HC Deb 25 July 1972 vol 841 cc1759-73


2.15 a.m.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 26, line 26, at end insert: '(2) So far as is practicable Works Nos. 3 and 4 shall be buried in the sea-bed'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

With this Amendment we shall take Amendment No. 2, in page 26, line 26, at end insert: '(2) Works Nos. 3 and 4 shall, at all points sea-ward of the level of high water, be buried in the sea-bed, unless there is in the sea-bed some insurmountable geological obstacle, but nothing in this subsection shall prohibit the erection, construction, or maintenance on or in the sea-bed of works to enable the transfer of oil from Works Nos. 1 and 2 to Works Nos. 3 and 4, or from Works Nos. 3 and 4 to Works Nos. 1 and 2'. and Amendment No. 3, in Clause 49 page 30, line 34, leave out from beginning of line to second 'the' in line 35.

Mr. Farr

I do not intend to speak at length on the Amendments. I take the opportunity of declaring an interest in that I own a certain number of Shell ordinary shares. The two Amendments standing in my name could be described as alternatives, and yet they are not. Although I have tabled two Amendments, I intend to seek approval only for the second. That is because I have been advised that the first Amendment is not sufficient and was not regarded by the drafting office as watertight—or oiltight, whichever expression is appropriate. I thought it advisable, therefore, to table the second Amendment, which sets out in slightly more detail what I am seeking to achieve.

The House may well ask the purpose of the Amendments and why it is necessary to attempt at 2.15 a.m. to move any Amendment to the Bill. The purpose of these Amendments is to minimise the risk of any leak that might occur from a pipeline running from single buoy moorings to shore installations. If a pipeline—or pipelines; there will be several—is buried for its whole length, as is the purpose of Amendment No. 2, there will be far less risk of a fracture, as could occur, for instance, if the whole or part of it were above the seabed with the possibility of a vessel's anchor, for instance, fouling the above-the-bed pipeline.

It is with the intention of reducing the risk of pollution and the risk of contamination from spillage should the pipelines be fouled or damaged in any way that the second Amendment seeks to place them below the seabed, so that not only is there less risk of breakage or fracture but, should breakage or fracture occur, there would be far less risk of any oil spreading out and contaminating the surrounding waters, as would be the case if the pipelines were resting on the seabed.

It is important to remember in this context that there will be a considerable amount of oil going through these pipelines. Shell estimates that by 1973 the flow of crude oil to Stanlow will increase to about 20 million tons per annum, so that there is always a good chance of the pipelines in question being in regular use.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

The hon. Member has unwittingly probably made an error. He spoke of "by 1973"; the terminal would not be in operation by next year.

Mr. Farr

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I meant to refer to 1980, and I apologise for that slip of the tongue. The fact remains that there will be a considerable amount of oil going through the pipelines with a consequent risk of contamination and spillage should the pipelines be fractured.

Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Am I not right in saying that the company wishes to bury the pipes below the seabed except where there is boulder clay, where there is a danger of fracture when the boulder is removed?

Mr. Farr

I have no doubt that Shell would like to bury them under the seabed, and in order to ensure it I am suggesting these Amendments.

On Second Reading evidence was given to show that contamination had occurred on different single buoy moorings all over the world, and reference was made to the single buoy mooring at Durban in South Africa. Since Second Reading, fresh evidence has come to light, and it has been ascertained that the original figure by Shell of spillage from the single buoy mooring at Durban was inaccurate, and the House may be interested to listen to an extract from a letter which appeared in The Times on 19th July from Mr. Carpendale, a member of the Natal Provincial Council. He wrote in relation to the Anglesey Marine Terminal Bill, and particularly the single buoy mooring in Durban: 'Shell have, I believe, presented a picture of trouble-free operations at Durban. As an elected representative in the Natal Provincial Council for the constituency in which our beach is situated, I must repudiate Shell's contention and say that we have had a number of spillages from the oil terminal and that the position has become most unsatisfactory. He goes on to say that there has been considerable pollution of neighbouring beaches.

I put forward the Amendments with a view to securing that as far as is humanly possible the oil will be transferred in the utmost safety from ship to shore, which I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House will regard as a reasonable request.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) for the way in which he moved his Amendment. The promoters of the Bill, the County Council of Anglesey, have asked me to say that, although they do not regard either of the hon. Gentlemen's Amendments as necessary, since the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has an overriding authority to determine this matter, they do not wish to be regarded as too rigid and are, therefore, glad to be able to meet the hon. Gentleman on this issue and accept his first Amendment.

