HL Deb 25 March 1958 vol 208 cc396-410

3.18 p.m.

Order of the Day read for the House to be put into Committee on recommitment of the Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Brecon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair]


I beg to move that the Amendments made by the Committee on Unopposed Bills be agreed to.

Moved, that the Amendments made by the Committee on Unopposed Bills be agreed to.—(Lord Brecon.)


I believe that it is my duty to satisfy your Lordships that these Amendments ought to be agreed to. In that connection I think that I can assure the Committee that these Amendments are of a non-controversial character. The first is merely for the purpose of avoiding doubt and therefore I do not think that I need say more about it. The next three Amendments, to Clause 4, are for the protection of the Electricity Board and puts the Board in the same position as the Postmaster General in relation to the laying of certain cables. The Amendment to Clause 6 deals with wrecks and I think will speak for itself. It is part of a proviso and slightly relaxes the strictness of the prohibition on the use of explosives. The Amendment to Clause 7 deals with lights and buoys; and the Amendment to Clause 10 and the three following consequential Amendments merely make it clear that dues to be levied on vessels going out of the Haven will not necessarily be the same as those on vessels coming into the Haven. I think that is all I need say on these Amendments, which, as I have said, are of a non-controversial nature.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 1:

Establishment and duly of Conservancy Board

(6) In formulating or considering any proposals relating to their functions under this Act, the Board shall have regard to the desirability—

  1. (a) of preserving natural beauty; and
  2. (b)of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest; and
  3. (c) of ensuring an easy passage at all times through the waters of the haven for ascending salmon and sea-trout.

LORD SILKIN and others had given Notice of two Amendments, the first being to omit subsection (6) of Clause 1, and the second to insert after Clause 1 a new clause dealing with the preservation of amenities. The noble Lord said: I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name. Its object is not to delete subsection (6) from the Bill; indeed, we attach such great importance to what is contained in that subsection, that we think it is deserving of a clause by itself. If the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, will look at the next Amend ment, he will see that the proposal is that there should be a new clause which will include the contents of subsection (6), as well as a number of other provisions, which my noble friend Lord Ogmore will explain in greater detail.

The reason why I should like to see subsection (6) as part of a new clause is, first, that as a matter of form it deals, with something that is quite different from the other provisions of the Clause, Clause 1 sets out the duties of the Board, but subsection (6) is really an instruction to them to have regard to amenities. It is not of tile same character as the remaining provisions of Clause 1, and we feel that it would be much more suitable in a clause by itself. Secondly, I think the question of amenity is an important one, and it was the subject of many of the speeches made on Second Reading. The noble Lord will remember that there was a great desire on the part of everybody to ensure that the amenities of this area should be preserved as a result of the passage of this Bill. It seems to me that this matter is of such importance that it should be specifically incorporated in a special clause of the Bill, rather than be one of seven subsections of a clause dealing with a variety of other matters.

I do not propose at this stage to argue the merits of the new clause we propose to substitute in its place. That clause reproduces everything in subsection (6), but it also introduces new matter, which, as I have said, will be argued later, Whether or not these additional provisions are accepted by the Government, I still think that, even if subsection (6) were left as it is, it would be much better as a separate clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 32, leave out subsection (6).—(Lord Silkin.)


One has a natural sympathy with the object of the Amendment, but I am wondering whether it is not going a little too far, in the sense that it may prevent desirable development by undue delay. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply can enlarge upon that aspect. It seems to me that the words "amenity of the neighbourhood" spread the area very wide in which the Government might be forced by an. unreasonable objector to have a public inquiry.


I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord unduly, but he is now discussing the merits of the proposed new clause. We have not got there yet. My contention is that, whether the new clause is accepted in its printed form or not, subsection (6), even in its existing form, would be much better as a separate clause than tagged on to Clause 1. When we come to discuss the new clause, all the arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, puts forward will be relevant.


The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has asked that subsection (6) should be deleted. This particular subsection comes in part of the Bill that deals with the duties of the Board, and we can see no reason why it should have a separate clause of its own. In the whole of this part the greatest care has been given to the question of amenity. At the moment we require that this clause shall remain as it is in the Bill, and I am afraid that I am unable to accept the Amendment.


