HC Deb 06 June 1956 vol 553 cc1061-3
15. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will, in addition to making it an offence to eject oil and oily water into the sea within certain distances from the coast, an offence which can rarely be detected, also take steps to make it compulsory for all oil-carrying and oil-burning vessels using British ports to be equipped with efficient oil separators in order to reduce the danger to sea birds, shell fish and our beaches.

Mr. Watkinson

I propose to make Regulations under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1955, requiring dry-cargo ships registered in the United Kingdom which use their fuel tanks for water ballast to be equipped with oily water separators. Such apparatus is not necessary in other classes of ships. I do not propose at present to extend the requirement to ships of other flags when using our ports.

Mr. Awbery

Will not the Minister insist on the installation of these separators not only in oil-burning but oil-carrying vessels? The ship owners up to now have protested because of the expense—that it is uneconomic—but the expense to the local authorities of cleaning the beaches and the loss of our birds and fishes is very serious. The Minister ought to give serious consideration to the problem.

Mr. Watkinson

The hon. Gentleman had better study the Regulations, and then perhaps he would like to put down another Question.

20. Mr. Callaghan

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he will be ready to make regulations, under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, to prevent the discharge of oil in the sea.

Mr. Watkinson

Within the next few days I shall make the necessary Order to bring into operation the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1955, and also make a number of Regulations under it. The Order and Regulations will not, however, become operative for three months because advance advice of their provisions must be given to the masters of United Kingdom registered ships where-ever they may be.

Mr. Callaghan

May I congratulate the Minister on the United Kingdom being the first of the forty nations at the last conference to sign this Convention and to issue Regulations? May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, even though he has gone so far, there will still be a very considerable problem until other nations have ratified, and that, even then, until we get total prohibition of the discharge of oil into the water we cannot expect complete satisfaction?

Mr. Watkinson

I quite agree. This is only the beginning of the task but, as the hon. Gentleman kindly said, it is a good beginning. I am grateful to him and to his Committee, which has done so much to bring public opinion to bear on this question. If that work can go on, I hope that, combined with these Regulations, a sensible improvement will result.

Sir H. Roper

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has had time to read a letter which I sent last week reporting a fresh influx of oil at Newquay, and may I inform him that I have received a similar report today from Bude? Can my right hon. Friend say whether these Regulations will serve to protect our shores from oil during the present season?

Mr. Watkinson

The answer is that at the moment there are bound to be some influxes of oil, but I am advised that the general position along the north Cornish coast is better than it was, and that when these Regulations take effect, as they will start to take effect from the date on which they are laid because shipowners will be taking action, I think that we shall see an improvement.

Mr. Hayman

May I ask the Minister to bear in mind that the oil pollution on the Cornish coast this year is very much worse than it was last year?

Mr. Watkinson

That has not been my advice, but I will certainly inquire into what the hon. Gentleman has suggested.

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