HC Deb 21 March 1955 vol 538 cc1745-805

Order for Second Reading read.

3.31 p.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

During the recent years the problem of oil pollution of the sea has become increasingly serious. This is, in part at any rate, the inevitable consequence of the increasing use of oil for the propulsion of ships and the very considerable growth of tanker tonnage, but the problem has become increasingly difficult, and very considerable injury has been caused both to natural life and to the amenities of many of the coasts.

Consequently, a good deal of thought has been given in recent years to the question of what measures should be taken to improve the position. In 1952, my right hon. Friend who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies appointed a committee, under a very distinguished official, to investigate the problem. In 1953, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—whom I am very glad to see in his place—organised, and presided over, an unofficial international gathering on this subject. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, I think that he ought to be congratulated both on his initiative in organising that conference and on the very valuable work which his committee did. both in respect of its recommendations and in the mobilisation of public opinion. The spirit in which it was conducted is well exemplified, I think, by the fact that the hon. Gentleman was good enough to ask my right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary to open the conference, which my right hon. Friend duly did.

These earlier steps were followed last year by an international conference which was held in London and which was attended by representatives of 42 different countries. It is as a result of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, arrived at at that conference, that this Bill—though it goes a good deal further in some respects than the convention recommendations—is now brought forward.

I do not think that the spirit in which this matter is being approached can be better set out than in the words which were spoken by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East in opening the unofficial conference to which I have referred. He said: For 30 years we have watched our seas, rivers, coastline and beaches becoming foul and polluted through the discharge overboard of waste oil by ships and tankers. Wild life has suffered; local authorities have incurred heavy expenses in cleansing; hard-earned holidays have been spoiled. I think that that sums up in very few sentences the general aspects of the problem.

As I mentioned, the conference which met in London last year, and resulted in a Convention, is being followed, in this country, by this Bill. I understand that the French Government are to introduce a Bill in their Chamber and that action is being taken, certainly by the Swedes and probably by the Danes and the Belgians in the near future. I very much hope that the action which we are taking today will help to stimulate and encourage the other nations concerned to take similar steps. In fact, this Bill does go a good deal further than would be necessary merely to ratify the Convention. That is an indication of the seriousness with which Her Majesty's Government, and I think the House as a whole, view this problem.

It might be of help if I gave some explanation of the way in which the Bill seeks to deal with this inevitably very complex problem. On the face of it, I am afraid, the Bill is somewhat complicated—though I have honestly done my best to get it in as simple and clear a form as possible. It is, none the less, a complex subject since, apart from anything else, we have to build on the foundation of the Act of 1922 which this Bill proposes to repeal and re-enact as part of this much wider present Measure. It may also be of assistance to the House if I mention that I have placed in the Library a number of charts, both on a large and small scale, which set out clearly the sea areas affected by the Schedule to the Bill.

Perhaps I may turn now to the Bill itself and say a word or two about one or two of its principal provisions. The first point I should make clear is the difference in scope between this Bill and the 1922 Act which it replaces. That Act was confined in its provisions to our own territorial waters, and it has become increasingly apparent that, with the distance that oil can move on the sea and the increasing quantities of oil being placed in the sea, a prohibition of that sort did not give adequate protection.

This Bill consequently seeks to go much further and to provide by international agreement for much wider cover than our own territorial waters, but, of course, there remains the fact that we ourselves have jurisdiction over foreign ships in respect of what they do only when they are within our territorial waters. The Bill, however, does, so far as British ships are concerned, extend the cover previously confined to our territorial waters to very much wider areas of the sea, and it is a necessary part of the Convention arrangements that foreign countries will do the same in respect of their ships.

I think it will be easiest if I take Clauses 1 and 2 together. They make it an offence to discharge any of the persistent types of oil from United Kingdom registered ships in the area specified in the Schedule to the Bill. Those areas are based on the provisions of the Convention. The prohibited sea areas which are set out in the Schedules are those agreed to in the Convention. There is one exception—the waters of the zone covering the Continent of Australia. Some difficulty has been experienced in precisely defining those waters and the question of their final designation has, therefore, been left over to be effected by regulation made under the powers provided in this Bill.

From the Schedule the House will see that different areas of the sea are prescribed for tankers and for dry cargo ships—that for tankers being considerably the larger, and, in particular, so far as these islands are concerned, going out very much further into the North Atlantic. The reason for this distinction springs directly from the Convention. I must tell the House quite frankly that Her Majesty's Government would have preferred to have applied to all ships the areas designated for tankers, but in the course of international negotiations, as the House knows, if agreement is to be reached it is neces- sary sometimes to make concessions to the other parties' point of view. Although, as I have said, we would rather have made the two areas coterminous, it was necessary in the course of negotiation to make this concession.

I do not think it will have very much adverse practical effect, because in this context the ships with which it is particularly important to deal are the tankers. That is not because oil discharged from other ships cannot be a menace—it certainly can be—but the danger in respect of dry cargo ships generally, though not always, arises from discharge of ballast from tanks contaminated with oil.

I understand that it is very unlikely that such discharges of ballast would be made in the North Atlantic area, at present only designated in the Bill for tankers, for this reason: ballast is carried to assure the trim of the ship, and, therefore, it is unlikely that the master would wish to discharge that ballast when so far out at sea. The whole purpose of ballast being to maintain the trim of the ship, it would probably be somewhat dangerous to discharge it until close into the coast. Consequently, the fact that a sea area far out into the Atlantic is not designated so far for dry cargo ships, though it is logically a little odd, is unlikely to have any serious practical effect.

If hon. Members will look at the Schedule, they will see also that the prohibited areas under the Convention have been divided into four parts, each of the separate parts relating separately to dry cargo ships and to tankers. The parts to which I am now referring are Parts I and II, which relate to waters which directly affect the British Isles, and parts III and IV, which relate to waters which affect other countries.

The reason for that differentiation is this. Power is taken under the Bill to bring different parts of it into effect at different times, and it is our intention as soon as the Bill becomes law, if Parliament in its wisdom decides to make it law, to bring into effect the prohibition in respect of waters affecting the British Isles. Those are the waters in Parts I and II of the Schedule. In other words, United Kingdom ships, which are the only ships with which we can deal outside territorial waters, will not be permitted to pollute waters which affect this country, as soon as the Bill becomes law, and that probition will not have to await the Convention as a whole coming into force.

The remaining waters covered by the Convention—that is, the waters affecting the other parties to it—will be protected as far as United Kingdom ships are concerned as soon as the Convention is ratified. That will give to other countries additional encouragement to proceed as speedily as possible towards ratification, which I am sure is what this House hopes to see.

I may add in this connection that the British shipping industry is already on a voluntary basis complying, so far as is possible, with these restrictions in respect of those waters, and perhaps this would be a convenient moment for me to express the gratitude of the Government to the shipping industry of this country for the very real spirit of co-operation which it has shown and for the help which it has given us both in technical and administrative matters in bringing this Measure forward. The shipowners have shown in a matter which can involve quite considerable cost to them a very fine level of public spirit, and it is a public spirit which merits the approbation of this House.

I have, I hope, made our intentions on this part of the Bill clear, which is the explanation of our breaking down in the Schedule of the Convention areas into those which affect the British Isles and those which do not. It is our intention when the Bill becomes law to apply the prohibition to the areas which affect the United Kingdom as soon as possible, leaving the remaining Convention areas until the ratification of the Convention.

The other important Clause, apart from machinery, is Clause 3, which makes new and up-to-date provision covering the discharge of oil into our territorial waters, whether from a ship or from shore establishments. As I have, I hope, made clear in respect of those territorial waters, we affirm and maintain our right to apply the provisions of the Bill to ships of all registers and not merely those of the United Kingdom register.

I hope I have made it clear that we would have liked the Convention to have gone even further and, in particular, to have covered wider areas of sea. I think, however, that there is a real possibility of development in that direction.

Last year's international conference agreed that a further conference should be held within three years, and we therefore thought it wise to provide in the Bill itself, in particular in Clause 2 (8), for the designation of further sea areas for the purpose of prohibition, in order to give effect to any subsequent Convention. In other words, if international agreement to extend those areas can be reached at a subsequent Convention, it will be possible to apply the provisions of this Bill to those areas by regulation made under this Bill.

A parallel provision relates to protection of our coasts and territorial waters. If it is necessary, in order to protect them, to extend the area covered to further areas of sea, power is also taken under I he Bill so to extend it by regulation, and, as was made clear in another place, the area of the sea which we have perhaps particularly in mind is what is colloquially called "the hole in the North Sea."

If hon. Members will consult the charts, they will see that there is a small vase-shaped area in the middle of the North Sea which is not designated under the Convention, and it may be necessary to apply, so far as the United Kingdom ships are concerned, the prohibitions of this Bill to that area with the necessary modifications that there may be to make sure that the position is held fairly between them and foreign ships. That matter was explored in another place, and my noble Friend the Paymaster-General made our intentions on that matter abundantly clear.

Perhaps I ought also—though this is a Bill which contains a good many points which are, perhaps, rather Committee points—to mention Clause 5. That gives the Minister power to make regulations requiring British ships to be fitted with the equipment necessary to prevent discharge of oil or mixtures containing oil. The very large variations in the type of ship make it inevitable that that should be done by regulation.

It is also necessary, in particular, to take power to prescribe the details and efficiency of the separators which will have to be installed for this purpose. One has also to take into account that this is a Bill which, as my noble Friend said in another place, covers craft from the "Queen Mary" to a rowing boat, and it is, therefore, necessary when one is prescribing the installation of machinery of this sort, to take powers of modification by regulation, otherwise one may find oneself in the position of prescribing the impossible.

The general approach will be, as was also indicated in another place, that we shall proceed forthwith with the testing of various types of separator. We shall seek to experiment with a view to ascertaining the standard to be prescribed, with the objective of prescribing it by regulation in some three years' time.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but when he drafts the regulations will he bear in mind the necessity to make them sufficiently flexible to allow of the use of experimental equipment? There is still quite a lot of possibility of improvement in various types of technical equipment.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That is one of the reasons, as I think the hon. Gentleman appreciates, for seeking to do this by regulation. We shall have to prescribe standards of efficiency by regulation. It will not be good enough to say that someone must fit a separator unless it is a separator capable of a certain performance. The idea of the time lag—the three-year period which I mentioned—and of the power of regulation is precisely what I think the hon. Member has in mind—to enable experiments to be made to see which is the most efficient and economical type. I agree with what I think is behind the hon. Gentleman's question—that scientific progress in these machines has not yet reached the ultimate development by any manner of means, and, to use his own phrase, we want to keep the position flexible.

Under Clause 8, we also seek to deal with the provision of facilities in harbours for the reception of oily residues from ships. I think that is the technical term. The Clause confers general powers on harbour authorities to provide these facilities and provides for reasonable charges to be made for the use of them. It also provides what, frankly, is only a last resort—for powers being given to the Minister to give directions to harbour authorities to exercise these powers in respect of the reception of oily residues from ships other than tankers.

In a Bill of this sort it is always necessary to make provision for penalties. Under the 1922 Act, which, of course, dealt only with territorial waters, the maximum penalty was a fine of £100, and cases could be dealt with only summarily. In view both of the amount of damage which a discharge of oil can do and of the saving of cost which a big ship can effect by discharging oil into the sea, it is, I think, clear that those penalties are, in present circumstances, quite inadequate.

Provision is, therefore, made in Clause 6 for a maximum fine of £1,000 on summary conviction. That is probably as high a figure as ought to be laid down for a penalty imposed by a summary court, but provision is also made for trial on indictment, and in that case, as hon. Members will see, no limit is prescribed for the fine. There are precedents for that, the most appropriate being the precedents under the Merchant Shipping Acts. When one considers in the case, for example, of a big tanker, the amount of money involved, it is difficult to prescribe a limit on a fine which would either not be so high as to seem oppressive or so low as to be ineffective.