With respect to my noble friend. I think I was in possession of the Floor, and I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, only at his request. I was going to say, in reply to what Lord Silkin said, that I appreciate the point he makes, but the Amendment he has moved is that we should leave out subsection (6), and I should have thought that my arguments were reasonably relevant to that Amendment. However, I am entirely in the hands of your Lordships. If it is thought that my arguments would be better directed to the next Amendment I will take that course. I gather that there is no particular objection to my continuing for a moment, so perhaps I might develop my argument. If we were to agree to the noble Lord's Amendment, we should be forced to discuss a wide issue, which I do not think we could reasonably put into this Bill if we are to have a Conservancy Board for Milford Haven. Your Lordships have drawn strong attention to the desirability of these Amendments, and in so doing have performed a great service, but I do not think the Committee can go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, suggests.


I have listened to the objection of the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, and I want to make every possible allowance for the fact that he does not know the ways of this House and that this is the first measure he has conducted. But he will have to give much more satisfactory explanations before rejecting an Amendment than he has given in rejecting this one. He has given no reasons whatever, but has said merely that he thinks the subsection ought to be there. I have given strong reasons why I think it should be a separate clause. The first is that. although this clause sets out the duties of the Board, the question of amenities is something different from the other provisions; it is something the Board have to bear in mind. The other is that I feel that this question of amenity is so important that it ought to be marked by a separate clause and not tagged on to a lot of other things. The noble Lord may not agree, but he should at least honour us by telling us why he does not agree.


I must say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Silkin. I think that the Minister, whom we are all pleased to see here to-day—there is nothing personal in this question, of course—has given a most inadequate, so-called explanation of why this Amendment, which has been put down with great care, should not be passed by your Lordships. It was also done in the middle of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, which added a certain amount of confusion to the issue. It would have been much better if the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, had waited to hear the arguments developed and then given a reasoned decision by the Government in the matter. If the Government had listened, and considered it—which obviously they have not—then they might have had some sympathy.

The whole reason why we have put down this particular Amendment is that we feel that the amenity issue is so important in this area that it should have a special place in the Bill; that it should not be added to a clause the other parts of which have nothing whatever to do with amenities. If your Lordships really believe that in a beautiful part of the country such as this, a part predominantly rural and agricultural, the amenities are of so little importance that we need not even give them a clause to themselves, then you will be doing far less than your duty, and I cannot believe that your Lordships feel that way about it. There is no question of objecting to the principle of the Bill. We support the principle, but say on this Amendment: "For Heaven's sake do realise that this is a lovely county, this is a beautiful coastline, and do make these people realise that they must do everything possible to bear in mind their responsibilities for the preservation of the amenities." That is our point.


Before my noble friend replies, may I say that as one who has had a little to do with these matters in the past it seems to me that before we go any further we ought to decide one issue. Obviously, what noble Lords opposite are dealing with—indeed, all those of us who have ever been concerned with Wales—is the question of the natural beauty of the country. Therefore, I would ask my noble friend for guidance on this matter. Noble Lords opposite appear to wish to delete subsection (6) which deals with amenities. I gather that their intention is to put in a more comprehensive clause on the same subject after Clause 1. I should have thought that this matter must be discussed properly, and the question is whether we discuss it on this Amendment or on the next Amendment. I feel that the noble Lords have a point here, because in Wales the question of amenity is, I believe, a very live issue. I should be grateful if my noble friend could guide the House as to whether we have a full debate on this matter on this Amendment now, or whether he is going to reject the Amendment; in which case. Frankly, we shall not have much of a discussion.


Before the noble Lord replies, If hope he understands that my Amendment does not stand or fall on the question of whether the new clause is accepted in its entirety. Even if it is not, I would still argue that the amenity provision should be quite separate.


If the noble Lord withdraws the first Amendment he will not have an opportunity of making his points on the second Amendment.


There is a little danger that we may be getting into a muddle. I am not, I must confess, conversant with every detail of this Bill, and I do not think noble Lords opposite would expect that I should be. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is proposing to leave out subsection (6) and to insert the clause which is the next Amendment on the Order Paper. Even if that Amendment were not accepted, he still thinks that subsection (6) ought to be a separate clause. Is that so?




I thank the noble Lord. That makes it clearer.


I think it may now be a little difficult to carry out our proposal strictly on the Amendments we have down. I hope the Committee will accept our Amendment in full, but even if it does not the Government could restore it on Report as a separate clause. There is nothing in the mechanics that need worry us. What we want to-day is to get a decision from your Lordships as to whether you agree that the provisions relating to amenities should be widened in the way we propose. It is quite a simple issue.


