§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, this Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, has two main purposes. The first is to make some changes in the structure of the gas industry as established by the Gas Act, 1948. The second is to provide the opportunity for the gas industry to develop underground storage of gas in natural strata. A subsidiary purpose, which has been added since the Bill was introduced, is to amend Section 52 of the 1948 Act which deals with the industry's monopoly of piped gas supplies. All three purposes have the common aim of modifying the present statutory position so as to reflect technological progress and changes which have taken place since the industry was nationalised in 1948.
In 1948, gas, unlike electricity, was essentially a local service. The organisation chosen for the gas industry reflected this fact and was well adapted to the tasks then facing the industry, which were primarily concerned with the integration of production and distribution on an area basis. Twelve Area Gas Boards were set up, each responsible within its particular area for the production and distribution of gas, together with a Gas Council, consisting of the Chairmen of the twelve Area Boards and a Chairman and Deputy Chairman appointed by the Minister. Apart from certain specific duties relating mainly to finance, research and industrial relations, the Council's function is primarily to advise the Minister and assist the individual Boards in carrying out their functions.
Under this organisation the gas industry has made great technological progress. Integration of production and distribution within the Area Boards has enabled the number of local gasworks to be reduced from over 1,000 in 1948 to about a quarter of that number to-day. 563 New processes for producing gas have been developed, or are in course of development, which can provide gas at a much reduced cost. In the last few years technological advance in the industry has been very rapid, and is continuing. There is still scope for further integration within areas and for improving, by means of these new processes, the efficiency and economy of the Board's production and distribution systems. But the opportunities for such integration and improvements are no longer limited to individual areas, and technological developments have made practicable schemes for gas supply on a scale transcending the needs of individual Boards.
One such scheme, for the supply of natural gas from Algeria to eight of the Area Boards, has already been undertaken and was officially inaugurated by the Minister of Power last month. There is also the possibility that large supplies of gas may be found in the North Sea. We cannot, of course, be certain that this will happen, but if our hope of finding substantial quantities is realised, it will mean a new source of gas supplies on a scale larger than the needs of an individual Board.
Whilst the Algerian scheme has been carried out within the existing organisation of the industry, the organisation is not really suitable—nor was it designed—for this kind of activity. The need for changes in the structure of the gas industry to enable it to take full advantage of the new possibilities of undertaking large-scale supply schemes was put forward by the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries in its penetrating Report on the industry nearly four years ago. In the Committee's view, the industry had outgrown the structure of 1948. The Committee proposed, therefore, that either the Gas Council should be given powers to manufacture gas and supply it to the Area Boards or, as the Committee itself preferred, a thirteenth Board should be established responsible for large-scale production and distribution schemes.
The Government consider that the industry's needs can best be met by adopting the first of these alternatives; namely, to give new powers to the Gas Council. This was also the view of the previous Government, and is the solution preferred by the industry itself.
564 The technical developments which are taking place in gas supply are not confined to schemes on such a scale as to require to be developed and operated by a single national body. Some of the new processes which have been developed since the Select Committee reported are well adapted to the needs of individual Boards, and the opportunities to develop central arrangements for gas supply are likely therefore to complement, rather than supplant, local production by Area Boards. The Government think that the strengthening of the industry's present centre, the Gas Council, will enable the industry to develop the schemes, both central and local, which are most advantageous to the users of gas and to make the right choice when there are alternatives.
The Select Committee's Report dealt also with the other main subject of the present Bill; namely, underground storage of gas in natural porous strata. The Committee drew attention to the advantages of this means of meeting seasonal variations in demand and to the need to provide new statutory powers if the principle was to be developed in this country. The use of natural porous strata to store gas is new in this country but is extensively practised abroad. In the United States, well over 200 underground storages are in use, and this method of storing gas is also used in a number of European countries. We are therefore providing for the development in this country of a technique which is well-established abroad; it is not something that is untried or experimental. This is a fact that must be stressed, for, understandably, some people will be apprehensive about underground gas storage. We are not innovators in this field. We are drawing upon a large body of experience so that to the theoretical assurances that the geologists have given us it is possible to add the comfort of knowing that this method of gas storage is well tried and found to be safe.
