§ Debate on the Motion that the Bill be now read a second time resumed (according to Order).
§ LORD BEARSTED had given Notice to move, as an Amendment, That the House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which deals with matters affecting the shipping industry without regard to their international aspect, and which would inflict grave injury on the Port of London; and that His Majesty's Government be requested to refer the matter in its wider aspect to a Committee for inquiry and report.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is most unfortunate that this Bill has been introduced in the manner in which it has been. I never saw the Bill until it was placed on the Table of the House, and the moment I did so it occurred to me that it would do such an immense amount of harm to the trade of the country and to the Port of London in particular that I felt compelled to put down the Motion for the rejection which stands in my name. Your Lordships will remember that it was not very many years ago that it was considered necessary to carry a red flag in advance of a motor car, and the attitude represented by this Bill towards the means of livelihood of a most important industry savour very much of the same order of thought.
§ I should like to give your Lordships some idea of the magnitude of the question with which you are asked to deal in this Bill. It is a fact that shipping either propelled by boilers fired with oil or by internal combustion engines is growing enormously, and one of the main objections I take to the Bill is that if it is passed into law in its present form—and I hope to convince your Lordships of this—London might as well be ruled out for dry-docking or repairing ships carrying oil or burning it in internal combustion engines. According to Lloyds' Register, the increase in the world tonnage of oil-burning vessels is most striking. Leaving out of account the fact that the Imperial Navy is now burning 90 per cent. of oil, I find that in July, 1914, that tonnage amounted to 1,310,209 tons; in July, 1919, it had increased to 5,336,678 tons; in July, 1920, to 9,359,354 tons, and in July, 1921, to 12,796,635 tons. The number of ships actually fitted with internal combustion engines in July, 1914, was 950 297, with a tonnage of 234,287 tons, which in July, 1921, had increased to 1,473 vessels of 1,248,800 tens. The tonnage built in the last three years shows a steady decrease in coal-burning ships and a proportionate increase in oil-burning ships. In 1920–21—and I should like your Lordships to digest this figure thoroughly—every vessel built in the United States, with the exception of three ships, totaling 8,581 tons, was fitted for burning oil. The tonnage of oil tankers had also increased nearly fourfold, and in 1921, 112 tankers were built totalling 614,461 tons, or more than 18 per cant. Of the total tonnage built.
§ According to the provisions of this Bill, the only possible course for vessels either carrying or burning oil, or using it in the way I have explained to your Lordships, would be to go beyond the three-mile limit and discharge into the open sea the water containing the oil. The statistics that have been given to me show that on a tonnage of 8,000 tons of heavy oil the loss in weight is approximately under 95 of 1 per cent. Dealing with the tank steamer, your Lordships will realise that if it is necessary for such a steamer—as it would be—after discharging her cargo, to take in about 800 tons of oil and water to enable her to shift berth, and so on, she might have, at the extreme outside, lot r tons of oil in solution. This Bill ordains that the only way in which she can get rid of that oil and water is to go out to sea and discharge it, and I suggest to your Lordships as a practical shipowner of many years' experience that she will never conic back. It stands to reason that she will go to a port where she can cleanse her tanks on the way down, and do her dry-docking there.
§ There has been a spirited attempt that every one will welcome to try to establish in the Thames the industry of shipbuilding and ship repairing. That, if successful, would afford employment to thousands of people, and, as your lordships are probably aware, when a ship is in dry dock or is undergoing repairs she spends a good deal of money in one way and another. She takes in her stores and bunkers and large quantities of lubricating oil from the port in which she is berthed. I cannot under-stand the method which would drive ships away from London, and it is on the method that I desire mostly to expatiate to your Lordships. Owing a the unfortunate way in which this Bill has been dealt with, I am told by those concerned that the great 951 public bodies have had no opportunity whatever of expressing an opinion upon it. It came before the Corporation of the City of London, who are the Port Sanitary Authority, yesterday for the first time. It had never been reported to them, and it looked such a harmless little Bill that no one seemed to attach any great consequence to it.
