HC Deb 02 July 1968 vol 767 cc1296-7
40. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware of the proposal of the Shell Oil Company to transfer oil from large to small tankers outside territorial waters; whether officials from his department will be present to witness the trial experiments with this technique; and what steps he is taking to ensure that this method of unloading does not increase the risk of oil pollution.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Arthur Skeffington)

My right hon. Friend is concerned about any activity at sea which involves a risk, however remote, of beaches being polluted by oil. He has therefore kept himself informed about this proposal. Officials from the Department have not witnessed the trials, but professional officers of the Board of Trade have done so. I am advised that, provided the precautions prescribed in the company's operating procedure are strictly observed and provided the transfer takes place in suitable weather, the risk of pollution is slight. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will keep developments under close scrutiny.

Mr. Thorpe

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. Is he aware that councils with seaside resorts in their control are very worried about this matter? Can he say whether the trials will be witnessed? In view of the helpful response of the Ministry at the time of the "Torrey Canyon" disaster, will he undertake that the trials will be witnessed and that the Ministry will keep as closely in touch as possible with this development?

Mr. Skeffington

I am happy to give all the assurances asked for by the right hon. Gentleman. Expert Government witnesses will be at all the trials and any other manifestations. Furthermore, we propose to issue to all the authorities an up-to-date and revised technical manual in case they suffer pollution, which is quite unlikely. We are keeping abreast of modern developments. If, despite the procedures, there should be harmful consequences, grants will be sympathetically considered.