HC Deb 19 April 1955 vol 540 cc10-2
18 and 19. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) whether he will appoint a committee to investigate and report on the problem of clearing oily deposits from beaches, in view of the fact that it may be many years before all countries agree to the total prohibition of the depositing of oil waste and sludge in the high seas;

(2) the duties of local authorities under his regulations in regard to the clearance of oily deposits on beaches; and what Government grant is payable towards expenses incurred on such clearance.

Mr. Sandys

In view of the measures being taken, it is reasonable to hope that the pollution of beaches by oil will diminish. While they have no statutory duties in regard to this matter, local authorities possess the necessary powers to get oil deposits cleared from their beaches. There is no specific Government subsidy for this purpose.

The nature of the problem is pretty well known. I do not, therefore, believe that the appointment of a further committee of inquiry would be of any help.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Minister bear in mind that there are two problems? One is that of the fouling of the seas by the deposit of oil and oil sludge, which the new Bill seeks to deal with, and the second is the problem of dealing with persistent oils which foul the beaches. It will be some years before the position is improved, so far as the fouling of the beaches is concerned. Will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision to appoint a committee to deal with the problem of clearing the beaches—a problem which is costing hoteliers and the public millions of pounds a year?

Mr. Sandys

I understand the problem but I do not feel that a committee will make the beaches any cleaner.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Is my right hon. Friend aware that anything the Government can do to help, especially in respect of small local authorities in the coastal areas, such as West Cornwall, will be much appreciated, in view of the approaching holiday season?

Mr. Sandys

I am very well aware of the problem and of the nuisance, and if there is any constructive action which my hon. Friend can suggest we shall be very glad to consider it.

Mr. Hector Hughes

If the Minister means, by the measures now being taken, the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, which is before a Committee, does he realise that the Bill will not solve the problem because it leaves in the North Sea a large excluded area into which oil may be put, and that the oil reaches the beaches of Britain? Is he aware that in the meantime local authorities are being put to great expenditure? Will he deal with that?