I considered, at the same time, whether provision ought not also to be made for sentences of imprisonment. This is a difficult point. The persons guilty of offences are either the owners or the masters of ships. In the case of most of the ships concerned, the owners are limited companies, to whom, of course, for better or worse, the penalty of imprisonment cannot be applied. Generally, therefore, it comes to a question of masters, and while I considered whether imprisonment should be added, I came to the conclusion that it ought not to be added.

As I have indicated, this is the first Bill that any of the convention countries has introduced. In view of that, and of the leading position which this country has in the world of shipping, it is at least possible that in drafting their penal provisions foreign countries will tend to follow the line which we are taking. I came to the conclusion that there would be difficulties in prescribing imprisonment in those cases if the consequence were to be sentences of imprisonment in foreign ports on the masters of British ships, and I formed the view, which I hope the House will accept—although if hon. Members feel any doubts about it we can discuss it in Committee—that, on balance, monetary penalties were the answer in this case.

Prohibitions of this kind have, of course, to provide for the exceptional cases in which breach of the ban on discharges is justifiable. Clause 4 therefore lays down those conditions. It provides that where a discharge of oil is necessary for the safety of the ship or preventing damage to her or for saving life, no offence shall be committed. That seems to be an inevitable and reasonable provision. But, as the House will see from a study of the Clause, fairly stringent conditions have to be satisfied for that defence to be made in those cases.

There is also a provision which is now Clause 4 (5), which was inserted in another place, to deal with the rather complicated situation which arises in connection with oil refineries. As hon. Members may have seen from the debates in another place, certain processes in the refining of oil involve the discharge of an effluent which, as I understand it, in the present state of development inevitably contains a small quantity of oil. I understand that it is absolutely impossible for it to be purified to the point at which it does not contain oil. We have, therefore, provided, again under rather stringent conditions, in Clause 4 (5), for this discharge not to be an offence if, in substance, no pollution of the sea results.

Subsection (6) of the Clause deals with another situation which has to be dealt with—the removal of wrecks by certain public authorities. In moving a wreck which is an obstruction to navigation, the authority may very well cause the wreck to discharge oil, and it would be quite unreasonable that the responsible public authority engaged on that work should find itself prosecuted under the Bill if oil were accidentally discharged

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

Supposing the "Queen Mary" discharged oil in the middle of the night while going across the Atlantic; how does the Minister propose to show that it was the "Queen Mary" which did it and not some other ship? How is it proposed to police these provisions?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That is a question of enforcement. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned it, because we have made some study of the problem. One of the most profitable lines, we have found, has been the tracing of oil on the sea from the air. An interesting experiment was conducted last summer when officials of my Department went in an aeroplane over the Channel following an arrangement that a tanker should discharge small quantities of different types of oil on the sea. We came to the conclusion that one could satisfactorily identify the type of oil by observation from the air to a quite surprising degree.

That will at least help in enforcement, but, as the hon. Member knows from his own experience, in all these measures enforcement is a very difficult problem. It is particularly difficult in cases of discharge in the open sea, but I think that in some degree, at any rate, we shall be able to make effective observation. In view of the seriousness of the problem, we must certainly try.

Mr. Shackleton

Surely the effective sanction is the keeping of records by the ships, is it not?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Of course. For that purpose we have the machinery Clauses, which I have not reached. The keeping of records and making it an offence to keep them other than accurately is also a protection. I should not like to say, nor would it be fair to say, that it is an absolute guarantee of enforcement, because if people wantonly discharged oil that might not be recorded in the records, although that failure to keep proper records would itself be an offence. I cannot believe that the very famous ship which the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) mentioned would be at all likely to commit such an offence. The company to which she belongs has a very good record in this, as in all other respects.

As I was about to say, a large part of the rest of the Bill deals with the necessary machinery for enforcement and operation, with the keeping of records, the falsification of which, as hon. Members will see, is an offence made punishable by imprisonment, and with the provision of facilities of one sort and another. They are largely machinery Clauses, and I do not think it would be fair to the House if I were to enlarge upon them at any length on Second Reading. We shall, I hope, have an opportunity of discussing them in Committee.

I hope, however, that I have said enough to assure right hon. and hon. Members that this is a sincere and sensible attempt to deal with what is a severe and increasing problem. I have made no secret of the fact that I hope that before long we shall be able to carry our friends abroad even further in the same direction. That is why, as I have already said, we make provision in the Bill to enable us to extend it as and when further international agreement becomes possible.

But I think it is satisfactory—and I hope the House will share this view—that we who are, after all, the leading maritime country in the world should be giving the lead in proposing legislation. Not only is our island particularly vulnerable to the pollution by oil of its coasts, but we also operate far more ships than anybody else, and it is, therefore, incumbent upon us to set an example. I am very glad that, officially and unofficially, people in this country have given the lead; that the Convention, which this Bill seeks, among other things, to enable us to ratify, was held in London; and that the British Government are the first Government to lay legislationon the Table of their Parliament.

The Bill carries out, and more than carries out, our obligations under the Convention. I trust not only that the House will give it a Second Reading and, in due course, pass it through its necessary stages, but that this example will be followed by the other nations which attended the conference and that, as a result, we may by international co-operation succeed in doing something to remedy the very serious problem which oil presents on the beaches and waters of the world.

4.1 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I wish to say with what satisfaction I have heard the Minister introduce this Bill. We on this side of the House certainly regard it as a sincere and genuine lead given by Her Majesty's Government—I was going to say "in this field"—in these waters. We certainly feel that the Bill merits our broad support and it will have our broad support.

Until the Minister completed his speech I must confess that I did not wholly understand the Bill. I thought I knew a little about the subject until I read it. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his patient and courteous explanation. He has certainly made the Schedule clearer than it was and also Clauses 1 and 2, and I am indebted to him for doing so.

The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in saying that the changing economic pattern of our trade has rendered the 1922 Act out of date. That Act was drafted at a time when coal burners were in the majority and there was very little crude oil coming to this country. Such oil as did come was mostly refined and there were not the same problems that we have now. But, with the development in post-war days of the great oil refinery projects with refineries at Coryton, Fawley, Llandarcy, and the Isle of Grain, bringing to the United Kingdom about 28 million tons of crude oil last year, there is no doubt that we have created a new problem. With the change-over in the case of cargo ships and passenger ships from coal to oil-burning we see the need for a Measure of this sort.

I therefore acknowledge the speed with which the Government have acted in bringing forward this legislation following the signing, only a year ago, of the Convention. I do not suppose I shall ever say it again—and I certainly have never said it in the past—but particularly I acknowledge the promptitude and energy with which the present Colonial Secretary acted. It was undoubtedly his initiative and the way in which he drove this matter along which brought it to the stage where the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, also using his ingenuity and skill, was able to steer it into the legislative programme. All those things are important.

I should like, also, to reinforce the tribute the Minister paid to Mr. Faulkner, chairman of the original committee which produced a report, a distinguished civil servant in the Ministry of Transport, who produced a document of which there is no counterpart in the rest of the world and which shows a degree of knowledge which, so far as I know, has not been reproduced anywhere else. His patient work at the formal international conference held last year, with that of the Permanent Secretary to the Department, undoubtedly had much to do with its relative success.

I use the word "relative" because, like the Minister, I should have liked the Convention to have gone further. From one point of view this Bill is no more than a palliative—in the sense that the Faulkner Committee's Report said quite clearly, as did the international conference, that the only real remedy for stopping pollution of the beaches and the seashore, and stopping the oiling of birds with the consequential suffering, is to stop pumping oil into the sea. That is the only solution to this problem. I regret very much that other countries at the conference last year were not willing to go so far as Her Majesty's Government were ready to go in that direction.

There is no doubt that Her Majesty's Government had to work very hard at the conference to get a number of other countries even to sign the Convention which was eventually signed. It is still true that only 20 out of 42 have signed. That is a measure of the lead we have given and the lead which the ship owners of this country have given. I wish to associate myself with the tribute the right hon. Gentleman paid to the far-sighted approach of our ship owners and tanker owners. They have come a long way since the days when I first raised this question and was told that they were not pumping oil into the sea, but that it was coming from the breaking up of wrecks in post-war gales. They readily acknowledged that perhaps there was something more to the problem than that. In the Convention, signed by 20 nations in London last year, British ship owners, including their representative, Viscount Runciman, gave a lead to ship owners in other countries who seemed inclined to hang back.

I know we have the co-operation of the masters and officers of tankers and other ships in preventing the discharge of oil at sea. At the annual conference of the Navigators and Engineering Officers Union, on 7th December last, the following resolution was adopted unanimously: This general meeting welcomes the action taken by the Government in dealing with oil pollution of the seas and its harmful consequences on beaches and bird life, and requests the Council to ask all members to co-operate in carrying out the requirements of the Convention designed to abate the nuisance. I am sure that the whole House will be glad to know that the union has made that public and that it is getting its members to co-operate in this matter. There is no doubt that ships' officers have an exceedingly important part to play in this matter.

I was very interested to hear the Minister giving the list of nations which seemed likely to follow our action in ratifying the Convention. I think "ratifying" is the proper word, although I am always a little uncertain about these terms. He mentioned France, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. That is a good start and it may not be wholly undue to the fact that the Council of Europe has been interesting itself in this problem and has taken a lead in calling upon its member nations to report to it by next May on what action they are taking. Here is a useful field of activity in which the Council of Europe has been able to play a part.

I would add one more to the list of nations read out by the Minister. I have a letter signed by the Bundesminister for Transport, Dr. Seebohm, dated 2nd March, in which he says: The preparations for the German ratification are sufficiently advanced to make it probable that the draft Bill can be conveyed to the Foreign Office and the Cabinet approximately in mid-April. … As far as we are concerned, the work still outstanding on the agreement is so well advanced that we shall be able to carry out our arrangement with the British participants to ratify, shortly after the United Kingdom has done so. I hope that we shall soon be reaching the quota of nations necessary to bring the Convention into force. That will be a great day.

On the debit side—it is perhaps easier for me to say this than it is for the Minister—I regret that neither the United States of America nor Panama has yet signed the Convention. It seems to me that the United States has a substantial interest in this matter, for different reasons, because of its continental shelf and the pumping of oil. It may well be that in the course of a few years the United States will find that its own coasts will be fouled to an extent that may bring the U.S.A. into the forefront of the movement to prevent pollution.

I very much hope that the United States and Panama, both of whom are major ship-owning countries—I do not single out the small countries who have not signed, but the United States and Panama are the two major countries who have not signed—will themselves take action very soon.

While dealing with international matters, I should like to ask the Minister whether the committee which he has set up will keep as close contact as possible with the U.S.S.R. At the international conference, the U.S.S.R. and Poland were two of the countries who were quite forthcoming in this matter and their representatives seemed to be ready to go a lot further than some of the other nations.

The reason for my asking the Minister whether this committee will keep in contact with Russia is that it seemed from what its representatives said as though Russia itself had fears about the consequences of oil pollution upon fish and plankton. The issue is as yet unproved. Such evidence as we have is negative. Although the Secretary of the Association of Sea Fisheries has said that he believes that the discharge of oil has an effect upon fish and upon plankton, we have no real scientific evidence. Nevertheless, if the Russians possess evidence, I should like to see us co-operating with them to find out what information they have and how we can help each other.

I now turn more to the particular consequences of the discharge of oil. I do not know whether it is generally realised that the amount of oily water that is discharged from a medium size tanker when cleaning its tanks can be, in terms of oil, about 20 tons. When we consider the number of tankers and the voyages they make to and from this country every year, it is clear that 20 to 30 tons of sludge—which is, of course, diffused among a larger amount of water—discharged overboard on every voyage can make a very great difference to the state of cleanliness of our coasts and beeches. The problem, therefore, is a very substantial one.

