HC Deb 21 July 1969 vol 787 cc1210-2
11. Mr. Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions at the United Nations with a view to the adoption of an international convention to reduce pollution of the ocean, and provide for compensation in respect of infringements, similar in nature to the convention of the Council of Europe relating to fresh waters.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

The Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, already administers an international convention on the prevention of oil pollution at sea. It is convening a conference in November to consider liability and compensation for oil pollution from ships, and is also considering the need for international agreements to prevent pollution of the sea by other agents from ships and equipment operating in the marine environment.

Mr. Archer

I warmly welcome that Answer. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in addition to averting a situation where the ocean may shortly contain more oil, detergent, radioactive matter and sewage than it does water, this will also be a useful exercise in international control?

Mr. Mulley

The faster we can move to a convention to prevent pollution of the seas the better. This is one of the activities we have in consideration of the seabed in the United Nations and I believe that we are, perhaps slowly but nevertheless surely, moving in the right direction.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is it not important that the matter should be left to I.M.C.O., which is making good progress, rather than crossing the wires by having other bodies examine it as well?

Mr. Mulley

We believe that I.M.C.O. is the right organisation for this and that this kind of very complex and technical problem is best handled by a specialist agency in the United Nations rather than by the General Assembly or by a general body of that kind.

Mr. Dalyell

In any forthcoming legislation is there not a case for making a bias towards the responsibility of the individual skipper of a ship?

Mr. Mulley

As I explained in my Answer, the questions of liability and compensation are to be discussed at this conference and I do not think I should anticipate what the results might be.

Mr. Braine

Whilst welcoming what the right hon. Gentleman has said about I.M.C.O., may I ask him whether he is aware of the growing anxiety in this country and elsewhere about pollution of the environment? Can he give any idea of what preparatory work is being done by the Government in connection with the proposed United Nations Conference on the problems of the Environment?

Mr. Mulley

The control of the environment is a matter which is being taken us, as a result of the initiative of the American President, in N.A.T.O. In terms of our own immediate environment, we have concluded a reasonable arrangement for the North Sea, which comes into effect next month. I think we have got to move step by step in this process, and I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Forward to