HL Deb 21 June 1973 vol 343 cc1464-7

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they propose to lay before Parliament:—

  1. (a) the proposed road and rail access routes to the Maplin airport site, together with estimates of cost, the number of people displaced by the construction of these surface facilities and the number of people not displaced but affected by noise, and
  2. (b) the reports from the National Ports Council and the D.T.I. on the economic case for a seaport at Maplin.


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment intends to publish shortly a consultation document on road and rail access to Maplin, together with a consultation document on proposals for the designation of a New Town area associated with the Maplin development. The document on road and rail access will give a comparative assessment of displacement and noise effects and the costs associated with a number of possible corridors. No decisions will be taken on the corridors or the New Town development area until all concerned have had an opportunity to make known their views.

My right honourable friend will in due course expect to receive recommendations from the National Ports Council in relation to the Port of London Authority's applications for authorisation under Section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964, but has yet to receive from the Authority all the information on which such recommendations and his decisions, can be based.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that answer, may I ask her whether she would agree with me that all these matters are highly relevant to the Bill we are being asked to consider on Tuesday next? Would she not also agree that it is very difficult to come to a decision as to the merits of that Bill unless we have this information before us?


My Lords, I think these are two separate issues. The Bill we shall be discussing on Tuesday provides the machinery for the reclamation of land; the Question which the noble Lord has addressed to the House to-day concerns roads. My Answer indicates that we are giving an additional amount of consultation this time. Not only will there be this consultation that I have indicated, but of course all the statutory procedures will be gone through.


My Lords, if the noble Barones will read the Bill she will see that it says that it is for the purpose of reclaiming land for the purpose of building an airport and a seaport. When coming to a conclusion about that, would it not be extremely helpful to have the information that I have asked for in my Question? May I further ask the noble Baroness a fairly straight question since they seem to be the order of the day? Have the Government decided, or have they not decided, to build a seaport at Maplin?


My Lords, if I may return to the point I have just made, the Bill provides for the reclamation of land for a seaport and gives planning permission, but there is this other procedure to be gone through for the seaport, as I indicated in my original Answer to the noble Lord's Question. On the question of road access, it is hoped that we shall have these consultative documents out early in July to give plenty of time for everybody to express a view on this matter. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that we are offering in this case something additional to the usual statutory procedure.


My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that we are making a most important decision on Second Reading of this highly complex measure on Tuesday, and that noble Lords on all sides of the House will be grateful for all the information that we can have before that Second Reading debate takes place?


My Lords, I am aware that this is an extremely important matter and one of great concern to all Members of your Lordships' House. I hope that I have not suggested that something is being withheld. I have asked when the consultative document will be available, and I am assured that it is intended that it should he published early in July and that that is the earliest date.


My Lords, can the noble Baroness say whether the figure for Maplin is £1,000 million and how much of this is going to be involved in roads?


My Lords, on the question of costs, the consultative document will include the comparative cost assessments allowing for land and property acquisition and for the construction costs of roads and railways.


My Lords, does the noble Baroness not consider in the interest of the nation that in the face of such colossal costs it would be better to abandon the whole idea?


My Lords, will my noble friend say whether the rail link to Heathrow will be finished before Maplin?


My Lords, I think that noble Lords are raising an enormous number of points. We are to have a Second Reading debate on Tuesday when I should think all these points could usefully emerge.


My Lords, is it still possible for me to ask the noble Baroness to be good enough to answer the second part of the first question that I put to her. I asked whether the Government had decided or had not decided to build a seaport at Maplin. She will remember that the Bill which will be before us on Tuesday provides for the reclamation of land for the purpose of building an airport and a seaport. I am asking whether the Government have decided to build a seaport.


My Lords, I have already indicated that the Bill gives planning permission for a seaport but that it does not enable a seaport to be built. Before that can happen the Port of London Authority would require authorisation from my honourable friend, as I indicated in my original reply, under Section 9 of the Harbours Act, 1964. They must put their detailed submission to the Department, and this would have to be considered through the National Ports Council.


My Lords, again I thank the noble Baroness, but I must still press the simple question: have the Government decided to build a seaport at Maplin?


My Lords, as I have indicated, permission to build a seaport has not been given. The second procedure must be gone through and my honourable friend must consider the matter.


My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that her benign and radiant personality is more effective than a suit of armour against the ripostes from this side of the House? Nevertheless, despite that radiancy and the pleasantness of her replies, will she inform the Benches around her that we are becoming addlepated with the amount of literature that we must read to get replies by July 31 for the Government to take action? Will the Government slow up and give the nation and Parliament time to digest the legislation that they are bringing forward?


My Lords, I understood from the original Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that what he was asking for was a consultative document. This is what your Lordships can have to look at.