HC Deb 22 March 1974 vol 870 cc1494-513

Order for Second Reading read.

11.29 a.m.

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Norman Buchan)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

At the outset, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) and the work that he has done on this Bill in the past. The House will know from that that it is very much an agreed measure. It was considered in another place last Session. I hope that, now that it is again being examined by Parliament, it will be welcome as a broadly agreed measure because it constitutes a useful step in the protection of the marine environment and will be of assistance to this country in playing its part in marine pollution control matters internationally.

The Bill has two primary purposes. First, it will enable the United Kingdom, because it is a United Kingdom Bill, to ratify the Oslo and London Conventions for control of dumping in the sea which have been signed by this country.

Secondly, it will provide statutory backing and enforcement procedures for the voluntary dumping control arrangements which have been operated in this country for a number of years. These arrangements have been well supported and have worked efficiently. But with the negotiation of internationally-agreed systems of control the time has come for the arrangements to be codified.

The extensive consultations which have been undertaken with the authorities and organisations affected by the Bill show that the proposals command general assent. It remains our policy to ensure that these arrangements, as far as possible, work through persuasion and co-operation as under the voluntary control system. We certainly do not envisage a new or emergency situation arising with which the powers provided under the Bill will be called upon to deal. By and large the arrangements which have been operated in the past will continue, although there will be adjustments because the scope of the statutory control arrangements will be broadened —for example, in relation to the dumping of dredged materials.

Our view, and that of the previous Government, is that dumping at sea under controlled conditions and subject to the criteria set out in the two conventions to which I have referred is a legitimate undertaking. It is, in the Government's view, reasonable to utilise the sea for this purpose, provided that we ensure that no harm arises to the marine environment, to consumers of fish or to the fishing industry. For these reasons, Government Departments answerable to the licensing authorities as defined will be responsible for operating the arrangements in the Bill.

There are one or two points on which perhaps the House will welcome clarification, or, if not, outside bodies involved might welcome it.

The Bill is designed to control dumping in the sea from ships and so forth and by a limited number of means through which dumping can take place directly into the sea below high water mark from the land. It would cover the operations of vessels specifically designed to dispose of waste at sea as part of their normal operations—for example, dredgers, sewage vessels and incinerator vessels.

Problems arising from oil fall within the responsibility of the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in which this country plays a prominent part. There have been extensive consultations within the organisation on the future controls to be maintained for oil disposal at sea and for the discharge of substances from ships as part of their normal operations. These discussions culminated in an international convention in London for the control of pollution from ships. This will supersede an earlier convention of 1954. Therefore, the Bill is not designed to cover such matters as oil discharges, the disposal of garbage or the tank washings of bulk carriers, because these are covered by the new convention. Careful attention has been devoted to avoiding any overlap of functions and responsibility between different organisations.

There are no direct proposals in either the Oslo or the London Conventions for controlling radioactive waste disposals into the sea from ships, and so on. Arrangements for controlling the disposal of these materials are dealt with under the Radioactive Substances Act 1960. I think that most people would agree that they should be subject to separate, specific and special legislation. However, the dumping of radioactive substances would still be subject to the criteria of the Oslo and London Conventions, quite apart from their radioactive content, and a licence would be required under the Bill in view of the fact of the dumping itself.

I will go quickly through the Bill because I think it is clear and precise. Clause 1 sets out the policy underlining the Bill. Under its provisions it would be illegal to dispose of substances in the sea without the authority of a licence granted by one of the licensing authorities. In effect, it means that nobody may dump in the sea without a licence from the Minister, the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.

Clause 1 makes it an offence for substances to be loaded in the United Kingdom without a licence for dumping, thus bringing foreign vessels within the controls. The Bill is principally concerned with the disposal of substances at sea from ships and other craft. It does not cover the procedures for giving consents to discharges through pipelines, which will be dealt with at length in another measure.

Clause 2 provides that licensing authorities may grant licences where it is reasonable to do so having regard to the need to protect the marine environment. That means that before granting a licence for the disposal of substances in the sea a licensing authority will consider the proposed disposal against the criteria in the Conventions.