The disappointing feature, to me, is that because other countries were not prepared to go as far as Her Majesty's Government, the zones into which the tankers can pump their oil are still so narrowly drawn that tankers will be pumping their sludge as close to our shores as the Bay of Biscay. The set of the tides is such that certainly that oil will be carried on to the coast of France, and some of it may well reach the south-west of England and our other coasts. I very much regret that we have not been able to go further in getting the zones made wider.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) raised the question of enforcement. I share his scepticism. I think it will be very difficult indeed to enforce these rules if people wish to break them; because, as the Minister rightly said, the man who wantonly pumps sludge overboard will not be backward in failing to fill up his log book showing that he has pumped it overboard. We have to rely upon co-operation and upon the international climate of opinion in this matter, and I believe that, thanks to Her Majesty's Government's lead and to the action of the unofficial international committee, of which I have had the honour to be chairman for some time, we are awakening people's attention to this subject in countries other than our own.

Certainly, the dramatic happenings of a few weeks ago, when about 700 square miles of the North Sea was covered by oil as a result of a tanker going aground and having to pump the oil overboard, brought the consequences of this discharge home to people much more vividly than many other things could have done.

Another feature with which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is very concerned is the oiling of birds and the destruction of wild life. The Society has been very active in this matter and has given the committee a great deal of support. I have a report from the Society in which it says that last winter the oiling of birds and the destruction that had to follow from the oiling of hundreds of birds—in bad winters it runs into thousands, if not tens of thousands, of birds—was reported from 25 counties. That shows to what extent this menace has spread. If birds are found off all those counties, washed up and covered in oil, it equally follows that the pleasure beaches of those 25 counties must also be suffering to some extent.

I should like to know from the Government what discussions they are having with the oil companies about the provision of facilities, both here and overseas. The oil companies are left out of the Bill, for, I think, a good reason, but there is no doubt that a heavy responsibility falls upon them. Although it will now be a criminal offence, as I understand, for the oil companies to allow any discharge of sludge in these waters, nevertheless they have a heavy responsibility for their overseas depots. I should like to hear from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary what influence he is bringing to bear upon them to provide proper reception facilities at their overseas loading points.

I should like to know whether the national committee or some other body is co-ordinating research into the possible economic uses of the sludge or into the efficient methods of destroying it. About a year ago, I had some correspondence with Sir Ben Lockspeiser, Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, who then had to say that, as far as the Department could see, the sludge was virtually indestructible. No way had been found of dealing with it in large quantities.

If all the sludge is to be brought to these islands and not pumped into the sea—if the sea is no longer to be used as a dustbin—what are we to do with it? The harbour authorities will have to make arrangements for disposal. I should like the Minister to say what is in mind for this, and whether research is going on to discover what commercial uses there may be for this waste sludge.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), who will wind up the debate for the Opposition, will deal particularly with the position of local authorities, of which he has great experience, so I will say nothing about them. But I would point out to the Minister that this problem of polluting the waters, which we hope to solve by international co-operation, is yet another illustration of the manner in which an attempted national solution of these matters is creating great difficulties. I should like to throw out two or three thoughts to the Minister on this subject.

The Peruvian Government claimed that its territorial waters were 200 miles wide when it wanted recently to bring in Mr. Onassis' whalers. The Russians claim that their territorial waters are 12 miles wide. We have a limit of three miles. The international lawyers are now arguing on the distance from the shore over which a country may extend its jurisdiction for the purpose of exploiting the sea bed—I believe it is called the continental shelf; that is, the area outside a nation's territorial waters but contiguous to them and extending to the economic limit at which the sea bed can be worked. Of course, the extent of territorial limits becomes very important if there are large oil-bearing deposits below the surface of the sea. One estimate I have been told is that there are 10 million square miles of ocean in which there may be oil-bearing deposits.

Then, of course—and here I come right up against the biggest case of all, although I am not criticising but merely showing the difficulties—a nation can, as it were, rope off an area of 7,000 square miles of sea and say, "We are going to explode a hydrogen bomb and everyone must please keep out." All these difficulties are related to the problem of trying to get some international action for dealing with what is undoubtedly an international problem, and a problem that can be solved internationally.

They could be overcome very much more easily if there were an organisation of the United Nations responsible for handling the problem. The Convention which was signed last year said that the United Nations should be responsible for collecting further data, for carrying out research, for co-ordinating information, and so on. I am sorry to say that the report which was made by the Secretary-General, following the Convention, seemed to me to be one which could be described as "passing the buck."

I do not feel that the United Nations has taken up the problem. Had it not been for the British Government the problem would still have been awaiting legislation, still awaiting action. The question of the international control of our seas will become even greater in the future than it has been in the past, and it is to international co-operation that we shall have to look to find its solution.

We shall have some Amendments to move to the Bill in Committee. They will be mostly concerned with matters of machinery. There will be no factious opposition, because we are as anxious as the Government to see the Bill on the Statute Book, but there are possibilities we shall invite the Committee to explore. Some of them have been dealt with already in another place, where the Bill has been materially improved as a result of the very painstaking work there done upon it.

The Bill is a significant milestone on the road to complete prohibition, but we shall not be happy until Her Majesty's Government have persuaded other Governments, we hope by 1957, when the next Convention is due, to agree to total prohibition, so that we can begin to free our seas and beaches, shores and coastlines of the foul sludge which has been despoiling them increasingly during the last few years. We are very happy to give our support to the Bill, and we wish it a speedy passage through the House.

4.23 p.m.

Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner (Barkston Ash)

I wish to add my congratulations to the Minister of Transport on the clear way in which he explained the provisions of this complicated and highly technical Bill, and I should like also to pay a tribute to the generous, moderate and reasonable way in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has spoken for the Opposition.

Following the example of a noble Lord in another place, I must confess my interest in the Bill, and, moreover, I must confess to being a potential criminal, as anyone must be who is concerned in the management of ships. I am fairly sure I can speak for all ship owners when I say that I very much hope that the House will accord the Bill a Second Reading without a dissentient voice.

For many years, and quite voluntarily, British ship owners have been taking action to mitigate the nuisance of oil pollution, and in the passage of the Bill through another place many noble Lords paid well-deserved tributes to the efforts which British shipowners have made to reduce oil pollution. Today, the Minister has added his word of praise, and so did the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. Ship owners, being human beings in spite of what people occasionally say, are appreciative of the recognition of their co-operation, and I am very ready to give an assurance that their further co-operation can be relied upon.

I shall make a very short speech, but I should like to utter two words of warning. Neither of them is novel, and both of them have been touched on today; but both do need emphasis. The first is that the important question of how to stop oil pollution is not nearly as easy to answer as many people seem to think. One has only to read the most able Report of the Faulkner Committee on the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil to be convinced that this is so. The second is that this problem cannot be wholly and finally resolved unless we have full international agreement and cooperation. Not until full international cooperation and agreement is achieved can there really be a solution of this extremely difficult problem.

Later, I hope I may be given an opportunity of elaborating those points, and it may be that from the point of view of British ship owners there may be some Amendments which we shall desire to discuss with the Minister. Meanwhile, I repeat that the Bill is warmly welcomed by British shipowners, who are not unhopeful that other nations will follow the lead that the Bill will give.

4.28 p.m.

Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)

I am sure that it gives satisfaction to the House that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner), as a distinguished representative of the ship owners, and with his knowledge, should give such unqualified support to the Bill. The fact that possibly he will move Amendments on behalf of the shipping industry, I am quite sure, is not a suggestion that the industry will not still wholeheartedly support the purposes of the Bill.

I welcome the Bill. I congratulate the Minister, and I congratulate also my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who has played no small part in encouraging this international agreement; but in doing so I should like to echo the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Barkston Ash about the difficulties that still lie ahead. I have read in the Official Report the speeches of the Government's spokesman in another place, and today I have heard the Minister, who, I am sure, would be the first to admit that the mere passing of legislation does not solve the problem. None the less, there does seem to be a general opinion that provided we do pass legislation all the rest will follow.

The Government spokesman—I think the Paymaster-General—in another place said very simply that there is, of course, quite a practical solution to the problem of oil pollution, namely, not to put oil into the sea. That seems to me to be merely stating the problem all over again. An immense amount of work will have to be done to make the Bill effective.

I am in full agreement that unquestionably the first stage is legislation. We had to bring in the necessary measures to prevent and penalise actions calculated to lead to oil pollution. At the same time, we have an obligation to see whether what we say is to be an offence can be avoided in practice. I am not entirely happy about a number of aspects of the Bill, but before going into the practical snags I should like to say what all hon. Members must feel—that it is unfortunate that there is to be a kind of oil well in the North Sea into which people can pour their oily ballast, an area in which it will be permitted, in certain circumstances, to dispose of oily residue. I understand the reason for that and I am not criticising the Government, because I realise that they have gone further in the Bill than they need have done following upon the Convention.

It would be a mistake to assume that the coming into force of these provisions, even if adopted in similar terms by other countries, will solve the problem of oil pollution. This is only the first step. It is a very big and important step because it establishes this principle, but I hope that we shall not be in any way complacent about the Bill. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash will be the first to agree that a great deal of the problem will lie in the operating procedures on board ship. Although we welcome the resolution passed on behalf of Merchant Navy officers, that does not alter the fact that this matter is a great deal more complicated than is ever likely to appear in our discussions in the House. There are many factors and practices at sea which will have to be looked at if the Bill is to be effective.

On one point of definition I should like to have from the Minister an assurance, which, I believe, was given in another place, that in the words in Clause I, which states that if it is proved that there were not less than one hundred parts of the oil in a million parts of the mixture, it shall be conclusively presumed that the oil in the mixture fouled the surface of the sea; the words "surface of the sea" are not the decisive factor. Although oil can only rarely be made to sink, it is not beyond the bounds of human invention to make it sink so that it is below the surface but, in due course, comes back to plague us on the coast. I take it that the act of proving that the oil has been discharged is enough to assume that an offence has been committed even if the oil immediately goes below the surface. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will make that clear when he replies to the debate.

Clause 5 provides that the Minister may make regulations requiring ships to be fitted with equipment to prevent or reduce the discharge of oil and mixtures containing oil into the sea. It is entirely right that the Minister should have power to prescribe the type of equipment which should be regarded as satisfactory. The Minister said that the desirability of flexibility was one of the reasons why he wanted to prescribe by regulations rather than by Act of Parliament, but I do not think that a regulation is necessarily a very flexible instrument for doing this. It is quite possible to have regulations enforced in a way which will have a serious limiting effect on new types of equipment.

I realise that this is a Committee point, but we are in a formative stage in experiments with separators and other types of equipment and it would be very unfortunate if people who are experimenting with this equipment, especially small people, found themselves up against a regulation of the Ministry contained in notices to planners or in some other form.

There seems to me to be a very easy assumption that all one has to do to solve this problem of pollution is to fit a separator on a ship. I hope that the Minister does not hold that delusion. It is quite possible to separate water from oil, but one may still have contained in the great body of oil a stable emulsion of oil and water which cannot be separated. No amount of putting it through separators will enable the water to be separated, and that particular mixture may not be burnable. Salt water can be very destructive material to burn in a boiler of a ship and may go a long way towards ruining the refractories.

It is essential that further research should be done in this matter. I have seen nowhere in any of the reports, other than a bare mention in the original Faulkner Report, an attempt to deal with this problem of a stable emulsion of oil and water. It may be popularly supposed that oil and water do not mix, but they certainly do mix extremely well in certain circumstances and may produce a stable emulsion with which it may be very difficult to deal.

One of the Clauses of the Bill places an obligation upon harbour authorities to receive oily residues, but they are not required to receive untreated ballast water. Do I take it that they would receive all these different emulsions? If not, will the ship which is suffering from them resist the temptation of putting them over the side? This is a complicated problem. I may not have put it as clearly as I might, because I do not wholly understand it myself, but there is need for a great deal of research into it.

I hope that the Government will not be satisfied either with the Faulkner Report or the research done so far. This was a matter which we considered briefly in the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. The Minister will remember that we urged that some form of co-ordinated research body should be set up. Under the Convention a permanent co-ordinating body was set up, but has it the facilities for doing the research which the Faulkner Committee was unable to do?

