HC Deb 14 March 1979 vol 964 cc431-2
4. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he has not yet announced his decision on the Moss Morran petrochemical project; and whether he will state the reasons for the long delay.

Mr. Millan

It has been necessary for me to give full and thorough consideration to the representations that I invited from parties on the question of radio transmissions. I have just received further advice from the Health and Safety Executive on this question and have circulated it to parties for comment.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the report indicates that the risks arising from the project are minimal, although, of course, they can never be eliminated? Can he also confirm that, despite the fact that the SNP is against the project, all the Labour-controlled local authorities are desperately anxious that, in the interests of Fife and Scotland, this highly technological project should go ahead? Can he give any indication of when he will be coming to a final decision?

Mr. Millan

My hon. Friend will realise that I am not able to comment on the merits of the planning application at the moment, but the Health and Safety Executive has taken a view which is public knowledge, since I have made it available to the various parties to the inquiry. It is also possible for other interested parties to see those conclusions.

I have asked for comments by the end of April on the papers that I have circulated, and I shall have to consider those in due course to see whether I can then reach a final conclusion. Apart from the question of radio transmissions, I gave a provisional conclusion on the planning inquiry a considerable time ago.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the Secretary of State accept that, where human safety is concerned, he is right to take time over such matters? However, can he indicate what sort of central co-ordination exists to look at, for example, the Barry Buddon project, where there is a plan for a methane pipeline to cross it? Is he aware that some of the problems that have arisen in connection with Moss Morran may have been avoided if there had been prior consultation on the issue?

Mr. Millan

I cannot comment on what might be a planning application for Barry Buddon. I understand that there is no specific proposal definitely committing ICI to that location. If there were, it would almost certainly be the subject of some sort of inquiry and I might then have to make a decision about it.

Mr. Gourlay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that local authorities in Fife are becoming extremely exasperated about the long delay in reaching a decision on this project? We appreciate the need of my right hon. Friend to secure maximum safety, but is he aware that we believe that the time has come for a final decision to be made? Can he therefore give an assurance that a decision will be made as expeditiously as possible after 28 April?

Mr. Millan

All I can say is that a decision will be made as expeditiously as possible, but I cannot at the moment say what that decision is likely to be or, indeed, whether I shall be able to make a final decision when I see the results of any representations that I receive on the documents that I have circulated. It would be wrong for me to say to the House or anyone else that, regardless of the nature of these representations, I shall immediately make a decision. I have to await the representations.

Sir John Gilmour

Will the Secretary of State say whether many of the difficulties that he is experiencing stem from the radio spark hazard or result from evidence in other parts of the world following explosions in similar plants?

Mr. Millan

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the documents which have been circulated, he will see that we are dealing with the question of radio transmissions.