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)

It I heard the hon. Gentleman aright, he said that this did not apply to discharges through pipelines. If I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall attempt to raise the matter of sewage coming out through pipelines. On a quick reading they might be regarded as being covered by the words marine structure, or from a structure on land constructed or adapted wholly or mainly for the purpose of depositing solids in the sea. Will the hon. Gentleman clarify that point?

Mr. Buchan

That is a special point. I may be able to clarify it later. If not, we will no doubt discuss it in Committee. It is an interesting point and I will see whether I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman an answer.

The Government are concerned to ensure that there is an integrated approach in controlling pollution in the sea and that no problems of administrative co-ordination with other pollution control authorities remain unresolved. Therefore, normal liaison on an administrative basis on the lines upon which detailed consultations have taken place will ensure that there is no confusion about responsibility.

Clause 2 also gives a licensing authority power to vary or revoke licences if circumstance change. The fee provided will be charged on application for a licence and is designed to cover administrative costs. It is not for any other purpose. It therefore represents an insignificant proportion of the total costs incurred by a dumper in disposals into the sea, whether an individual or a local authority dumper. There may be exceptional circumstances where special monitoring of the sea has to be undertaken in relation to a specific dumping where that is on a significant enough scale to justify such an approach. In such cases an additional charge may be made. For example, we would think it reasonable that a dumper undertaking disposal on this scale should bear the costs of the related monitoring work that would be involved.

Clause 3 provides for those aggrieved by a refusal or the conditions which are attached to licences to make representations to an independent committee.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

Am I right in assuming that the licensing authority will be set up by the Minister and that the committee will then be set up by the authority? In that context, is it not difficult to understand how it can be an independent committee?

Mr. Buchan

There are a number of independent committees established and appointed by various authorities in this country which behave in an independent way in looking at and exerting control over the operation of various statutory bodies. I instance the consumer sections in some of our present legislation. From that point of view a committee would be independent, but someone has to establish it. It could be done by the Government. Of course, in that case it could be accused of not being independent of the Government. We believe that the licensing authority, which knows the conditions and the people better, is the right body to set up a committee.

Clause 4 provides that licensing authorities will make available to the public, free of charge, access to the details of substances licensed to be dumped in the sea. This clause also deals in part with the access of the public to such information. It will also strengthen the independence of the body which may be judging the situation, because it gives a fair flow of information.

Clause 5 enables the licensing authorities to appoint British enforcement officers for the purposes of the Bill. It sets out in detail their powers. We think that this clause strikes the right balance between the provision of the necessary powers to inspectors and the need to avoid undue interference with those who might be subject to such arrangements. The British enforcement officers, in carrying out their duties, will restrict the demands that they make to the minimum necessary and in a way that will allow supervision to take place. The inspectors will be fully qualified on sea-going matters.

Clause 6 deals with a matter related to the powers of British enforcement inspectors. It provides that where any procedure under the conventions is agreed internationally, joint enforcement arrangements can be applied by participating countries on each others' vessels within the areas defined by the Conventions. Clearly, this is an important provision, and we recognise this in the Bill by providing that, before assent is given by the United Kingdom to joint enforcement arrangements outside our territorial waters, an order will be laid before Parliament. Such an order would allow examination of the implications of any such proposals to be made by Parliament before assent was given to them.

Clause 7 deals with ancillary enforcement matters, making it an offence for a person to obstruct an enforcement officer in carrying out his duty. It also makes it clear that an enforcement officer will be expected to act reasonably in exercising his powers—not an unusual provision.

Clause 10 represents a type of provision frequently made in such measures. It deals with the arrangements for the inspection of Crown land which is occupied by a third party. The Crown Estates Commissioners, the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster have assented to these arrangements.

Clause 11 provides for payment by the Government of subscriptions to the international organisations for the control of dumping in the sea which the United Kingdom has joined. In addition, the clause enables other expenses arising under the Bill to be met. The explanatory and financial memorandum shows that these are unlikely to be significant.

Clause 12 is the usual interpretation clause. It defines "sea" essentially as seawater up to the level of high water tides. That is the extent of coverage of the Bill.

Clauses 13 and 14 make it clear that the restrictions imposed by other statutes are not affected by the Bill, that no new civil liability will be created and that existing rights of action will be preserved.

Clause 15 makes it clear that the Bill extends to the whole of the United Kingdom and may be applied by Order in Council to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or any colony.