The point is that if the provision regarding amenities is put into a separate clause it does not carry any greater force than it does at the moment. So far as amenity is concerned everything that can possibly be done has been taken care of right through the Bill, and a great deal of attention has been given to it. If it is felt that it should go into a separate clause, perhaps further consideration of the point could be taken on the Report stage. Could we leave the matter there?


In view of the promise that this matter will be considered between now and the Report stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

3.36 p.m.

LORD OGMORE moved, after Clause 1 to insert the following new clause:

Preservation of amenities etc.

"2. In formulating or considering any proposals relating to their functions under this Act, the Board shall have regard to the desirability—

  1. (a) of preserving natural beauty; and
  2. 403
  3. (b)of conserving flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest; and
  4. (c)of ensuring an easy passage at all times through the waters of the haven for ascending salmon and sea-trout; and
  5. (d)of safeguarding the amenities of the district in the neighbourhood of the haven; and
  6. (e)of fostering the cultural and social development of the population in the district in the neighbourhood of the haven;

Provided that if any person interested makes representations and objections that any proposal of the Board is likely prejudicially to affect any of the provisions of this section the Minister shall, if necessary, hold a public inquiry on the subject."

The noble Lord said: We now come to the crux of this matter and the principle at stake. As I have said previously, we welcome the Bill, under safeguards. There is no question of our disagreeing with it on this side in any way, except that we believe that it does not go quite far enough. Your Lordships realise, I know, that there is a growing and serious unemployment situation around the periphery of the United Kingdom—in the West of England, in West Wales, in North Wales, in the Hebrides, and so on. In the Milford Haven area the unemployment figure is 11 per cent., which is much greater than the average of 2 per cent. in the United Kingdom as a whole. It is made worse by a concentration of direction and management of our national life in London. The "Great Wen" has become a monstrous carbuncle, and it has drained away much of the life, not only from the Provinces but from Scotland and Wales.

For these reasons, the proposal to have new works and new industries in West Wales is one of which we approve, provided, as I have said, that the various conditions relating to their establishment and their progress are carefully considered. There are eight developments proposed in this area, and I think it is only right that your Lordships should be apprised of them, because you will realise exactly what sort of change is going to be made in this particular area on the coast and far back into the hinterland. In the first place, a landing stage is to be built in the harbour at Popton Point, capable of taking the largest oil ships afloat—and, according to the debate we had last week on merchant shipping, this means something like 100,000 tons. It is to be financed by the British Petroleum Company, and then Milford Haven will become a harbour for giants.

The second proposal is for the building of a £20 million refinery on the Northern shore of the Haven by the Esso Company. Hundreds of acres have been acquired for this purpose and it is intended that the development should be completed in 1960. It is to deal with 5 million tons of crude oil a year, and the refinery will be connected with jetties extending into the Haven to a distance of 2,800 feet. The third proposal is a £9 million project for two dry docks, five wet berths and a discharging pier. The fourth is for a deep-water unloading berth for iron ore. The fifth—and this is one of the most controversial—is for an iron ore stocking ground at Angle, or nearby, on the shores of the Haven, where the Steel Company of Wales propose to cover a wide area 60 feet high with Canadian iron ore. This area is in the National Park. The sixth is for another refinery built on or near the Haven by another oil company. The seventh is for a group of chemical and kindred factories. The eighth is a ship-repairing project at Pembroke Dock, which is a little distance away.

Any of your Lordships who knows this particular area, or even those who do not but who exercise their imagination, will quite easily appreciate that the area, now predominantly rural, will completely change in character—not only Milford Haven itself, which is a delightful spot, but the neighbouring towns and villages, the seaside resorts, the fishing villages, Tenby and the little towns and fishing villages around the Pembroke coast, the sort of villages that were the background to the Dylan Thomas poem Under Milk Wood. The scenery will be affected, the the rivers will be affected, and, above all, the national park, which is the first coastal national park in the world, will be affected. The changes affect the whole character of the district—not only the Haven but much of the area around; they will have an effect on the whole of Pembrokeshire and, I should say, upon the whole of West Wales. Take, for example, the effect on population. These changes will mean at least 50,000 more people going into the area.