§ As a matter of fact—nd I ask your Lordships to accept this at once— agree with the principle of the Bill and that we must and should take measures absolutely to prevent oil going into the water. But my objection is that the Bill compels oil to be put into the water. There is no other way of getting rid of it, and I will give your Lordships an instance which will, perhaps, bring that more forcibly before you. A few months ago a new departure was made, one which I may perhaps be forgiven for saying that I had foreseen. A cargo of grain arrived in the Port of London from the Pacific Coast. It came, of course, in a steamer propelled by internal combustion engines. That is the only way in which it could come, because that form of transport is so economical that it must prevail, and that is what I am endeavouring to impress upon your Lordships. Supposing this Bill had been in force and the ship had discharged her cargo in the Port of London, in the docks. As she got towards the end of her cargo she would be obliged to take in water ballast and she would take that water ballast into the double bottom in which the oil had been carried.
§ I am sure that I need not expatiate to your Lordships upon the fact that no ship-owner or merchant is going to waste a single drop of oil that lie can possibly preserve, and you may take it, therefore, that the ballast tank would have been emptied as far as possible before the water was taken in. Look at the absurd position. The amount of water ballast required in such a case is about 300 tons, which might contain a ton and a half of oil in solution. If the Bill passes as it stands to-day there will be no alternative before that ship but to go out of the Thames and, as soon as she gets off Ramsgate or Margate, or wherever you like, to discharge that water because it contains that infinitesimal quantity of oil. She may then be allowed to return to port. It is, however, quite conceivable that she may take in water which may still be contaminated and 952 condemned by some official as having slight traces of oil.
§ So very serious is the evil, that you may say that the remedy is worth trying, but I submit to your Lordships that the Bill tackles the question at the wrong end and in the worst way. We want to keep the oil out of the waters, but this Bill insists that it shall be put, not of course into tidal waters, but into the sea. I am amazed that a Bill like this should be brought forward when the remedy is so simple. It is said that an agreement has been made between the Board of Trade, the shipowners, and the port authorities by which receptacles shall be provided into which all oil, which might otherwise have to go into the waters, shall be put. That is the solution. No one wants anything else, and if that is agreed then I think it is a thousand pities that that agreement was not put into this Bill. If this Bill is to pass your Lordships' House, I think that that agreement must be put into it. I submit that, having a remedy of that kind, we should not pass a measure which would inflict immense harm upon the ports of the United Kingdom, and upon London in particular. Because of the great distance that the Port of London is from the sea it would be especially injurious to London.
I suggest also that we should not penalise our own shipping in order to benefit foreign nations. In that connection perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I refer to what is being done in the United States. It is no exaggeration to say that in the Port of New York probably more oil is handled in a month than is handled in any port in the United Kingdom in twelve months, and I think we should not be above learning from New York. I shall read to your Lordships certain extracts showing what is being done there. I think your Lordships will at once be struck by the fact that American shipping is better off, in the way that it is taken care of and its interests protected, than is our shipping. The extracts I will read are:—
The New York authorities proposed action on April 13, 1922, and, under the heading of 'Harbour Pollution,' Representative Appleby introduced into Congress a resolution proposing an international conference of maritime Powers with a view of adopting means to prevent the pollution of the seas by oil.
The new resolution has been amended somewhat to meet the suggestion of the State Department of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and it is expected to be reported favourably from that body before long.
On April 19, 1922, the following was published:—
Pollution of harbours. The Appleby Bill which is now before Congress, and tends to protect American harbours from oil pollution, has been pronounced unfair and drastic by steamship operators. According to a statement made by one of the American steamship representatives the Bill would penalise American ships, but, by reason of existing Treaties and regulations, would not include foreign vessels which it is said are equal offenders with American ships. The calling of an international conference to be attended by representatives of all maritime nations has been proposed in order to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this problem.
Your Lordships will see that the United States are not so mad as to penalise their ports and shipowners as it is suggested we should do.
