HC Deb 28 February 1972 vol 832 cc113-64

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

The Bill provides for the vesting in the Anglesey County Council of the harbour undertakings of the Almwch Urban District Council, authorises the county council and Shell U.K. Ltd. to construct works and acquire land, and empowers the county council to make certain charges and exercise certain related powers. It comes to this House as amended in another place, where it has already been the subject of exhaustive and detailed scrutiny. Not even the most obdurate critic could say that the Bill is being rushed through Parliament. None the less, I am glad that we are having this further opportunity for a debate. For that reason and because of the interest which the Bill has aroused, I hope that hon. Members will bear with me if I go in some detail into its background before dealing with the main Clauses.

May I deal first with its national aspect. In present circumstances, it is hardly necessary for me to remind hon. Members of the important rôle played by energy in our national life. The demand for energy is increasing at a daunting rate, and estimates put the United Kingdom demand for energy in 1980 at the equivalent of about 440 million tons of coal, again a present level of about 380 million tons, an increase of 60 million tons during the next eight years. More than half of this is at present supplied by oil, and the percentage is unlikely to diminish during the next 10 or 20 years, notwithstanding the expansion, of natural gas and nuclear energy.

If the United Kingdom oil industry is to be prepared to meet this demand, it follows that plans for refinery expansion have to be put in hand now. Equally, if we are to compete in world/European markets, and also protect our balance of payments, it is essential that these refineries should be located as close to the customer as possible and should take full advantage of economies of scale supplying the oil, especially by the use of the new large tankers—usually called V.L.C.C.s.

It is against that background that Shell U.K., which is associated with Anglesey County Council in the Bill, obtained permission in 1970 for the expansion of the refinery at Stanlow, from 10 million to 18 million tons per annum, a level which it hopes to attain by the end of 1973. I understand that requirements by the end of this decade could be as high as 30 million tons per annum.

I was interested to discover in my studies into the background of the Bill how big an area Stanlow serves, and how many constituencies are affected. It is an area covering Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales. It extends into Yorkshire as far as Leeds and Sheffield, south to Birmingham, and north to the Scottish border. These are important considerations for hon. Members representing constituencies throughout this large part of our country.

Stanlow is at present supplied through a terminal at Tranmere on the Mersey, and the current practice, regarded as acceptable by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, is to carry much of the oil from the Middle East in large tankers which, owing to the draught limitations of the Mersey, have to be lightened in Liverpool Bay so that the large tankers and the lightening ship can both enter the Mersey. As I said, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board regards the present level as acceptable, but it was evident to both Shell and the board that in the long term alternative ways of supplying Stanlow and the north of England would have to be sought.

Of course, we in Wales are deeply interested in and concerned about Milford Haven. It is the only port at present capable of taking tankers of 200,000 tons. But Milford Haven was very carefully considered and was ruled out, first, for the obvious geographical reason that it is very far from the Mersey and, secondly, because it is unlikely to be able to take the very large tankers of 300,000 tons.

Eventually, it was agreed between the board and Shell that the solution was a single-buoy mooring. After a very thorough survey of suitably sheltered anchorages with deep water—a minimum of 120 ft. is required—within reasonable distance of Merseyside, it was found that Amlwch in my constituency was the only suitable site. Anglesey has a very important natural resource, because the 20-fathom line goes within two miles of its coast.

Accordingly, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board submitted a Private Bill earlier last year similar in principle to this one. However, as it involved extending the limits of the Port of Liverpool to Anglesey, this idea was not acceptable to the Anglesey County Council or to the people of Anglesey, who felt that they could set up and run a port authority and gain any benefits flowing from it. The board recognised this willingly and co-operated by withdrawing that Bill.

However, there remained considerable interest in Anglesey in the project, which it is believed would be of possible benefit to the island, as well as in the national interest. The Anglesey County Council therefore embarked on a close and detailed examination of the project, from an economic, technical and environmental standpoint. The proposal to submit a new Bill on behalf of the county council was endorsed by the county council on 18th March, 1971, by 45 votes to 11. There was therefore clearly a substantial majority in favour.

The Bill received a Second Reading in another place on 9th June, 1971. It was examined by a Select Committee for six days from 29th June. Subsequently, new evidence which came to light was volunteered by Shell and reported to the Select Committee. Following Committee proceedings in another place, on 21st October, the Committee sat again for two days on 7th and 8th December and reported further on the 8th. The Bill received its Third Reading on 1st February and was passed with a majority in another place. That is the exhaustive examination which has taken place.

Before I outline the salient points of the Bill, it might help if I gave a brief account of how single-buoy mooring operates. I was personally interested, not being a technical person, to study the work of this interesting operation.

In appearance, a single buoy mooring is a biggish buoy 50 feet in diameter protruding 12 feet above the surface of the sea. It is securely anchored to the sea bed and is to be connected to shore installation by a submarine pipeline. At Amlwch there would be two buoys about two miles from the shore. They would be just visible to the naked eye on a fine day. The tanker is moored at the bows and is free to swing around to wind and tide.

At a discharge terminal, as this will be, the oil is pumped from a submarine pipeline by the ship's pumps, through the shore installations, to a tank farm. It is proposed that this farm should be located at Rhosgoch about three miles inland. The landward work has been the subject of a public inquiry, because it comes under the Town and Country Planning Acts and does not require a Private Bill.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to tell the House that the Secretary of State's verdict will be made known before long, certainly before the Bill goes to the Select Committee in due course. I understand that the Select Committee will be held early in June. While this is an unusually long time, nevertheless, out of respect for the objectors, it is necessary because it gives hon. Members and others who genuinely object to the Bill ample opportunity to study further what points arise from the Secretary of State's final decision on the public inquiry.

The Preamble to the Bill sets out more formally what I have said about the need for the terminal and for the vesting of its control in the major local authority for Anglesey. This is being done with the agreement of the Amlwch Urban District Council which will receive compensation for the transfer of the old harbour. This provision is set out in detail in Part II.

Part III empowers the terminal authority to maintain and improve the harbour and its associated buildings and to dispose of obstructions and dangers to navigation. It also gives the terminal authority the power to regulate the use of the terminal and, most important, sets up the A.M.T. Committee to exercise the county council's authority.

The House will be interested in the composition of the committee. It will consist of nine members appointed by the county council, three nominated by the company, three nominated by the Amlwch Urban District Council, and I understand that an undertaking has been given that the Liverpool Pilotage Authority will also have one member.

Therefore, the local authorities will have a substantial majority on this committee. In other words, Anglesey will be in charge of the operation. It will be a democratic process and the people of Anglesey are as capable of this as they are of running other things. The council has been one of the most pioneering county councils in the United Kingdom. This committee would employ those operating the terminal.

Part IV empowers the terminal authority to make certain charges. Part V empowers the company to acquire and use certain designated land. The plan is deposited with the Bill. Part VI empowers the company to construct and install the two buoys and associated works, including breakwaters, to make the harbour navigable at all stages of the tide—a very important innovation.

Part VII gives the terminal authority borrowing powers and provides for the handling of income and expenditure. Finally, Part VIII deals with a number of miscellaneous points falling within the responsibility of the Secretary of State—Trinity House, the Public Health Acts and the Town and Country Planning Acts.

I said that the Anglesey County Council decided to sponsor the Bill only after long and careful scrutiny. This scrutiny enabled the members to be certain that the project would be for the benefit of the people of Anglesey. Representatives of the council therefore visited Milford Haven, Bantry Bay and the Humber, where a single-buoy mooring has been operating for over a year.

After the most careful study of all the implications, I myself concluded that the council is right. It is not easy or indeed right to come to a quick and facile conclusion on a major development of this kind. The elected representatives of local authorities in Anglesey and I as the Member of Parliament did not lightly conclude that the balance of argument rested with the Bill and the county council.

I believe that the construction of the mooring and its ancillary installations will not pose a threat to our coast. The little harbour of Amlwch, which has regrettably fallen into decay, will receive a new lease of life as a result of the improvements, which will make it navigable for 24 hours of the day. In particular, the modest shore installation will be a marked improvement on the offensive rubbish tip which at present occupies the site.

As a native and resident of Anglesey, I have from the start fully appreciated the concern of those engaged in the tourist industry and those who are concerned to preserve our amenities. They were concerned that this scheme would increase the danger of sea pollution—and oil on beaches is one of the most unpleasant manifestations of progress in our time.

But it is slightly presumptuous to assume that we, the natives, are less concerned about our heritage than others. We are very deeply concerned. The threat from oil pollution to the North Wales beaches has been with us for a long time. This is due to the intensive traffic in Liverpool Bay. But the evidence is strong that this threat would be greatly reduced by the diversion of tankers from the approaches to the Mersey. Unless the single-buoy moorings are built, increasingly intensive traffic will increase the risk of pollution.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Is the right hon. Gentleman happy that it is possible, while the Bill is in the Select Committee, to have strong undertakings given by Shell that will be oil-tight regarding pollution? I am sure that he has considered that aspect.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. and learned Member will have read the proceedings of the Select Committee and the proceedings of the public inquiry which was held at Amlwch over three weeks and which is deposited in the Library for his scrutiny. He will see that the witnesses called on behalf of the county council and on behalf of Shell gave their views and gave strong assurances. Their opinion, clearly held, was that the risks of pollution over the next decade will be substantially lessened if single buoy moorings are there. It will give far greater control over the tankers than increasingly intensive traffic along the lanes of the Mersey. No doubt the hon. and learned Gentleman will wish to look into this matter before the Select Committee sits in June.

Thirdly—and relevant to the perfectly proper and reasonable question asked by the hon. and learned Gentleman—should a spillage occur anywhere in Liverpool Bay, and not necessarily from a tanker, the presence of two powerful and specially equipped launches would be a most welcome addition in bridging the gap between Holyhead and Liverpool, the nearest points from which help is available at present. I give an example. Spillages of a substantial character come from collisions, as the House knows only too well from bitter experience. Should there be a collision resulting in the escape of fuel oil from any ship which threatened Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl or Prestatyn, these launches would then be available to help to deal with it. That is a safeguard which we do not enjoy at present.

