HC Deb 31 May 1927 vol 207 cc186-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the agreement sanctioned by his Department, under which British ships are given permission to discharge oil into the sea outside a 50-mile zone from our coast, he is aware that such a stipulation of 50 miles distance only delays the arrival of the oil on our beaches, driven there by the prevailing wind; and whether he will take steps to withdraw the permission to discharge oil into the sea at all?


There is no power apart from international agreement to control discharge outside the three-mile limit. The proposal now being considered by the various Governments is to restrict by international action the discharge of oil within limits within which it is at present perfectly legal. This Measure may or may not be completely successful, but it is the utmost for which international agreement can be secured at the present moment, and it is a Measure involving greatly increased restriction.


Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only solution of this grievance is to forbid altogether the discharge of oil into the sea, and to insist upon the installation of separators, as in the case of the "Majestic"? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this might be done even in this country?


Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that superfluous oil from ships has to be discharged somewhere and, if it is not to be discharged in the sea, where is it to be discharged?


Why not separate it?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is it not a fact that the most modern engineering practice saves this oil from going to waste by separating it?


Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind the very heavy mortality among sea birds due to this cause?


In answer to all these supplementary questions, I think that separators are, in fact, a more complete protection than a large prohibited zone, even if it be 50 miles. Hon. Members must bear in mind that while we can order separators to be fitted to English ships, unless they are also fitted to the ships of all the world, the only result of compelling separators to be fitted on English ships would be that English ships would not discharge oil, whereas all other ships would be free to do so. We therefore proposed in the first instance at Washington that separators should be installed generally. We found we could not get any international agreement upon that proposal, but we found we could come to an agreement that there should be an international limit varying from 50 miles to 150 miles. We thought it much more important to get international agreement on what was perhaps a second best proposal, rather than to get no sort of agreement on the best proposal.

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