§ I do not for one moment say: "Do nothing." I would very much like to see sonic steps taken of an international character. We might then get some agreement. I will not disguise from your Lordships my own opinion that no matter what we may do in our own ports, so long as ships discharge within the three-mile limit you will get some oil upon our shores. If the noble Lord in charge of this Bill is prepared to say—as the Board of Trade have informed me already—that an agreement has been made between the dock and harbour authorities and the shipowners by which facilities will be provided, thereby clearly recognising the desirability and the necessity of it, I should be quite prepared to ask your Lordships to give me permission to withdraw this Amendment, and to move in Committee such Amendments as will make the Bill workable.
Leave out all words after ("That") and add at the end of the Motion ("the House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which deals with matters affecting the shipping industry without regard to their international aspect, and which would inflict grave injury on the Port of London; and that His Majesty's Government be requested to refer the matter in its wider aspect to a Committee for inquiry and report").—(Lord Bearsted.)
§ THE MARQUESS or LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I have listened to the speech which the noble Lord has just delivered, and I am not clear as to whether he is agreeable that this Bill should receive a Second Reading, or whether lie is anxious that it should be thrown out. It is a matter of surprise to me that he does not seem to be aware of the information, which I have received, that this Bill embodies an 954 agreement which was come to by a Committee set up by the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Transport, the oil companies, the Chamber of Shipping, and the Dock and Harbour Association. My duty now is to voice the view of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. That is the only reason I would venture to claim the indulgence of your Lordships for the few remarks if will make. The provisions of this Bill are applicable to Northern Ireland, and these provisions have been made applicable to Northern Ireland at the request of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners. It seems to me an astonishing thing that there should be such a wide difference of opinion between the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and my noble friend, who, we all recognise, is one of the greatest authorities in the shipping world, and also in the oil world. I can assure him that it is a matter of very great regret to me that there seems to be some difference of opinion, which I hope, in the course of this debate, we shall be able to elucidate.
So far as I am aware, the present state of affairs causes much damage to harbours, dock works, shipping, the seaside resorts, and also to fish and bird life. Added to this there is great risk from fire. We have had in Belfast already an outbreak of fire at one of our wooden wharves which is almost directly attributable to the discharge of oil fuel. The subject of the means to be taken to protect the interests of dock authorities, and also to prevent the indiscriminate discharge in harbours of fuel oil, or water mixed with oil, from the tanks of vessels lying the rein, or from shore installations, has been very carefully considered in Belfast, and as a result of representations made to the Board of Trade, and of a conference between that body and representatives of the dock and harbour authorities and associations, and various oil companies, I understand that an agreement was reached as to the best means of dealing with the whole question, having regard to the extent to which the several bodies interested are affected. The agreement that was reached is embodied in the Bill which is now before your Lordships.
§ THE MARQUESS or LONDONDERRY
I am sure the Government will be able to explain, if there is any divergence, where 955 the divergence is. I understand that harbour authorities are now practically powerless to deal with offenders. This Bill gives them the power to deal with this class of offence. It will certainly strengthen their hands, and it secures protection for the various properties that are affected. So far as I am able to judge it places no unreasonable obstacle in the way of this very convenient fuel, and I do not think the noble Lord takes up that point. It applies to territorial waters, and excludes accidents from its scope. It demands daylight clearing, and establishes precautions in order to reduce pollution of the sea to the minimum. I am not aware whether it is possible, by Amendment, to carry out the noble Lord's wishes, but those whom I represent are very anxious that the Bill should be passed into law.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, I desire to support the Second Reading of this measure. I agree that it is not going to be as effective as it might be, but it is a step in the right direction. Anyone who lives near the south coast knows what a nuisance this heavy oil is. To a large extent it has spoilt the fishing around the Solent and Southampton Water, done great harm to the yachting interest, and at Southsea and Bournemouth the shores have become covered with oil. Local authorities all round that coast have had numerous complaints from the public of the oil which has drifted on shore and made it impossible for the shore to be used. It may be a sentimental reason, but it also does much damage to bird life. I can quote an instance which came under my own observation—the case of the swans which breed in the Beaulieu river. Last year I saw over forty dead swans killed by this heavy oil. I tried to save the life of some of them, but I failed to save a single bird which had become polluted with this heavy oil. As I say, that is a sentimental point which may not have the same weight as great shipping interests, but I maintain that the beauty of our shores, and the bird life around our shores, should receive some consideration.