I now have the answer to the query raised by the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees). Clause 1 does not deal with pipelines. Subsection (2) refers to "depositing solids". Since pipelines discharge liquid, almost by definition they are not caught by these provisions.

Although these may be arguments about the definitions in Clause 1, I hope that the detailed comments I have made on the clauses in the Bill will help hon. Mem- bers to understand the various points involved, and I am sure that the general intention of the Bill will be approved by the House. I know it has the support of the Conservative Party, and I hope that the third largest minority in the House will also give it support.

11.42 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

The Minister of State's speech has a certain familiar ring about it. I must thank him for what he said about my interest in it. Indeed, so far as I recall, one of the last things I did before leaving the room he now occupies was to change, from the slightly more formal language with which these drafts are sometimes presented to Ministers, the Second Reading speech which I had, perhaps not totally unreasonably, expected I might make in introducing the Bill into language I would more enjoy using. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman's tastes and mine may be one on this matter.

The Bill is identical to that approved by another place in the last Parliament, apart from one new clause and the slight rejigging of another, and it is a good Bill. But I am here to speak for the Opposition, and to oppose, I notice from the dictionary, is to Set oneself against (person, thing): contend against with physical force by the exercise of influence or by argument; endeavour to hinder, thwart or overthrow; withstand, resist, combat; stand in the way of or obstruct. Therefore, perhaps this is the exception which proves every rule. It is quite clear that I have no criticism to make of the principle of the Bill.

The last occasion on which I conducted an exercise of this kind was on a Bill which had a slightly sombre title as well—the Registration of Births Marriages and Deaths (Scotland) Bill. It was one that I had also prepared. The same circumstances surrounded it. If it is of any consolation to the hon. Gentleman, I may remind him that we dealt with 60 clauses of that Bill in two sittings of the Scottish Standing Committee, which I should think must be an all-time record.

Therefore, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, having read one of the daily newspapers within the last few days, that our opposition will not be factious—which is, I understand, characterised by party spirit—fractious, which is fretful or peevish, or factitious, which is I understand, artificially got up for the occasion.

I think that this Bill is sparked off by a most significant and highly desirable awakening of interest in what is generally called the environment. This is due, of course, to the problems of disposing of many toxic or poisonous substances. Some are manufactured, some are deposited naturally, but all are an unhappy part and parcel of a highly industrialised society in the second half of the 20th century. It all adds up, if the pollution is on land—which is being dealt with, I suspect, by a similar Bill—to a desire for cleaner air and less polluted rivers, a keen interest in the use made of our limited land area, with the beauty of the countryside and the public's access to it being considered together with its use for farming and forestry. All this is common ground.

It goes without saying that we should participate in every way possible in preserving and improving what is technically called "marine environment"—what I think perhaps in simpler language one could call the "purity of the sea". This Bill will allow the Government to ratify the Oslo and London Conventions, which are aimed at having adequate control exercised internationally over dumping stuff into the sea.

We have had good voluntary arrangements, so far, by the agricultural departments both in Scotland and in England. The hon. Gentleman will notice that I have now reverted to being a Scot. For the last three years, I have had to say "England and Scotland", just as, no doubt, pressure will probably be brought upon the hon Gentleman so to do, as he, too, is a Scot who is now an English Minister. The agricultural departments in Scotland and England have done a good job with their voluntary arrangements, which have achieved a tremendous amount in protecting fish and, indeed, the sea itself around our coasts.

Added to that, there is very little evidence of any efforts to evade what hitherto have been merely administrative provisions. But this problem is international. It is not entirely domestic. I think that the ability statutorily to enforce provisions now becomes necessary—hence, the need for this Bill. I have very little time for legislation unless it is going to work, and the guts of this Bill are to be found in Clauses 5 and 6.

I think it essential, if anti-dumping in the sea is to be taken seriously, that convention States agree on the way in which international ships can be inspected. There is no great difficulty about a British enforcement officer keeping an eye on British ships, aircraft or marine structures. It would be intolerable were a convention State's vessel to dump material just outside our territorial waters without our being able to interfere, and of course the converse applies in relation to inspection of British vessels by officers of convention States.