Several of my constituents have written to me on this point. I have also been approached by the Department of Marine Biology at University College, Bangor. Professor Fogg, the head of the department, has spoken to me, as have several other people, including the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Geraint Morgan). I am, therefore, glad to say that Anglesey County Council is prepared to accept the first Amendment.

The second Amendment presents difficulties. It has the same objectives, but in trying to be more specific it succeeds in being less clear. First, there could be insurmountable obstacles which are not geological. Secondly, and more importantly, in the second Amendment the reference to the transfer of oil from Works Nos. 3 and 4 to Works Nos. 1 and 2 would enable oil to be pumped back to the buoy. That is exactly what the objectors have sought to avoid and what the promotors have covered in new Clause 49. The promoters, in seeking to meet a major point made by the objectors, inserted the new Clause, which was accepted by the Select Committee and is recommended to the House. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his second Amendment because of its ambiguity, but we are prepared to accept his first Amendment.

Mr. Kaufman

Before we proceed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will you be kind enough to clarify the method of procedure? Are we now taking together as one debate the Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) and the Amendment in my name, and thereafter shall we proceed to a Third Reading debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is so.

Mr. Kaufman

I am obliged to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall confine myself to speaking to the third Amendment, which is in my name.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) said that in Committee the promoters made a major concession on Clause 49 by incorporating what was only an undertaking when another place considered the Bill so that it was now part of the Bill. We have, therefore, Clause 49, on page 30: Except with the consent of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and of the Secretary of State for Wales the Company shall not use or permit to be used the Company's works for the loading into vessels of crude oil. I am dissatisfied with this because it seems that it gives a commitment without giving a commitment. On the one hand it says that there shall not be loadings of crude oil when these single buoy moorings are established and on the other it says that these will be possible with the consent of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Wales. Because of the view I take, and it is a view based not on my opinion, which is of very little consequence, but upon the evidence available, I am extremely concerned about the whole possibility of loading.

I am not satisfied that a situation will arise in which the consent of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Wales will be withheld for loading if it is permitted in the Bill. It would be much more satisfactory if the promoters of the Bill had to come to this House again and ask for another Bill to permit loading because loading is entirely different. My right hon. Friend may very well say that loading is envisaged only in an emergency. My worry is that what my right hon. Friend says in good faith and what everyone in this House would accept in good faith from my right hon. Friend is not acceptable when the Shell Company says it, because I am afraid that the respect in which I hold my right hon. Friend and the weight which I would give any assurance from him does not extend to the respect in which I hold the Shell company and the weight which I would give to any assurance from it.

The whole of the proceedings on this Bill before the Committee of this House leaves me most dissatisfied with the attitude of Shell. Why am I worried about loading as distinct from discharging? This is to be a single buoy mooring. I have grave worries about it. Even the promoters are ready to acknowledge that the dangers they deny with regard to the discharge of oil from SBMs would be very much existent in the case of the loading of oil from the SBM. If we look at the Further Special Report from the Select Committee of another place on the Bill, published on 8th December last—and the reasons for the publication of this report I shall have cause to go into on Third Reading—we find that paragraphs 6 and 7 say: That figures relating to the 'loading' s.b.m.s showed that over a period of ten years, with ten ' loading' s.b.m.s operational for varying periods during that time, and handling over 5,000 ships and 190 million tons of oil, there were 122 spillage incidents, of which 35 involved incidents exceeding 30 tons. Of the 35, three (admittedly exceptional) had been of over 1,000 tons. Then we come to what the promoters say about this. They say in paragraph 7: The Promoters maintain that the figures relating to this type of mooring do not bear comparison with the 'discharge 'figures. They called evidence to show that the two functions were distinct, that the equipment was different, and that in the case of loading the pumps were situated on land and not in the tankers, and the pressures involved in driving oil across the longer sea distances to the 'loading' s.b.m.s were greater than those involved in conveying the oil from the 'discharge' s.b.m.s to land. The Committee accept that the loading and discharge operations are different in kind, and that greater risks of spillage attach to the former. They note the technical evidence that the pipelines to be used in Anglesey are suitable only for the discharge function and not for the loading one.

2.30 a.m.

