HC Deb 23 April 1990 vol 171 cc9-10
11. Mr. Brazier

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to increase monitoring of oil discharges into United Kingdom seas.

Mr. McLoughlin

A second remote sensing aircraft has been added to the marine pollution control unit's resources, and the regular airborne surveillance patrols of United Kingdom waters to deter ships making illegal discharges of oil are being increased by more than 60 per cent. with effect from the beginning of this month.

Mr. Brazier

That is welcome news and another example of the Government taking concrete action. Will my hon. Friend confirm that that monitoring will not go the way of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, whose water provisions were introduced by the previous Labour Government but never implemented?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful for that information. The marine pollution control unit is one of many means by which the Government monitor discharges into the sea. The objectives of the Department of Transport are supplemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the surveillance of our coastal waters amounts to 6,100 hours a year. We also rely on pilots and people using the seas to report any discharges that they come across.

Dr. Godman

Will the Minister give the latest estimate for the incidence of oil-related traffic passing through the Minch? Will he inform us of the number of spillages in that waterway and the surrounding seas? I remind him that it is an extremely important area for west coast fishermen. Is his Department drawing up a plan for designated safe anchorages for stricken tankers?

Mr. McLoughlin

The consistent reduction in the amount of oil spillages round our coastline is due mainly to the determined attitude of the Department to make ship owners and masters aware that we shall not tolerate such discharges. In 1979 there were 530 incidents, but the latest figures—for 1988—show a total of 280.

Mr. Prescott

Has the Minister heard about the loss in the Solent of a Greek vessel which is discharging oil and dead Greek seamen? Is the Department assisting in the removal of that wreck and perhaps in the recovery of the bodies?

Mr. McLoughlin

Any accident that has been reported and any slicks that occur warrant action by the marine pollution control unit. I shall certainly investigate the accident to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn my attention.

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