HC Deb 17 January 1996 vol 269 cc723-4
1. Mr. Foulkes

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent consideration he has given to the representations he has received concerning the British Gas pipeline in the north channel.[7885]

The President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian Lang)

I am kept fully informed of developments on this issue and my Department, with others, continues to consider all representations.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the President of the Board of Trade aware, however, that last night BBC Scotland showed a video, made before the pipeline was laid, revealing extremely dangerous munitions on the route of the pipeline, which explains why the Ministry of Defence opposed that route from the start? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House exactly what requirements will be made of British Gas before the pipeline is commissioned so that ferry passengers, fishermen, submariners and, above all, my constituents can be assured that there are no further dangers from the munitions and from the gas pipeline?

Mr. Lang

I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that safety will be the predominant consideration before the pipeline is licensed for use. As the hon. Gentleman knows, following the survey carried out last November a further survey is now in contemplation. I have no doubt that the Health and Safety Executive will want to be fully satisfied of the safety of the pipeline before it is authorised.

Mr. Beggs

What assurance can the Secretary of State give to potential consumers in Northern Ireland that gas will flow and that there will be secure supplies to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Lang

That is the objective of laying the pipeline. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that safety considerations must be satisfied before the use of the pipeline is authorised. I acknowledge that one advantage of converting Ballylumfort power station from crude oil to gas will be more competitive electricity generation prices. The conversion will also have the environmental benefit of reducing the acid rain emissions affecting south-west Scotland.

Mr. Salmond

The President of the Board of Trade used to be Secretary of State for Scotland, and he has been a Member of Parliament for 17 years in south-west Scotland. Why has he said and done so little about the munitions that were dumped off the south-west coast of Scotland and the resulting huge environmental problems? Will he explain to the House why the assurances that he gave to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) today should be given any more credibility than the assurances given in the past, which have proved worse than useless under examination?

Mr. Lang

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured by the provisional findings of the survey carried out in November as a direct result of the anxieties that were expressed about the munitions, which came to light because of the laying of the pipeline. Although the samples and findings are subject to final analysis, the preliminary conclusions are that there is no danger to the food chain and no pollution problem, and that the pipeline will be satisfactory once all the health and safety considerations have been addressed.

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