Clause 6 gives Ministers the necessary powers to ask Parliament for approval for these inspections to be made outside territorial waters, provided that we have reciprocal agreements. Provided that appropriate consultations take place with the shipping interests, I can see no reasons why difficulties should arise. After all, as every hon. Member knows, inspection of fishing vessels, fishing gear and tackle by officers of another country has for long been a quite well accepted practice in the fishing industry.

I do not wish to raise any point today that would be better raised in Committee. It would not be proper for me to do so. I content myself by asking a question about the costs. They are estimated at £10,000 a year. There is to be a fee charged for a licence to dump, and this fee will have to cover such things as laboratory tests and the monitoring of an area of sea. The Exchequer is to bear the cost of what has been described, rightly, by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) as the independent committee. My note said, rather colloquially, "the licensing court". These details are to be found in Clause 11(2)(a), (b) and (c). I cannot see that the cost of that will come to very much. Nor will the subscriptions referred to in Clause 11(1).

Will the hon. Gentleman give an indication of the number of enforcement officers he thinks will be required for this? It is understood that they are likely to be master mariners, who know their way about. I would not have thought that we should get very many of those for £10,000 a year. That is a point that the Under-Secretary might well clarify so as to save us time later in Committee.

I greatly welcome the Bill, in principle. Indeed, I regard it, in a way, as a personal tribute that the newspapers have described it as the only measure which the Government have yet seen fit to bring forward. I know that we have had certain announcements earlier today, but up to that time this was the only measure. As there is nothing of a Socialist nature to be found in the Bill, I suppose it must mean that the Minister of State is more moderate than I thought he was.

We may well have some points in Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) mentioned a possible one—pipe discharges—and whether they could be described as marine structures. I may be wrong about this; I am sticking out my nose to have it firmly biffed, but I had the idea that discharges into pipes were properly covered by another measure, namely, the Prevention of Pollution Act, which deals with pollution on land. This is a point which the Minister will be able to confirm or deny.

I think that there will be one or two points in Committee because, however carefully one drafts a Bill, it may very well be that some points have been missed and that members of the Committee will have good ideas. I can, however, assure the hon. Gentleman that in Committee we shall be thoroughly constructive, to see that what I have already described as a useful Bill becomes as good a Bill as it possibly can be.

11.55 a.m.

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)

I, too, welcome this modest measure, first, on the same ground as my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart)—that it is the first modest measure of this administration—and, secondly, because it is, in essence, the same measure as that introduced in another place by the previous administration.

I welcome the Bill particularly on behalf of my constituents because I can claim that if we do not have the longest coastline of any constituency we certainly have the most vulnerable coastline, as it faces on to the Channel, which is by all accounts the busiest waterway in the world.

I therefore try to test the Bill against the situation which we in Dover and Deal and along that coast encounter. Three problems have affected us over the past few years. There is, first, the question of oil slicks. We are not alone in facing that problem. We recall with special concern the incident when the "Panther" ran on to the Goodwins about three years ago and there was a real risk that our beaches would get inundated with oil. Indeed, there was some slight spillage which affected the beaches, particularly at Deal and Kingsdown and St. Margaret's, very acutely.

The Minister of State said that there was not to be any overlap between this Bill and previous Bills designed to cover oil discharge and oil spillage. I wonder whether he is right about that; because, as I see it, the Bill is designed to cover the dumping of substances as well as articles and I should have thought that it was accurate to say that oil is a substance. If there is an overlap, I for one should not complain, because I think that we should do everything possible to ensure that this seaborne menace is adequately controlled.

I am well aware of the Oil in Navigable Waters Act 1971—introduced in 1970—and on another occasion I should like to take up with the hon. Gentleman the question whether on mature consideration, he is satisfied with the scope of the Act and with the measures designed to enforce that Act and to deal with oil slicks as they develop.

The second problem we have faced is that of sewage dumped into the sea, either completely or partially treated. I intervened in the Minister of State's speech to clarify one point. I am still in some doubt about it. Admittedly, Clause 1(2) talks about marine structures or structures on land constucted or adapted wholly or mainly for, the purpose of depositing solids into the sea. Completely treated sewage should not involve the depositing of solids, but partially treated sewage may. I should like to ask the Minister of State whether on mature consideration, he feels that that is designed to catch, or would catch, sewage pumped into the sea from pipes.