The gas industry has, of course, for more than a century stored gas in gasholders to meet variations in demand. But the storage of gas in natural porous strata, with which the Bill is concerned, is quite different, both in method and in scale. This form of storage requires a layer of porous rock, usually shaped like 565 a dome, which is covered by an impermeable layer of rock through which the gas cannot penetrate. The gas, when injected through boreholes into the porous layer, is stored in the rock pores. In other words, the gas is stored in the ground in the same way as it would be in a natural gas field, and when we develop an underground storage we shall only be imitating a natural phenomenon. Whereas the traditional gasholder can contain a few million cubic feet of gas, very large quantities of gas, measured in thousands of millions of cubic feet, can be stored in porous strata where conditions are suitable. Underground storage will enable the industry to build up a reserve of gas in summer, when demand is low, which can be drawn on to help meet the increased demands in winter, when the amount of gas used is about 50 per cent. higher than in summer. This seasonal difference is increasing as the popularity of gas for home heating grows.
Because of these advantages of underground storage of gas, the Government have accepted, as did their predecessors, that the opportunity for its development should be provided. But underground storage is new in this country and involves a substance which can be harmful if wrongly handled. It is necessary, therefore, to provide a system of control and supervision which will ensure that it is developed and operated in conditions which do not involve any risk of damage to the public and their property or to water resources. In other words, the storage must be carried out in the right conditions and in the right way. This is the main purpose of the part of the Bill dealing with underground storage. Where these conditions are satisfied the Bill will facilitate development by enabling the gas industry to obtain the rights required for this kind of development.
To turn to the provisions of the Bill, the change in the organisation of the industry is dealt with in Part I. Clause 1 gives the Gas Council the duty of promoting and assisting the co-ordinated development of efficient and economical gas supplies on a countrywide basis, and empowers the Council to act, so to speak, as "wholesaler" to the Boards: to make, get or acquire gas and supply it in bulk to the Boards. The Council will also be able to supply gas direct to a consumer, but in each case the Minister's 566 consent will be required and given only after consultation with the Board in whose area the consumer is situated. Along with these new functions, the Council will need some increase in that part of its membership which is free of the responsibility of running an Area Board. Clause 2 enables the Minister to appoint up to three additional members. Area Board chairmen will, however, still comprise the majority of the membership, so the Council will retain its federal character.
Clause 3 deals with rating. Gas Boards are not rated on individual gasworks or other operational assets, but by reference to the amount of gas sold. The Gas Council has not so far had operational powers and is not included in these arrangements. The clause therefore brings them in by providing for gas made or supplied by the Council to be treated as though it were gas made or supplied by the Boards. The purpose is to ensure that the industry pays the same rates no matter whether a particular function is carried out by an Area Board or by the Gas Council.
I now turn to Part II of the Bill dealing with underground storage of gas; first, the safeguarding provisions. These are important. Clause 4 brings underground gas storage under the Minister's control. The Minister must sanction any proposal by the industry to develop this form of storage, and in exercising this power the Minister is placed under statutory obligation to have regard to the safety of the public and the protection of water supplies. These obligations are also to govern the Minister's decision whether any particular kind of gas it is proposed to store underground is suitable. Schedule 2 of the Bill sets out the procedure for making a storage authorisation order. Everyone who may be affected by the proposal will have the opportunity to express his views and have them considered. If statutory objections are made, a public inquiry will be mandatory unless the objections are trivial or frivolous or the objectors choose to be heard instead at a less formal hearing. If, after considering the report of any inquiry, the Minister decides to grant an authorisation to which any affected local authority or other public body specified in the Schedule maintain an objection, the Minister's 567 order will be subject to special Parliamentary procedure.
As to safety control, after an authorisation order has been made, an underground gas storage will remain throughout its life subject to the Minister's control. Clause 16 of the Bill empowers the Minister to impose safety conditions and, if it should be necessary at any time, to stop the gas authority from putting in more gas or to require the withdrawal of gas. If he decides that a storage ought to be discontinued, he can under Clause 18 order it to be taken out of operation. Clause 19 provides for the Minister to appoint inspectors with powers to carry out inspections and tests; and Clause 17 requires the reporting of accidents and provides for their investigation. The Bill thus provides a comprehensive system of control of underground storage. That is clearly the prudent course to take. But it should not be taken to imply that, because we are providing for these eventualities, they are likely to happen. The Government believe that underground gas storage can be developed and operated just as safely in this country as it has been abroad.