It is interesting to note that the pollution officer for Anglesey has expressed the view in evidence that a single buoy mooring at Amlwch would be a positive step towards reducing the rate of pollution. The harbour authorities in Liverpool have confirmed that there would be no extra hazard to shipping lanes. Liverpool pilots have expressed their satisfaction. They would be responsible for handling tankers to and from S.B.M.s. The constructive advice and participation of the Liverpool pilots who, after all, are experts on shipping and navigation in this area, is greatly valued. The conclusion is that the operation is not a hazard and, therefore, it is of considerable significance when we consider all the implications of what is proposed.

A further question is whether the tank farm at Rhosgoch, excluded from the Bill but perhaps present in the minds of some hon. Members, would detract from the amenity value of the district. Here I do not want to stray too far outside the Bill, because this again was the subject of the planning inquiry's remit. But it is important to remember that the selection of the site at Rhosgoch and the design of the layout was the work of Mr. Gordon Graham, the distinguished landscape architect. Furthermore, the North Wales branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects has expressed general approval of the scheme. I cannot accept that there will be a loss of tourist attraction for Anglesey. Indeed, to the extent that the harbour will be greatly improved after years of neglect, it could prove an important new amenity for yachtsmen and small boat sailors. The county council has consulted carefully with the local yachting club, and the Amlwch Yacht Club is pleased with the improvements which will flow from the scheme.

On the economic side there are some advantages. Hon. Members on all sides of the House are concerned at present, rightly, with employment. We have just had a debate on that subject. In Anglesey, the unemployment figure for January, 1972, was 1,885, or 11 per cent. overall, and principally male. In the Amlwch area there are 384 men out of work—in that small town. The construction of the terminal would provide work for 200, and once it it is operating there will be direct permanent jobs for 60 and, indirectly, jobs for a further 40. Because Amlwch will also be used for crew changing and provisioning, there will be further direct benefits. The county council, through the terminal authority, will receive an income rising to £200,000 per annum net. The tank farm and other installations will increase the rateable value, even after the rate support grant has been adjusted. Anglesey will be materially better off. I remind hon. Members that a penny rate raises only £16,400 in Anglesey compared with other more fortunate and wealthier areas.

I have gone into the history of the Bill in some detail since it has been suggested that objectors have been given insufficient time to consider their reactions. I want them to have plenty of time. It is only right that we should ensure that in our democratic process any genuine objectors are given ample time to make their case.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? What is the overall cost of the S.B.Ms., the storage tanks and pipelines, and from where is it anticipated that the oil would come? Is it eventually to come from the North Sea, or to come largely from the Middle East and Venezuela?

Mr. Hughes

I will not mention a figure at this stage for the overall cost, but my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards), who is a native of Amlwch will, I hope, catch Mr. Speaker's eye before the end of the debate and will provide that information. As to the source of the oil, obviously it will be the Middle East, which supplies crude oil in the main to this country, and Venezuela.

Regarding the North Sea and the concessions that have been granted and the finds now being made, here we have to define carefully where the North Sea is. We are talking not only about the sea off the east coast of England. These concessions are some 100 or 200 miles off the north coast of Scotland. Certainly when the oil is eventually piped to some terminal in the north of Scotland or Shetland, it may well have to be brought to a terminal such as Amlwch for piping to Stanlow.

Mr. Skeet

Up to what size tanker does Shell propose to use?

Mr. Hughes

I do not think that there is necessarily a limitation on the size of tankers which can use a single-buoy mooring. I said earlier that it is unlikely that Milford Haven can cope with tankers beyond 200,000 tons.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Would the right hon. Gentleman also agree that we may well find oil off the west coast of Britain?

Mr. Hughes

For Wales that would be a bonus. That is quite possible. But from what inexpert knowledge I have on this subject, I understand that concessions in what is interestingly called the Celtic Sea have not yet been made. These are matters for the future. I can now answer the first of the questions of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet). The overall cost will be about £50 million.

It has been suggested that the present planning procedures are unsuitable for this kind of project and that the fact that the seaward project needs a Private Bill while the landward works are subject to a planning procedure creates an unevenness of treatment and places a financial burden on objectors. My experience on the Bill and the planning inquiry, and on previous Bills over a long period in the House, for example, the Amoco Bill, which affected Pembrokeshire, inclines me to agree that the present procedures call for further examination by Parliament. It is high time that we looked at these matters carefully. About three weeks ago an interesting debate took place in another place on this subject.

I hope that hon. Members will agree that this is no reason why Anglesey should be butchered to make a lawyers' holiday or to prove a procedural point. It is proper to examine the Bill as a further example of why reform is needed. It would be wrong to penalise the Anglesey County Council on this Bill to prove a procedural point.

I believe—in this I have the overwhelming support of the elected members of the Anglesey County Council—that the construction of this terminal will be beneficial to the people of Anglesey in the ways I have described, that it will not impair our environment, of which we are proud, and that it will tend to reduce and not increase the risk of pollution to all the coasts surrounding Liverpool bay and North Wales.

Finally, the House may feel that it is in the national interest that this project, which will put Britain ahead of the North West European oil terminals, should go ahead. Britain cannot afford to pass up chances of improving our competitive rating in any field, least of all energy, which enters into our entire national life.

If the Bill receives a Second Reading, there will be a further ample opportunity for detailed examination in the Select Committee, and in due course there will be the Third Reading. I understand also that there will be a substantial interval between this debate and the setting up of the Select Committee, which will give ample time for all concerned to prepare. In the light of all these considerations, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I congratulate the right, hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) on the manner in which he propounded the Second Reading of the Bill. I can well understand why Wales is so rich in folklore when a man of the calibre of the right hon. Gentleman has obviously allowed the enthusiasm he possesses for this project to inspire him in what he has told us tonight.

I accept without reservation most of what the right hon. Gentleman said, though possibly he allowed exaggeration to creep in in one or two instances, especially in his praise for single-buoy mooring. I think it is correct—the right hon. Gentleman will know this probably better than I—that this is the first time that a single-buoy mooring has been utilised in Britain in the open sea. It is no use the House being told that the Anglesey County Council has been to the Humber Estuary to look at the single-buoy mooring of Hull, which is in sheltered eastern waters and not in an exposed open sea position such as off the coast of Anglesey.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) referred to the single-buoy mooring in the Humber Estuary. I was there only last week and I can say from recent observation that it is not a single-buoy mooring. It is a large platform at the end of a type of long revetment which has been built out into the sea. It is not a single-buoy mooring in the sense of what is conventionally described as a single-buoy mooring.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

I understand the point being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), but he may be confusing what my right hon. Friend was talking about with a pier for one of our oil loading points. Most certainly we have a single- or mono-buoy mooring. It is about five miles out in the Humber in the middle of the shipping lanes. I assure hon. Members that it is on exactly the same principle as the one for Anglesey.

Mr. Farr

May I conclude this exchange by pointing out that the Humber Estuary is not the open sea? The new S.B.M. off the Anglesey coast would be an innovation in these waters.

The second point on which the right hon. Gentleman allowed his enthusiasm to run away with him was in connection with the employment which would be occasioned by the scheme in Anglesey. He said that 60 new jobs would be definitely provided in Anglesey if the scheme went ahead, plus possibly 30 or 40 extra jobs. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many of the 60 new jobs are likely to be filled by Anglesey people? Will not many of them be for very skilled technicians of the type not normally available in the pool of unemployed labour in Anglesey?

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is putting his case reasonably. The assurances that I have received from the Anglesey County Council and from Shell U.K. are that a very great proportion of the 100 jobs will be filled by local people. The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that Anglesey is a maritime county with great experience in these matters. Therefore there will be available within the county, and I hope in Amlwch, men who are wholly competent to do most of the jobs that will be available. Certainly key workers will be required, but I understand that the number will be few.

Mr. Farr

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for taking up that point.

Before I go further, it is proper for me to declare an interest in that I am a holder of Shell ordinary shares, though I am not sure that Shell will benefit or lose by this venture.

I want to deal in particular with two aspects. The first can be described as a national aspect: whether a terminal of this nature is needed now or is likely to be needed within the next five or 10 years or as far ahead as one can see. The second aspect can be described as more of a local, Anglesey matter.

If the terminal is needed, what effect is it likely to have on Anglesey, a county which is loved and admired not only by Welshmen? As the right hon. Gentleman said, Anglesey is visited by myriads of tourists. They come mostly from England. We are very attracted by and attached to Anglesey, if we may be permitted to say so.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

We are always delighted to see tourists.

Mr. Farr

Looking at the Bill with what I will describe as the nation's interests in mind, I think the House will agree that a nation which has more than 6,000 miles of coastline and which is totally surrounded by the open sea has a greater right than any other nation to be concerned about the safety of its waters and the shipping lanes that run so close to its shores.

In recent years we have been made all too well aware of the grave risks of pollution which, for instance, the "Torrey Canyon" disaster caused in the South-West, the recent oil pollutions in the Channel waters, the sinking of the "Germania" in the last 12 months and the poison canisters in the South-West.

So frequent has the risk of contamination by oil become that in recent years all our South Coast English Channel towns have had to train and equip special squads to deal with oil disposal en masse. Today there are few Channel towns where one can walk from one end of the shore to the other without getting the soles of one's feet covered in a black film of oil.

That black film of oil is also the lifeblood of our industry. We must get it here with the minimum amount of spillage. I understand that the promoters of the Bill, as the right hon. Member for Anglesey has said, believe that they will achieve this with a single-buoy mooring off the Anglesey coast which will handle fewer vessels of a greater capacity than would otherwise be the case.

