HL Deb 18 February 1976 vol 368 cc517-64

5.10 p.m.

Baroness WHITE rose to call attention to the need for sea use planning; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it falls to me to open this debate on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who was suddenly taken ill. I was asked just before lunch whether I would speak in his place, and I must ask your Lordships' pardon if my speech is not as well co-ordinated as I hope my speeches normally are. This is a subject close indeed to my own interests, and I was much honoured to be asked to take the place of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, whose absence we all deplore, as we deplore the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who is also on a sick bed, but who otherwise I am sure would have been with us today. I at least have the pleasure of welcoming in advance the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Parry, of Dyfed. I am delighted that he has chosen the occasion of this debate to address your Lordships' House for the first time.

My Lords, I have been asked, as is the custom in these short debates, to suggest to noble Lords who wish to speak to confine their remarks if possible—and I am told the arithmetical calculation is about eight minutes—in order to allow the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, adequate opportunity to reply. The speakers in the last debate were not well organised; they could have taken another half hour. I am not encouraging longer speeches, but if people have something worth saying I suggest they take the eight minutes and say it.

The Motion which I move on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is apparently simple but extraordinarily wide-ranging. After several generations we have reached a stage in which some form of land use planning is acceptable, and we have managed to evolve machinery for land use planning which has, I am afraid, not been entirely satisfactory; it has not avoided some of the worst errors. But, on the other hand, it has brought some measure of order into the use of our resources on land. We have no such machinery for the use of either the surface of the sea, the deeper waters, the seabed or the land under the seabed.

I have in my hand a list kindly provided for me with no fewer than 23 headings on it, every one of which is so substantial that it could be the subject of a debate on its own merits. I will not weary your Lordships reading every one of the 23 points, but they range widely over the possible uses of the sea. There are the more obvious ones, such as fisheries and aquaculture; oil and gas recovery; mineral recovery from dredging such things as sand and gravel and various other minerals which may be obtained by those methods; possible mineral recovery by mining (which we have hardly begun to explore other than in the hydrocarbons); possible mineral extraction from sea water and harnessing the energy of the sea. There have been talks of tidal barrages for many years, of course; but the current area of research is with possible energy from the waves. There is the important matter of pollution control and there is the whole question of survey and exploration. We have had debates in both Houses of Parliament—with little success so far—on the future of the hydrographic service. There is the whole field of meteorological services, and a very wide field of other research. There are matters of finance, insurance, the regulation of shipping, shipbuilding and research needed for developments in that direction. There is the wide field of legal matters. The law of the sea has now become so much more important than it has ever been before. There is also the consideration of education and training for all these activities.

I have left out a large portion of the list, but from the topics I have indicated your Lordships will appreciate what an extraordinarily important subject this is and how generally ill-prepared we are to deal with this new range of human activity. I am told—I take it on trust—that at least 21 Government Departments are concerned with some aspect of maritime activity. For those of your Lordships who may wish to know more but who are not professionally engaged in any of these matters, I recommend a Fabian pamphlet which was published last November on this subject, Sea Use Planning, which triggered off this debate in Lord Henley's mind, written by Elizabeth Young (better known as Lady Kennet) and Peter Fricke, who is an extremely able young mariner and lecturer from the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology in Cardiff. This pamphlet gives in popular and brief form some of the problems which face the United Kingdom and other maritime countries in the present day.

The great difference between land use planning and sea use planning is that in land use planning, by and large, we can determine for ourselves what methods we use; in sea use planning we are in an entirely different situation. We have to conform with international law; we are not free to make our own law, or organise our affairs. We are parties to a number of conventions, and that number is increasing yearly. We now have a growing effort on the part of the countries of the world to bring some order into this situation at the Law of the Sea Conference. That Conference has already held two sessions and a third is to be embarked upon in a few weeks' time. There are other conventions and agreements which bind us such as the Oslo convention, the London convention and others, to which we are not directly a party, such as the arrangements for the disposition of the Baltic. Those of us interested in the subject were glad to see reported yesterday that the Mediterranean countries have now reached an agreement for the regimen of the Mediterranean, which may cope with some of the intransigent problems of that semi-enclosed and almost tideless sea. This is an encouraging sign.

In our own Administration we have no Minister whose job it is to try to see that these various activities of ours—some admirable, some less than satisfactory—and the work of the innumerable Departments concerned have any kind of relevance one to the other. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have considerable responsibilities in this field. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is representing the Department of the Environment, which also has some interest in the matter. The Departments of Trade, Industry and Energy are also concerned, as is the Department of Education and Science. I could go on with an almost endless list, and there are also various institutes and public bodies who are concerned; there are innumerable working parties, groups and inter-Departmental committees and so on. But there is no one centre or body to which one can turn and say, "Have you looked at the inter-relationship between the work being done by one Department and another? "There is no one whose job it is to take a synoptic view.