So much for the Bill's provisions to ensure that underground storage is developed safely by the gas authority. We must also see that the actions of other people do not infringe safety. Mining, quarrying or other deep excavations in the vicinity of a storage might jeopardise its gastightness—I hope that no one will object to the use of that word. It seems to me to be an expressive one in this context. Clause 5 therefore makes such operations within the storage area and a surrounding "protective" area subject to the Minister's control. The extent of these areas and the depths at which the control applies within them will be specified in the authorisation order. Only operations which go down to a considerable depth will be affected. If the Minister's consent to such operations is refused or granted with restrictive conditions, compensation will be payable under Clause 8 for any loss or damage caused thereby.
I have outlined how the Bill regulates the safety of underground gas storage. I now turn to the way it will facilitate its development where it is safe for it to go ahead. The development of an 568 underground storage will not require a great deal of surface land. Some will be wanted for boreholes and plant. The gas industry, like other statutory undertakers, already has statutory powers to acquire land, if necessary by compulsory purchase. Existing legislation would not, however, enable the gas industry to acquire compulsorily rights to store gas under the much more extensive area of land which it did not need to buy for surface works. Clause 12 of the Bill therefore enables a gas authority to purchase compulsorily a right to store gas in an underground gas storage where rights cannot be obtained by agreement.
When underground storage rights are compulsorily acquired, compensation will be payable by the gas authority in accordance with the rules which apply when land is compulsorily acquired. Thus people with an interest in the land will be able to claim in respect both of any market value of the rights acquired, and of any depreciation in the value of their land caused by severance or injurious affection. The use for gas storage of a stratum which lies some hundreds of feet down will not of itself affect the ocupation of the surface, and experience abroad should reassure people that land need not be affected simply because it is to have gas beneath it. However, the Government have thought it right to enable compensation to be claimed for such depreciation if it does occur, and the Bill allows a claim to be made either when the right to store gas is acquired or, under Clause 7, at the time the storage authorisation order is made.
As I have already told your Lordships, the Government are satisfied that this form of storage can be safely developed and operated, and the Bill provides the safeguards I have outlined to ensure that safety. But the use of natural strata in this country for gas storage is new, and the Government accept that the Bill should offer reassurance that full and proper redress would be available if any of the conceivable risks did in fact materialise. They have therefore decided that the gas industry should be absolutely liable if any personal injury or damage to property were caused by gas in or escaping from an underground gas storage or its connected boreholes, unless the injury or damage is due to the plaintiff's own fault or that of his servant 569 or agent. Clause 14 makes the necessary provision.
The Government's aim in bringing this Bill forward is to equip the gas industry for the challenge of the 1960's, to enable it to take full advantage of new techniques, and to seek the highest efficiency of operation and service to the public. It is in line with this that we should at the same time make changes in the impact on other industries of the Gas Act, 1948, where it might hamper their development in a way which could not have been foreseen in 1948. Clause 30 of the Bill therefore modifies Section 52 of the 1948 Act, which gives the Area Gas Boards control of the supply of gas in pipes, so as to recognise the interest of other industries in the supply of gases for industrial processing, rather than for use as a fuel. The clause provides that the Board shall consent to a proposed supply of gas through pipes which is for purposes of the same kind as those defined by Section 9(4) of the Continental Shelf Act, 1964—that is, an industrial supply for "non-fuel" purposes. Secondly, the clause takes out of the scope of Section 52 of the Gas Act natural gas obtained from the British mainland or territorial waters which is subject to the Minister's control under the Petroleum (Production) Act, 1934. Natural gas obtained from the Continental Shelf is already outside Section 52 and its supply is governed by Section 9 of the Continental Shelf Act. I venture to hope that your Lordships will find this a good measure, and will give it the same cordial welcome that it enjoyed in another place. I beg to move that the Bill be read now a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Champion.)
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ LORD ERROLL OF HALE
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for the extremely clear and lucid explanation which he gave in the course of his speech of the Bill and of its provisions, and also for encompassing such a considerable task in a relatively few minutes of time. It is easy for me to give a warm welcome to this measure, as it was finally drafted in the Ministry when I myself was the Minister of 570 Power; and I felt when listening to the noble Lord, that he was perhaps using many phrases and paragraphs that I might well have been using myself had I been introducing the Bill. I think this Bill serves to illustrate the great changes which have taken place in the gas industry in the last decade. At the beginning of the 1950s the gas industry was in a sorry state, through no fault of its own. The traditional coal carbonisation process was one which was becoming increasingly costly as the price of coal was inevitably rising, and because of the amount of old plant and the number of small isolated gas works.
