HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 cc102-3
36. Mr. Pond

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the proposals put forward by the Port of London authority for a review of pilotage limits on the Thames estuary; and if he will make a statement. [4699]

Ms Glenda Jackson

I have made no assessment of proposals from the Port of London authority. I understand that they involve reviewing the arrangements for compulsory pilotage of vessels of certain sizes in the port. Those are primarily matters for the authority, but it must consult interests in the port about any changes, and I understand that it will do so shortly.

Mr. Pond

I thank the Minister for that answer, but is she aware that, although the pilots committee has said that the safety and environmental implications of those proposals could be immense, there has been no wider open public debate on those implications? I urge my hon. Friend to apply whatever influence she has with the Port of London authority to encourage it to engage in that necessary public debate.

Ms Jackson

I understand that the review is not yet at the stage where the Port of London authority can issue formal proposals for consultation. When it is at that stage, the authority will consult, as it is obliged to—and it will consult not only pilots but shipowners and all users of the port. The authority has asked for a meeting with me, and I assure my hon. Friend that I shall raise his concerns at that meeting.

Mr. Ottaway

As it is proposed that the obligation to carry a pilot should now be determined according to a vessel's draught rather than its length, is the Minister aware that that could result in an extra burden being imposed on shipowners and other river users? How many extra vessels will be caught by the proposal? Can she give the House an assurance that further regulations will not be introduced for regulation's sake, when there is no apparent increased risk or danger to shipping?

Ms Jackson

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should ask me to comment on proposals that, as my previous answer made clear, are not yet at the formal stage when they must be issued for consultation. With reference to my previous answer, the Port of London authority has asked for a meeting with me, and I shall be interested to hear what it has to say.