There is some difficulty because comparatively little independent research is being carried out at present. A great bulk of the research is controlled by the oil companies. My hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) is not here to support me, and I do not propose to make a general attack on the oil companies, but it is a fact that their scientific views at times coincide remarkably with their commercial policies. I could give some instances of that, but I do not want to pursue the matter with malice. I merely say that it would be a fallacy to rely on research done by interested parties. I should like to see the Minister, so far as the Chancellor will allow him, taking this responsibility very seriously by having a section of his Ministry seeing that the necessary research is done. If it is difficult to do the research through existing bodies, I suggest that facilities be provided under D.S.I.R. to get on with the work.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East asked what use is to be made of some of the sludge deposits which may be left in the hands of harbour authorities. Hon. Members will know that at present quite a number of distressing nuisances are being committed by people taking this sludge and burning it in the middle of the countryside. I hope that the Ministry of Transport or some other body will bear in mind the possibility of preventing both the waste and the nuisance that are involved.

The Government may have to do the reasearch work themselves, but it is certainly within the bounds of possibility that effective use may be made of a great deal of these sludge deposits. They vary enormously in their nature. There may be a considerable quantity of water in them and hard substance and sand. They can range from completely solid material to something with, say, the consistency of liver, or they may be liquid, and although they may seem pure solids there may be a lot of water in them; and I would urge that we do not waste this valuable material, which may still have a high calorific value even if it is not burnable in a ship's boiler. It might well be properly treated and used, and, therefore, I would like to echo the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East.

As this new equipment goes into the ships and as firms are called upon to install it, I would ask the Minister to keep an eye on its price. I am quite sure that one of the objectives of the Bill must be to make it more profitable for people to produce this equipment and develop and improve it on a competitive basis. But it is possible that a time may come, once the regulations come into force, when various ship owners will find they still lack the requisite equipment and there may be a tremendous rush to buy certain types of equipment at a time when the equipment is in very short supply.

I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will consult the ship owners with a view to seeing that in putting into force these regulations he will bear in mind that there is an adequate supply of the equipment, and if there is no adequate supply he should stimulate it either through the National Research Development Corporation or other bodies and undertakings who may not be prepared to take all the risks themselves, but, with help, can go ahead and manufacture certain equipment.

There is one other point I should like to make. I feel that not enough use has been made of the experience of the Royal Navy in dealing with oily waste and, in particular, stable oil and water emulsions.

There was some reference to it in the Faulkner Report, and I note that the Royal Navy is exempt from the provisions of the Bill. Personally, I have no objection to exempting the Navy, because we can utterly rely upon it, if the First Lord guarantees that it will be done, to carry out proper measures to prevent oil pollution. The Navy has done a good deal of work on the problem, and I would urge the Ministry to consult a little more freely the experts who are in the Admiralty.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on the rapidity with which they have acted. I do not think any of us expected them to take these steps in such an encouraging way, and I hope that the Minister is satisfied with the reception given to the Bill by the House this afternoon.

4.44 p.m.

Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)

I desire to give my enthusiastic support to this Bill. It cuts across party lines, and it is very encouraging to hear the speeches which have been made from the other side of the House, in particular that by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), because he has been working hard in co-ordinating the opinions of interested bodies and also in initiating interest in overseas countries.

This question of oil pollution has aroused very deep concern amongst bird lovers and amongst bird protection societies. From my own experience of the 50 miles of Atlantic coastline which is included in my constituency, I know something of the havoc that it has created and is creating amongst our bird life.

Even more important in my constituency is the effect on the holiday industry. By far the greatest attraction of our part of the country as a holiday resort lies in its beaches, its coastline and its bathing facilities, and clearly a serious effect of oil pollution such as we have had in the past is to damage an important industry. Not only does it detract from the pleasure of the holiday, but it takes business away from those who cater for the holiday trade. Also, this oil pollution on the beaches does considerable damage to the internal equipment of the hotels, because it can be carried on the feet from the beaches to the hotel. So it will be seen how important this issue is to my constituency.

Last year we had a very bad summer, but one redeeming feature was that we had far less oil on our beaches than we have had for several years previously. One observer made the comment that there was no apparent reason for it, that be-because no legislation had been passed he presumed it was due to the fortuitous action of wind and tide. I take a very different view. First, I would say that in that change we can find some encouragement, because I believe it is a sign that a remedy is a practical possibility if we work on the right lines, and that the remedies which the Bill proposes are effective in part.

I would say emphatically that the first cause of the improvement was the vigour shown by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he was Minister of Transport; secondly, there was the thoroughness of the work done by the Faulkner Committee; and, thirdly, there was the co-operation of the shipping companies in voluntarily applying the recommendations of the Faulkner Committee. No sooner had that Committee published its Report than the shipping industry recommended its members to do their utmost to adopt the proposals contained in it.

I am glad to pay that tribute to the shipping companies, because they have been taking a lead in this matter for over a quarter of a century. They have been taking not merely a paper interest but they have been taking action, and that has extended right through the shipping companies to the officers and crews of the tankers. I have independent evidence of that fact.

Last year, some hon. Members of this House visited a tanker belonging to one of the large international oil companies. Without declaring my interest in oil pollution, I asked the master of the tanker what was done with the sludge when the tanks were cleaned. What impressed me immediately was his pleasure at being asked the question. Obviously he took a pride in the way this matter was handled and the care with which instructions were carried out.

He went to his cabin and produced a copy of a chart showing the instructions of his company in regard to the prohibited area within which his oil sludge must not be pumped out. At once I recognised that chart as a copy of the one contained in an appendix to the Faulkner Committee Report, the chart which we have been discussing in this debate.

That was my experience with one oil company. In conversation with an officer of another of our large tanker-owning oil companies, I was told that over the years they have only once found a tanker of their own pumping out oil in violation of the instructions of that company. I was told that the officer in question was degraded, which indicated that this company also took the matter seriously and was doing its best to avoid the nuisance. So one reaches the conclusion that our British oil companies are not, and have not been, the main culprits in this matter, which largely concerns oil companies.

A great deal of our oil is carried in chartered vessels. Representing North Cornwall, I am especially interested in the oil traffic which feeds Llandarcy Refinery. I obtained from the Parliamentary Secretary some figures of the oil traffic passing up the Bristol Channel and from these it appears that over six months 25 per cent. of the oil was being carried in foreign bottoms which represented 12 different nationalities.

I have been advised that the tanker companies do their utmost to encourage foreign-registered ships to comply with the regulations we apply to our own British ships. Each tanker is given a slip, of which I have a copy here, requesting the captain not to pump out oil in the prohibited zone. Everything possible is being done to encourage foreign tankers not to discharge their sludge into the water.

Clearly it is an international problem and it will only be possible to solve it internationally. The Faulkner Report is a thorough and excellent Report, presenting a series of recommendations in which those of us who have studied it find little to criticise, in the present state of our knowledge. Since those recommendations appear to offer the best solution of the problem, it was disappointing that the International Conference on Pollution of the Sea by Oil was unable to accept all of them. However, as my right hon. Friend said in opening this debate, it may be that we are in advance of the world in our approach to this problem and, though we may be dis- appointed, we must not be surprised or discouraged that all the other countries have not been able to see eye to eye with us at once.

There were two main recommendations of the Faulkner Report which the International Conference was unable to accept. One was the reduction of the prohibited area. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) mentioned the Bay of Biscay. In one respect it is unfortunate that this recommendation was not accepted, but I doubt whether, from our narrow British point of view, it is unfortunate. I say this because, from the figures in the chart, it would appear that the oil reaching the Bay of Biscay would go to the French coast and not to our coast. The "hole" in the North Sea represents probably the most important difference over the prohibited areas, and I have no doubt that that will be discussed in greater detail during the Committee stage of the Bill.

The second main recommendation of the Faulkner Committee Report which the Conference was unable to accept was the fixing of a date for the absolute prohibition of the discharge of oil into the sea. Resolution I of the proceedings of the International Conference reads: The only entirely effective method known of preventing oil pollution is the complete avoidance of the discharge of persistent oils into the sea… Nevertheless, the conference was unable to go further than to resolve that individual countries should do their best to bring about absolute prohibition of the discharge of oil into the sea as soon as possible.

However, the concluding sentence of the Resolution is very important. It states: That this Conference are of the opinion that a further conference to review the matter in the light of experience of the working of the arrangements recommended by this Conference should be held within three years. In the Bill the Minister takes powers to require separators to be installed in ships. I missed his words when he told us of his intention, but in another place it was clearly stated that it was an intention, by regulation, to set down that such should be made compulsory within three years. Bearing in mind that, as has been stated, it is not reasonable to require ships to install separators until there are reasonable facilities in the ports for receiving sludge, I think that three years is probably a very suitable period.

Although the Bill is by no means a complete solution in that it does not go as far as the Faulkner Report, I believe that, in the circumstances of the limitations set by the International Conference, it goes as far as it is practicable to go. It is essential, when the Bill is passed, that we should keep well in the forefront of our minds the conference which is to take place within three years. I trust that my right hon. Friend will keep well in mind the fact that the whole matter is to be reviewed in the light of experience.

It seems to me that we must so apply the terms of the Bill that we shall gain as much experience as we can before that conference takes place. As the hon. Member for Preston, South impressed upon the House, what is important is that research should continue to be actively carried on. We want to make sure that when the conference takes place within three years there will be an overwhelming case to put before other countries in favour of positive prohibition of the discharge of oil into the sea.

This matter, as the hon. Member for Preston, South said, has been considered by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and we have had a number of discussions about it, with particular emphasis on the importance of research. Already, during today's debate, many points requiring research have been brought out. For instance, is it a fact that these oils are persistent and indestructible and will go on for ever? It seems to me that if there is doubt about that, and I believe that doubts were expressed about it in the International Conference, it is a matter on which further research is required. The effect on fish life has also been mentioned; that is a matter into which research will no doubt take place.

There is also the question of the disposal of the sludge where no refinery is available. The hon. Member for Preston, South suggested that sludge was a very valuable product. I have no personal interest to declare in this matter, but I have in the past been associated with an oil company and, therefore, these refining matters are to some extent familiar to me. I have, moreover, discussed the disposal of sludge from ships with the general manager of one of our big refineries which treats the sludge as a convenient means of getting rid of it but not to make a profit. I believe it is a fallacy to regard the sludge as a potentially highly-valuable product. Its value will about cover the cost of treating it.

Mr. Shackleton

I do not understand how the hon. Gentleman can say that it is a fallacy. He should specify the type of sludge to which he is referring. A number of sludges are burnt as fuel. It is a question whether they can be made to run, and whether sufficient of the dangerous impurities can be removed.

Sir H. Roper

I am talking about a refinery which habitually receives sludge from other ports round the country, and treats it. It is likely to treat it all in the mass instead of dealing with it according to variations in quality. From non-technical experience of oil refining, I visualise all the sludge being dumped into one tank; and then, by experience, the refinery determining the best way of treating it in order to get the best combination of products from it. That is perhaps a matter which may be pursued at a later date.

There are other points concerned with research. There is the possibility, for instance, of chemical treatment of the sludge, before it is put ashore, in order to render it less polluting. There is also the very important point of the type of separator to be used, and the development of a separator which will not be too expensive in the first place, which will be economical in operation, and which will give results.

Research is particularly required into the treatment of emulsions to effect the removal of a sufficient quantity of oil to make the water free from discharge. Of course, in a separator there is no difficulty in separating the free water from the free oil, but emulsions are a different problem, and there is room for research in that direction. There is also need for research into the removal of the last traces of salt water present in the oil, which may be injurious in the firing of a boiler.

In reply to a Question which I asked on 30th July last year, the names were given of the Committee appointed, again under Mr. Faulkner's chairmanship, in terms of Resolution No. 7 of the International Conference, which said: That Governments should create national committees to keep the problem of oil pollution under review and recommend practical measures for its prevention, including the carrying out of any necessary research. I think that we may be quite certain from that—in fact, I know that my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us this—that the Committee is carrying on the necessary research.