The right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that, although fewer vessels will be handled, the result of an accident will be consequently greater. Oil as a source of energy plays a vital rôle and, as a result of the miners' strike, it is likely to increase in importance. Since Shell commenced the project we are discussing, the potentialities of the North Sea oilfields and the fields adjacent to the North Sea or off the East Coast or North-East Coast have greatly increased.

In November last year my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister estimated that by 1980 the British sector of the North Sea alone would be supplying 1½ million barrels of crude oil a day. That represents three-quarters of our present oil needs. Since the project was commenced it has become apparent from revised North Sea figures that from 1975 there will be a steady decline in the quantity of crude oil that we have to import. By 1980 it is estimated that the national requirement for imported oil will be well below the present level. Shell has argued that it must expand its refining capacity at Stanlow to 30 million tons by 1990, and hence this project incorporating construction of a 70-mile pipeline. For the purposes of North Sea oil Stanlow can be considered an East Coast refinery and within five years the cheapest way of getting oil to it will be by pipeline from the North Sea.

In addition, the fuel consumption of the part of the country served by Stan-low is growing less, as has been shown by recent statistics, than any other part of the country. If we join the E.E.C. with the natural tendency of our industry to drift more and more towards the Contenental coastline, that trend is likely to be accelerated. Therefore, in the light of the rapidly changing pattern of energy supply and the country's requirements, the need for a single-buoy mooring facility at Anglesey is not established. It appears only to be asking for trouble to establish this magnet for mammoth tankers two of three miles off our coast, attracting vessels into, through and across one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The alternative is for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board to be allowed to take up its offer to import up to 28 million tons of crude oil a year through its existing Tranmere terminal in vessels of up to 90,000 tons.

Mr. Skeet

It would seem that the United Kingdom refineries are conditioned by such products as fuel oil, the primary fuel required, which has to be drawn from the Middle East and Venezuela. That need cannot be satisfied by North Sea oil, which is a lighter oil, a large part of which would not necessarily come to the United Kingdom but would be sold on the European market. All the assumptions would have to be based on oil being drawn from far afield in larger tankers rather than in small vessels.

Mr. Farr

As usual, my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) makes a very cogent point and I am well aware of the expertise he brings to bear on these matters. He has studied them for a long time. But without this proposed new terminal in Anglesey there will be ample facilities for getting coarse crude oil from the existing terminal from B.P. at Milford Haven and through the gigantic Gulf terminal which is only half used, and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, in Bantry Bay.

Mr. Tilney

Does my hon. Friend agree that if his suggestion was carried out, and many more ships used the Mersey, there would be much greater danger of collision resulting in much greater pollution which could be swept throughout Liverpool Bay?

Mr. Farr

I referred to that earlier. With more vessels there is a great likelihood of collision, while fewer vessels of a larger size would mean less likelihood of collision. But sooner or later, as happened with the "Torrey Canyon", a collision of large vessels will occur and the consequences will be infinitely worse.

I turn to the local effects in Anglesey as I and other admirers of the area see them. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Anglesey. I know how diligent he is in the House in his attention to constituency affairs. We admire him for that and recognise and respect how close he is to his constituents in all matters. He is in favour of the Bill, as is his local county council, whose joint views must carry considerable weight on both sides. On the other hand, being fair-minded the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that the objectors to the Bill are also weighty and are people of considerable consequence. This cannot be treated as a purely Anglesey affair when, for instance, the Central Electricity Generating Board is an objector, when the two adjacent county councils of Cheshire and Flintshire are objectors, when the Anglesey branch of the N.F.U., the N.F.U. in Wales, the National Trust and many others are also official objectors.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

The hon. Member mentioned objections by certain counties. The county council I represent, which is the most adjacent of all, that of Caernarvonshire, has definitely and unanimously decided to give full support for the proposal that the Anglesey County Council should proceed with the Bill.

Mr. Farr

I am delighted to hear that and I am quite sure the right hon. Member for Anglesey will also be delighted. Nevertheless, I would like to mention two chief points which concern the objectors who live in or adjacent to Anglesey. It is not simply the construction of a crude oil tank farm of 200 acres set in one of the most delightful parts of Anglesey which has caused their apprehension. It is not the additional shore station, bunker tanks and pipeline across Anglesey to which they object. They fear that if this single-buoy terminal is established in Anglesey it will be the commencement of a pattern which, they believe, was originally begun in Milford Haven. There the B.P. terminal came first and now there are four refineries. In spite of the assurances of the Anglesey County Council the objectors fear that this will happen again, in their part of the world.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)

Let us get the record straight. It was the Esso refinery which came first, not the B.P. terminal and my hon. Friend should not draw false conclusions.

Mr. Farr

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. There has been a big difference at Milford Haven in the last few years since the terminal and the four refineries arrived.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The hon. Member has made a very important point, and now is the moment to strike the charge on the head. The most categorical assurances have been given by Shell (U.K.) that there is no intention whatever of building a refinery in Anglesey, primarily because it would not be regarded as an economic proposition, for the reasons I gave in my speech. I would certainly oppose it and the planning authority, the county council, would be thoroughly and totally opposed to it and would not be prepared to consider any planning application along those lines. Perhaps the hon. Member would bear that in mind.

Mr. Farr

I will certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said and I hope that if this planning permission and the Bill go through, he does not live to regret what he has said tonight.

Fears exist about spillage and contamination of the coastal waters as a result of the pumping from a point two to three miles offshore of about 30 million tons of crude oil a year and the pumping of an unspecified amount of engine oil for bunkering vessels from the bunkering tanks to the vessels lying at the single-buoy moorings. This is why the C.E.G.B. has seen fit to object in respect of the nuclear power station at Wylfa.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Widnes)

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the risk of spillage is far greater when bunkering is done in the open sea rather than at a modern terminal such as my right hon. Friend described?

Mr. Farr

I am coming on to the point about the likelihood of spillage. Everyone wants to reduce the pollution of our coastal waters by oil as much as possible. It is generally accepted that a loading S.B.M. terminal carries a far greater risk of spillage than a discharge S.B.M. such as we are discussing. It has been estimated that the risk of spillage from a loading terminal is about three or four times as great. If the Bill goes through, I hope that loading, other than bunkering, from the terminal will be forbidden.

It will be the first single-buoy mooring terminal in the open sea in this country. At Shell's last such terminal in Durban, which was completed in 1970, during 12 months ended last September 23 spillages were recorded from only 91 discharge operations. One can judge by that just how much contamination will or will not arise from the establishment of such a facility off Anglesey.

Mr. Prescott

Would the hon. Gentleman care to state the amounts of those spillages? We know them in total but we have certain evidence that on some occasions they amounted to one pint of oil as opposed to the more serious spillages measured in tons. The important question is how much oil is spilt, and the answer to that may create a problem for the hon. Gentleman's argument.

Mr. Farr

In the 23 spillages at the new S.B.M. terminal at Durban during the 12 months ended last September, the total amount of oil spilt was only 57 tons. But the records for all the S.B.M. terminals in the world over the past 10 years give instances of spillages with individual cases measured in thousands of tons.

It is strange to realise that our debate will be a waste of time if planning permission is not given for the proposed tank farm and shore station. A local inquiry has been held and the inspector's report has been submitted for decision. I hope that before the Bill goes any further, assuming it is given a Second Reading, the Minister's decision will be made known and the inspector's report made available for both Houses to consider in their further deliberations on the Bill.

8.13 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

An Englishman intervenes in an issue affecting Wales with some trepidation, and that is especially so in my case as there are close to me a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends who clearly, and understandably, support the Bill.

I put my name to the objection to the Bill because I believed it right that we should have this debate, which might otherwise not have taken place, and because I thought it important that the Committee that will consider the full details of the Measure should have the opportunity to hear the views expressed here, not because I have taken up a position of complete opposition to the proposal, which is of great concern and originality.

We are dealing with a proposal involving three different operations in a sense. First, there is the marine installation, which requires the Bill. Secondly, there is the considerable land installation, which has required a local inquiry. Although a transcript was kindly made available to us, we do not yet have the inspector's report, and so we do not know what the result of that local inquiry will be. Thirdly, there is the pipeline from the land installation.

It is somewhat difficult when several of the inquiries that have taken place already have been obliged to look at a single facet of the problem instead of the whole. Therefore, I understand the suggestion made at one time that this would appear to be an admirable case for a planning commission to be set up, such as was envisaged in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1968. I fully understand the Government's unwillingness to make provision for such an inquiry, however. We all know the experience of the Stansted inquiry, which became a national affair, and almost an international affair. It cost a great deal and took a great deal of time, and at the end of the day we did not accept the findings. We face the difficulty of three separate operations, and a third inquiry in relation to the pipeline might well be required under our town and country planning legislation.

We appreciate that the matter is particularly complex from everyone's point of view—from the point of view of those that want to carry it out and those that have very proper anxieties that should be expressed. We have been told that the major county affected, Anglesey, is promoting the Bill. We understand its concern. I at any rate, representing a constituency with more than 15 per cent. of the men out of work, understand very well the problem of unemployment. But none of us is entitled to look at the question solely from one point of view. We must also assure ourselves that we have given adequate thought to other factors that concern the people of Anglesey as well as people who live elsewhere. Anglesey has a great attraction for many people from England as well as from Wales. Therefore, one of the considerations should be the effect of the operation, as far as we can judge it, upon the tourist industry of Anglesey. We must keep that in mind as well as the modest employment prospects it offers. No one has suggested that it might make more than a relatively modest contribution, though I well know that modest contributions are gratefully received.

I declare an interest, being on the Executive of the National Trust, which, after careful consideration and consultation with its local branches and members in the area, has decided to join in the opposition to the proposal. Here again there is the national aspect, for which the National Trust must accept some responsibility. It is the responsibility of the National Trust to ensure, in every way possible, that the heritage of areas in close proximity to the scheme are guarded, and they would certainly be affected if any spillages were to occur. It is not only the right but the duty of the National Trust to see that the most careful consideration is given to the views of those concerned with the protection of these areas.