It may be that there are other measures designed to control that kind of pollution, but I should like to hear a little more about this and to consider whether the Bill should be extended to such matters, if it does not cover them already, and how the hon. Gentleman would propose to exercise his licensing powers.

I come finally to the question of refuse from ships. I should have thought that this would be covered by the phrase "substance or articles". In East Kent we are particularly concerned with this.

A year or so ago a lot of plastic cups were washed up on the beaches. Indeed, we are still encountering them. These articles are not broken down by the process of nature—or, if they are, it happens only over a very long period. This occurrence caused considerable concern and anxiety to the residents of East Kent. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether such refuse will be covered by the Bill? Secondly, if it is covered, how does he propose to enforce the provisions of the Bill? I am a little concerned by Clause 1(3) which appears to exclude from the operation of the Bill a discharge incidental to or derived from the normal operation of a ship …". I hope the right hon. Gentleman can reassure us that refuse wantonly thrown overboard from ships will be controlled by this Bill.

The question then arises: how would it be enforced? It is not practical politics to enforce it against the individual passenger who throws his plastic cup overboard. I therefore ask: could it possibly be enforced against the shipowners? I have a profound respect for shipowners who operate from Dover, and from British shores. British Rail and Townsend Thorensen operate from Dover. I do not want to appear unduly xenophobic, but there are foreign operators who may not be so careful.

I notice that Clause 1(1)(d) refers to people who cause or permit substances or articles to be dumped or loaded as mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) above. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that if it could be established—and I do not wish to cause any international embarrassment —that, for instance, there had been careless jettisoning of refuse from a Belgian Marine ship, the provisions of this Bill could be enforced against Belgian Marine?

Those are the problems with which I am concerned, and I hope to hear from the hon. Gentleman how far these matters will be effectively controlled by this Bill. My objective—and I hope it is an objective which the present administration share—is that the white cliffs of Dover and the beaches under them should, indeed, be white and not varying shades of grey, and I hope that this Bill and, indeed, other measures will contribute to this objective, so that our coastline is not disfigured by the reckless habits of those who may use the Channel.

12.2 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I am, on the whole, rather pro-honeymoons. I think they should be times of great happiness. However, whilst I do not want to disturb the billing and cooing that has been going on between both Front Benches this morning, I nevertheless must remark upon the determination of my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) to try to prove that opposition does not mean opposition. I thought he went to great lengths to try to use dictionary explanations of various words to show that opposition does not mean opposition at all. However, I am sure that this loving period will come to an end fairly shortly.

This morning I do not want to throw too many spanners into the works. The Minister of State kindly attempted to answer a question which I asked him about the committee. It seems, when one reads the Bill—I apologise for not raising this point originally—that it permits representations to be made by aggrieved persons to an independent committee which will advise Ministers…". I had a word with a very distinguished legal friend of mine, and his view was that the point I was making about there being no recourse to law by an aggrieved party was not a point of much substance, because the parties concerned were not likely to have their livelihoods severely curtailed or affected or anything of that nature.

I have been studying this Bill. Unfortunately, I have no legal background at all, but it appears to me that the Minister is all powerful in all matters pertaining to this Bill, and that if a person feels seriously aggrieved all he can do is to take his grievances to this committee. But then, the committee is set up by the authority; the authority is set up by the Minister, and the committee in any case can only report and make representations to the authority. As I understand it, the authority would then report and make recommendations to the Minister. So we are back in the kissing ring of the establishment.

I know it is easy for people to exaggerate fears, but nevertheless fears about the executive should always be exaggerated and looked into. I suppose our great fault over many years has been that we have far too much legislation. Although I have no doubt that, basically, it was enormously important to have brought in a Bill in connection with the Oslo Convention, with the London Convention to support it, nevertheless, certain people are affected by these Bills and it is not enough to say that a person's livelihood will not be affected.

The fact is that Clause 3 states that Where a licensing authority proposes… to require payment under section 2(6) above … Clause 2(6) states: The licensing authority may require an applicant for a licence to pay such amount, in addition to any fee under subsection (4) above, as the licensing authority may, with the consent of the Treasury"— The consent of the Treasury? Surely, at the dictation of the Treasury— determine, towards the expense of any tests which in the opinion of the authority"— that is, The Minister— are necessary to enable the authority"— or him— to decide whether a licence that is granted … and so on.