It was because of this gap in our machinery of government that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, wished to institute this debate. It has been made very much more acute, as many of your Lordships will be aware, by the propositions being discussed at the Law of the Sea Conference. I think most people consider it inevitable that before long we shall have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone for each maritime country in the world. One would hope this would be achieved in an orderly way by agreement: if not, then it is plain that the individual countries will adopt such a position for themselves.

We have already seen something of this in the fisheries dispute. I do not want to become embroiled in the arguments about Iceland, but I have been astonished to find that there has been very little mention in the public Press of other countries who are going in this direction. For example, Canada is going on exactly the same sort of tack as Iceland, although they have not yet reached such a position of confrontation as we have. Iceland is by no means the only country which is taking steps of this kind. Norway is another country which has been very much concerned both with mineral exploitation and fisheries, and it is interesting to see that a small country like Norway has appointed a Minister for Sea Policy. As I understand it, this covers the total exploitation of the sea and the resources above, within and below it. I hope very much that when my noble friend Lady Birk replies, she will tell us that the Government are conscious that we in this country should be looking very much in the same direction.

I had intended to speak largely on matters of pollution control and research, but I have tried to take a slightly broader line because of "standing in "for the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I have tried to open this debate in the kind of way I think he would have wished to adopt himself. However, I am very much concerned with the knowledge gained through my interest in pollution control. As some of your Lordships know, I am chairman of the Advisory Committee on Oil Pollution of the Sea, but in other capacities I have also been concerned with such matters as the disposal of hazardous waste, particularly radioactive waste. Here is a whole area of new experiences for us. Countries of the world who are depending more and more on nuclear sources of energy have realised that there is a limit to the relatively safe storage and disposal of either high or low level radioactive waste on land. They are operating disposal systems on the seabed and investigating different methods.

This raises an infinitude of problems and questions, both technical and legal. For example, what happens if we all have our 200-mile exclusive economic zones? Who is then to control the area in the middle, so to speak, which is not covered by any national administration? Who is to say what is done with hazardous waste, which may remain hazardous for 25,000 years? Who is to say whether it is left just on the ocean bed or whether you are obliged to bury it and, if you bury it, under what sort of conditions—retrievable or not? These are just a few of the endless problems involved.

We are beginning for the first time to exploit the mineral resources of the sea floor. We have all heard of the nodules which have been brought up, but there are many other possibilities there. If we irresponsibly destroy our stocks of the upper-water fish—and we have more or less destroyed the herring, we are destroying the cod and I expect we shall destroy the mackerel next, particularly with the methods of fishing we have not yet been able to control, for example, the suction method which is used by the Russians and which is utterly destructive of fish stocks—we may then have to go on to the deep-sea fish which we have never thought of eating up to now. We need to know a great deal more about this.

We do not know anything like enough about the deep-water currents of the sea. We have not had any proper seismographic surveys of what is going on. We have an Institute of Oceanographical Studies which, as usual, is under-financed. There are so many areas in which we know so little, and we have given far too little thought to the necessity for different measures of control, according to the activity with which we are concerned. On the educational side, also, we are only just beginning to educate people in all these new spheres of science, of resource planning and control, of law, and so on. We have not nearly enough people who are trained to look after our interests and to deal intelligently and effectively with representatives of other countries in this sphere.

Time is passing, and so I will just say that many of us are deeply concerned by what we feel to be the failure of the Government so far to grasp the true magnitude of the problems facing us. The fact that they have not been able to solve the problem of the Hydro-graphical Service is indicative of this. It is a small matter in itself, but if we cannot bring together the disparate interests in a matter of that sort, then we have very little confidence that we shall be able to face much larger and more important problems unless the Government can make up their minds and grasp the nettle which must be grasped. Sea use planning is going to affect the future of this country, very nearly if not quite as much as the planning of our land use resources. For this reason, I have the greatest pleasure in introducing the debate—a task which should have fallen to the noble Lord, Lord Henley. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his absence, for having raised this subject and for providing the opportunity for debate. I should also like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady While, for having stepped in at short notice and sacrificed to some extent what she was going to say on pollution—because she herself, as we know, is an expert on sea pollution. I am sure that your Lordships will join with me in expressing the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, will be very quickly restored to health.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness have, in the past, drawn attention to the rapidly increasing importance of the greater use of the seas, the seabed and the substances below the seabed. Attention has been drawn to the anomalies and to the need for co-ordination and order, both internationally and within our own jurisdiction around our shores. Over a year ago I made my maiden speech on this subject and this was, again, just before the United Nations World Conference was about to hold a session. Sadly, there has not been as much progress since then as we had hoped. We are about to see a new session starting in three weeks' time, and this is therefore a timely moment to take stock. It is a vast subject. I will concentrate on only a few of the most urgent and important points where Britain is concerned, because I hope to take the minimum of time and to be inside ten minutes because the length of the debate is restricted.