There are other reasons, too. Some have been referred to by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). One cannot just dismiss some serious questions about the whole economic proposition—whether, indeed, it makes national or even international sense to go ahead with this scheme and the very large investment by Shell. Many people will say that Shell is the best body to decide. Whether that makes sense or not, I am not always impressed by such a view. I do not take the simplist view that private companies of this gradiose size always know best. They are as liable to make mistakes as anyone else.

I have in mind the not so wildly different proposition for potash mining in North Yorkshire, when a major inquiry took place. To my deep regret, the Labour Government gave authority for potash mining to go ahead in the area of the North Yorkshire National Park. One project has started, but in considering the other two projects the companies have, after fighting hard for the right to develop potash mining, accepted the arguments put by economists who were brought in by the objectors. These economists said that the whole thing was mad economically and that there is not a market.

The firms have agreed now that there is no market and have said, "Thank you for the opportunity of development, but we have decided that there is not much likelihood of going ahead with the scheme, at any rate for a long time to come."

That experience suggests that we should not in this case merely accept the commercial judgment of Shell but that we have every right to consider whether there is any other evidence that we should take into account as well. We have had evidence put before us, whose soundness I am in no position to judge, but which I am concerned should be heard, by Professor Odell, who was at one time an economic adviser to Shell. He strongly holds that the situation as it has developed does not warrant this kind of operation. It is very important that that view should be heard by the Committee. It is unfortunate that, although Professor Odell appeared as a witness before the land inquiry, we do not yet know the verdict of the inquiry. I assume—no doubt the Minister will tell us—that we shally know the result and have the inspector's report about the land part of the operation long before the scheme goes to the Committee.

That is one advantage of the rather long pause which is to take place before the Committee begins to take evidence and consider the matter. I am sure that we can expect to get some assurance on that point from the Minister. It would be wrong for the Committee to go ahead with its examination without some report and view on the land installation aspects. This again is an illustration of the difficulty of handling a proposition which involves both offshore and land proposals.

I welcome the opportunity for this exchange of views in the House and the fact that it has been reasonably friendly. It has given us the opportunity to make clear our principal anxieties so that we can have some assurance that these matters are examined with care in the Committee before we make our final decision on the Bill. We cannot proceed simply on the say-so of this great undertaking, much as we respect its knowledge and commercial experience. We have a right to express our own judgments and anxieties.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) as a mere Englishman, but the Mersey has been mentioned and those concerned not only with the Port of Liverpool but with the employment situation in Cheshire and Lancashire are very much interested in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman said that we should not accept the commercial judgment of Shell and pointed out that there may be other than, economic points of view. I accept that argument. Surely, however, if one can keep or even improve the amenities and at the same time provide oil cheaper than otherwise, this is of benefit to the whole community. I believe that it can be done in this case.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I do not think we should accept the commercial judgment of Shell without challenge. Perhaps it is right, but we need to check.

Mr. Tilney

I am not objecting to that. On balance the House will find that the argument for the Bill will be proved. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) in supporting the Second Reading. The only thing he left out was the fact that 80 per cent. of the products of Stanlow are for industrial and public service use including the generation of electricity. It is of immense importance. The River Mersey is a twisting estuary limited to ships of only about 90,000 tons. The big tankers have to be lightened in Liverpool Bay with consequent risk of spillage.

I am told that the Mersey pilots have said that they would regard the prospects of an accident as being greatly reduced if the single-buoy mooring terminal were placed near Amlwch. It is common knowledge that Amlwch will probably be the best location in the whole of North-West Europe for such a buoy. Many hon. Gentlemen have spoken of amenities. I live in Liverpool and from my bedroom window I have a fine view in the distance of Stanlow and in the opposite direction of the Dingle oil tanks. No one can say that they are beautiful.

Between the oil tanks and our house there are quite a number of oil tanks which have been buried and one is hardly aware of their existence. I am told that the Anglesey area is largely rock and that it would be expensive to bury such tanks and difficult to plant trees around. However, it may be that they can be camouflaged. Surely in these days of great earth-moving equipment it is possible to move earth over the tanks, even if we cannot sink them into the ground, thus creating artificial hills.

Mr. Farr

Is my hon. Friend aware that each of these tanks, and they number about 13 or 15, is twice the size of Conway Castle?

Mr. Tilney

I hope that my hon. Friend will come and see the tanks that were buried several decades ago at Liverpool. They are very large, too, and even if there is a tank twice the size of Conway Castle there is no reason why it should not be covered over. It may be more expensive, but we have to weigh up the cost against the benefits involved. I hope, too, that the pipes will be buried and that we will not have a series of pipes running over the countryside such as can be seen in other countries.

In 10 years' experience of the operation of single-buoy moorings in various parts of the world, many of them in waters as rough as are ever likely to be experienced at Anglesey, there have been few examples of major pollution. One has been in operation in the Humber for 13 months. Attached to every buoy there will be a 75-ft. launch equipped with 30 tons of dispersant and a considerable amount of spraying equipment. That does not apply today when ships are being lightened. Ships will be able to operate in wave heights of up to at least 6 ft. In wave heights in excess of this the operations will cease although the big ships will be unaffected by these conditions. That means that probably for 35 days in every year the single-buoy mooring will be out of action. The fundamental concern, once amenities are protected, is that we should have cheap oil for the benefit of employment in Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire and elsewhere in the North, so that we may improve employment prospects.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

I beg to offer a few sceptical thoughts to the House on this important Bill which is under discussion, and the fact that only a handful of hon. Members have been attracted to this debate does not lessen its importance.

Although a number of my hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies are here to support the Bill, I am not convinced that what we are debating is confined to the geographical boundaries of Wales because this issue is concerning all advanced countries of the world as the oil industry becomes an ever-expanding element in our economic affairs.

I have many friends in the oil industry, and nothing I say should be taken as antagonistic towards them. I appreciate that they are expert professional people in their own right. But when I hear—with the pleasure that it always gives us to hear him—my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) speak in such amiable and reasonable terms in support of the Measure, I wonder whether he and others have asked themselves a number of questions which should be answered in considering a Bill of this kind.

A matter which is bound to be of interest to the Select Committee is the question whether anyone has stopped to ask if the world needs 200,000 or 300,000 ton tankers, or tankers of whatever goal the marine engineers are planning for these monsters. The very mechanics of this operation and the mere conception of these vast vessels is of serious concern to people throughout the world, for vessels of this size are regarded as a menace to shipping, particularly in estuarial waters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) knows more about this subject than probably any hon. Member. He will agree that a Private Members' Bill is before the House with the aim of bringing greater safety to the Humber by providing for increased and more efficient pilotage for small vessels which would not need to employ pilots but for the existence of the enormous hulks which we are discussing. This is a matter of wisdom and planning for the future of the environment in which we are going to live.

I am not a crude conservationist in these matters. I realise that we must have the economic resources to sustain our island people and I never stand in the way of any rational attempt to do that. Nevertheless, I am entitled to ask not only whether the world should continue to build ever-increasingly large tankers which are creating a menace to shipping throughout the world, and particularly in confined waters like ours, but also for how long the world will tolerate a situation in which indigenous forms of fuel such as we have-200 years of proved resources of coal lying beneath our feet —should go untapped. Twenty years ago our coal industry was manned by 750,000 men whereas today it has fewer than 280,000, as the recent strike made us well aware.

The great oil companies have so organised things that they can exploit their expertise and interests to the full. Should we ignore the possibility that we may one day have to use our indigenous resources of fuel? This is a matter of judgment and I am not dogmatic. On the one hand we can go on destroying the ecology by allowing vast terminals and their attendant equipment and subsidiary industries to be established—as I saw in the Southampton Water, which I inspected recently in another capacity—or we can look harder at the geographical and political instability of the world and think in terms of using our own natural resources.

Whatever may be said about the superiority of oil over coal or coal over oil as a fuel, and the greater convenience of oil, the fact remains that the sources of oil are in such unstable parts of the world that we may by the sheer force of economic circumstances be driven to stop yielding to the blackmail of Arab sheiks exploiting their oil, as they, for their own purposes in their own countries, are entitled to do.

I put this to the House merely in an interrogatory way. I am not putting it in a dogmatic way. I never say anything in a dogmatic way in this House, as my hon. Friends know. Nevertheless, I put it that these vast plans which oil technologists and technicians are presenting should not be taken for granted. I know that my Welsh friends are more swayed by emotion than by reason, if I may say that without disrespect.

Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)

£50 million?

Mr. Price

My hon. Friend says £50 million. I do not know whether that was heard by the HANSARD reporters. There is a question I should like to ask about it. Not even this massive investment of £50 million will necessarily all be to the advantage of Anglesey. On my right hon. Friend's own admission it will provide at the most 100 jobs of a permanent character for the people of Anglesey as a contribution towards overcoming unemployment many times as much. Of course, Anglesey will get considerable rateable value and capital assets and so on out of these proposals, but in terms of employment the economic return to Anglesey does not seem very great. I put it to my right hon. Friends in the most amiable and friendly way. I have been long enough a Member of this House to remember the day when we had the great debate about a great project sponsored by the Central Electricity Generating Board, a power station at Trawsffynydd in Merionethshire. It was to be the salvation of Wales. Has it made any salient impression on Welsh unemployment? I went there when the station was being built. It was like Rocky Mountain rhythm. It was on the soggy moor at the back of Rhinog Fawr and Rhinog Fach, in an upland valley behind those hills, and there were miles of wooden huts for the workmen, but not full of Welshmen, full of Irishmen: they were the building labourers.

I am extremely sceptical about all this. I said at the beginning that I was making a few sceptical remarks. I think that many of these ambitious and enthusiastic forecasts will not be borne out in the event.