In view of the many controversial things that have been said about nationalisation and the attitude of the Conservative Government towards the nationalised industries. I feel that it is worth while placing on record that the industry, under the benevolent guidance of successive Conservative Ministers, has been able to break through that period of frustration and despair and, thanks also to the energy of its own senior officials and executives and members of the Gas Council, come into the broad open pastures which it now enjoys. A number of new processes have been developed to enable gas to be manufactured much more cheaply than was ever thought possible hitherto, and at considerably less capital expenditure per unit or per therm produced, and this has spelt out an entirely new future for the industry.
It is because of the great expansion which is foreseen that it has become desirable and necessary to introduce a measure to authorise the underground storage of gas in this country. As the noble Lord said, the Bill falls into two parts and also has one subsidiary purpose. Therefore, if it be convenient to your Lordships, I will deal first with Part I which concerns the duties and functions of the Gas Council. I am sure the Government were right to select, of the two alternatives, the concept of enlarging or expanding the duties of the Gas Council, rather than to set up a separate Gas Board parallel to the Central Electricity Generating Board, separate from the Area Electricity Boards. The Gas Council is already in existence, it understands the problems, and it was indeed its own wish that the organisation should be in this way. From my contact with the members 571 of the Council, I am sure that they will make a great success of the new duties and functions which this Bill will confer upon them.
I am glad, too, to see that three additional members may be appointed to the Gas Council by the Minister. I was not quite sure from reading the Bill whether these are to be whole-time or part-time members. In any case, I am sure it will be valuable to introduce new members to the Gas Council; and we shall certainly watch the Minister's first appointments to the enlarged Gas Council with particular interest. I hope particularly that the Minister will have regard to the rapid expansion of the industry, and also to the new technology which is emerging, when considering the men that he will appoint to fill the vacancies being created by this Bill.
However, it is not only as regards the members of the Gas Council itself that I would hope to see changes. I believe that with the gas industry now on the up and up it should be possible to attract new men into the middle ranks of management. Last year, the Government raised the salaries for members of nationalised industries, including the Gas Council and the Area Boards, and this, so to speak, extended the concertina. Raising the salaries substantially at the top enables higher and more appropriate salaries to be paid all the way down the line, and I believe that these salaries now compare favourably with those given to most important comparable positions in private industry.
I hope that the gas industry will make every effort to recruit, not only young men straight from university and the technical colleges, but also men from industry who have it in mind to take up a career in the expanding gas industry in the middle years of their lives. When I was Minister of Power I detected a certain exclusiveness on the part of the managers and technologists in the gas industry. It has tended to become a kind of service for life. A most valuable spirit is thereby engendered, but it can lead to a certain exclusiveness and the feeling, "Nobody knows better than we do". I am sure that those who are embarking upon it as a career for life will, as the industry is expanding, wish to see 572 new men coming into the industry in the middle ranges, and not only to make a career for life. I think that this is a fine opportunity at the present time for an infusion of good young men.
To turn now to Part II of the Bill, which deals with underground storage, this is an essential development for the further prosperity of our country. The noble Lord explained with admirable clarity the nature of an underground storage area—a kind of sponge of rock under an impermeable dome, or anticline, as I think it is called. I had hoped, some months having past since the Bill was finally drafted, that the noble Lord might now have been able to give us some indication as to the probable first two or three locations of such storage. Noble Lords may remember the controversy which arose in 1961 when the then Gas Council wished, by means of a Private Bill, to promote powers to secure underground storage underneath the town of Winchester. At that time there was some apprehension felt about the future of Winchester as a viable entity. Is it now proposed, if conditions are right, to exclude or include storage under towns? Personally, I think it would be perfectly safe and reasonable to do so. Are there any clear indications yet as to where the first storages are likely to take place?
The noble Lord referred to the immense capacity of underground storage, but did not indicate whether storages of such enormous capacity would be likely in this country or whether they would be somewhat smaller. We should appreciate an indication as to the numbers and approximate sizes of storage. The noble Lord also referred to the value of such underground storage for storing gas from Algeria and for storing natural gas from under the North Sea, if and when it is found. But he was silent on the subject of methane from Holland, where there is already one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world. The Dutch are certainly anxious to supply part of the requirements of the United Kingdom. If we were to buy natural gas from Holland it would find a ready place in underground storage as a result of this Bill. Perhaps the noble Lord could tell us in the course of the debate how we are getting on with the prospect of buying methane from Holland.