With regard to the national park, no one could envisage with any sympathy the dumping of iron ore to a height of sixty feet on a national park. The fishing rivers and the supply of water to the countryside must be affected. Road communications will be even more chaotic than they are at the moment, right up to the Severn, because your Lordships know already that the Government's failure to implement the promise of their predecessors over the Severn-Wye Bridge and the approach roads is having a serious effect on the traffic situation in South Wales.

When I first got to know of the extent of this subject in August last year, I intervened and gave an interview to the Western Mail and the South Wales Echo on it. In that interview I asked Mr. Brooke, the Minister, before agreeing to this enormous development, to issue a White Paper explaining to the people exactly what it was about and how it would affect them, so that they might ascertain what lay before them; and this I thought would avoid misunderstanding and bitterness. On hearing this, as I thought, reasonable suggestion, the Chairman of the Pembrokeshire County Council, who is a local tradesman, took me seriously to task. He said that there was no need for any such disclosure to the public; that the scheme would be of great benefit to Milford Haven (particularly to the tradesmen, although he did not say so); that all the sellers of land were only too willing to sell; and that, furthermore, the community was not Welsh-speaking. In other words, as the tradesmen and the owners of land in Milford Haven were satisfied, why should anybody else bother his head about it? I must say that this attitude on the part of the Chairman of the County Council made me most uneasy, and I wondered who was looking after the interests of beauty, of the countryside and of posterity—evidently not the Pembrokeshire County Council.

I pursued the matter further, and I am glad to say that Mr. Brooke, the Minister, took what I thought was a wider and broader view of the circumstances than did the County Council, and he refused the Esso Company permission to develop 1,000 acres; he cut it down to 350 acres and gave them that permission only under very stringent conditions. He also introduced this Bill, for which I give him full credit, and he has now, within the last few days, told the Prescelly Water Board that with regard to the proposal to take water for development from the Western Cleddau he is not satisfied with the information he has and he wants more. I think we can congratulate the Minister on taking a very real view of his duties, and I am glad that he has done so. I point out that if he had not taken this view, a larger scheme than this would have gone through without the public's knowing anything about it and without any such safeguards as there are in this Bill.

My only regret is that the Bill does not extend to the hinterland, because frankly, as I have said—and I say it with full responsibility—I am not happy about the attitude of the Pembrokeshire County Council in this matter. I am sorry it is not possible for the Bill to extend to some of the wider area inland, so that the same conditions can apply to development there as apply in the Haven itself. We have put down this Amendment so as to extend the safeguards to further amenities and also to empower or direct the authority, the Board, to foster the cultural and social development of the local population.

This, in our view in Wales, is a very historic and romantic area; quite apart from the beauty of the area, which so many visitors from England and elsewhere visit with great pleasure every year and year after year, it is a very historic area. There is the old cathedral city of St. Davids, one of the oldest in Europe; at one time two pilgrimages to St. Davids equalled one to Rome. There is nearby Pembroke, where Henry Tudor, afterwards Henry VII, was born. Not far away he landed when, with the help of the ancestor of the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, he proceeded to Bosworth and won the crown from Richard III. Nelson visited it with Lady Hamilton—which is a romantic association if not a particularly moral one. In the pre-Sputnik era the last invasion of the United Kingdom took place near there, when the French forces were repelled by the Pembrokeshire yeomanry assisted by the spectacle of Welsh ladies in their red capes. In those non-austerity days the British regiments of the line wore red coats, and the. French mistook the ladies for regiments of the line.

We say that our additions are necessary, first, because what is done in the Haven vitally affects the hinterland, the land around the Haven. For example, the proposal to unload vast quantities of Canadian iron ore is going to have a good deal of effect on the lives and amenities of the people living quite a long way from the Haven. Then there is oil bunkering and oil discharging. It seems to me that whenever an oil ship is discharging oil into a refinery—and we know this too well already in South Wales—it also discharges oil into the surrounding water. It is already often the case that when one goes down to bathe along the foreshore—or it was so a few years ago when I bathed there—one was very lucky if one did not strike here and there a patch of oil, which is not the pleasantest thing to strike on a picnic or a bathing party. Then there is the erection of unsightly buildings or installations. All these matters are not purely Haven matters; they affect the lives of people in the surrounding district.