I have no intention of taking up much of the time of the House in this debate, and in any case the Bill will be examined in Committee, but there are these questions to be asked. Is the world wise in embarking on and encouraging the constant proliferation of the huge tankers of 200,000 or 300,000 tons? Will there not have to be miles of network of pipelines running all over the place, north, south, east and west? And not buried underground. We know already that because of the cost of transmission lines the Central Electricity Generating Board puts them overground on pylons. All the infrastructure will proliferate on the surface. There will be great tankers, and transport which will cut through towns, to—

Mr. Skeet


Mr. Price

Let me finish the sentence and not end with a preposition. I merely put it it to the House that in view of the tremendous uncertainty of oil supplies in the world it is time that we in this House set to work to give greater consideration to where the real balance of advantage lies between the various forms of fuel at our command. By doing that we should be considering the interests not only of our own generation but of generations to come.

Mr. Skeet

Surely the hon. Member must know we cannot build pipelines all over the country. We have to get planning consent and the consent of the Minister for over 10 miles. That is under the Pipe-lines Act, 1962. There are few in this country. Most of them are buried. Therefore, they are not an eyesore.

Mr. Price

I am obliged for what the hon. Member has said. I do not deny that one has to go through planning procedures, but anyone who has had to deal with planning procedures, as I have, will be just about fed up with them. On paper, it provides a safeguard for the public interest. In practice, it is so complex and technical that the public interest is always avoided by the most powerful voices and the professionally qualified advocates who put cases before tribunals. However, I do not make much of that, because it will only tempt me to continue my speech longer than I should.

I put these thoughts seriously before the House, and I hope that they will be considered carefully when and if the Bill goes to a Committee upstairs.

8.45 p.m.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. David Gibson-Watt)

It may be convenient if I intervene at this stage, in no way wishing to curtail debate, but to answer one question from the point of view of the Welsh Office and to deal with a number of matters which right hon. and hon. Members have raised.

This is a Private Bill. The Government are neutral on its merits, and I must be neutral, too. But this has been a fascinating debate to listen to, certainly for anyone who has any responsibility for or interest in the problems of Wales.

This is a cross-party issue, and certainly I have no intention of being caught in any kind of crossfire. However, it may be helpful if I try to clarify one point which has been raised by those hon. Members who have referred to certain related planning applications under consideration by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State.

The Bill is concerned with proposed off-shore installations; that is to say, the single-buoy moorings, submarine pipelines, a breakwater and jetties. None of these installations is subject to the Town and Country Planning Acts. Therefore, it was necessary for the promoters to seek parliamentary authority through this Bill. On the other hand, the related land-based installations are subject to the Acts, and therefore the promoters applied for planning permission in the ordinary way. My right hon. and learned Friend called in the most important application for his own decision. A public local inquiry was held in October and November, and the inspector's report is expected to be ready very shortly; it is hoped, within the next two weeks.

It has been suggested that the further progress of the Bill should be delayed until my right hon. and learned Friend has seen his inspector's report and come to his decisions on the planning application. It has been suggested also that it would be helpful if the decisions could be announced before the Bill is considered in Committee. It is right to point out on the suggestions that, although the off-shore and on-shore installations would be closely related, operationally they raise rather different environmental considerations. The offshore proposals raise the question of possible oil pollution at sea. The on-shore proposals raise quite different questions of land use and visual impact in a mainly rural environment.

Nevertheless, the decisions will be taken as quickly as possible after the inspector's report is received. It will be the aim of my right hon. and learned Friend to announce his decisions before the Bill is considered in Committee. I am sorry that I cannot give an absolute guarantee that the decisions will be announced as requested. But it is not possible for me to go any further since the report is not yet available and since the issues involved are of considerable significance. However, there is every prospect that the decisions will be announced before the Bill goes to Committee, assuming that it finds favour with the House tonight.

It has also been suggested, rightly, by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) that the Government should have referred the whole question of the Anglesey oil terminal to a planning inquiry commission. Under Section 62 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1968, the Government can refer to a planning inquiry commission only after planning applications, planning appeals and development proposals by Government Departments. Therefore, the offshore proposals would not have been referred to a planning inquiry commission. My right hon. and learned Friend took the view that it would not be appropriate to refer the related planning applications to a planning inquiry commission.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Is it not true to say that if the land-based installation inquiry should result in the Minister turning down the project the whole Bill falls and therefore it is important to try to ensure that the decision is known before the Committee stage?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I gave way to the hon. Gentleman because I thought that he proposed to speak about the planning inquiry commission. I am sure that he will forgive me if I merely say in answer to him that I cannot go further than I have. My words were used with reason, and there is every prospect that the decision will be announced before the Bill reaches Committee.

It must be borne in mind that the planning inquiry commission procedure, which is bound to be heavyweight and long drawn out, is intended for use only in exceptional circumstances defined in the 1968 Act. My right hon. and learned Friend took the view that the conditions laid down in the Act for the appointment of a public inquiry commission were not satisfied in the Amlwch case.

I have made those three specific points purely to help the Committee in its deliberations.

8.52 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) suggested that Englishmen intervene—and I use the word "intervene" and not "interfere"—in a debate on Welsh affairs only with some trepidation. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) shot that suggestion down in flames. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) has also shown an interest in this matter.

It is easier for us to intervene in these matters when we appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) and other right hon. and hon. colleagues of mine who represent constituencies in North Wales, whilst being passionate defenders of the interests, welfare and well-being of their constituents, are reasonable men who will accept that this Bill has much wider implications than the implications it has for their own areas. That it is not only the right but the responsibility of other hon. Members of this Parliament of the United Kingdom to take an interest in these matters, provided it be a constructive interest. That is what some of us are trying to do. The hon. Member for Wavertree represents a Liverpool constituency where we are never backward in coming forward. It is said we have more Welshmen in our city than has Cardiff. Forty per cent. of my constituents are of Welsh blood.

The House is fairly full for this kind of debate and there are Englishmen among us who love to have the opportunity, which comes too rarely, to go to North Wales to enjoy the amenities there —not the "caravan desert", stretching along the North Wales coast, but parts such as Lligwy Bay, Amlwch, Cemaes Bay and my favourite mini-mountain, Mynydd Bodaffon.

I speak as a Merseyside Member. The hon. Member for Wavertree will remember that three years ago we were invited to a meeting at the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board to meet representatives of the Board and the Shell Oil Co. to hear them explain a new Bill which they proposed to put forward to follow the example of the British Empire to extend the bounds of Merseyside "wider still and wider" and to include the water off the Anglesey coast. The Shell representatives were not prepared to tell us the cost of the scheme or how it would work. Perhaps they did not know, but I believe they did not want to say what they thought at that time, since they had not thought through all the implications.

We were told this evening that the total cost of the scheme will be about £50 million, but I estimate that the amount of money which will be spent in Anglesey on the buoy mooring will be around £2 million to £5 million. There will be expenditure of around £1 million for the cost of the terminal, another £10 million for the tank farm—though this is excluded from the Bill—and the rest of the expenditure will be in respect of the pipeline to take the oil through North Wales into England. Some 40 or 45 per cent. of the expenditure will be taxpayers' money. The whole of the sum will not be borne by the Shell Company, but will be eligible for investment grants in one way or another. Since there is 45 per cent. of Government investment, I find it difficult to see how the Government spokesman can say that he is neutral. He cannot be neutral over the investment of £20 to £25 million of taxpayers' money. He has to take a positive interest, and should have been more forthcoming with the House.

When the Bill was presented three years ago it was apparent that this was being done by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board in partnership with the Shell Company. This appeared to be in our interest on Merseyside and there was the beginning of an agreement. This matter has provoked interest over a wide area. I have had correspondence from Essex, North Wales. South Wales and Lancashire from people who want to see how the matter has progressed. The matter has been fully discussed by hon. Members who have been interested.

I should like to have some assurances on this Bill as it affects Liverpool and Merseyside. Anybody who has any knowledge of ports knows that the basic income of the port of Merseyside is in the form of oil revenues. Dry goods, such as cars and heavy goods are supportable in the present cost situation only by reason of the fact that a substantial measure of oil revenue goes into Merseyside. The message we received when the consultations were taking place on the scheme some three years ago was that this scheme would increase oil revenues and would make Merseyside more viable as a port. If the total capacity of Stanlow is to extend in the way envisaged by Shell, then the capacity will increase from 10 million tons per annum up to 18 million tons in 1973 to 1975, and up to 25 million tons per annum in the 1980s. A share of that increase could still come in through Merseyside. Therefore, Merseyside could still see an increasing oil revenue year by year.

My concern in terms of the Bill is that adaptation to accommodate an oil terminal for super tankers will cause a reduction in the number of smaller tankers using Tranmere.

Mr. J. T. Price

My hon. Friend mentioned the super tanker. Surely the super tanker as it is at present built is a pure accident related to the Suez Canal. If the Suez Canal had not been closed some years ago because of political events, then the need for such super tankers to carry crude oil around the Cape would not have arisen. I hope that this situation will not continue for ever, and I am sure that every merchant seaman would agree with that sentiment.

Mr. Ogden

I do not wish to argue the merits and demerits of the super tanker. Although the closing of the Suez Canal has had an effect on the situation, the closing of the Suez Canal increased Western interest in super tankers able to use the Cape route more economically, but I would point out that oil was being taken from the Middle East to Japan by super tanker long before the Suez Canal was closed. These are the facts of life.

They have to be lived with for the foreseeable future. This buoy is one of the results of the technical changes coming along.

I want an assurance—I do not know whether an assurance can be given— that the establishment of the buoy will not mean a reduction in the amount of traffic coming into the Mersey, a reduction in the number of tugs required, a reduction in the number of transfers of ships, and a reduction in the way that tankers come into the Mersey and are now supplied from Merseyside, because they may just come off-shore to Anglesey, turn round and never come to Merseyside.