573 As the noble Lord explained, there is a great deal of experience of underground storage abroad, which ought to reassure those who might be tempted to question the advisability of underground storage in this country. Underground storage has proved to be an extremely safe, satisfactory and cheap way of providing large storage areas. I must be careful not to praise the Bill too much lest noble Lords should think I am praising my own work; but, on looking at the Bill again after an interval of some months, I consider that the provisions for control and supervision are admirably drafted; I am glad to see that they have been retained in their original form.
The arrangements for making application, which are set out in Schedule 2 to the Bill, provide for a gas authority to submit proposals to the Minister. The proposals are then advertised and examined, and only after the preliminary run-through, so to speak, has been completed is a formal application submitted. This two-stage approach seems to me to be a very good way of testing out the temperature of local feelings and reactions in regard to water undertakers and the like before a formal application is submitted. This is a considerable improvement on other procedures which have been adopted in the past, and I hope that it will work extremely well. The noble Lord referred to the compensation provisions, which are extremely fair and reasonable and are designed to meet a wide variety of circumstances.
That, then, is the Bill in outline, and I consider that it will assist considerably in the further development of the British gas industry. There is no doubt that the vigour of the industry, including its admirable, if controversial, advertising campaign, will be a spur to the publicly-owned electricity industry and to the privately-owned oil industry alike. I hope that those who advocate greater protection for the coal industry will not succeed in holding back the gas industry. I do not think that the leaders of the coal industry would themselves wish this to happen. I confidently commend this Bill to my noble friends on this side of the House.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMONDS
My Lords, may I add one word, for a rather special reason? I should like to be among the first to congratulate the Government upon this very imaginative Bill, which will be of great value to this State. Why I wish to be the first to congratulate the Minister on the Bill is because behind the scenes I took some little part in processing the Private Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, has referred, which dealt with a particular city. It so happens—and perhaps I should declare an interest—that I hold an ancient sinecure of office in that city, and we were greatly disturbed at what we thought were the insufficiently thought-out provisions of this Bill which attacked a particular area and threatened a particular city. I believe the Government have gone just as far as it is possible to go to protect and safeguard the interests of the areas which will be affected.
One comment I wish to make is perhaps rather more of a Committee character than a Second Reading matter, and it relates to compensation. This is an unknown world—nobody knows just how long it will take to store the gas in these vast, underground storage chambers. It may well be that it will take ten or fifteen years before the work is completed and before all the necessary surface works have been made. Therefore, it is going to be very difficult for anybody whose land is affected to know just how it will be affected and what he should do about it. For this reason I am a little anxious about the provisions of Clause 7, which limits the time in which the owner-occupier can make a claim for compensation to the moment when the so-called storage authorisation order is made. It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the owner-occupier to know then how the land is going to be affected by the surface works which may be created upon it.
It is quite true that as new boreholes are made on the land, and as rights in the land are acquired, the owner-occupier will get compensation, but the totality of those works is something very different from the aggregate of each of them. Perhaps the Minister will consider whether the owner-occupier should be enabled to claim compensation for the damage to his land as a whole, not only 575 at the time of making the order but at a later stage. It might be convenient for this purpose to introduce the provisions of Section 138 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, which enables the owner-occupier at once to serve a purchase notice if he can show that his land is likely to be affected by the operation as a whole. This is one small matter, although perhaps a Committee matter, which the Minister may like to consider.
