HC Deb 17 May 1995 vol 260 cc318-9
3. Ms Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what policy his Department will pursue at the fourth North sea ministerial conference due to take place in Denmark on 8 to 9 June. [23193]

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. John Gummer)

I have placed a statement of United Kingdom policy objectives for the North sea conference in the Library. I am particularly concerned to achieve protection for species and habitats outside territorial waters; comprehensive measures, within the common fisheries policy, to control over-fishing; internationally co-ordinated research to improve knowledge of the possible effects of some chemicals on reproductive systems; and more effective enforcement of international rules against pollution from shipping.

Ms Ruddock

The Secretary of State will recall that under his Government Britain became known as the dirty man of Europe. Does he now want us to be known as the scrap merchant of Europe? Given the Greenpeace protest and Danish determination to raise the issue, what environmental reasons will he give to the North sea conference for permitting the towing of Brent Spar into the Atlantic for dumping rather than bringing it ashore for dismantling, recycling and reuse?

Mr. Gummer

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not watch the television programme in which David Bellamy made it clear that we are now the clean man of Europe and that that is the view of all environmentalists. The hon. Lady should talk to some real and serious environmentalists before trying to make party political comments out of her nation's interest. The national interest is simply that we should be dealing with those matters which pollute the North sea and obeying international agreements. In dealing with our North sea oil rigs, we shall follow to the word the agreements of Paris and Oslo. We shall do precisely what we agreed to do internationally. The hon. Lady should be proud to live in a country that is now leading the world in these matters.

Mr. Mans

May I encourage my right hon. Friend to take precisely the same proactive approach at the North sea conference as he did at the conference on climate change? We have proved conclusively that, because we abided by the rules and managed to achieve what we said we would achieve, Britain led and others were forced to follow. May I encourage my right hon. Friend to take precisely the same approach at the North sea conference to ensure that those on the continent enforce what they have signed up to as we have done in the past?

Mr. Gummer

We are in the top third for meeting targets set by the previous North sea conference. We are concerned with a number of issues, not least the bad cycle which results from industrial fishing, particularly by the Danes who turn the fish into cow food and feed their cows on it, resulting in considerable agricultural pollution in the North sea. That is something that we want to stop.