Obviously any local Member must be concerned about the effect on employment in his constituency. If both Anglesey and Merseyside are to share in an ever-increasing amount of oil coming into Stanlow, that would be acceptable to the North-West. It is not a coal fuel emphasis; it is an industrial emphasis all the way along. I have some reservation on that, which has not been mentioned in any way in the Shell briefs, but if it is part of an expanding market I am sure that we can come to terms.

My second interest is as a private citizen who goes to North Wales when he can enjoy the first-class amenities and warm welcome. It is not by chance that an ex-Member of this House, Mrs. Slater, now lives at Bull Bay, Amlwch. She knows the warmth and friendship of the people there. I can climb that glorious mountain, Mynyd Bodafon, which is about the right size for me to climb. I do not want anything to spoil that.

I am concerned about the siting of the tank farm, but that is excluded from the Bill. We have to rely on Members to look after interests there. The old harbour of Amlwch looks a true place for pirates and wreckers, not the Pirates of Penzance, but no one in North Wales ever landed £50 million before. I should not like it to become a Brighton Marina. I do not want a plastic palace on top of the grey-green slates which form the harbour wall.

Changes can and have been made in the Bill. The good which can come out of it outweighs any harm which might come from it. Page 2 of Part 2 of the Bill says that the primary case for establishing the sea buoy is for navigational purposes and the economic import of oil. I think that is stretching it a bit far. I think it might be the other way round. It is not there primarily for navigational purposes, but that is a minor point which can be argued in Committee.

If the Anglesey County Council and the Shell Company, and the people of Anglesey require help and co-operation from Merseyside, I am sure it will be forthcoming. On that basis I will not oppose the Bill. I will support it if my right hon. Friend needs my support.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

I shall not detain the House long. I want to speak purely about the pollution aspect of the scheme and the threat that it poses to holiday interests along the North Wales coast, of which Conway has a very fair—some might say the fairest—share, extending as it does from the Nice of the North-West, Llandudno, to the Athens of Wales, Bangor. Between those two delightful townships we have other populous holiday centres: Conway, Penmaenmaur and Llanfairfechan, with Port Dinorwic beyond.

All those communities depend on tourism for their livelihood, as indeed do many other communities in North Wales, which, it might interest hon. Members to know, in the year ended 31st March, 1971, attracted no fewer than 1,875,000 holidaymakers, according to the Annual Report of the Wales Tourist Board. The impact of the holiday season on Llandudno, for example, has to be seen to be believed. Its population of 17,000 swells in the summer months to over 100,000. Its income from this source is estimated at £5 million and I believe that Anglesey has a slightly bigger total income from tourism. The great attraction to these holidaymakers is the beauty of clean sea, blue skies and the hinterland of Snowdonia beyond.

I well remember—and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) does too—the consternation in the resorts in July last year when it was announced on the radio that about 400 tons of crude oil had seeped from the 200,000-ton Shell tanker "Merissa" while she was off-loading about 90,000 tons into the "Drupa", another Shell tanker, off Moelfre on the Anglesey coast. As it happened, only 40 tons was spilled and the five-mile slick was soon disposed of by the Holyhead tug "Afon Goch". There was no visible damage to the beaches or to bird life but the anxiety caused to holidaymakers and their hosts was very considerable. One wonders how long any resort can survive that kind of threat if it is constantly present.

These discharges from one tanker to another take place sometimes twice weekly off Anglesey, Bantry Bay and the Cherbourg Peninsula, but most frequently off Anglesey. The two tankers involved then proceed, as we have heard, to Tranmere for the final discharge. The argument that we have heard tonight is that it would be safer to off-load into a terminal than into another vessel because of the greater stability and the better facilities available to deal with possible spillages. It is also argued that discharge into a terminal would avoid the necessity of vessels proceeding to Tranmere and so lessen the danger of collision in the shipping lanes.

On the other hand, the proposed terminal is very close to the shore and if there were a spillage it would have to be dealt with very quickly indeed if beach pollution was to be avoided. Besides, this is a notoriously treacherous part of the coast and many vessels which have sought shelter there from the south-westerlies have been driven on to the rocks. Perhaps the most famous of them was the "Royal Charter", which was sunk in 1859. One must also bear in mind that the discharging tanker will be swinging, as it were, by a line from the terminal and may therefore be much nearer than two miles from the coast. Finally, as we have heard this evening there is talk of far larger tankers—up to half a million and 1 million tons—possibly using the terminal. Whatever their pros and cons from a safety standpoint, the prospect of their use increases rather than diminishes our fears in the resorts.

Nor are our fears allayed by the size of the land installations—the farm of 15 or 16 tanks each twice the size of Conway Castle, and the two 48-in. diameter pipelines to Stanlow. These dimensions alone tend to confirm that the terminal will have the capacity to handle 50 million tons per annum, two and a half times the 18 million-ton capacity of Stanlow as developed up to 1973, and greater, too, than the 30 million-ton capacity of Stanlow that we have heard of as being possible in the 1990s. So what is the value of the assurance given to the Select Committee in the other place that the promoters have no intention of building a refinery or a chemical plant or any other type of installation apart from the installations referred to in the Bill or in current planning applications? The value that most of us will put on it is very low in the long term.

We would be wise to recognise that, as in the case of Milford Haven, once the terminal is established there will be further developments either at Anglesey or at Stanlow or on the pipeline route to cope with an increasing intake of oil via the terminal. With increased use there is increased danger of accident, spillage, collision and so on.

We have been asked where all this oil is to come from. Recent statements about developments in the North Sea and elsewhere suggest that we are very much on the verge of oil discoveries which Sir David Barran, Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading Company, said might take the United Kingdom into self-sufficiency in terms of oil towards the end of the 1980s. Shell paid £21 million at last year's auction of potential oil blocks for one block alone, and I understand from Friday's Financial Times that about 270 more oil blocks off the Scottish coast and in the approaches to the Bristol Channel are to be put up for auction in the near future.

We have been referred to as a precious stone set in a silver sea, but it seems that we are set in a bed of oil. Sir David also said: Indications are that North Sea oil, although of excellent quality and low in sulphur content, is light in specification and would not match United Kingdom product requirements, with their emphasis on heavy industrial oil … In practice, a considerable proportion of British oil is likely to be exported and counterbalanced by imports of heavier crude to make the right blend for the refineries. So we can see the shape of things to come—a tremendous increase in oil tanker traffic to and from this country.

In view of the recent coal strike and the power cuts, we should as a nation rejoice that we have these reserves of oil off our shores, but let us be realistic about protecting those shores from the dangers of pollution. Whatever we do, let us not desecrate the shores, and Welsh shores particularly, as the Welsh mining valleys were desecrated 100 years ago.

It is not good enough for Shell, with its high reputation, to have told the Select Committee that, so far as pollution went, a scheme will be drawn up designed to meet this problem, so far as it concerns Anglesey, in the event of the Bill becoming law. We should know what that scheme is today. It must be foolproof, to set our minds at rest.

I do not condemn my native county for promoting the Bill. It will get the contribution towards its revenue and some employment which is very much needed, but it must also be prepared to lose some of its income and employment from tourism. I hope that it does not, but it is certainly a possibility.

I wish that I could point to some possible gain for Caernarvonshire, but whatever gain there may be in the way of work in laying the pipes and rates on them afterwards, all this could be negligible compared with the loss of attraction if the beaches are subject to pollution. The loss may not be immediate but it could clearly be substantial over the years.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Quite properly, the hon. Gentleman wants to protect the major resorts in his constituency. Looking over the next decade or two, does he believe that the interests of Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr and Llandudno will be better protected if the traffic to and from the Mersey increases, as it inevitably will if no single-mooring buoy is built off Llandudno? Is that what he wants? He has to make a choice and to say now to the House and to his constituents whether he considers they will be safer if there is no single-mooring buoy.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

The point I am making very strongly is that one is tremendously anxious on behalf of the whole North Wales coast that absolutely every protection and safeguard should be taken in the event of the terminal coming into being. That is where my emphasis lies.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned the county of which he and I share representation, would he address his mind to this point? Perhaps he was not present when I reminded another hon. Member that our county council has gone on record as strongly supporting the Bill after the most careful examination of all the points that have been put before the House today, in particular the choice between the present system, which is a very dangerous one from the viewpoint of trying to avoid the result of spillage without even the help of permanent launches, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) explained will now become available, and the system which would obtain if an S.B.M. were installed off the shores of Anglesey. Will the hon. Gentleman now answer my right hon. Friend's question? Which of those two systems does he prefer?

Mr. Wyn Roberts

The right hon. Gentleman is certainly limiting the choice, and unnecessarily so. There are other choices too. Had we had perhaps the planning inquiry commission, those choices might have been revealed to us.

I was about to say that Caernarvonshire and Flintshire County Councils were to have petitioned against the Bill, but they have withdrawn after securing an agreement on compensation for the costs of combating any pollution that may occur. I understand, however, that the agreement covers only labour and materials employed. As the Town Clerk of Llandudno put it to me in a letter, the agreement does not contemplate provisions to deal with ruined or damaged articles of clothing, spoiled days' outings, holiday disappointments and the consequent depressing effects on the resort industries, to say nothing of the underserved worries, anxieties and uncertainties when reported oil slicks, lurking out to sea, menace the holiday beaches. This is the fear that is very much in their minds and this, too, is something of the shape of things to come.

I return to the main burden of my speech that we must do everything possible to prevent that nightmare from becoming a reality. There is the element of protection of the Oil in Navigable Waters Act and the Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution) Act, with the maximum fine of £50,000 for negligence and other offences. On reading the Bill, I am glad to see that the terminal authority does not exempt itself from those Acts, but one would have liked to see rather more awareness of the dangers of pollution on the part of the promoters of the Bill and the associated company and a willingness, too, to shoulder responsibility for damage outside the immediate area of the terminal. I hope that the Select Committee will take note of this and will prescribe stringent conditions for the operation of the terminal if the House sees fit to give the Bill a Second Reading.