What we have in evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Lords recalled especially to consider spillages is, from the promoters, that dangers inhere to loading that do not inhere to discharge. If one looks at what Earl Lauderdale said on Third Reading in the other place on 1st February this year, one finds: Taking the world as a whole and the full world-wide experience of this matter, one finds that such pollution as has occurred has been mainly from loading terminals where crude oil is put on to ships, and not at terminals where it is taken off."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 1st February, 1972; Vol. 327, col. 709.] I do not accept a good deal of what the noble Earl said, but he is a supporter of this Bill and he talks about dangers from loading.

If one looks at the proceedings of the Committee on this Bill, Day One, page 10, paragraph 3, one finds that the letter of consent from the Welsh Office, the decision letter which allowed the tank farm to go ahead after inquiry, said: In the case of the shore station site the development authorised by this permission shall be used for the purposes of providing for the reception of crude oil and bunker oil from off-shore installations and for the storage of and supply of bunker oil to ships, and for purposes ancillary to those purposes but for no other purpose…

The Welsh Office agreed to the tanker farm going ahead on the basis that there shall be no loading; yet on Day Two, page 32,we find that Mr. Carter, a representative of Shell—and, if I may say so, from reading his evidence, an exceedingly impressive witness, perhaps the most impressive witness before the Committee on which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mr. Parry) had to sit—was asked about this at Question 6: Have Shell any intention of using this for loading?".

Mr. Carter replied: No, but I cannot exclude unforeseen circumstances.

I regard that as disquieting, because Shell had done its best not to give evidence on this, and now a Shell witness, and perhaps the most impressive to appear before the Committee, concedes that it would be ready to consider loading in unforeseen circumstances. They are not emergency circumstances. We are told in the Committee proceedings that in emergency it might be right to reverse the flow and to load instead of discharging, but those are not unforeseen circumstances but foreseen. This was allowed for in evidence before the Committee. But Mr. Carter does not exclude the possibility of loading, and we are told that for loading one requires different equipment.

In view of the admission by the representative of Shell and by supporters and promoters of this Bill, that loading entails much greater risks of spillage and therefore of pollution and discharge, I believe it is very necessary that this Bill should specifically prohibit loading. If Shell wished to load on grounds of emergency, I would say that it should weigh that emergency against breaking the law, because if there were such an emergency and the company contravened the law I am sure that no court would penalise it. I would prefer that to happen than that there should be a specific provision in the Bill to permit loading, even with a safeguard. That is why I advocate the Amendment.

Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)

In his concern about these hypotheses, will my hon. Friend tell me why Shell would want to reload at a point where it is obviously spending a great deal of money simply to bring in oil and discharge it out of tankers? Can he foresee that Shell would want to involve itself in the rather futile exercise of putting the oil back into the tankers it has brought in to discharge oil?

Mr. Kaufman

I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend that I believe Shell has ulterior motives in this whole operation. It is an enormous international company. It is not altruistic. My hon. Friend as a Socialist seems horrified that I should query the motives of a vast international company which seeks to make profits. I believe that Shell has ulterior motives in this entire enterprise.

Mr. Edwards

If we are to give the most complicated and perverse interpretation of all the motives Shell may have, can my hon. Friend give some indication—he has a fertile imagination—of what kind of motives Shell could have? I come from Anglesey and I live near this point. I would not want to see Shell putting oil back in this totally unsuitable operation. If there are dangers, I would like to know what they are.

Mr. Kaufman

I know my hon. Friends connection with Anglesey, having read his contributions on other proceedings of the Bill, and I know that he would hate to see Shell do this.

Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)

How far is my hon. Friend prepared to go in relation to this Amendment? Would not he agree that in the contingency of a serious fracture occurring in the pipe, necessitating the drainage of that pipe at its seaward end, he would have no objection at all to such a course taking place? It may well be that the right to do that swiftly would be the very way of avoiding the danger of pollution, and if he were satisfied that the provisions of Clause 49 allowed that to be done and no other, he would have no objection to the Clause remaining as it stands.

Mr. Kaufman

Throughout the proceedings on this Bill, and in particular during the Committee proceedings, I have noticed the way in which Shell has sought to dazzle and bewilder opponents of this scheme by flashing all kinds of technological and pseudo-technological information before us. I am not prepared to swallow, as too many people involved have swallowed, everything that Shell says. Just because Shell says this or that, I do not necessarily accept it. I am prepared for some outside technical expert to tell me that Shell is right. If I could be satisfied on that basis I would not press my Amendment, but I am not prepared to do so on the basis that Shell says that this is so.

