HC Deb 05 December 1973 vol 865 cc1240-2
5. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement regarding when he expects to receive a report from the National Ports Council on its appraisal of the Maplin seaport project.

Mr. Peyton

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 14th November.—[Vol. 864, c. 486–7.]

Mr. Douglas

Would the Minister care to explain the position to the House? Is his Under-Secretary, when he makes speeches on this issue, in favour of any seaport or of a specific seaport? Do the Government have any idea what kind of seaport they want at Maplin, or are they simply playing ducks and drakes with this issue?

Mr. Peyton

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about this. The point is that I have not yet received firm proposals from the Port of London Authority. As soon as I do, I shall be obliged to consult the National Ports Council upon them and I will do so without delay.

Mr. Holland

Would my right hon. Friend accept that certain little local difficulties, that appear to arise in part currently from our shortage of deep-water berths, underline the importance of this project? In view of this, will he use all means at his disposal to expedite the processes necessary to ensure the project's completion?

Mr. Peyton

I have no doubt whatever that the Chairman of the Port of London Authority will read with great interest what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us who come from great seaports other than those in the South-East of England are very much opposed to the development of this new port because there is under-utilisation in areas such as Merseyside and elsewhere? Will he bear in mind that what we should be doing is utilising our ports to the maximum advantage in geographical areas such as the Northwest instead of building new white elephants in the South-East?

Mr. Peyton

I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said about making full use of our ports in the North-West. No one knows better than he the obstacles there are to making good use of the new Seaforth Dock in Liverpool.

16. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those groups, companies and individuals whom he intends to invite to give evidence to the committee he is setting up to review the Maplin project; and how many have already been invited.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

It is open to anybody who wishes to express views to let us have his comments at any time, and my Department will be glad to receive them. The Act itself specified that consultation shall take place with certain specific bodies including the Civil Aviation Authority, the British Airports Authority, the Port of London Authority and other appropriate bodies, and this will take place as the study proceeds.

Mr. Adley

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer, but is he not aware that the Government have been given the opportunity by the House to delay, vary or desist from Maplin in accordance with the wording of the clause that was inserted in the Bill on Report in this House? Those of us who have doubts about the project are relying upon my right hon. and learned Friend and his Department for a genuine, thorough and honest reappraisal of the project before it comes back to the House. Rather than simply say that people may make representations, will he make a positive effort by asking bodies like British Airways and Rolls-Royce, which have valuable new information, to submit accurate and up-to-date documents to him so that, when he returns to the House in a few months' time seeking approval, those of us who have these doubts may be reassured that a thorough job has been done?

Mr. Rippon

There appears to be no dispute between us about the purpose of the report and the way in which it should be presented. I cannot imagine bodies such as those referred to by my hon. Friend being in any doubt about the inquiries that are going on, and I am sure they will offer their observations in due course.

Mr. Spearing

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as I suspect, regard the new town as part of the Maplin project? If he does, will he approach the Greater London Council in addition to the bodies he has already mentioned for consultation about that matter?

Mr. Rippon

Yes, I think that is so. It would be unthinkable to go ahead with the project for the new town, which is part of the South-Eastern Area Strategic Study, and to carry out the proposals in that study without consulting all the local authorities concerned.

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