There is one other small matter I wish to raise. I am not sure that I am right, for it is difficult to follow every detail of a Bill and its Schedules, but I think I am right in saying that an elevation or something to show what a building will be like on the land does not have to be scheduled. I am a little apprehensive, now that our dear old gasometers have gone or will be going, that the other buildings which may be erected on the land will rival them in ugliness. That is very difficult to foresee, if the plans which have to be exhibited contain no elevations and if there is nothing to show what the buildings will be like on the surface of the land. There may be countryside of rare beauty despoiled by these surface buildings. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Minister of Power to share his duties in this respect, in giving permission for the building of these surface works, with the Minister of Housing and Local Government whose duty it would be to safeguard the amenities of the area. This question was raised in another place and an answer was given which I must say I did not think was entirely satisfactory. I hope the Minister will consider that point. Apart from those two points which occurred to me, I wish most heartily to congratulate the Ministry upon this wise and imaginative scheme.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, it is a pleasure to introduce a Bill which has been so warmly welcomed as this one. The noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, was especially helpful in his praise for it, but of course there was a slight element of self-praise in his praise for this Bill, which is understandable in the circumstances. After all, if you are the parent of a child you are pleased about 576 it, even if a stepfather has come along subsequently—or a godfather, which I suppose is the right term in this connection. But I must accept that much happened to this industry during the thirteen years of Tory administration. I am not going to apportion the praise as between Ministers at that time and those who were responsible for the actual running of the industry. Both have had to play their part, and I see no reason why I should not pay tribute to both. I am positive that this industry, after a rather long period of stagnation, has found something recently which has enabled it to expand—and we are glad to see this—largely perhaps, as a result of developments that have occurred overseas and further technological progress within the industry itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, asked me about membership of the Gas Council. As I understand it, the Minister has not yet made up his mind upon this point. The Bill leaves him absolutely free to decide whom to appoint, and whether they will be employed full-time or part-time. I do not think any decision has yet been taken in this connection. I would also support the noble Lord's plea for the acceptance of new men at all levels within the industry, if the new men appear to have something to bring which does not exist at the moment. It seemed to me that what he was seeking was new blood, provided that it could enrich the blood that was already there at the time.
The noble Lord asked me about the probable first new locations. It is not possible to say where underground storages will be developed when the Bill becomes an Act. Geological formations similar to those used abroad for underground storage are known to exist in this country. The Gas Council has been carrying out a search for structures which might be suitable for gas storage and, as was stated in the Report of the Select Committee, two formations have already been investigated; one at Cliffe in Kent and the other at Chilcomb in Hampshire. In recent years the Council has also been carrying out exploratory work in a wide belt of country between Chipping Norton and The Wash. When the Bill is passed the Council will be able, in the light of the results of this exploratory work, to decide which site or sites should be 577 selected for proving and submission for authorisation under the procedure provided by the Bill. So I cannot give the noble Lord at this stage, because clearly this will result from further exploratory work, details of the order of selection of sites for gas storage underground.
The noble Lord asked me, too, about the numbers and approximate size of the gas storages and the amount they would contain. This is extremely difficult to answer, because it will depend to some extent on the quality of the gas which is stored. The intention is that the gas stored in these underground gas storages will be mainly gas of a very high quality, which will make it possible to have less than would otherwise be the case. Very high quality gas, as I understand it, is gas of a sort which is not so lethal as other sorts and might not be so dangerous where water, and so on, is concerned. But, certainly, it is the intention in the main to store high quality gas, and this subject, I am fairly sure, the noble Lord will have discussed when he was actually preparing his Bill.
So far as Dutch gas is concerned—and this is a point which the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, asked me about—towards the end of last year the Gas Council announced that a study was being undertaken jointly with the N.A.M., which is the Dutch export organisation, of the feasibility of transporting Dutch gas by pipe-line or, alternatively, by ship. This study was to be undertaken without commitment on the part of the Dutch to provide, or ourselves to take, the gas. There is nothing further that I can tell the House at this stage.
I was delighted to receive the support of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simonds. We have a tremendous respect for his knowledge and for his legal standing, and the points that he has put to me are of tremendous importance. Frankly, as a non-legal Minister I am not going to attempt to answer them off the cuff. But what he has done, which is a very kind thing to do, is to warn me that he is likely to return to these matters at the Committee stage, by which time I hope to have got myself completely briefed on the points that he has mentioned. I am hoping that I shall then be able to answer the specific points that he made about compensation. I realise the importance of the time factor and will 578 certainly consider this with the legal advisers within the Ministry.
So far as elevations are concerned, we rather feel that the elevations here will be such as not to spoil the landscape, in any case. It is one of the advantages of using gas that one does not have to stick up huge pylons and have structures standing up all over the place. Indeed, there will be very few of these, and some, such as pumps and so on, which will be used in this connection, will, I am sure, go underground; we shall not be able to see them at all. The sites that they will occupy, which will have to be railed in, of course, will be no larger than a tennis court. This gives me some satisfaction, as I am sure it will the noble Lord. If I have not answered all the points, I hope that I shall be able to complete the answers at Committee stage. If there is anything that I feel I should write to either of the two noble Lords about in the meantime, I will most certainly do so. I now hope that this House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.