HC Deb 10 March 1982 vol 19 cc833-4
8. Sir David Price

Secretary of State for Transport whether, pursuant to the answer by the Prime Minister on 15 February, Official Report, c. 1, he has now given further consideration to the issues raised by the proposal to moor permanently a 60,000-ton tanker full of liquefied petroleum gas in the Solent.

Mr. Eyre

My right hon. Friend is urgently considering with colleagues whether changes in existing arrangements for dealing with proposals of this kind may be required.

Sir David Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that this particular proposal—now dead, we hope because Mobil is not prepared to go ahead with it—raises a much wider issue, which is the inadequacy of the present legal control over the mooring of vessels with potentially hazardous cargoes anywhere within our territorial waters?

Mr. Eyre

I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's anxieties and those of my hon. Friends who represent nearby constituencies. I am glad to say that the Solent proposal is unlikely to go ahead, as my hon. Friend said. The Government are considering whether and, if so, what, new controls are needed.

Mr. Penhaligon

Is not the Minister aware that arguments relating to the Solent are the same as the arguments used about the control of the mackerel factory boats in Cornwall? The Government then said that they were looking into the matter and would do something about it. That was five years ago, and they have done nothing.

Mr. Eyre

I know that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to judge this Government on the basis of malfunctions on the part of the previous Administration. There are no similar gas tanker proposals elsewhere in the United Kingdom, but our first priority must be to ensure that we have appropriate powers and procedures for dealing with any development of this kind in the future. That is the purpose of the working party reported upon yesterday by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy.

Mr. Viggers

Does my hon. Friend agree that the framework of common law and statute law enables the Government to control such projects for reasons of transport and trade, but that there is no provision for the broader environmental issues to be considered? Therefore, the people of South Hampshire, who were considering this project, would like the Government to have the capacity to call for a public inquiry and to consider the broader environmental issues.

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend will be happy to know that the working party to which I have referred includes representatives from the Departments of Energy, Trade, Transport and the Environment. My hon. Friend has emphasised an important aspect of the working party's inquiry. I sympathise with the suggestion that there should be a public inquiry, but I ask my hon. Friend to await the working party's conclusion, because I hope that out of that we shall be able to arrive at a satisfactory solution.