It is not possible for anybody to assume that no basic and deeply felt argument could arise when somebody goes with an annoyance or a difficulty before this committee. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to be able to do anything about it. All I am saying is that we should be watchful in this business. It cannot be explained by saying "This has happened in other Bills." Unfortunately, of course, this is true. It has happened in far too many Bills. Many subjects of the Crown have no recourse, in another field of their endeavours, to the laws of the land. All they have is recourse to the clemency of the Minister —and what Minister ever had clemency in the prosecution of his own business? Of course, this is nonsense.

However, I shall not impose upon your kindness and generosity any further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, beyond simply making this point: I express the hope that perhaps in some future generation we shall have Ministers who are more zealous about the liberties of the individual than, perhaps, they now are.

12.9 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I assure the Minister of Liberal support for the Bill. Perhaps, as I represent an island surrounded by very busy shipping lanes, mine is the appropriate voice for my party on this matter.

We have received representations—I imagine that the Government and the official Opposition have received them, too—from the Chamber of Shipping, which has certain fears about Clause 6. I have noted the comments on that clause this morning, and I see the reasons for it, but I hope that we shall have an assurance from the Minister that the representations to which I refer will be given due consideration before orders are laid.

Finally, I add the hope that in this Parliament we shall have from the Government a Bill covering the extraction of materials from the seabed—a matter that is causing considerable concern to my constituents and, I am sure, to people elsewhere on our coastline.

12.10 p.m.

Mr. Buchan

May I have the leave of the House to speak again?

I do not intend to come between the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) and the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) on the question of the role of an Opposition. Perhaps the only alliterative word missed by the right hon. Member was "fictitious". I suppose that there is something a little fictitious about the idea that one should look for direct opposition in the way the right hon. Gentleman described it on a Bill of this kind.

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, quite properly, asked about costs, asking how many enforcement officers could be covered by the sum of £10,000 mentioned in the explanatory and financial memorandum. He is quite right; the £10,000 relates to the additional cost likely to arise on central funds for the administration of the Bill. But that excludes any cost arising from the appointment of additional enforcement staff which may prove necessary in the future, up to the limit of six referred to in the memorandum. We are not, therefore, being quite as mean as all that.

Second, the right hon. Gentleman asked about inspection and control of foreign dumping, this being covered by the convention. I gather that he was largely giving a welcome to it. The only point of opposition which he raised came when he suggested that this was the first piece of legislation which we had introduced. If we have not yet introduced anything else, we have certainly begun to get rid of a great deal of unpleasant legislation, and I think it not inappropriate that the first Bill we have put before the House should be concerned with dumping.

The hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) was rightly concerned—again, I find myself agreeing with much that was said by the Opposition—about the state of his coastline, and he stressed that he did not want to see the white cliffs of Dover turn grey as a result of the dumping of oil and waste of one kind and another. This problem is covered to some extent by existing legislation. However, on the question of pipeline discharge of solids or liquids, the problem is to distinguish solids from liquids. I do not want to go into a detailed examination of the substances involved, but I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the discharge of anything of that kind from pipelines will be covered by the legislation now being formulated by the Secretary of State for the Environment. I believe that this matter was discussed at some length in the other place under the Conservative Government.

Mr. Stodart

May we revert for a moment to the £10,000? In the financial memorandum, there is a reference to other incidental expenses arising under the Bill". Clause 11(2)(a), to which our attention is there directed, covers such fees and allowances for members of committees". Paragraph (b) covers salaries and allowances, and paragraph (c) covers such other expenses of such committees". These are entirely incidental, I agree, but paragraph (d) covers such salaries or other remuneration for British enforcement officers". I understand the Minister to be saying that paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) are incidental and paragraph (d) is not. In that case, I suggest that the description of the financial effects of the Bill is not quite as clear as it might have been.

Mr. Buchan

I do not think that we should get bogged down on this. The real point at issue arose on subsection (2)(d). The salaries of British enforcement officers would also be paid out of money provided by Parliament, and this would be in addition to the £10,000. The question then arises whether the total of £10,000 covers paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Presumably, there are other administrative costs subsumed in the £10,000, and also such matters, for example, as fees and allowances for time spent by members of the various independent committees, and so on. These would be added to the proposed administration costs borne by the central Government. I think that the intention and purpose are fairly clear.

The hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal referred to the oil slick problem. Oil is often discharged from vessels as part of the normal cleansing operation. It is not, therefore, dumping, as we have defined it in the Bill, and such discharge is covered by arrangements under the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. Incidentally, the secretariat of that body is in London, and it will keep these matters under constant review.

I come now to the question of the incidental or accidental dumping of refuse from ships. This can give rise, I know, to most unpleasant happenings for people living on or near the coast. Having been born and brought up by the sea, in the Orkney Islands, where we borrowed boats as other people borrowed bicycles, I regard some of the things that go on as really dreadful, and I find it most distressing to see the disgraceful state of our shoreline now compared with what I knew in earlier days.

A great deal has come from incidental dumping from ships which pass at sea. The trouble is that this is an extremely difficult matter to control. To a great extent, it is covered by the recent IMCO convention to which I referred. But enforcement is another matter, and we shall require legislation to implement the convention.

Clause 1(3) excludes the discharge of substances from a ship arising out of normal operations, and this will be covered by the legislation to implement the IMCO Convention. However, as I say, it is an exteremely difficult business to handle in practice. One thinks not just of passengers but of the chef who comes upstairs with various remains and throws them overboard.

I suggest that we have to try, through legislation, to set the lead. This has often been our argument when other matters have been before the House. There was a difference between the two sides in relation to the Race Relations Act, for example. People asked how it could be enforced, and our argument frequently was that the fact of a law on the matter tended to make people realise that a practice was undesirable. We hope that the same result will follow here. However, I do not want to stray into a discussion of that Act, especially in the presence of the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell).

Mr. Rees

Is it the Department's view that, if a chef comes up and throws out waste from, say, a cross-Channel ship, it will be a discharge incidental to the normal operation of a ship?

Mr. Buchan

I think that that is right. It is a Committee point, and it will have to be discussed again on the legislation implementing the recent IMCO agreement. I think that it probably is the normal operation of a ship. However that may be, the point I am stressing is that in one way or another enforcement will be extremely difficult. I am advised, I regret to say, that the discharge of garbage is part of the normal operation of a vessel, and precisely for that reason it is subject to the other arrangements to which I have referred. Thus, the first answer is that it is part of the normal operation. Second, it is therefore covered by the convention. Third, enforcement will be very difficult.

I come now to the theoretical or, shall I say, philosophical questions raised by the hon. Member for Yarmouth. I have a great deal of sympathy with his observations. As we face one another across the Floor and develop our thinking on the necessary processes of Government, we recognise that problems are often raised for the individual. I have no doubt that that it is true here. We try to establish independent committees. All one can say in this modern world is that the committees are as independent as possible, but there is no total independence. The committees are subject to pressures, but eventually they have to report to the Minister, who decides.

The alternative to appointment to committees is election, but this would not necessarily extend democracy in any meaning. I cannot imagine posters being issued for election to a garbage inspection committee, for instance. We must appoint to the committees people who understand the problems. The committees report back to the Minister and the safeguard is that the Minister is held responsible at the end of the day. I am here at the Dispatch Box to be criticised if I go wrong.

Mr. Fell

I appreciate that point, yet I am concerned that all this will take place outside the courts. My basic point is that there is no recourse to the courts.

Mr. Buchan

I accept that there could be involved aspects of loss which would be subject to court procedings, but we are concerned at present with the question of advisory committees, which is a different matter. The Minister must determine matters in the light of what the committees recommend. This procedure has been agreed by the Council on Tribunals. It is a notable feature of British democracy that there is constant supervision regarding appointments to tribunals and the Council on Tribunals feels that this is sufficient a safeguard for the individual's interests.

I note the point made in the debate regarding the consent of the Treasury. I confess I had not noticed this earlier.

I thank the Liberal Party for its support for this measure. I would have expected that representatives of the two nationalist parties would be present, as there are long stretches of coast in the areas which they claim to represent. But in their absence I am only able to thank the third minority in the House for its support, and for the pleasant passage given to the Bill so far.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).