Mr. Edwards

If my hon. Friend is putting forward an Amendment drawing attention to the technical problems that could arise from a certain set of circumstances, surely he should tell the House what the circumstances are against which he is trying to guard. That is all that we are trying to get from him. What exactly is he trying to guard against? What exactly does he envisage Shell being involved in, and what protection does the Amendment afford us from that situation?

Mr. Kaufman

If my hon. Friend wants that information he must read what Mr. A. J. Carter said on page 32 of the evidence on Day Two; namely, that he could not exclude unforeseen circumstances. Let him discuss the matter with Mr. Carter. I am saying that if the promoters want loading facilities, let them bring a Bill before the House, in view of the dire warnings that have been given by the supporters of the Bill against loading.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), for the expression of confidence that he was good enough to make about me personally, although I must dissent from him in the charges that he has made against Shell U.K. Limited. I would point out to my hon. Friend—as he doubtless already knows—that this Bill is promoted by the Anglesey County Council, and that the proceedings in connection with it have been going on for almost 18 months.

I remind the House that the matters to which my hon. Friend has referred have been debated in another place, have been ventilated in a Select Committee in another place, and have been debated in this House on Second Reading. They have been dealt with by a Select Committee of hon. Members from this House, and have in part been explored at a public inquiry in Anglesey for five weeks. There has been ample opportunity for a full examination and re-examination of all these matters. The people who have given evidence on both sides are not fools or silly people; they are people who have investigated and considered this matter with the greatest care. For those reasons I beg leave to differ from my hon. Friend in the indictment that he has levelled specifically at this company.

As my hon. Friend has said, the Clause in question was added to the Bill at the request of the promoters. That was to allay the concern of the petitioners as to the apparently greater risk of pollution from SBMs used for loading. I agree that there is a difference in kind between loading and discharging—a very important difference—but the conditions that would create problems at loading terminals in some of the remoter parts of the world are unlikely to be repeated in Anglesey. Looked at realistically, the likelihood of this buoy being used for loading is a remote contingency. Nevertheless, in spite of that, the promoters inserted the Clause and proper safeguards have been built in.

The Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry—the two Ministers concerned, without whose consent no change in the use of the terminal could be made—would both be concerned in the environmental issues in the event of such a change, and in a situation that inspired Shell U.K. Limited to make a request, under the conditions specified in terms of the consent of the Secretary of State for Wales in town and country planning matters any change of use of the SBMs would require his further consent. There is that added safeguard. For this purpose Clause 64 lays down: Any Minister of the Crown may cause such local inquiries to be held as he may consider necessary for the purpose of any of his functions under this Act. 2.45 a.m.

I referred to the Select Committee. On hearing the evidence the Select Committee came to the conclusion that the procedure provided by Clause 49 is more than satisfactory from all points of view, including those of any potential local objectors.

This is an important point. This provision would enable local objectors and all concerned to put their views to Ministers without the need to go through all the trouble, expense and delay which would be incurred if the Amendment were adopted. If Private Bill legislation were to be required, it would involve objectors from my constituency going through this procedure all over again. Many objectors have studied my hon. Friend's Amendment. I make no objection to his having put it down; it was helpful that he should do so in order that we might have the opportunity of ventilating this problem. However, looking at it from the point of view of my constituents living in a fairly remote part of the United Kingdom, I think they would find the procedure in the Bill more helpful. For these reasons, I invite my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I hope the rules of order will not preclude the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) answering a simple question which I would have asked in advance of his last speech if I had been fortunate in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I rose at the same time as the right hon. Gentleman.

In his first speech tonight the right hon. Gentleman made some point of the wording in Amendment No. 2, "insurmountable geological obstacle". He said that there might be some insurmountable obstacle that was not geological in character. I was intrigued by this. Will he tell the House what insurmountable obstacle that was not geological there might be on the seabed? I can think only of a wreck, and surely that should be shifted. It would not be a good thing to lay a pipeline over the top of a wreck.

I do not share some of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr.Kaufman). The hon. Gentleman doubted the motives of and said some unkind things about Shell. My impression, from long experience of Shell's activities, is that it has a fine record in environmental matters. It sup ports a number of national and inter national organisations which are most powerful in their efforts to protect our environment.



Mr. Cooke

Perhaps I might conclude, and the hon. Gentleman may not wish to quarrel with me. Having defended Shell's good intentions, I was about to say that in presenting its case, without in any way concealing evidence from the Committee, or from the House for that matter, no doubt it would put forward the most optimistic view in the light of the technical evidence at its command. That is where the hon. Gentleman may have his doubts. Some attempt was made from the other side of the House to answer what the hon. Member for Ardwick said. I was not entirely convinced by those counter arguments.

