HC Deb 18 July 1973 vol 860 cc477-9
17. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now seek additional powers to control onshore industrial development associated with North Sea oil.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Local planning authorities have comprehensive powers to control developments and the Secretary of State has powers to call in for decision any planning application where he considers it necessary or appropriate to do so.

Mr. Strang

Does not the Secretary of State agree that there is now an overwhelming case for planning and controlling North Sea oil developments on an all-Scotland basis and that, while local consultation is important, the present arrangement of local planning inquiries and the calling in of applications by the Secretary of State is quite unsatisfactory? Is the right hon. Gentleman reviewing the present position?

Mr. Campbell

First, as I indicated, the powers are now on an all-Scotland basis, because the Secretary of State can call in, in any particular cases where he deems it appropriate. But if there is to be local democracy and if promoters and objectors are to be given the chance to state their views, the procedures that Parliament has laid down in order to protect them in the planning Acts have to be followed.

I have made it clear that I am satisfied with the powers that exist. Although I shall never be satisfied that the procedures are perfect, those procedures have been laid down by this House, and it would take a considerable time to go through them and to change them. I am applying the Acts in as flexible a way as possible for the benefit of Scotland.

Mr. Galbraith

Will my right hon. Friend examine the technical possibility of building oil rigs in sections in the existing industrial areas, which could easily accommodate them, and in that way reducing the damage to the countryside? If that were done he might not have so many of these cases to call in and examine. This is a technological problem. Will my right hon. Friend consider it?

Mr. Campbell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is something that we are aiming to do. Some of these platforms are built in sections and put together later. But even in industrial areas, as has been the case recently in Fife, for example, some people may consider that a site is suitable, but none the less objections are raised, which have to be considered.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Secretary of State try, wherever possible, to bring the manufacturers together to discuss the technical problems involved in construction? The major item is access to deep water. That is necessary in the final stages of construction, but not in the initial stages. Will the right hon. Gentle. man examine the technical feasibility of this and of using sites that are already used for industrial development?

Mr. Campbell

Yes. This is being achieved through the recent establishment of the Oil Development Council for Scotland, on which there are not only representatives of those concerned with the oil industry but persons who are well qualified to speak about the environment and its protection.

Also, technological changes occur. For example, platforms that were being built in steel six months or a year ago may now be built in concrete. That requires different considerations. There may be further changes. That is why continuous review is necessary.