HC Deb 29 April 1970 vol 800 cc1225-6
7. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the President of the Board of Trade if, in view of the failure to establish the source of recent oil pollution on the East Coast of Scotland, he is satisfied that existing procedures to identify offenders are satisfactory; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

The detection of those responsible for polluting the sea with oil is far from satisfactory but, given the practical difficulties and the present law, I am satisfied that our existing procedures are the best that are realistically practicable. Last year's amendments to the international convention on oil pollution will help us to strengthen the law and improve enforcement. Legislation for this purpose is in preparation.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is the Minister aware that there is a feeling on the East Coast of Scotland that this problem is not being treated as urgently as it has been treated on the more populated South Coast of England? Would he agree that rapid identification of offenders is the best possible deterrent? It is no comfort to people in my area whose coasts are polluted to know that the source of pollution has not so far been traced.

Mr. Roberts

Apart from his first statement, I find it very difficult to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I am not aware that the problem on the East Coast of Scotland has been treated less urgently than in other parts of the country, including my own. I agree that. to a very great extent, it is a question of identification. Possibly the legislation which we have in mind will help in this matter.

Dr. Gray

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is similar concern on the East Coast of England, particularly in seaside resorts like Great Yarmouth? Would he consider instituting helicopter patrols in the summer so that oil slicks may be detected at an early stage?

Mr. Roberts

That is an attractive suggestion. It is a question of cost and cost-effectiveness. I do not rule out what my hon. Friend says. I shall look at his suggestion in relation to the coming summer, but I make no commitment. Many seaside resorts are rightly apprehensive about this kind of nuisance.