Secondly, our additions are necessary because we think these industries and authorities must realise their responsibilities not only for the physical amenities but for the cultural and social development of people who live in the neighbourhood. In South Wales, as in industrial areas in Scotland and parts of England, we have had lessons from the past which should make us very careful about what we do in the present. We have found that in the 19th century and early 20th century those responsibilities to the people were ignored by those who were developing the new industries. Beautiful South Wales Valleys—The Rhondda, the Garw, the Ogmore, the Llynfi, the Neath and many others, were ruthlessly and wantonly destroyed. The Glamorgan coastal plain was brutally desecrated. Mining camps were hurriedly flung up in the valleys, and industrial slums were created on the plain. The people responsible were too ignorant, too greedy, or perhaps too cynical, to care what they were doing. They were often small-time men with dust in their souls.

As a result of the destruction of beauty, people were condemned to exist in sordid surroundings, and scores of thousands led narrow lives in insanitary houses, often with the result that they died from tuberculosis—and all quite unnecessarily. After a time, the location of industry changed; these desecrated spots became derelict; the life was drained out of them and industries went away to the coast or elsewhere, so that these towns and villages became ghost towns—they were towns, as we remember, on the dole. We on this side feel that this fate must be avoided for Milford Haven, and we want to make certain that it is avoided by the provision of strict supervision over the activities permitted in the area. We think that it can be so avoided by strict attention to the amenity provisions that we seek to have inserted in this Bill, in addition to those already there.

We are well aware, of course, that there are those in this country who, unfortunately, are not only indifferent to beauty but actually hostile to it. They are also indifferent and hostile to culture. I want to say that that does not apply in this House, where I think we are far more sympathetic than in many places, as one can see at Question Time, to beauty and culture. But it does happen. To those who feel that beauty and culture are of no significance I would just add this argument: that they have a cash value. The tourist industry in this country as a whole, and in Wales in particular, is becoming a very important industry, and people do not go hundreds of miles to see vast quantities of Canadian iron ore. This plea for amenities and culture should, I feel, be supported as strongly by the English as by the Welsh, because it is by no means only Welsh people who go there. We are glad to welcome year by year large numbers of English people, especially from London, who go down and enjoy the amenities of Pembrokeshire and the other Western counties of Wales, where they can enjoy fishing, bathing, sailing and a hundred and one other things, such as the pure air, free from the great urban centres such as London.

One can say that cultural and social development is no business of a harbour authority. In our view, however, this is the business of everyone concerned in the development of an area, because by importing, for instance, a large quantity of labour from overseas or elsewhere, the character of a whole area can be completely changed. Pembrokeshire has its own flavour; it has its own culture. In some ways it is rather different from the rest of Wales; certainly it is different from England. It has a delightful culture and flavour of its own, and we strongly urge that nothing should be done to interfere with this culture and the social structure of the people of Pembrokeshire as a whole. That is why in our Amendment we put on the Board the duty of having regard to fostering of the cultural and social development of the population".

Some may say: Why have national characteristics any longer? But why have local characteristics? Why not have just one national characteristic; all the people talking the same tongue, all looking alike and thinking alike? Why not have just twentieth century American or twenty-first century Russian? That is a point of view. But in my opinion the world would be the loser by losing the cultural and other contributions made by various peoples of the world, and particularly the smaller nations who in the past have made a great contribution to art and science, and to culture as a whole. Therefore we ask that the culture of Pembrokeshire be safeguarded in the way we propose.

As to the proviso to this new clause, as the Committee will see that says: that if any person interested makes representations and objections that any proposal of the Board is likely prejudicially to affect any of the provisions of this section the Minister shall, if necessary, hold a public inquiry on the subject. That means that if anybody gets to hear that any of these provisions is likely to be infringed, then he can draw the Minister's attention to it, and the Minister shall, if necessary—he is, of course, not bound to do so, because there may be cases where there are frivolous objections—hold a public inquiry, and thus satisfy the mind of the public and secure the provisions of this clause for the benefit of Pembrokeshire. I feel that we in this House hold, to a very real extent, a watching brief for posterity. The claims of posterity are often disregarded in the urgency of the present. There are no Party politics here at all. We are supporting the Bill: we hope to make it a better Bill. We ask the Committee, wherever your Lordships sit, and wherever your Lordships live, to support the Amendment that we have put down on the Order Paper. I am quite confident that your Lordships are really in sympathy with it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 1 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Ogmore.)


With your Lordships' permission, I should like now to make the promised statement on Malta. I know that many noble Lords are waiting to hear it.

House resumed.

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