HC Deb 23 May 1979 vol 967 cc1028-30
6. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement of progress in relation to the planning application from Shell and Esso for development at Moss Morran and Braefoot Bay.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends to announce his decision on the Moss Morran petrochemical project in Fife.

21. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has completed his consideration of the observations received on the Health and Safety Executive report on the Moss Morran petrochemical project in the Kirkcaldy constituency; and when he expects to announce his decision on the planning application.

Mr. Younger

I am considering all the material before me which is relevant to the planning applications for this development, including the representations received on the most recent material from the Health and Safety Executive, but I cannot at this stage say when a decision will be made.

Mr. Douglas

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. Is he aware that I do not wish to press him into a decision? I understand that he will have to have some time to consider these complex and difficult matters. Assuming that his decision will be positive, as all the local authorities in Fife desire and as I desire, will he consider especially the terms and conditions of the hazard analyses that he will lay down and try to make them much more specific? So that there may be clarification, does he agree that an analysis should take place, if possible, prior to the construction of the project?

Mr. Younger

I note with interest what the hon. Gentleman says, but, as he will appreciate, I cannot anticipate my decision.

Mr. Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I want to press him now for a decision? These matters have been going on long enough. Is he aware that if his decision is not favourable to the minority of objectors in the area, they will take all steps to thwart the desire of the three Labour-controlled local authorities that desperately want the projects to go ahead because of the urgency of providing additional employment facilities in the area? It is desperately important that a decision is made as quickly as possible.

Mr. Younger

I know the hon. Gentleman's views. I reaffirm that it is my duty to consider all the evidence presented to me and to come to a conclusion when I have done so. Neither my predecessor nor myself would wish to do otherwise than give it the fullest consideration.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a travesty of justice that a few objectors, led by a professional objector in Fife, are holding up the project? Is he aware that the local authorities in Fife are frustrated by the delay, which goes back to January 1977? There is need for an urgent decision. Will he grasp the nettle like a man and make a decision forthwith? I ask him not to delay any longer. I appreciate that he has only recently taken office, but I am sure that the papers are available and that everything is ready for a decision to be made.

Mr. Younger

I shall not be responsible for any unnecessary delay. It is, however, my statutory duty to ensure that I consider carefully all the relevant evidence, and I must do that before coming to a decision.

Mr. McQuarrie

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the delay in granting the application is causing considerable disruption to the plans of Shell-Esso, at the St. Fergus works, in my constituency, and that a decision is of considerable urgency?

Mr. Younger

I am well aware of that. I do not think that it can be said that there has been unreasonable delay. My predecessor had further evidence to consider. He was in the course of receiving that evidence when there was a change of Government. I have to consider all the evidence and to ensure that I take into account all of it that is relevant.

Mr. Ernest Ross

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, if ICI decides to proceed with the petrochemical complex at Barry Buddon, the Ministry of Defence will not put any barrier in its way? Is he aware that there is grave concern in the area that if ICI decides to come to Barry Buddon the Ministry of Defence will decide to upgrade the site for use by NATO forces, which will be opposed seriously by those living in the area?

Mr. Younger

I note with interest what the hon. Gentleman says. As he will appreciate, as such a project might come before me for some form of decision, I had better not make any comment upon it now.