HC Deb 13 July 1925 vol 186 cc854-6
51. Lieut.-Colonel JAMES

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his Department has yet been able be secure any measure of international co-operation to prevent or limit the discharge of oil at sea; whether he is aware that oil so discharged is at present causing a loss of fish and bird life and inconvenience to sea bathers; and whether he will take all possible steps to ensure that the nuisance is abated without delay?


It is hoped that an International Conference will be called by one of the leading maritime Powers to deal with oil pollution, and if such a Conference is called the Board of Trade will do all they can to assist it, but no definite proposals for international action have yet been made by any Government.

I am aware of the inconvenience and dangers caused by oil pollution, and would call the attention of my hon. and gallant Friend to a White Paper on "Oil in Navigable Waters" which has recently been published by the Board of Trade.

Vice-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL

Is there any known method whereby oil can be separated from bilge water?


I know there have been a good many experiments in that direction, and a number of British shipowners have been making efforts, quite voluntary efforts, in that way, and, as my hon. Friend knows, as far as lies in our power, within territorial waters, we have done everything that is possible in reference to this matter.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's Department considered the question as to whether any attempt has been made to collect the exhaust into tanks, and since that has been a success is it because it would take up the same space as carrying coal and, therefore, make oil dearer, that that method has not been adopted?


No. The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The prohibition against putting oil into the water within the three miles limit, which we can control, is absolute. The difficulty that arises to-day on the English coasts is, I think, entirely due to the deposit of oil outside the three miles limit, over which we have no control.


The statement has been made that we have no control over this, and yet all our sea-going ships from this land can be controlled so far as that is concerned, outside the three miles limit. I want to know whether anything has been done to control that.


The hon. Member again forgets that, while it is quite true that you can put certain obligations upon British ships which you cannot put upon foreign ships, unless you get the same obligations on the foreign ships you do not get the advantage for the people on the coasts, and yon merely put a grave limitation and expense upon the English ships.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the three miles limit has, in accordance with international law, been extended for certain purposes to a 12 miles limit, and might not a similar extension be adopted for the purpose of preventing the destruction of fish and birds by the discharge of oil fuel?


Thai does not arise.