I urge my right hon. Friend to take particular interest in the work of the Committee and in the research which it is doing, and I hope he will assure us that there will be no stinting of money, for a comparatively small amount is likely to be involved. It is important that the research work should go on without financial embarrassment so that in three years' time, when the next conference takes place, we shall be in possession of the best possible results to guide other countries in the consideration of the problem. I have great pleasure in giving my support to the Bill.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

The Bill has had a very kind reception, so much so that one felt like singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" for the benefit of the Minister. It will be not only approved in the House but welcomed throughout the country.

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper), because I know most of the bays and beaches which are on the borders of his constituency. I am sure that there will be hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Devonshire and Cornish and other coasts who will be grateful that, at long last, we are to make an effort to rid the beaches of what has become a real menace.

It is almost pathetic to sit on these beaches around our coasts in the summer months and see mothers trying to cleanse their children, to wash their feet and legs, after they have been in the water or walked along the sands, and to see many people trying to remove filthy oil stains from clothing. It is usually light summer clothing which picks up the oil which gathers on rocks and in places where one would least expect to find it. I therefore believe that all our people will appreciate the efforts which are now to be made to rid us of this menace at our seaside resorts.

I do not have the technical knowledge to follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North. I understand that he is rather an expert on this subject, and I suppose that that is why he concentrated most of his observations on the technical aspects. The only observation I have about that is to wonder whether, if there were not so much profit in petrol and oil as such, the oil companies might spend a little more on research into this problem. I do not know. I believe that they make substantial profits without having to consider possible uses of the residues.

I want to ask the Minister three questions. The first concerns Clause 6. I noted that previous speakers in the debate have emphasised that we must operate the provisions of the Bill with vigour and with determination. In Clause 6 we find that the only provision for offences which may be committed is a fine. It is true that the Clause provides for a fairly substantial maximum fine, not exceeding £1,000. But what happens if there are further convictions? Has the Minister considered the possibility of imposing other penalties on shipping firms whose servants commit more than one offence? Normally, one would not expect the fine simply to be increased. But is it to be a fine which is not to be more than £1,000, irrespective of the number of offences that might have been committed?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The £1,000, as I tried to explain in my speech, is the limit for convictions on summary conviction. If the hon. Member will read the Clause, he will see that it provides that where the trial is on indictment there is no limit to the amount of fine.

Mr. Wilkins

I thank the Minister for that explanation. I expected that he would not have overlooked a point of that kind.

Clause 8 gives power to local authorities who are also harbour authorities to provide facilities to enable vessels to discharge their oil deposits while in harbour. Surely this will be a rather expensive proposition. I represent the City of Bristol, where the local authority is a harbour authority. We have had two wonderful years, with a lot of shipping in the port. We have oil tanks there and I imagine that we shall be very interested in providing adequate facilities for these vessels. But I am not so sure that it will be popular if it means that the ratepayers are to have to make a substantial contribution towards the provision of these facilities.

I notice that the Clause provides for the harbour authorities to recover certain dues. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind that they should make such provision as fully to reimburse them for any expenditure upon which they might have embarked for these facilities. The thought has occurred to me—I will not even suggest that it is practical—that it might be possible to dispose of the thicker oil deposits—

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

If the hon. Member will study the last paragraph of the financial provisions set out in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, he will see that that point is covered.

Mr. Wilkins

I did observe that there are such provisions.

Mr. Wilson

The passage to which I am referring is the last paragraph. It says: In the case of harbour authorities which are local authorities whose expenses are borne on the rates, expenditure incurred under Clause 8 may involve an additional charge on the rates, with a possible consequential increase in Exchequer Equalisation Grants. Under Clause 8, however, harbour authorities are entitled to make charges for the use of facilities provided by them under the clause, and it is expected that in most cases their expenditure under the clause will be met by means of those charges.

Mr. Wilkins

I am sorry that I had not noted that. That is the point I am trying to make.

I wanted to ask the Minister whether local authorities will be put to any loss whatsoever, or whether it is considered that they will recover, either by dues or by Exchequer equalisation grants, money which they expend to provide these facilities.

I was about to say that where it is not possible to treat the deposits scientifically—I am thinking of very solid oily substances that are discharged—I wonder whether it would not be possible to dispose of them by means of containers. I am thinking particularly of South Wales. Many South Wales ports are near disused mines or quarries. I wonder whether, in South Wales, it would be a practical proposition to dispose of this kind of deposit in disused mines. Would it be convenient and practical to do so? I put that possibility as a suggestion for disposing of some of these oil deposits.

I will conclude, because I am most anxious to hear the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) tell us all about the difficulties of his seaside resort. I refer briefly to the Clause which exempts the Royal Navy from the provisions of this Measure. As far back as 1916 the battleships and cruisers in the Royal Navy were, for the most part, oil-driven. I assume that the Navy has intensified the use of oil, if it has not progressed even further than that. I have seen various kinds of oil which these vessels use and some of which they discharge. It varies in consistency. Sometimes it is as thick as mud and at others it is almost like water.

However, why should the Royal Navy be exempted? I do not understand, unless it is that the Navy has made research into oil pollution and discovered scientific means by which to treat and dispose of the residue. If that be so, it might be wise for the knowledge which the Navy might have acquired to be made available to the Merchant Navy, which has a similar problem.

5.20 p.m.

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) raised the point about alternative penalties for infraction of the provisions of the Bill. I think that it is fair to say that it would not be desirable to substitute gaol sentences for fines, as might have been in his mind, because we do not want to do anything which will encourage the putting into gaol of either our sea captains in foreign countries or foreign sea captains in this country, when in fact it is the owner of the ship—presumably a company which cannot be gaoled—which is to be held responsible for the mess which may be made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) raised the question of the disposal of residues. He said that this was uneconomic and worthless stuff, but in that he is at variance with paragraph 83 of the Faulkner Report, which says: We understand that at least five refineries are already prepared to receive shipments of tank washings, oil and water mixtures and emulsions, and other waste oils, and some are doing so at present. In order to provide an indication of the commercial possibilities of such arrangements one of the oil companies arranged an experimental coastwise shipment of 850 tons of tank washings (which had been largely dehydrated) from a repair port to a refinery. After treatment of the washings at the refinery the oil company found it possible to pay the suppliers a substantial sum. Therefore, it seems that there is some hope that the disposal—

Sir H. Roper

I intended to make it clear that this company buys its sludge from the others. It pays for it, to that extent, but there is no large sum of money to be made out of it.

Dr. Bennett

There is no large sum of money, but it seems perhaps that the disposal may be economically worth while and not an unmitigated charge on those who want to get rid of these products.

I represent the constituency which probably has most reason to be grateful for the introduction of this legislation, the constituency which probably in recent times has seen the biggest change from not being fouled to being fouled. Therefore, I have special interest on behalf of my constituents in this fouling of the shores of the leeside of the Solent.

I think that I have shown a fitting interest in this subject. I have initiated Adjournment debates on it in this House, and I have also taken part in such deliberations as we have been able to have in the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. I am heartily glad at the outcome of all the conferences and committees that have sat in the past, and I give the Bill the most unalloyed welcome.

It would be foolish to underrate the difficulties under which the Bill may operate. The difficulties in the Solent with which I have been concerned have been in waters covered by the existing Act, the 1922 Act. It is almost impossible to succeed in getting a prosecution brought. I have noted that my friend who is captain of one of the naval air stations in my constituency saw from the air a hopper barge discharging oil, and the authorities managed to secure a conviction; but otherwise nobody seems to take the matter up.

I, when sailing for my own amusement in these waters, have often sailed past anchored oil tankers lying off Cowes and seen bubbling away from them streams of dirty oily water. I feel ashamed that I have not instituted proceedings against any of these ships, and I suppose that I must undertake to do so on all occasions in future. However, it will be a big job because there are many tankers dribbling the stuff away, tankers which come in in ballast and which wait to take the products from Fawley. It is the coastal tankers which take the stuff away that are mostly to blame.

Whenever I have sought to raise the subject of oil pollution in this House I have found that I have received a great deal of advice from the oil companies about the iniquities of the shipping people and a great deal of help from the shipping people about the nauseous practices of the oil people. I have thus been supplied with a great deal of knowledge about what each may do.

There was a good deal of self-contradiction in the remarks of Mr. Donald F. Anderson, now, I think, Sir Donald Anderson, at the conference on 27th October, 1953, at which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) took the chair. He said that the shipping people were welcoming, and doing all in their power to accommodate, the provisions that might be laid down for the disposal of oil residues. He said, at the same time, that "There is no denying the fact that the Committee's long-term proposals will add to expenditure and may reduce the speed of turn-round—in fact, they will." In other words, as I see the position, he was acknowledging that the shipping companies do not at the moment do all they might to see that the stuff is properly disposed of.

I should like to say how very happy I am to find the Bill before the House. I wish it a speedy passage, and hope that it may be as enforceable as circumstances can possibly provide for it to be.

5.28 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I am especially glad to have the opportunity to congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill so soon after the Conference and the Convention. Although I cannot claim that my constituency is bounded, in part by the sea—

Mr. Wilkins

The Manchester Ship Canal.

Mr. Erroll

—not even, unfortunately, by the Manchester Ship Canal, oily water though that may be—at least I have the older Bridgewater Canal running through the division, and that is almost as oily as the Ship Canal itself.

I am glad that the International Convention of 1954 is to be followed in such a short space of time by another one, presumably in 1957 or 1958. Then we shall have the Bill on the Statute Book, with two years' experience of its operation, and we may confidently hope that other countries will have approved legislation. The result will be that it will be possible, by the next Convention, to take a further step forward in this important sphere of international co-operation.

I am sure that it is right that the British nation should take the lead in this important international matter; but we must temper our desire for progress with the need to avoid placing British shipping at a disadvantage in a highly competitive market. The shipping industry—and in that category I include the oil companies which own tankers—is to be praised for the manner in which it has gone out of its way to implement the recommendations of the Faulkner Report and to act in advance of legislation. I hope that further advances made will be agreed and acted upon internationally. It must not always be necessary for British shipping to take on the extra burden before anyone else is prepared to do so.

I wish to ask which countries are to follow us in this matter. I understand that 20 countries which were represented at the Conference have signed the Convention. I should like to know whether representatives from Liberia or Panama attended the Conference, and whether those two countries, so important from a shipping registration point of view, are prepared to enforce regulations similar to those contained in this Bill. The Liberian and Panamanian registers account for a large volume of the world's shipping tonnage, particularly tanker tonnage, and many of our good intentions regarding the reduction of oil pollution will be brought to nought if tankers flying the flags of those two countries can disregard regulations which other countries try to enforce.

There is no doubt that this Bill represents a step forward in attempting to legislate outside wholly territorial waters. I am sorry to see that what is colloquially called the "hole" in the North Sea and so picturesquely described by the Minister as that vase-like shape in the North Sea remains outside the limits of the Bill. It is equally disappointing that the area known roughly as the Bay of Biscay area should also be excluded. Although one thinks of that area as being confined to the Bay of Biscay, in fact it extends over a considerably greater distance than the Bay itself. Actually, the limiting point is 48 degrees north and 14 degrees west, whereas the Isle of Ushant is only 4 degrees west, so that there is beyond that an area extending 10 degrees of longitude, which should be a prohibited area.

If one examines a chart it is clear that tankers, coming from the Middle East to the United Kingdom, pass through that area. In view of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper), we are certain that if the vessels are on the British register they will not discharge in that area. But if they are on the Liberian or Panamanian register they may well discharge there, with correspondingly grave effects, not only on the Biscay shore, but also on south-west England and, indeed, as far as the Irish Sea littoral.

