HC Deb 22 February 1938 vol 332 cc170-1
14. Major Carver

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many oil-burning British ships at present carry oil separators to prevent the pollution of the sea by oil discharge; and what regulations are now in force, so far as British ships are concerned, with regard to the emptying and cleaning of oil tanks?

Mr. Stanley

I have no information regarding the number of British ships carrying oil separators later than that given on page 4 of the White Paper issued in October, 1933. This showed that, of the oil burning and oil carrying ships which were the subject of the inquiries then made, 132 (24 per cent.) were so fitted. As regards the second part of the question, the only compulsory provision regarding the emptying and cleaning of oil tanks on ships is that contained in the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1922, which makes it an offence to discharge oil within territorial limits. Shipowners in this and certain other countries voluntarily agreed in 1926, pending the conclusion of an International Agreement on the subject, to prohibit the discharge of oil from their ships within 50 miles of any coast.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this continued pollution of the sea by oil is having a very serious effect on the fishing industry, particularly on the inshore fishermen, and that fishermen all over the country are complaining? Can he not take action in the matter?

Mr. Stanley

I quite agree, and the Government are only too anxious to do what can be done. As I have said in my answer, British shipowners have voluntarily agreed not to discharge oil. The difficulty is that no date can be fixed yet for the international conference, because certain of the major shipping Powers have not yet signified their willingness to attend.

Viscountess Astor

Does not that show how difficult it is to reach any international agreement?

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