

The Government have offered financial help with the study, in combination with the Hunterston Development Company, but this in no way diminishes the position of the Secretary of State as a planning Minister.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have dealt with only 16 Questions in about 22 minutes. The House will have to go ahead rather more quickly now. Mr. Robert Hughes, Question No. 17.

Mr. Tom McMillan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have drawn to our attention the number of Questions so far dealt with, but I seem not to be able to catch your eye. Could you give the reason for that?

Mr. Speaker

Certainly no personal reason whatever.