Under this moderate Bill there is a regulation by which the operation of discharge must take place in the daytime. It is a most valuable provision, for a good deal of the pollution at Southampton Water is the result of pumping out at night time. It is almost impossible then to detect the 956 offender. What Lord Bearsted said about the discharge beyond the three-mile limit is true, and I agree that the Bill is ineffective in that respect. I hope we may, by international agreement, get oil discharged, when a ship arrives at its destination, into specially made barges, which is, I believe, to be the practice in New York harbour. The Bill does not prevent that in any way. It restrains it within the three-mile limit, and that is a step in the right direction.
From my own personal experience I know that the oil has had a very deleterious effect on fishing. Where the tide rises and falls this oil, to a large extent, goes on the shore at low water or half tide. As the tide rises the oil clings to the grass and weeds which form the food of small fish which feed on the shore. These fish are killed. Only last week I saw a large number of small fish of the mullet and whitebait kind which had been killed by this oil. From the point of view of food production I think we should pass this Bill. I would add that the whole of the yachting community, with which I am acquainted, are put to very considerable expense because of the pollution of racing yachts, and it is a great, detriment to that industry that this discharge should be allowed to continue.
§ LORD SOUTHBOROUGH
My Lords, I desire to associate myself to a great extent with what has fallen from my noble friend. My objection to the Bill is that it deals with the subject in a wholly unscientific manner. The Bill creates a new penalty, a new penal clause, and under that clause the skipper or owner responsible may be fined £100. There is not a word in the Bill as to the prevention of what is fast becoming an exceedingly dangerous and crying evil. It is not only the destruction of the amenities of watering places. There is the destruction of bird life, of the fisheries around the coast; and there are loud complaints from people who bathe and who enjoy the rights of foreshore. I should have thought that the Government, in endeavouring to tackle this question, would have taken the high line of considering what were the wide public interests involved, and would not have been content with legislating upon the results of conferences between parties who have a direct interest in the matter.
You have before you the narrow seas surrounding this country. There is no 957 doubt that on the surface of those waters, out side what are know n as territorial waters, oil is found. There is equally no doubt that inside territorial water, oil is found, if you stand upon the shore at some pace on the north side of the Isle of Wight, or at Margate or at Ramsgate, you find evidences of oil upon the sands and upon the water, but you have no idea where that oil conies from. It may come from beyond territorial limits; it may come from Calais, from some ship which has pumped herself out in a foreign port. It is impossible to tell. I venture to think that the proper course in dealing with this matter is scientifically to consider whether there is not a way of removing oil and preventing oil from traversing the surface of the sea, whether it be within or without territorial waters.
It is a curious thing that before the war there was very little evidence of oil on the surface or the water. It is assumed by many that, in consequence of the wholesale destruction of ships, torpedo boats, destroyers, and so on, carrying oil tanks, and ships submarined or sunk in other ways, large quantities of oil were released front the sunken vessels now lying at the bottom of the sea. I do not think that anybody knows whether that oil is still escaping from the tanks of those vessels—whether it is all absorbed, or whether we are likely to see more of it as time goes on. Then again, it is quite impossible, standing at a place such as I have mentioned on the north coast of the Isle of Wight and seeing symptoms of oil upon the sand, to determine whether that oil comes from a liner lying at Southampton or front one of His Majesty's ships moored at Spithead. There is nothing about His Majesty's ships in the Bill. They are great oil users, and very properly so. It is an interesting question whether they, with their experience through a great war in which they played so conspicuous a part as oil-bearing ships, can really contribute anything to the solution of this question, or whether they are merely great offenders. At any rate, there is nothing about them in the Bill.