9.20 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Widnes)

I give unqualified support to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) and congratulate him on the excellent way in which he introduced the Bill. I do this for two reasons. One is that I am a Merseyside Member and many of my constituents work at the oil refinery at Stanlow. Many more of them, particularly those working in the building trade, which is at present very much a depressed industry on Merseyside, will find work if the extension takes place.

The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts) said that as a result of the Bill it may well be that there will be extensions, either in Anglesey or at Stanlow. My right hon. Friend said that they will not be in Anglesey. I hope that the extensions will take place at Stanlow, because we need the industry, we need the development, and we need the addition to the economy of North Cheshire and South Lancashire that such extensions would provide. This has a direct interest for my constituency—I speak as a Merseyside Member—although the refinery is across the water in Cheshire.

My second reason is that, as my right hon. Friend knows, I am one of the many Members of the House, apparently, who are very much in love with his constituency. I spend every available moment of my time in the summer in my right hon. Friend's constituency.

The main argument that we have heard from those who oppose the Bill concerns the very natural fear of pollution. The hon. Member for Conway said that his main criticism of the Bill was that he thought that not sufficient attention had been paid by either the promoters or by the company to the pollution aspect.

A tourist county such as Anglesey and my right hon. Friend representing that county are as much aware as, if not more aware than, any hon. Member of the importance of tourism to that island. They have taken this very much into consideration, allied with the question of pollution, before promoting the Bill.

The company we are dealing with—Shell—is one of those companies that take a healthy interest in the question of pollution. One of its senior managing directors—Mr. Iliffe—serves on the Royal Commission which is considering pollution because of this intense interest from an industry point of view on the effects that industrial pollution can have on the environment.

I, like many other hon. Members, am very concerned about pollution and its effects. This is one of the reasons I support my right hon. Friend on the Bill. It is far safer for tankers to offload their oil at a terminal such as the one proposed than it is to attempt to offload oil on to smaller ships. In that way accidents happen, as the hon. Member for Conway has just described; that accident happened because there was no terminal. It happened because one ship, bobbing about in the water, was offloading on to another ship, which is a much more difficult task than is offloading, at a purpose-built marine terminal such as that described in the Bill.

The question of pollution lies at the root of it. There is far less risk of collision with a terminal and also far less risk of spillage. Oil tankers will get bigger and bigger. There are now tankers of between 200,000 and 300,000 tons. In Japan tankers of ½ million tons are in the shipyard. It is proposed that even bigger ships should be built.

Such ships will be built and they will carry oil economically. Unless we have a terminal such as this, the North-West, in which I include North Wales, will be by-passed. The areas to which ships will go will be to other parts of the United Kingdom or not in the United Kingdom at all.

The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) who opposes the Bill, said significantly that one of the things which might happen if Britain joined the Common Market was that there would be a shift of industry to the south-east of England. I agree and that is why I am opposed to the Common Market. The more installations that are built in the north-west of England and North Wales, provided they are safe and every safeguard is given against pollution, the happier I shall be in the face of that immense competition from the South-East.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey made an excellent case for the Bill. As a Merseyside Member, affected by it and as a lover of his island, I would be the first to vote against it if there was any chance of that peaceful island being desecrated by pollution.

I hope the House will give a warm and clear Second Reading to this important and useful Bill, useful to an island which knows what disaster is like, because Anglesey only two years ago faced an economic disaster when its railway bridge was put out of use. The House should do something which could help redress that economic balance tonight.

9.27 p.m.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

Like the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Oakes), I am in favour of the Bill. Notwithstanding that, the campaign which has been lodged against the Bill has been a model of how such a campaign should be conducted. I take this opportunity of paying tribute to the way that I have been lobbied. It has been an excellent example of democracy at work. I wish I could say that the promoters of the Bill had been equally assiduous in putting forward their case. The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) presented the case for the Bill superbly. I have not always found it easy to extract from Shell what exactly it is trying to do.

But having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, having studied the proceedings as carefully as I can and having read the debate in the other place with great care and attention, I am convinced that Shell has made out its case for the need for this facility in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole. I believe the facility will decrease the risk of pollution by oil spillage along the North Wales coast and this is, of course, the area with which I am primarily concerned. It is not for me or for anybody outside Anglesey to pronounce on the environmental considerations affecting Anglesey, and I am content to accept the view of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter.

One of the aspects which concern me is the risk of oil spillage and I am convinced that the practice of lightering from one tanker to another in the open sea is far more likely to produce spillage than the arrangements embodied in the Bill. I have heard, however, the rather impressive statistics produced by the objectors on spillage where single-buoy moorings are used for loading and not unloading. It appears that where these buoys are used for loading there is a considerably greater risk of spillage, even in small quantities, and small spillages frequently occur. I hope that as the Bill progresses through Committee the promoters will give a rather more categoric assurance than they have to date that this facility will be used solely for unloading. As I read it, the assurance they have given is somewhat hedged about and leaves more loopholes than it should.

The other aspect which concerns me is the route, and the layout and treatment of the pipeline which is to carry the oil from Anglesey. I totally reserve my freedom of action to object violently to any specific proposals for the route of the pipeline, particularly if anybody is to suggest such an awful thing as taking it on stilts across low-lying ground. Then I should be up in arms and, if the recent example were to be followed, I would be out with my stick of dynamite. The pipeline must be buried, but subject to that I am happy to support the Bill.

9.31 p.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

Before I explain why I support the Bill, may I declare a non-interest? I was employed by the Shell International Petroleum Company before I was elected, but I then resigned from it. I hope my judgment tonight is in no way influenced by my former connection with the company.

As another non-Welshman who is very fond of Anglesey I can understand the anxieties felt by some people about the effect of the proposal before us. But I am sure they are groundless. We should give the greatest weight to the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) and the responsible local authority in the area.

These are times when the progress of technology raises some alarm about issues of conservation and problems of the environment, and there may be instances when we should be content with a second-best technical solution in the interests of the environment. I am certain that this is not such a case and that the scheme will take full advantage of modern technology without the least risk to the Anglesey environment and with actual benefits to the wider environment of North Wales and North-West England.

There has been talk about the danger of spillage of oil at buoys of the kind proposed. But I understand that in its many years of operating single-buoy moorings of the type proposed Shell has unloaded 120 million tons from tankers with only three cases of very minor pollution of beaches. That puts the matter in perspective.

The tank farm will be very carefully landscaped. As to the pipeline, my experience of the construction of long pipelines for gas in East Anglia is that the work has been carried out without any permanent disturbance of the countryside.

On the future in Anglesey, we should accept the assurances already given by the company and the basic right of the local authority to oppose any further developments to which it might object.

The right hon. Member for Anglesey said enough about the country's general energy picture and our increasing dependence on oil. I do not need to repeat what he said, except to emphasise that the Stanlow refinery, which is to benefit from this development, is particularly well placed for the industrial heartland of the country. I understand that about 80 per cent. of its oil products go to industrial and public service use, including electricity generation. What we must decide is how best the enormously increased requirements of crude oil for Stanlow are to be delivered.

I support the proposal on two main grounds: it will provide the oil at the lowest unit cost to the refinery and at the lowest risk of pollution.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) asked whether the scheme made national sense. I remind him of the need to keep ourselves competitive with other industrial nations in terms of energy cost.

We have heard a great deal about the very large crude carriers. I will give just two figures to the House to illustrate the economic advantages of making maximum use of the 300,000-ton carriers that will, I understand, be in service from 1974. Compared with the present 90,000-ton carriers, which are the largest that can be got up the Mersey, the capital cost of a 300,000-ton ship is about £18 million; the equivalent in terms of 90,000-ton ships would be about £25 or £30 million. Secondly, in terms of the operating cost of carrying one ton of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to North-West Europe in 1974, a 90,000-ton ship can carry it for £3.40 per ton and a 300,000-ton ship for £2.48—nearly £1 a ton or over 25 per cent. cheaper. This is an advantage not to be denied to our economy.

Secondly, we are going to do this at the lowest risk in terms of pollution. This has already been well put by hon. Members from the Mersey area, who can speak more directly on the subject than I can. On both counts, therefore, I am sure that we should support the scheme —lower unit costs and lower risk of pollution.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) wondered whether we were wise to rely on oil from overseas. The doubts expressed by Professor Odell, whose views on the future energy pattern of the country I take with the greatest reservation, are, I believe, wrong in this instance. We are going to need these very large ships in considerable numbers because, however successful the North Sea exploration, however well we can develop our natural gas resources, however much we can rely on coal and however successful the nuclear programme, we shall depend, as far ahead as we can foresee, on the Middle East for great quantities of oil, not least to make sure that we have the right blend of crude oil for the refineries. As two-thirds of the world's proven reserves are in the Middle East, and 90 per cent. of those reserves are in countries bordering the Persian Gulf, we must conclude that pipelines to the Mediterranean or the Suez Canal will not remove the need to use the Cape route, and it is on the Cape route that the advantages of very large carriers are seen at their greatest.

I refute the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) that North Sea oil might be brought to Stanlow across the country by pipeline. It would be better to have the flexibility of marine transport, which could take place through the very large carriers using the unloading buoy at Anglesey.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister of State's assurance that the inquiry result will be known before the Bill reaches the Select Committee. With all the assurances that have been given, I believe that this is a sound scheme, good for Anglesey and the area generally and good for Britain. I hope the Bill will get a Second Reading.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) said that the Minister of State had told the House that the vital information would be available to the Select Committee. That was not what the Minister said. He said that he very much hoped the information would be available. It is absolutely vital that the report and, if necessary, the conclusions upon it should be available to the Select Committee, because the House of Lords had to operate in a vacuum on the subject. Whatever the statutory or legal processes involved, this matter must be looked at as a whole.