I imagine that oily residues on the surface of the sea are largely borne by currents, but there is probably some evidence to show that they may also be wind-borne, particularly in periods when there is a high wind velocity. In areas where there is a prevailing south-west wind blowing towards our shores, considerable amounts of oily deposits may be carried to the coasts of Britain from this Biscay zone.

Clause 10 (1) refers to immediate notification of any discharge in harbour areas. It is understandable that one should wish for immediate notification to be extended to all territorial waters, particularly when the possible danger to bird life is considered. But I hope that the Minister will not be moved to extend the area beyond the harbour areas, because of the comparative uselessness of immediate notification outside harbour areas.

For example, the master of a small coastal tanker proceeding up-channel in dirty weather might find it extremely difficult to make proper notification in time to a coastal wireless station which might already be congested with urgent messages. Even when such a notification had been made, it is questionable whether anything could be done about it. Oil so discharged would immediately spread in a fine film over a large area, and it would not be possible for it to be trapped or disposed of in any way.

One of the most important considerations about this Bill is the necessity to enact only what can be enforced and what it is desirable to enforce. The Bill appears weakest—as indeed did the otherwise excellent speech of the Minister—on this question of enforcement. I should like to hear a little more about the methods of enforcing the provisions contained in the Measure. It was interesting to learn about the ease with which trails or residues of oil may be detected from an aeroplane, but I should like to know a little more. I wish to know that detection will be followed by prosecutions in proved cases.

While it may not be possible to employ aircraft for this purpose, I think that we might press for the immediate use of that important branch of Customs and Excise, the Water Guard. They have off-shore cutters which are employed in preventive work. It would be well worth while to extend their activities and give them the means and facilities for doing this job. They could then detect the discharge of oil from tankers and from other ships while on the high seas, and bring them to book.

I do not think that we can rely on amateur reporting such as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). It would help considerably in the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill, particularly in the Channel area, were it known that Her Majesty's Water Guard were keeping a vigilant eye open for this danger, in addition to the other important duties which they now perform so admirably.

This Measure is important not only to our pleasure beaches. A number of small boat owners, particularly sailing-boat owners, have suffered from oil pollution in the past. Their small craft, often built or painted by themselves during the winter evenings, become covered with a thick oily slime which spoils a great deal of their summer pleasure. To the extent that this Bill will reduce the filth on the topsides of their craft, I can assure the House that the owners of such craft will be grateful. Indeed, every speech made this afternoon reveals that we are grateful to the Minister for bringing forward this admirable Bill.

5.39 p.m.

Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)

I hope that this is an interim Measure which will precede a comprehensive Bill which will give a lead in the direction of world-wide prohibition. In considering it, we have mentioned our shores, from North Cornwall and the Solent to the wild and stormy shores of Lancashire—although I do not know exactly where the foreshore is there. I think it appropriate to say a word on behalf of Scotland and the Scottish coast. We are, after all, a great maritime country with almost as large a foreshore as England; in fact, including the islands, we have more. We also have a great tradition of ship building, sailing, management and manning.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) asked why the Royal Navy should be exempted. It occurred to me, as representing a constituency on the Firth of Forth which is used extensively by the Royal Navy, that we see comparatively little oil pollution on the shores of the Firth of Forth. On the Clyde, however, which is not so much used by the Royal Navy, there has been very considerable oil pollution. The answer to my hon. Friend may be that the Royal Navy uses up its waste and residue oil in an efficient and effective manner.

Oil pollution on the west coast of Scotland has been a very severe problem of great disadvantage to the tourist traffic, quite apart from all the other disadvantages which have been mentioned in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will remember the great deposits of oil sludge which, a few years ago, were worse than they are today. I am glad to say that the position is improving, though there are still considerable deposits on that foreshore.

As I have said, we must regard this Bill as an interim Measure. It is excellent as far as it goes. It confirms this country's contribution towards the observ- ance of the decisions arrived at by the International Conference. I hope that soon this great pioneering maritime nation in the use of steam and other propulsion will give a world lead along the lines of complete prohibition of oil deposits from any vessel sailing from our ports.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has handed me a list of the counties in which birds have been affected by oil pollution, and I see that, so far as Scotland is concerned, the list is a very impressive one. It is far too long, and it goes right round the east coast as well as the west coast, which I thought was most severely affected. It is apparent from the list, which includes Kirkcaldy, Ailsa Craig, West Lothian and East Lothian, that the pollution is so extensive as to affect bird life as much on the east coast as on the west. It would appear from the list that it is even worse on the northeast coast of Scotland than on the busy shipping routes of the Clyde and on the south-west coast.

I hope that this Bill will be the forerunner of a more severe and general one in the future, but, speaking on behalf of my Scottish colleagues and of people on the Scottish coasts, I give it a very cordial welcome.

5.43 p.m.

Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)

Like every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate, I am a keen and enthusiastic supporter of the Bill and am delighted that the Government have seen fit to take such prompt, and, I hope, effective action. I am especially interested in this matter, because for a great many years I have been privileged to be the President of the Association of Health and Pleasure Resorts of Great Britain.

This body is representative of the local authorities of the whole of the British health resorts, and it is our members who have had this oil waste washed up on their beaches. As President of the Association, I have seen the great volume of protest which has come in from resorts all over the country. I think it fair to say that there is hardly any place around our shores which, at some time or other, has not suffered from the pollution of its waters and beaches due to oil residues. The position was quite fairly put by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper), because, from all over the country, we have received complaints that, from time to time, it is absolutely impossible for people to bathe without getting the tarry substance on their feet and bodies, which it is very difficult to get off. They carry it with them to their hotels and boarding-houses, and it gets on carpets and furniture, with the result that everybody, from the visitor to the hotel proprietor and the landlady, has a thoroughly miserable and unhappy time. It is for that reason that we want to mitigate it.

Another point which has been made is that visitors to many of our holiday resorts have seen with horror the miserable plight of the sea-birds round our coasts when they get involved with this oil and sludge which floats on the surface of the sea. My Association, too, has received quite a number of complaints from fishermen who have had both their boats and their gear fouled by this waste oil and from yachtsmen who have suffered similarly.

I believe that in the past few years the menace has been getting worse as a larger number of ships have turned over to the use of oil fuel and as the transport of crude oil for refining in the United Kingdom has increased. The result is that the menace has become so serious that it cannot now be regarded with indifference by anybody. In my opinion, no shipowner has any right whatever to dispose of his waste oil in such a manner as to do damage to his neighbours, whoever or wherever they may be. In this case, a neighbour may be quite a long way from the place where the oil is jettisoned.

I was delighted when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in the days when he was Minister of Transport, responded to this complaint from the Front Bench with a vigour which was really refreshing, and when he announced the setting up of the Faulkner Committee which has, in my opinion, produced a Report which is the classic authority on the subject today. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Enroll) that the shipowners have perfectly voluntarily given a first-class lead, which all of us in the resorts have appreciated very much indeed.

We must not think that this is purely a British complaint, because other nations, especially the European nations, have complained that their beaches are also being fouled. No doubt their shipowners have been as much, if not more, to blame than ours. However, we have been able to reach this international agreement, and I hope that, when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary winds up, he will be able to give us some idea when we shall get an adequate number of ratifications of the Convention, so that it may fairly be regarded as being in force.

I should have liked to have seen the Bill go a little further, but I take it that it represents the maximum measure of agreement which could be obtained and enforced at the present time. It is much to the credit of the Government that we have been able to put a ring round this country specifying an area in which oil may not be deposited. I hope, too, that my right hon. Friend will tackle the problem of the "hole" in the North Sea, because it could quite easily be a real menace to the resorts on the East Coast.

It is also sensible that we should provide facilities for the reception of oil waste in the ports and should see that those ships which use their fuel oil tanks for ballast are provided with proper oil separators. There is only one real solution, which is that no persistent oils at all should be discharged anywhere in the sea. In my opinion, it is no use searching for some remote area because, wherever it is dumped, oil travels far and wide and some of it is bound to hit somebody's shore.

I think we are all agreed that the time has not yet come when we can enforce such a prohibition, because we have first to solve the problem of what to do with this oil waste and how we are going to dispose of it on land. I hope that a use can be found for it, and I think that this provides a fair challenge to British science to find an answer.

I understand that we are the first country to bring in legislation to this effect, and we ought to be proud that we have given a lead. We hope that this legislation will be a model for other countries. Once the Measure has become law, I hope that the Government will see that it is rigorously enforced and that there will be prosecutions in proved cases of breach, because it is only in that way that the menace can be checked.

I know that the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) was at one time a little worried because he felt that masters of ships would still be tempted to discharge waste oils into the sea, but a study of the penalty Clauses should make it clear that the penalties laid down are adequately severe and will remove much of the temptation to shipmasters. I hope that at the end of the three-year period the Government will call a further conference to see whether we can go the whole hog.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I welcome the Bill as a step towards the solution of a very difficult problem. As was said in the Faulkner Report, complaints with regard to oil pollution can be summarised under five headings—the spoiling of beaches; the destruction of sea birds; the fouling of boats and fishing gear; damage to fish, especially shell fish, and the risk of fire in harbours. The Faulkner Committee dismissed the last risk as being negligible, and I know of no case having occurred, but very serious damage can arise under the other headings. Hon. Members have mentioned the spoiling of beaches, especially those of North Cornwall, but even now not many people realise quite what a serious economic problem this can be to areas dependent upon tourist traffic.

My division joins that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper). It has not such a long coastline in North Cornwall, but it also has some of the south Cornish coast. Cornwall receives £9 million a year from tourists in the summer. That is a very substantial contribution to the economics of the county, and anything which dissuades tourists from going to seaside areas, or persuades them to go further afield, would be a very bad thing for our seaside resorts, and for that reason, if for no other, all hon. Members who represent seaside constituencies will welcome the Bill.

It is mostly deep-sea birds which are dsetroyed by oil pollution. Puffins, razorbills, guillemots and birds of that type have their feathers clogged with oil while swimming and can neither swim nor fly. I do not know whether any research has been carried out in connection with the effects which these birds have upon sea life, but if one takes an analogy from what happened upon land one would suppose that the destruction of any species would upset the balance of nature and might have serious consequences. It has been found several times that if a land species is wiped out the balance of nature is upset and something unpleasant happens as a consequence.

It is not necessary to say much about the very serious consequences of fouling boats and fishing gear. Our fishermen, especially the longshore men and the inshore fishermen, have experienced great difficulty in connection with the expense of their gear in recent years and if, in addition, their gear is clogged with oil, it will be a very serious matter for them.

I welcome the fact that the Bill, unlike the Act of 1922, is not limited to territorial waters but steps into a wider area, and I hope that the view expressed by the Minister—that other countries will follow our example, and follow it soon—will be correct. I was interested in the point made by several speakers that there will be no real solution to this problem until the tipping of oil sludge into the sea is altogether prohibited. It is only to be expected that such oil is bound to come ashore somewhere, sooner or later, wherever it is dumped.

I am glad that the Bill contains provisions for separators being fitted in ships, and the disposal of sludge on shore. Several speakers have mentioned the possibility of finding a commercial use for such sludge. Most have assumed that it would be used as an oil, but I am wondering whether some other use might be made of the heavier materials. A builder who lives on the north coast of Cornwall suggested to me that some of the heaviest material might be used for building, as a kind of asphalt. I do not know whether that is a practical proposition, but I hope that more research will be carried out into the uses of sludge because, if a commercial use can be discovered for it, so that shipowners would be induced to save it for sale ashore and not discharge it into the sea, an ideal solution will have been found for this very difficult problem. I am sure that we all welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I join with hon. Members opposite who have given a welcome to the Bill. I was surprised to learn that Cornwall receives as much as £9 million from its tourist traffic. I do not understand why so many people go to the tepid climate of Cornwall when the bracing climate of the west coast of Scotland, especially the Firth of Clyde, is open to them as an alternative. Further, there are no really big islands near Cornwall. I hope that some of this £9 million will be transferred to a healthier part of Britain. I believe that we have sufficient tourist traffic to give prosperity both to the Firth of Clyde and Cornwall.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) suggested that this problem was not so acute upon the west coast of Scotland, but it is. Right down the coast, from Largs to Ballantrae, complaints have been made about the pollution of the beaches. Upon that stretch of the Ayrshire coast there are many little resorts which are greatly patronised by the working class people of Glasgow during the period of the Glasgow Fair. At that time last year many complaints were made about sludge from oil, from such places as Saltcoats, Ayr, Maidens, Girvan and Ballantrae. Anything which helps to mitigate this nuisance will be welcomed, because it affects the seaside resorts in my constituency and in other parts of Ayrshire.

