HC Deb 23 November 1955 vol 546 cc1430-1
32. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he is aware of the suffering caused to sea birds from contamination with floating oil from ships in collision or ejected by vessels; and what progress has been made towards international agreement on the installation of separators in order to prevent much of this pollution of the sea and the contamination of sea gulls.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Yes, Sir. The Convention of 1954, which has been accepted by Her Majesty's Government and signed, subject to ratification, by 19 other countries, does not specifically deal with the installation of separators, but the conference at which the Convention was drawn up passed a resolution that Governments should encourage the development of separators and their installation in ships. So far as the United Kingdom ships are concerned, the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1955, authorises the making of regulations requiring the fitting of separators.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that as the result of a collision between two oil-burning and oil-carrying vessels at the eastern end of the Bristol Channel quite recently, the beaches were covered with oil? Is he further aware that the only way to remove the oil is by means of flame-throwers? As this is going to spoil the tourist trade in this part of the country, will he consider making the removal of the oil a national responsibility rather than a local one?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am aware of the incident to which the hon. Gentleman refers, in which two oil-carrying ships were in collision. I do not think that the fitting of separators has any real bearing on the consequences of accidents of this sort, with which it is almost impossible to deal by means of legislation.

Mr. Stokes

Leaving aside the question of accidents, with which I agree separators will not deal, is it not possible to insist on all shipping coming into our ports within a reasonable time having separators fitted? All our beaches are still being ruined, although I agree to a lesser degree now than was the case earlier, but if the right hon. Gentleman tries surf-riding off the Cornish beaches, he will find his chest covered with oil.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, as I said in my Answer, that we took power in the Act passed at the end of the last Parliament to require the installation of separators, and my noble Friend the Paymaster-General in another place gave a broad outline of how it was intended to use that power.

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