The Bill provides for a terminal, which is what we have been discussing. There has been plenty of reference to what is to happen on shore in Anglesey and there have been references to pipelines. But the whole thing must be looked at together, and it is therefore essential that the Select Committee should have all the information from and conclusions on the inquiry which has taken place. I hope my hon. Friend the Minister of State will agree with me on that.

I want to pay tribute to Shell, which has a very fine record the world over for making certain that its operations do not damage the environment. No undertaking can be more conscious of its responsibilities than is Shell.

I have personal knowledge of the activities of the former chairman of Shell Transport and Trading, a noble Lord who lives quite near to me in Dorset. He has devoted half of his lifetime and all of his fortune to the repair and restoration of one of our greatest and most glorious historic buildings and to the landscape surrounding it. What did he find to be his greatest difficulty? The local planners who were prepared to put a line of pylons right through the whole thing.

One is apt to be a little suspicious when one finds Shell and the local planners and so many other experts saying that this oil terminal is the best thing. I hope that the Select Committee will have all the information at its fingertips in reaching a decision. It is right that we should give the Bill a Second Reading because there is much that should be considered in detail.

One or two things that have been said tonight are worthy of challenge. The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) used his undoubted charm to paint a picture showing that all would be well. One hon. Member described himself as an Englishman intervening in the debate with some trepidation. I am an Englishman born in Wales—

Mr. Ogden

Then the hon. Gentleman is a Welshman.

Mr. Cooke

I have an Irish grandmother. I know this part of the world fairly well. Britain's environment belongs to us all and we must be a little wary because we know that local Members will do their best for their constituency and may possibly be influenced by local considerations while we must look at the national point of view.

A great deal has been said about the pipes. It is said that if they are underground everything will be all right. However, even the burying process has an effect on the landscape, often a permanently damaging effect. In addition, the pipes do not exist underground without a certain amount of attention; they need valves and their enclosures, often very ugly, at intervals which themselves generate a certain amount of vehicular traffic and there need to be telephone lines to their hutments. However carefully it is done it all adds up to a bit more pollution of one kind or another. It is not right to say that a pipeline is necessarily the splendid thing that has been suggested.

In Dorset a natural gas pipe was cut across the county and buried. It had all those other things—valves, hideous enclosures, concrete posts and wire netting, telephone wires going to little huts, and so on. It had to be tested, so millions of gallons of water were pumped out of a river already being savagely attacked by other forms of extraction and we all had to make do without the water we needed. And then, if you please, having got the thing finished, we were told that there was some auxiliary pipe required and it was too expensive to put underground, so now we have to put up with that for a year or two. I hope hon. Members will be warned about the sort of things that happen. If it is underground it is not as simple as all that.

Another issue affecting the West Country which has a bearing on our thinking is the iron-ore jetty which was to be built out from the South Wales coast right across the Bristol Channel to within an ace of Portishead near Bristol. As a dutiful local Member, because the city council and the Port of Bristol were on the side of this scheme I supported it against every personal inclination because I realised that it would damage the environment in no uncertain fashion. We sank our differences and came out in favour of the wretched thing. What happened? It was not parliamentary or local opposition or any of the processes we are going through here which prevented this hideous thing from happening. It was eventually discovered that it was an unnecessary project and that there were other ways of doing it. This did not happen before everyone in the locality, except those like my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) who is very concerned about environmental matters, had come out in favour of the scheme.

I am impressed to some extent that so many people should think that this oil terminal is what we must have. However, there are many lessons to be learned from some of the examples I have cited. I hope that the Select Committee will go into the whole matter with infinite care and that all the information it could possibly need will be at its disposal. If that does not occur, the Bill will receive a poor reception on Third Reading. My hon. Friend the Minister said that he would do his best to see that all possible information would be made available. I hope he will lean over backwards to see that that is done.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

This Measure is of national rather than of parochial interest, as has been indicated by the number of hon. Members on both sides from various parts of the country who have taken part in the debate.

As a Cheshire hon. Member, I have received many representations from people in my constituency about the proposed development. They are, of course, particularly concerned about the problem of pollution that may emanate from it. A lot of what has been said tonight will have allayed some of the doubt that has been expressed. It is clear that when considering a development of this kind, the environmental and amenity factors must be balanced against the economic aspects.

It is undoubtedly true to say that some pollution will be generated by this development, if it takes place. If loading and unloading occurs up a river or estuary, it is possible to place a boom across the water to take care of possible spillage. Out in the open sea, on the other hand, such a boom can have little, if any, point.

The burden of challenging these proposals has in the main fallen on individuals and small associations with limited resources. They certainly do not have the resources of the Shell Company. At no stage to date has an independent body inquired into the economics of these proposals, which will undoubtedly affect a substantial area of outstanding beauty of the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) spoke of the need for all possible information to be before the Select Committee. There will, as he said, be an opportunity for hon. Members to oppose this development, should they wish to do so, on Third Reading. It is regrettable that the inspector's findings on the land installation proposals have not been before us today. They would have made it a lot easier for us to decide precisely how we feel about the Bill.

9.49 p.m.

Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)

I am grateful to be afforded this oppor- tunity to wind up the debate. I have a personal interest in this matter in that my home in Anglesey at Amlwch is where the pipeline will pass through if the development takes place.

My home there is a small farm and it is partly threatened by the proposal of the Shell Company and the Anglesey County Council. At first I thought that that was the only threat, but then found that my father's home in Anglesey is likewise threatened by some of the main objectors to the Shell proposal. I understand that a copper mine is to be opened by them at Amlwch.

Amlwch always has been and always will be a small industrial town and it is important not to confuse the effect of this development with, say, the effect of the development of the Wylfa nuclear power station at Cemaes. It is a beautiful coastline, but Amlwch is excluded from the area designated as being of outstanding natural beauty.

At this stage, when we are discussing the Bill in principle, we have to accept that there are various concerns in various parts of the House and of the country about the effect of this development. Of course there is concern about pollution, there is concern about the effect on the environment and concern about the effect on employment in the community.

As for the environment, first of all the House has to consider whether Anglesey County Council is a suitable, responsible body to have the kind of powers with which we are proposing to vest it. I know the authority well. It has been a pioneering authority among Welsh local authorities and I could not think of a more suitable local authority or a more responsible local authority to have these powers vested in it.

Secondly, we have to consider the effect upon the general environment of the community and of the country as a whole. We have to realise that there already exists a planning inquiry which is examining this matter at considerable length and in considerable detail, and we are awaiting the judgment of that inquiry.

If we look at all aspects of the matter we have to balance two features of this development. First, there is the tank farm. I think it is recognised, and Shell has said this, that it is not possible to build a tank farm without adversely affecting the general environment of the area around. Shell has promised to do everything it possibly can to mitigate the effects, but there will be some detrimental effect upon the environment and everybody accepts this. As a native of Amlwch I would say that there will be considerable advantage to Amlwch in having the development of the small harbour.

Amlwch is divided into two parts, the old community around the harbour and the new development, like an extension of suburban Manchester, which has taken place in Bull Bay. The whole development of the community of Amlwch as a tourist centre and as an attractive small industrial town has been held back by the neglect of the small harbour which is the very heart and the reason for being of the community of Amlwch. That harbour has always been neglected, and it ill became Amlwch District Council to criticise and condemn the scheme, as it did initially, because it was concerned about the future of the harbour. It has had care of the harbour for a very long time but has done very little to develop or look after it. The Bill will give Anglesey County Council the first opportunity to do something about that harbour.

As somebody concerned about making an improvement in the amenities of the community I have sought help from Shell and from the county council to see that the harbour will be improved and will benefit. We have heard from my right hon. Friend that there will be erected a new harbour wall to make the harbour a 24-hour harbour which will afford shelter where none exists at present, and at the very heart of the community, and it will enable Amlwch to have again its reason for being. It will provide a major attraction for that small community, and it will provide a link with industrial development.

The two other pieces of industrial development which have come to this community through Wylfa and Associated Ethyl have detracted from the community and have considerably limited the use of and accessibility to the coastline. This proposal will give Amlwch a considerable improvement in its environment.

Mr. Hooson

Are the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) satisfied with the nature of the undertaking that has been given by Shell? The House will need to be assured that they are satisfied by the time that the Bill comes to Third Reading.

Mr. Edwards

I am satisfied completely, because one of the major features of the proposals being put forward by Shell and the county council is the building of a new harbour wall. Without that, the whole venture would fail. So the undertaking is reinforced by the industrial logic and necessity of building this harbour wall. It will be a major improvement which will give Amlwch for the first time in the last 50 years a meaningful little harbour which will enable it to develop the hinterland round it.

The last point concerns oil pollution. Any resident of Amlwch could tell the House and all those who suddenly are concerned about pollution in relation to this proposed development that a real and growing danger exists to the coastline of North Wales at present because of the lightening taking place on ships just beyond the coastline of Amlwch. The amount of lightening going on is increasing day by day, and the number of lightening operations now taking place is very frightening.

I have listened to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts) talking about the dangers of pollution. He cannot shirk this issue. Lightening is a danger, and nothing can be done at present to prevent the lightening operations that even the Shell Company undertakes off the coast of Amlwch. As one who is concerned about this real risk to North Wales, I want to see something done and I have sought an undertaking from Shell that, when this pipeline is available, the lightening operations now undertaken outside Amlwch will cease. In my view, that will be a considerable advantage.

There is a second aspect to this pollution point. The Mersey River is probably the biggest potential danger to the oil polluting of our beaches in any part of the United Kingdom. If there were a collision in the Mersey—and the risk in the Mersey has reached danger point—the whole North Wales coast would be ruined.

On the ground of economic common sense for the country as a whole, on the ground of the improvement of the environment of Amlwch and on the ground of the reduction of the real danger of oil pollution to the North Wales coast, I commend the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.