I do not want to weary your Lordships, but I should very much like to endeavour to incite some noble and learned Lord to look at the penalty clauses of this Bill. I know very little about such matters myself, but I believe that noble and learned Lords are always very suspicious of prosecutions the result of which must be determined by 958 ascertaining whether a ship was or was not within the three-mile limit. It is a form of prosecution front which in past clays everybody recoiled. About twenty years or so ago, a great fuss was made as to the rights of fishermen, foreign and otherwise, fishing in territorial waters, and supplying liquor on the high seas, and in those cases many export efforts were made to come to some agreement with the riparian powers upon the narrow seas for the purpose of determining upon a common policy.
Those efforts were successful, but in that case it was necessary for the prosecution to show that the ship charged with being within territorial waters was actually at a spot within that limit, and to do that the Government of the day had to appoint police to police the North Sea and the Channel, and the whole thing was done by an elaborate system of gunboat patrol. Even then, so far as my recollection goes, it was next door to impossible to ensure conviction, even when the skipper of the gunboat bad seen a ship fishing in some particular position, because he was unable, perhaps in consequence of the weather, or visibility, or what not, to take up a line from head to head. In this case no provision is made at all, and there is nothing to show who is to prosecute, where the prosecution is to be instituted, or whether the port authority has to send someone out to see whether in fact a man is putting the oil inside territorial waters or outside territorial waters. That is all left in a haphazard way, to be discovered after this Bill becomes an Act, and when prosecutions are instituted.
All that means, to my mind, that the Bill is unscientific in thought, badly drawn up and badly handled. The thing to do, if I may say so with great respect, is to go into this question from the public point of view, and not from the business man's point of view. It is becoming a public question as fast as ever it cart, and if you go into it front the public point of view you will find that full protection could be given to the shipowner and the dock authority. I do not believe, so far as the great oil people are concerned, that they require any protection at all. I should be delighted if the Government could see its way to make an investigation of this question for the purpose of making certain that everything possible had been done to clear oil front the narrow seas altogether, and not to go on with a process, under 959 a £100 penalty, of making the port authorities or shipowners or tankers take he oil and put it outside the three-mile limit. That does nothing at all. You take it down the Thames to a certain point, you wake up in the morning, and, according to time or tide, you find it either on Margate sands or at Southend.
I do not think the Bill is well conceived. I remember well the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack making one of those entertaining after-dinner speeches for which he is famous, and saying, according to my recollection, that the Government made a great mistake if it proceeded to fill the Statute Book with Bills which were of little utility, and that popularity was not gained by dealing with public questions by inadequate legislation. I remember that he concluded his remarks by expressing his satisfaction that since his tenure of office on the Woolsack he had had an opportunity of repealing a certain number of the Bills winch had been introduced by his colleagues in the Government. I venture to say with confidence that the noble and learned Viscount will have to keep a watch upon this Bill, because it will neither add lustre to the Statute Book nor do credit to the Government.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I desire to associate myself entirely with the words which fell from Lord Bearsted, and also from my noble friend, Lord Southborough. I noticed that Lord Somer—leyton, in moving the Second Reading, spoke very strongly of the effect of tins oil floating on the sea upon residents in watering places, upon bathers, and also upon birds and fish. In the first part of his speech he said—It has even been a source of danger to harbours and docks.The truth of it is that this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Southborough said, has become a public question. Lord Bearsted offered a solution of this problem by saying that the bilge water containing oil could be pumped out at the ports, supposing there were facilities provided in the way of tanks built by the authorities there. That would get rid of the trouble.