I remember watching some sea birds beneath the pier at Brodick, in the Isle of Arran. There were about a dozen seagulls and other sea birds which, because they were polluted with oil, were quite unable to get from underneath the pier. That pollution was largely due to the Navy, and I should like an assurance from the Minister that, in this respect, the Navy will be dealt with in exactly the same way as merchant shipping.

What is the objection to the Navy being included in the Bill? If any part of the Fleet discharges oil and commits a nuisance I believe that the admiral in charge should be as liable to prosecution as will be the captain of a trawler. Perhaps we can be told why the Navy does not come within the provisions of this Bill and is, indeed, especially excluded by this Clause, because I can assure the Minister that—especially during the war—the Navy has been one of the chief offenders.

A very large number of places off the coast and the Firth of Clyde, especially Ailsa Craig, are tenanted by sea birds, and I have heard of oil pollution affecting the bird life there. I am very glad that Her Majesty's Government have shown consideration for wild bird life for the second time recently. Last week the Secretary of State for Air announced that shell duck would not be molested during bombing operations and now we are to deal with cruelty to seagulls and other sea birds. I hope that this will be carried to its logical conclusion and that the humane treatment of sea birds will soon be followed by legislation to put human beings on the same level as birds and so prevent any danger to them.

6.2 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

I should like to join with other hon. Members in welcoming this Bill and, if I may, to congratulate the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) who, I understand, is to wind up the debate for the Opposition. We all know what an interest he has taken in this subject.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) who has, I think, spent some of his holidays in my constituency, will know only too well what a nuisance oil pollution is to the coastal areas of Cornwall. We should congratulate our own ship owners for the steps they have taken and for the lead they have given, but in this—if foreign ships are allowed to discharge into the "hole" in the North Sea while ours are not—it will be most unfair to our ship owners.

I must declare an interest in oil separation. I am concerned with a company which re-refines used oil. New uses are being found for this apparent waste. One, which is now the subject of scientific research, is of a revolutionary character and if it is successful I think that the problem will not be nearly so bad as hitherto.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what, under the Bill, will be the situation with regard to a wreck. I have in mind a wreck which occurred recently in the Isles of Scilly, causing a grave nuisance from oil pollution. In the ordinary course of events a ship goes ashore on the rocks in a storm and nothing can be done, but in this case the wreck went ashore in calm weather. It might be argued that a vessel could have been brought alongside the wreck and the oil pumped out instead of being deposited in the sea. Is it possible at this stage to be told whether this kind of situation is covered by the Bill?

Turning to penalties and to aircraft detection, the Ministry knows that I gave details of a flagrant example of oil pumping off Land's End which was reported by an aircraft. Again, when I went out in the Trinity House relief vessel to the Wolf Lighthouse we crossed the track of a ship which was leaving a great streak of oil more than a mile long. That was within a few miles of Land's End, near the Runnelstone Buoy. Something must be done about such actions. The more publicity the Government can give to the fact that aircraft are reporting these instances, the more publicity that can be given to any cases where such reports by aircraft have been taken up and fines imposed, the more chance we have of stopping this pollution.

As I said at the beginning, our ship owners are playing their part and co-operating. It is only fair to them that ship owners of other nations who commit this nuisance should be vigorously prosecuted. I hope that the Government will assure us that that will be done.

6.6 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I should, at the outset, declare my interest in several aspects. First, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I am a Cornishman, representing a Cornish constituency and living in my constituency. I consider that no part of the British Isles equals the Cornish coast and county in any way. Secondly, I have been a member of the Cornish Birdwatching and Preservation Society for the last 25 years. Thirdly, although perhaps I am still not a very good swimmer, one of my chief recreations is swimming.

Fourthly, I got my first introduction to oil on the sea by total immersion when swimming as a lad near a wreck. I came out covered from head to toe in oil. Fifthy, Falmouth is a very important tanker port and the company which owns and operates the Falmouth docks has for many years provided facilities for the treatment of oil waste and sludge. I understand that that is done on a profitable basis.

The problem has become more acute as the cargoes of crude oil brought to this country have increased. In recent years, and particularly since the war, there has been a vast increase in world tanker tonnage. There is no doubt that of late public opinion has been very thoroughly aroused and I am very glad that the Government, in response to that public opinion, have now taken the initiative. I have no wish to stress further the aspect of the sufferings of sea birds which become polluted with oil, but it really is a terrible sight. Anybody who has stood on the north cliffs of our Cornish coast in the early summer and seen the razorbills and guillemots flying straight out from their nests on the cliff cannot help but feel dreadfully upset to know that many of them will plunge into oil and take perhaps days to die.

Speaking of bird societies and the rousing of public opinion, I should like to pay tribute to Miss Barclay-Smith the very energetic and capable Secretary of the International Co-ordinating Committee. With my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), Miss Barclay-Smith has been the driving force which has co-ordinated public opinion, resulting in the unofficial international conference held in London in October, 1953.

Paragraph 13 of the Faulkner Report refers to yachts, fishing boats and other gear which have been fouled by oil. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) mentioned that matter just now. Obviously, the local authorities are extremely interested in this problem because we have such a vast coastline around this country, and even in my own county of Cornwall there are over 250 miles of coastline.

As so many hon. Members have stressed, there has been great damage to hotel carpets, bedding and furniture resulting from visitors entering the hotels from the beaches with oil on their shoes and clothing. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) mentioned that point, and I was very glad to hear him say that this nuisance applied to resorts all over the country, for I now have no inhibition in referring to the difficulties with which hoteliers in Cornwall have to deal.

In recent years, as one of the advantages of the Welfare State, millions of workers have had increased leisure time, and, with paid holidays, have been able to spend a week or two at the seaside in a way that was never possible when I was young, when we were very thankful if we spent a day at the seaside in a whole year. Now millions use our beaches, but a necessary part of one's bathing equipment today is a penknife. I have not bathed once in recent years without having to scrape oil off my feet.

This oil can be seen strewn over the beach like a lot of small pellets of coal or, as I have seen on the Perranporth beach in the constituency of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), almost like small boulders, where the oil has congealed with the sand to make these great lumps. It hangs around the seaweed and rocks, and it becomes difficult to know what to do about it.

The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) stated that last year the beaches were not so foul as in previous years. All I can say is that when I went on a beach not far from my home a few weeks ago I had to scrape oil from both my boots, although I could not see any oil on the beach itself.

The problem is not only a local problem. It is not only national. It is an international difficulty, as so many speakers have emphasised today. That is evidenced by the unofficial international conference held in London in October, 1953, to which I have already referred. That unofficial conference led to the official international conference in 1954, and that official conference produced the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil in May, 1954. That Convention, in its turn, led to this Bill. I echo what has already been said, that we are grateful to the Minister for introducing this Bill so soon after the Convention.

Reference has been made, particularly by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), to fouling of the sea in that part of the English Channel. Two years ago I wrote to the then Minister of Transport and gave him evidence of two tankers which had discharged oil sludge near the Isle of Wight. I was able to quote the actual letter of a young man on a British tanker who saw the occurrences. I received a reply from the Ministry saying that there is … no power to take legal action in cases of this kind unless it can be proved that oil has been discharged within the territorial waters of this country. That was in December, 1952. I presume that the same rule applies today, that nothing can be done even now where the discharge takes place outside British territorial waters.

Many of the rural district councils have long coastlines but slender financial resources, so that they are unable to do much about this nuisance. Some of them rely upon voluntary labour to keep the small beaches cleared, but that is a difficult proposition and it can only be done if there are enthusiastic volunteers and if the beach is reasonably small. The truth is that the local councils are frightened at the cost of clearing the beaches. Obviously, some Government help is needed. I should like the Minister to tell us what are the responsibilities of local authorities in clearing oil from the beaches, and whether he will appoint a committee to investigate the problem.

It has been said by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North that there was less fouling of the beaches last year than in previous years, and he attributed this fact to the increased vigilance of the shipping companies. That may be true, but I think it is also due to the volume of public opinion which has been roused in this country, particularly in Cornwall, with which the hon. Gentleman himself has been associated in recent years. I hope that this summer we shall get better weather and be able to spend more time on the beaches, but I also hope that the improvement in this condition will continue.

The Bill deals with oil in navigable waters. I wish it could have been drawn a little wider to deal with other forms of pollution of the sea, because there is a new form of pollution and there may come a time when something will have to be done about it. I refer to atomic waste. In replying to a Question of mine some time ago, the Minister of Works said that waste had been dropped 1,000 miles out in the Atlantic into water about two miles deep and that it was in safe containers. But this is what a newspaper said on 28th February: Atom waste drum crashes in ship. A thousand miles out in the Atlantic the crew of the "Fort Rosalie" was dumping lethal radioactive waste into a mile-and-a-half deep ocean abyss. Then one of the heavy steel and concrete containers crashed from a derrick into the ship's hold and was damaged. It seems to me that full precautions ought to have been taken before this waste was loaded on the ship, to ensure that the containers were of manageable size so that they could be dealt with without risk of accident and disposed of in the normal course of time, which, I believe, is a great many years. Who can tell what damage may have occurred to this container when it fell in the ship? We do not want to panic, but we are entitled to an assurance that more care will be taken in future to see that containers can be properly handled, and that they are of reasonable size and construction so that they can be dropped overboard undamaged.

There was a second deposit of atomic waste in the Hurd Deep. It was said to be mildly radio-active waste, mainly sludge from the effluent treatment plant at Harwell and equipment used in laboratories. I know very little about the sea, but I understand that the Hurd Deep is a narrow depression about 70 miles long lying north and north-west of the Channel Islands and at its nearest point to them only five miles distant from the outlying rocks. It has an extreme depth of 94 fathoms. Does the set of the current lie towards the English south-east coast? Presumably it would not be towards the Channel Islands or waste would not be dropped so close. Is it not possible for the Government to arrange for this type of waste to be dropped further out to sea? The accident referred to raises other doubts, such as possible damage to fisheries.

The 1954 Convention comes into operation when ratified by ten countries, of which five must have at least half-a-million tons of tanker shipping. Has that condition been fulfilled? My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East, deplored the non-adherence of both the United States and Panama and the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale referred to Liberia. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell us whether he has had any contact with those countries about adhering to the Convention, and whether a sufficient number of countries with the qualifying tonnage have adhered.

Many hon. Members have referred to the reception "sump" in the middle of the North Sea, 50 miles from the Norwegian coast. Will British ships be forbidden to use this loophole? I feel that in his opening speech the Minister did not make this sufficiently clear. After all, the North Sea is a small sea, flanked by the coasts of countries which are mostly very heavily populated, and it has important fishing grounds. On the coasts there are important bird sanctuaries, and there are many bird migration routes over the North Sea. Can the Minister take action under Clause 3 (5, a) to make this area a prohibited zone for British tankers? In his speech, I think, he used the word "may." Paragraph 52 of the Faulkner Report reads: … we see no alternative but to recommend that the whole of the North Sea should be included in a prohibited area for discharge of the persistent oils. Reference has also been made to the Bay of Biscay and I believe that a serious attempt should be made to see that the Bay of Biscay is brought within a prohibited area, at least for our shipping.

