HC Deb 07 February 1972 vol 830 cc948-50
2. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has made to the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation with a view to setting up an early warning system for any ship carrying hazardous cargoes through the English Channel.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Michael Noble)

I do not think this would be the right approach. However, as was announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on 24th January, the United Kingdom is proposing urgently to the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation a system of reporting incidents to ships involving the loss or possible loss of hazardous cargoes immediately such losses are known.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the announcement which he has made and that made by his right hon. Friend earlier of a belated reference to I.M.C.O., a belated reference which he himself turned down when I suggested it nine months ago? Does he recognise that it is not just a question of an early warning system of ships which sink but that it is extremely important that the Governments of the maritime Powers along the English Channel should know what is going up in the context of dangerous cargoes, and that this was a specific recommendation of the Select Committee which reported in 1968?

Mr. Noble

I accept that. I do not accept that I turned down the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. I have my answer to the hon. Gentleman on the file. The practicalities of the situation are quite simply that there are many thousands of movements per day through the English Channel, a very tiny percentage of which cause these problems. The chance of getting international agreement on the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is therefore practically nil. I think that this which I have suggested as being practical and sensible is the best thing to do at the moment.

Mr. Mason

Concerning hazardous cargoes and the danger of the very large super oil tankers coming through the Channel, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, first, to reconsider extending the pilotage areas so that United Kingdom pilots can go on board these ships entering the Channel much earlier, and secondly, what progress is being made on getting rid of dangerous wrecks in the English Channel?

Mr. Noble

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that those are two rather separate questions, but they are important. The question in regard to pilots in particular would require international agreement and this is being considered.

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