My opinion, for what it is worth, is that at all events it would be a very good example to set to other nations, if we were to start dealing with the oil now poured out on the sea by dealing with it in the harbours. I listened to Lord 960 Londonderry's speech with interest. He is quite right from his point of view, but what about the public who take their holidays round the coasts of England, I reland and Scotland? I know of cases where ladies and gentlemen have come out of the sea perfectly filthy. Now we have heard from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu that in the case of the swans on the Beaulieu river even he could not save them, with all the trouble that he took. I think, to use a vulgar expression, that it is perfectly beastly to see these birds and fish, and especially the birds, killed with this horrible stuff, and my opinion is that we should set an example to other nations and deal with this oily nastiness in our harbours. It will cost money, but it will make a beginning. Of course, we cannot prevent Dutch or German vessels from pouring out oil outside the three-mile limit. They may even creep inside that limit, and if we go bathing we shall probably get filthy, but it is horrible to have this stuff poured on our coasts. I do not wish to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, but I shall oppose it if Lord Bearsted goes to a Division. I want to hear what the Government have to say about this question.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I think your Lordships cannot but be struck with the general unanimity that there has been on the part of all the speakers with regard to this Bill, that a very serious evil exists. I think we are all anxious if possible, to get a remedy for that evil. This is the first attempt to deal with it, and I think it goes very much on the lines of other legislation that we have had. We always begin with a small Bill, and as we find that we can carry stronger measures, and that they are required, then stronger measures are adopted. If we pass this Bill, there is nothing whatever to prevent the adoption of the recommendations which have been made by Lord Bearsted, who, of course, is one of the greatest authorities on a question of this kind, and who has a world-wide reputation with regard to oil matters. But if you passed his Amendment it would mean that this question would not be dealt with for a very long time. It takes time before you can get a Committee to deal with a question of this kind, and when it reports there is further delay before legislation can be passed, and we want this evil dealt with at once.
It is a very pressing matter, in my judgment, and I hope your Lordships will give 961 a Second Reading to the Bill. If it is found that Amendments can be inserted to carry out sonic of the intentions of noble Lords who have made recommendations, I feel sure that your Lordships will be only too glad to listen to them and, if possible, carry out such as are thought necessary. We must not overlook the fact that although the noble Lord who moved the Amendment stated that the. Bill would do so much harm to the Port of London, we had the strongest speech in favour of the Bill from the Chairman of the Port of London Authority during the last debate. I can bear out what the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said, and I can say the same with regard to the Tyne. I have had the strongest pressure from the Tyne authority to support the Bill, because they recognise that, while it will not effect all the changes that we require, it is a beginning, and they are quite prepared to deal with any further suggestion that may be found practicable and of advantage to the community. This is not only a public question, it is a national question, cannot see how we can get rid of all these evils unless there is some international arrangement, and I cannot see why such an international agreement should not be brought about. Of course, it will take time to bring it about, but meanwhile we shall have the benefit of this Bill, to which I hope your Lordships will give a Second Reading.
§ LORD SOMERLEYTON
My Lords, I think it is necessary to say a few words with regard to the general objects of the. Bill before dealing with the points raised to-day. I would venture to remind your Lordships that this nuisance at the seaside resorts, alluded to by several speakers, is a great deal larger than is known to the public, for this reason, that the residents in seaside resorts which are troubled by this oil, and so made unpleasant, are for that reason absolutely the last people who dare mention the fact in public. It is obvious that visitors would be lost to them if they took that course.
With regard to the damage to trade, I would remind your Lordships that where fish food is damaged the fish are injured and the fishing industry naturally is very severely damaged. Although those who were afraid of this Bill were inclined to think that it would drive trade away from this country, I venture to think that the Bill would benefit trade in this country, 962 in the sense of protecting the fishing industry from great damage, and, further, that it would prevent the poorer classes in this country, who now take their holidays at seaside resorts, from being compelled to stay at home, or else go elsewhere than to the seaside. It. is, in all probability, a good measure for the seaside resorts in the south of England especially, and in the west of England. I have had a good many letters from seaside resorts asking that the Bill may be passed. With regard to the birds, it is unnecessary to say anything more, except that we have had a letter from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds which fully confirms what has been said by my noble friend opposite, who, I was glad to hear, supports what I have heard on private authority—namely, that in the south of England a good many swans had been killed.