Clause 1 (3) makes provision for making regulations to cover exceptions from subsection (1) of the Clause. Could the Parliamentary Secretary give some further explanation of that subsection? Clause 6 refers to penalties and has been mentioned often during the debate. I should have liked to see a term of imprisonment added to the maximum fine of £1,000 on conviction in a court of summary jurisdiction, but I appreciate the argument that the Bill, when it becomes an Act—and we hope that will be soon—will be an example to other countries all over the world and might then expose our ship masters to the possibility of terms of imprisonment in foreign prisons, which might not be nearly as good as ours. I agree that that is a risk which we ought not to take.

From what the Minister said today I gather that if there is a prosecution on indictment the amount of the fine would be unlimited. I hope that that is so. Clause 13 (2) says that the expenses in clearing the oil may be paid out of the fine. I do not like that provision very much. Perhaps there are special reasons for it, but I wonder whether a provision could not be introduced whereby such expenses could be additional to the fine. Statutory Instruments under Clause 19 (2) are subject to the annulment procedure. I wonder whether we ought not to make them subject to the affirmative procedure.

The House and the country are deeply indebted to the Faulkner Committee, which submitted such a valuable and timely Report. I feel sure that we should not be debating the Bill today had it not been for that Report. The Report stimulated those who called for the unofficial international conference, and that conference stimulated the Minister of Transport to convene the official international conference which produced a Convention and then the Bill. But the pollution is persistent, and, when all is said and done, there will be a time-lag before the Bill can become operative, and I hope that the hoteliers and others in the country who go to the sea and enjoy the beaches will not expect that everything will be put right this summer, because the oil is almost indestructible.

Clause 24 reads: This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may by order appoint; and different days may be appointed for the purposes of different provisions of this Act. Could the Parliamentary Secretary indicate what will be the most optimistic time table for the operation of that Clause?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East and others have indicated, we on this side of the House give a sincere and warm welcome to the Bill, but obviously we must reserve the right to table suitable Amendments in Committee. The Bill should help to restore our coastline and our seas to a more natural state and to make holidays happier for millions. We have a marvellous heritage in our coasts and beaches and I hope that we shall do everything we can to hand it on to future generations better than we find it now.

6.29 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Hugh Molson)

It seldom falls to the lot of a Minister to introduce a Bill which meets with unanimous approval. I have listened to every speech except one, and I have not heard a dissentient voice today. The only criticism that has been made is that the Bill does not go so far as hon. Members would wish. That, the House will remember, is what my right hon. Friend said about his own attitude towards it.

The Bill is drafted in this way to give effect to a Convention on which the delegation of Her Majesty's Government felt it was essential to secure international agreement. All hon. Members who have spoken today have agreed on the importance of that. The fact that this Bill does not go further than it does is the price that had to be paid for international agreement. At the same time, as my right hon. Friend explained in his introductory speech, the Bill is so drafted that it enables the Minister to give effect to a subsequent international Convention, if that is concluded, and enables him also to take steps which are not included within the Convention in order to diminish the amount of pollution of the sea.

This happily concordant debate which has taken place today was introduced by a speech from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), for which I should like to thank him. He has played a great and pioneering part in arousing public opinion in this country and elsewhere to the vital importance of dealing with this abuse. His speech was at the same time generous and appreciative of what has been done, and any criticism he made he always kept within what was reasonable and what was likely to be constructive. I shall try to answer some of the questions that were asked by him and by other hon. Members.

I was grateful to the hon. Member for the tribute he paid to the distinguished civil servant in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation who was the chairman of the official Committee. I do not think the hon. Member went too far when he said that the Report of that Committee was a pioneering report and remains without rival in the authority with which it deals with this subject. It was the foundation upon which the international conference worked, it was the basis of the agreement that was reached—although, unfortunately, the agreement did not go so far as the Report has gone—and, therefore, it is the foundation stone upon which this Bill is constructed.

It has been decided that there shall be a national committee to continue to deal with this matter. I am happy to say that it will be under the chairmanship of Mr. Faulkner. It will contain representatives of the General Council of British Shipping. That is one more proof of the truth of what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Sir L. Ropner) when he pledged British shipowners to continued co-operation in this work. It also will contain representatives of the dock and harbour authorities, at whose request one of the new Clauses has been incorporated in the Bill. It will contain representatives of the oil companies, the Shipbuilding Conference, the ship repairers and dry dock owners, Lloyd's Register of Shipping and of a number of Government Departments, including the Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Admiralty and—last but by no means least important—the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Mr. Callaghan

That will be a very comprehensive body, but the Parliamentary Secretary will remember that I spoke of the importance of the attitude of the trade unions. The Navigators and Engineering Officers Union has played quite a part already. I think I am right in saying that it was represented at the international conference by Captain Tennant. Would the hon. Gentleman agree to consider whether it would be useful to have on this committee the officers and men who will have to apply the Act?

Mr. Molson

At a later stage in my remarks I was going to say with what satisfaction I heard of the unanimous resolution passed by the Navigators and Engineering Officers Union. I am most grateful to the hon. Member for his suggestion. My right hon. Friend has asked me to say that he will give that matter his consideration.

The hon. Member asked about the attitude of the British oil companies. They have publicly undertaken to provide reception facilities at their own terminals in the United Kingdom and overseas. Unfortunately, large, rich and powerful as the British oil companies are, they do not own or control a very great many of the overseas terminals. Although facilities have already been provided at the main oil terminals in the United Kingdom and some progress is being made at the British oil companies' terminals abroad—for example, in the new refineries at Aden and Freemantle—it unfortunately remains the case that there are a great many terminals which do not exercise the same degree of interest, and progress has not been so great there. However, we hope that the example which has been set will be followed. The matter is being pressed at present by the British National Oil Pollution Committee, on which the oil companies are represented.

The hon. Member also asked about what was done with the oily residues from ships. The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) also dealt with that question. The official Committee has been in touch with the refineries and most of them are prepared to take delivery of the residues when they have been to some extent, dehydrated. As was mentioned in the course of a quotation from the Faulkner Report, as a result of work that has been done, fortunately, it has been found that a number of these residues, which are so noxious at sea, can be refined and can have some commercial value after they have been refined. We are satisfied that there are no insuperable obstacles to making commercial use of them, provided, of course, that they are available in sufficiently large quantities.

It might be convenient if I now say something about the interesting and important matters raised by the hon. Member for Preston, South. Drawing, I think, upon his old experiences as a seafaring man, and also on a study he has made of the subject, he was afraid that there would be very great technical difficulties in separating oil from sea water. He said that in many cases an emulsion is formed which is very obstinate to treatment by separators. I hope that we shall be able to follow this matter out in greater detail in the Committee stage. I certainly would not in any way lightly contradict what the hon. Member said, but fortunately the advice I have received does not entirely confirm what he said about those difficulties.

While it is true that an emulsion is on some occasions formed, I understand that that is comparatively rare. In general, oil does come to the top and the separators, which work on the same principle as settling tanks, are reasonably effective. Incidentally, if the hon. Member turns to paragraph 114 of the Faulkner Report, he will find that it says: It is normally unnecessary to pass all the water from deep tanks used alternately for oil fuel and water ballast through a separator. After settling, the lower part of the water is often substantially oil-free and can with safety be pumped overboard. We will certainly go carefully into that matter, but the indications at present are that it will not prove to be technically too obstinate a problem.

The hon. Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) both referred to the tremendous importance of research into this subject. One or other of them asked my right hon. Friend to undertake research upon this subject in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. The Government are convinced of the great importance of research, but that is really a matter for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which is engaged on it at the present time. The cost of it is met out of the Estimates for that Department. The National Committee, to which I have referred, is in close touch with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and, indeed, that Department is represented upon the Committee. I give the House a complete and unequivocal assurance that we regard this as being of very great importance and one in which we believe that satisfactory results should be obtained from the work that is now being done.

Mr. Shackleton

I think that the Parliamentary Secretary is himself the Parliamentary Secretary for science matters in this House. I do not know whether he still answers Questions on the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. D.S.I.R. has a number of duties allocated to it and operates through all sorts of bodies by remote control. How exactly is it doing this research?

Mr. Molson

A good deal of the research is being done at present by the Fuel Research Establishment. I would rather that we went into this matter more fully in Committee, because I am not informed upon the exact details of what is being done. I can, however, give that complete assurance.

I have dealt with most of the points raised by the two hon. Members and also by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash. I was grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Corn- wall, North for this tribute to my right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary, which was most agreeable coming after the surprising and gracefully expressed tribute from the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. I agree with him that we have every hope that further progress will be made at the next conference.

I think that the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) received an answer from my right hon. Friend to the first point that he raised in that the Financial Memorandum, at the beginning of the Bill, points out that harbour authorities are entitled to make charges for the use of facilities provided by them under the clause, and it is expected that in most cases their expenditure under the clause will be met by means of those charges. In normal circumstances, we do not think that the ratepayers of Bristol would be called upon to meet the cost of providing these facilities there.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South and also the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) raised the point that ships of the Royal Navy are exempt from the provisions of the Bill. In this we are following the precedent of the 1922 Act. It has been the custom in cases of this kind for rules to be enforced by order of the Lords of the Admiralty rather than by the terms of a Statute.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham gave some interesting examples of what has happened and what he had seen of discharges being made by ships in contravention of the 1922 Act. It is natural that the beaches in his constituency should have been polluted. Of course much of the purpose of the Bill is to extend the area of the prohibition. We now realise that the scope of the 1922 Act was quite inadequate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) and the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman), who wound up the debate for the Opposition, asked about Liberia and Panama. Liberia has signed the Convention but has not ratified it. Panama has neither signed nor ratified. We will bear in mind the point made by my hon. Friend that although notification of discharge within the waters of harbours, as is now provided for in the Bill, is reasonable and desirable, it should not be extended beyond.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) advanced an argument—an argument which I had not put forward, but I am sure it is a good one—as to why the Royal Navy need not be incorporated in the Bill. He was of opinion, from his observation in Scotland, that in the Firth of Forth for many years past the Navy had been careful about oil pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) both spoke eloquently on the difficulties which are created in holiday resorts, the loss which their constituencies have incurred, the discomfort of the visitors and the loss to hotel owners.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) referred to the problem of a wreck. I will certainly look into that matter, but as a first impression I am inclined to think that certainly so far as the salvaging of the oil and of the hull of the ship is concerned, it is already provided for in Clause 4 of the Bill, Clause 4 also deals with cases in which it is necessary for oil to have been discharged and which states that a defence under this subsection shall not have effect if the court is satisfied that the discharge of the oil or mixture was not necessary for the purpose alleged in the defence … But I am not entirely sure of that, and I will go into the matter carefully before the Committee stage.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Falmouth and Camborne, in winding up, asked how many countries had adhered. None has adhered as yet. They cannot do so until they pass legislation. This country is setting an example in that way. He asked me whether British ships would be prohibited from discharging oil in the part of the North Sea which we should have liked to have included but which we were unable to persuade foreign countries to include. I repeat what has already been said in another place by the Government. It is the intention to prohibit the discharge of oil from United Kingdom ships within this remaining area of the North Sea, subject, however, to some necessary exceptions to be defined in regulations, such as when a ship is proceeding to a port in the area where there are no adequate facilities for the reception of waste oil. The Bill contains power by which the Minister of Transport is enabled to prohibit the discharge of oil anywhere at sea if that were agreed by the other maritime countries.

We believe that this legislation is the first and necessary step for any progress to be made. We attach great importance to the existence of the national Committee to which I have referred. It is not a newly created Committee. It is one which has been operating since last July, and has acted, as I have already indicated, in a number of matters, such as research, and so on.

I was asked about the representation of the unions upon it, and I undertook to give consideration to it. That consideration has been a little more rapid than I expected at that time, and Captain Tennant is already a member of the Committee. That, no doubt, will give some comfort and satisfaction to the hon. Gentleman.

I thank the House for the reception it has given to the Bill. We hope to have the Committee consideration soon. We know the Amendments to be put forward will be put forward in a constructive and helpful spirit, and they will be treated in that way by the Government.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).