The right hon. Gentleman said something about things that had happened in the remoter parts of the world having some bearing on this. I cannot see that it matters whether they happened nearby or far away. Was there some thought in the right hon. Gentleman's mind that because certain things had gone wrong in remote parts of the world they were not very important, but they would have been important if they had happened closer at hand?

I still feel that if this practice of loading were to take place for any reason, emergency or otherwise, the evidence that we have had this evening, or the expression of opinion that we have had, depending on the way that one looks at it, leads one to think that there would be very much greater danger of pollution than from any of the other processes that are envisaged.

For those reasons, and having asked those questions, I think there is a duty on those who support the promoters of the Bill to say a little more in their defence and to put forward a better case to counter the Amendments which we are discussing.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

With the leave of the House, may I deal briefly with the questions asked by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke)?

The hon. Gentleman asked about the insurmountable obstacles which may not be geological. I am not an expert, but I am instructed that these could be hydro-logical in character, or they could be wrecks which are so deeply embedded in the seabed that they would be difficult to shift. These may not be expected in this area off the north coast of Anglesey, but they could be substantial sand movements which are not regarded as geological.

The other question was about the problems at loading terminals in remoter parts of the world. I could give a list of these. One would be the distance from the shore. Many SBMs in many parts of the world are many miles from the shore, whereas the one at Anglesey would be two miles off shore. In some parts of the world there is sand damage to valves, there is inexperienced local labour, and in one part of the world there was interference due to a civil war—something which one does not expect in Wales.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Question is, That the Amendment be made.

Mr. Farr

Is this Amendment No. 1?

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I imagine that Amendment No. 2 falls.

Mr. Farr

I wish to move Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Is it not alternative to Amendment No. 1?

Mr. Farr

When I spoke earlier I said that I wished to move Amendment No. 2. Both Amendments are in my name, but they could be regarded as alternatives. I did not wish to move Amendment No. 1.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Amendment No. 1 having been agreed to, Amendment No. 2 falls: and it is alternative to No. 1, in any case?

Mr. Farr

Would it be possible for the Question to be put again?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I put the Question on the first Amendment, and that was agreed to.

Mr. Farr

Would it be possible to put the Question again?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think the Question can be put again. The House has agreed to the Amendment.

Mr. Robert Cooke

It will be within your recollection, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that last night there was some confusion in rather similar circumstances when the House expressed a view on a matter by accident. Because it was generally agreed to be a mistake, the House went back and settled the matter agreeably.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Many things have happened since last night. I will not pretend to remember exaotly what happened then, but I am sure that I can go back on something that the House has done only by unanimous leave of the House.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a further point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) in speaking to these two Amendments said that they could be treated as alternatives but that he did not ask for them to be treated as alternatives. I therefore assume that Amendment No. 2 can still be put and voted upon.

Mr. Gordon Oakes (Widnes)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Unless the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) asked at the commencement of his speech for separate Divisions on the two Amendments, surely if the first Amendment is agreed to the second Amendment cannot be put.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It cannot be effective, as it is alternative.

Mr. Farr

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. To the best of my recollection, I made it clear that the two Amendments were alternatives. Anybody examining the Order Paper will see that they cannot both be approved. I said in my opening paragraphs that I had no intention of moving Amendment No. 1 and that I would seek to move Amendment No. 2, which I then proceeded to do. I trust that in these circumstances I shall have a chance of asking the House to support me and indicating whether it thinks that Amendment No. 2 should be approved.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the House unanimously says that it wishes me to go back on what has already been done by the House, it can be done. [Hon. Members: "No."] The House does not wish it. I therefore cannot do it. Amendment No. 1 is agreed to. The other falls, it being an alternative.

I call the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) to move Amendment No. 3.

Mr. Kaufman

I do not press the Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Question is, That Standing Order No. 205 (Notice of third reading) be suspended—

Mr. Farr

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I to understand that it is in order to make a Third Reading speech?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

When we reach Third Reading, yes.

Division No. 321.] AYES [3.0 a.m.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Meyer, Sir Anthony Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff,W.)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Mr. Gwynord Jones and
Ellis, Tom Murray, Ronald King Mr. Gordon Oakes.
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Ogden, Eric
John, Brynmor
Mr. John Farr and
Mr. Nicholas Winterton.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

As it appears from the result of the Division that 40 Members are not present, the business stands over until the next sitting of the House.