With regard to the three-mile limit, if I may say one word on that, foreign ships are in many cases, as far as our information goes, the worst offenders. I think that Lord Southborough is mistaken in thinking that we desire the three-mile limit because we intend to enforce it very rigorously. We take that lime it because we have no jurisdiction beyond it. I quite admit that it does not go far enough, and that it will not prevent oil coining to our coast, but it must be clear that if you prevent oil being poured into the water in large quantities within three miles all round our coast you will prevent to a certain extent the nuisance that is now being created. As to the ultimate issue I should like to remind Lord Southborough, who referred to the fishing troubles in the past—with the means taken to prevent which both he and I were connected—that we shall have on this occasion, as we had on that, the fishermen themselves to act as sentries, in ease any ships unload oil or oily water within the three-mile limit. They would probably give evidence on our side.
Lord Bearsted said it would cost an enormous sum to remove these ships from the Port of London into the open sea in order to discharge their oil there. I think my noble friend understands quite well that the object of this Bill is not to drive the ships beyond the three-mile limit for the discharge of their oil, but to penalise them if they discharge it within the three-mile limit, and the mere fact that it might cost £1,000 for a ship to go beyond the three-mile limit to discharge its oil will 963 do something for the purification of the Thames.
Lord Southborough said that this is a great scientific question, and cannot be settled in such a small way. It is necessary for some nation to take the first step, and we consider that Great Britain is in a position to show an example to other countries in this respect. We hope that, if Great Britain takes this step, other nations will later follow her example, and, finally, that an agreement may be entered into, but we do not intend to wait for it. To come to such an agreement, or to hold such an Inquiry as Lord Southborough suggested, would occupy a great deal of time. The penalties under the present law are quite inadequate. The ordinary limit to a penalty is £10, and, in very exceptional circumstances, £50. Those penalties are quite inadequate, in view of the scale on which oil is carried at the present time.
Lord Bearsted has said that he wants a Committee of Inquiry. We have already had a Committee of Inquiry, which was set up in January, 1921, and only to-day a short letter appeared in The Times, which I will quote, because it puts the case in a nutshell. It is from Mr. P. Maurice Hill, acting general manager of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom. He says—With reference to the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, the Second Reading of which is being resumed in the House of Lords on Wednesday, I have been authorised by my executive committee to say that the Council of the Chamber of Shipping approved the principles of this Bill at a meeting on July 8, 1921, after agreement with representatives of the dock and harbour authorities and of the oil interests. It is hoped, therefore, that the Bill will be passed and become law, as it is, in the view of shipowners, a reasonable and necessary measureIt has been said that no Committee was set up, and therefore I must go into that Question.
Representatives of the interests mainly, concerned—namely, the harbour authorities, the shipowners, and the oil companies—met at the Board of Trade in January, 1921, and they agreed that a Committee, consisting of representatives of the interests, should meet at the Board of Trade to follow the matter up. The following were the members of the Committee—and the names are good enough to show the strength of the body which considered this matter:—
964 Dock and Harbour Authorities Association: Sir Arthur W. Clarke, K.B.E. (Port of London Authority, an Elder Brother of Trinity House, and chairman of the rivers committee of the Port of London Authority); Mr. G. W. Service, of the Clyde Navigation Trust, who has taken the place of Sir W. Raeburn, M.P., and who is himself a Clyde Commissioner and shipowner; Mr. W. C. Thorne (Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, legal adviser to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and a member of the Federated Docks and Harbours of the United Kingdom).
Shipping: Sir W. J. Noble, ex-President of the Chamber of Shipping, and a big shipowner; Mr. L. C. Harris (Ellerman and Bucknall Steamship Company), and Mr. P. E. Curry (White Star Line). I am told that these two last-named gentlemen, who belong to the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, cover practically all shipowners. In addition to these the general manager of the Chamber of Shipping attended many of the later meetings.
Oil: Sir Frederick Black (Anglo-Persian Oil Co.), Mr. J. P. Wakeham (Anglo-American Oil Co.), Mr. T. McLellan (Anglo Mexican Petroleum Co.).
Ministry of Transport: Mr. T. A. E. Muir.
Board of Trade: Mr. C. Hipwood, C.B. The two last-named gentlemen have had experience of the different work in their respective Ministries for thirty years.
I venture to say that this Committee was as good a Committee as you could have, and that to appoint another Committee now would be an absolute waste of time. The only witnesses they could call would be the witnesses who were before the Committee of 1921, which—I beg you to note—included representatives of the oil companies. A draft Bill was prepared by a sub-committee which served as a basis for discussion at the later meetings. In the end the main point of difference between the parties related to the provision of barges or other receptacles into which the oily water could be pumped. All parties agreed that these must be provided, and that the shipowners must pay a reasonable charge for the use of them. The shipowners and the oil companies thought that there should be a definite statutory obligation on the port authorities to provide the barges. The port authorities, on the other hand, while agreeing that barges would have to be provided, did not think 965 it right that it should be made a matter of statutory obligation.
Further negotiations took place on this crucial point between the shipowners' Parliamentary committee and the representatives of the dock authorities, and in the end the matter was settled by an exchange of letters in which the dock authorities undertook to give the matter their consideration with a view to seeing what assistance could be given to ship owners by way of providing receptacles. This was accepted by the shipowners as satisfactory, and the main point of difference between the parties was thus removed. The arrangement which satisfied the shipowners ought to be good enough for the oil companies. The oil companies' representatives on the Board of Trade Committee were furnished with copies of the correspondence in July, 1921.
I believe that Lord Bearsted's opposition to the Bill has been due to a misunderstanding, as he was not aware of the negotiations that had taken place about the provision of barges. He was under the impression that the Bill meant that ships would have to go down the river and outside the three-mile limit to get rid of their oily water. This, he thought, would cause great inconvenience and expense, and would be damaging to trade. I could read the letters which passed later on between the different authorities by which this business was satisfactorily arranged; if your Lordships so desire.
§ LORD SOMERLEYTON
This friendly settlement is the necessary complement to the Bill, as every one agrees that the only way of curing the evil is to induce the master of an oil steamer to regard it as part of his regular business to deposit his oil in barges provided for the purpose. Without this agreement the Bill cannot be properly understood. Efforts were made to have this agreement, or the substance of it, put into the Bill, so as to have the whole thing in one document, but the dock companies strongly objected to be put under a statutory obligation to provide barges for a nuisance brought to their waters by a certain class of shipowners owing to a new development in trade. There is a good deal to be said for their argument, and if the barges are, in fact, provided it does not matter much whether 966 the provision is made compulsorily or voluntarily. The oil companies are only interested in this matter in their capacity as shipowners, and if they decline to adhere to the arrangement made by their fellow shipowners I think that they ought at least to have given us the reasons why an arrangement which was good enough for the Chamber of Shipping is not good enough for them.
I do not think it is necessary for rue to allude further to the clauses of the Bill or to the Royal Navy, unless any noble Lord wishes to know why the Bill is not to be applicable to the Royal Navy. It is clear that the ships of tie Crown must be in a different position from, and cannot be open to inspection in the same way as, other ships. It is not necessary for me, I think, to go further into that. I would, however, mention that I believe this barge or receptacle question will be very much more easily settled than was thought. There are already in existence several ingenious devices for separating in the barges the oil from the water, one of which will, no doubt, be adopted. If the Bill is thrown out the nuisance will be continued and the workers' holidays throughout the country will be menaced and spoilt the waste continued, and the fishing endangered. If the Bill passes into law I venture to think that the nuisance will be abated and economy encouraged, and that we shall be able to enjoy our own seashores. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will not accept the Amendment which has been moved.
§ LORD BEARSTED
My Lords, perhaps you will permit me to say a few words in reply to what has fallen from the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. I am very glad to see that every single measure I have advocated for getting rid of this trouble has been considered and adopted. The noble Lord would have saved the House a great deal of time and those who have watched the progress of this Bill a great deal of anxiety if he had been able to assure us before that proper receptacles would be provided, because then our difficulties would have been met. I am quite satisfied with the assurance he has given and I, therefore, ask the leave of your Lordships to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.