Although we are waiting for agreements at the World Conference, they are bound to come as package deals. The preparations should be in hand now and the British Government should be discussing, bilaterally or in groups with other countries, how agreement can be reached soon, because there is a general consensus for a 200-mile economic zone. There are over 130 countries—virtually all the nations in the world, including the landlocked countries—taking part in this Conference, and with very few exceptions they are all agreed in principle on this 200-mile economic zone, and also on extending the territorial sea limit to 12 miles. The difficulty is in getting formal agreement.

There seem to me to be three parts to the management of Britain's maritime affairs to which the Government should be giving urgent attention. The first and most urgent is the crisis in our fishing industry. The second is preparing a comprehensive régime for the coastal economic zone, likely to be accepted internationally, I believe, within two years. The third is Britain's role in harvesting the riches latent in the deeper waters, including the precious metals on the floors of the oceans.

The Government must recognise that the present plight of our fishing industry, the first point, is by far the most urgent of these matters. It cannot wait indefinitely for final agreement at the World Conference on the Law of the Sea, which is bound to involve other elements of a package. The next session of the Conference is due to start in New York in three weeks' time, and every effort should be made by Britain and like-minded countries to secure formal agreement on the 200-mile economic zone for which there is general approval. However, we cannot rely upon obtaining this by May, when the session is due to end. I am not usually a pessimist, but it seems to me unlikely, despite the consensus in favour of it, that agreement will be reached by the end of that session in May. The underdeveloped and land-locked countries will not consent unless they have some assurances in return.

The British Government ought accordingly to be ready to take action to increase conservation of fish stocks in concert with the United States, Canada, Norway and other countries to whom the protection of sea fisheries is vital. Bilateral talks should be proceeding to that end. The United States Congress has already passed domestic legislation to create a 200-mile economic zone and indicated that this could be treated as a domestic matter if international agreement was not reached in reasonable time. The noble Baroness made reference to a similar attitude in Canada.

Britain's fishing problems are not by any means confined to Iceland. The middle-water trawler fleet, especially that based on Aberdeen, much of which fishes off the Faroes and Norway, is faced with going out of business because of the difference between their mounting costs and fish prices. The inshore fleets also, although more prosperous between 1970 and 1973 than at any time in their history, have been passing through a desperately difficult period and the herring fishermen have suffered severely from overfishing by other nations.

On the second point—coastal economic zones—we support the Government in aiming for international agreement upon a 200-mile zone, and also upon rights over seabed resources to the limit of the Continental Shelf. But is enough being done now to prepare for the maritime management of the large area which will be Britain's responsibility when this is finally agreed? It will be about twice our land area. There are all the matters connected with navigation, pollution, oil and gas installations, fisheries and other matters. A multitude of Ministers and bodies are involved. Should not a senior Minister have a special assignment to direct and co-ordinate? Perhaps this could be the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, when he has finished with his 51 per cent. participation negotiations. Many might think that he would be occupying himself more usefully, where the Continental Shelf is concerned, if he were to assume such a new responsibility, instead of twisting the arms of the oil companies on 51 per cent. participation. With our maritime experience and the technology being developed now around our coasts, Britain should in due course play a leading part in harvesting the deep sea resources which are waiting to serve mankind.

That brings me to the third point, because it has been estimated that there is much more manganese, aluminium, nickel, copper and cobalt on the beds of the oceans than all the deposits known to exist on land. This is a veritable deep sea El Dorado. The world needs these precious materials and the maritime industrial countries, especially Britain, cannot indefinitely wait during endless discussion at the World Conference before a regime is established to regulate deep sea mining beyond the coastal economic zones.

It is accepted that some of the primary producers of these materials could suffer serious blows to their economies if countervailing measures were not made available. For example, there is at least one African State which provides a very large proportion of the total world supplies of one of these important substances. In principle, also, the members of the United Nations have declared that these resources should benefit the world as a whole, including land-locked countries. Even in today's state of technology, it is calculated that some of these metals could be won more cheaply at sea from the ocean floors than they can at present be extracted on land, and in the next few years this cost comparison will probably become more favourable.

They are to be found mainly in manganese nodules, but also in hot brine pools in various parts of the world. Another remarkable point is that these concentrations of substances arc being formed continuously so that, unlike reserves such as oil and coal, they are not unchanging but arc increasing. I believe that deep sea mining could add a new dimension to Britain's maritime and industrial future, but first we must strive to promote an international organisation which will reconcile the interests of the nations which are capable of the deep sea operations, with the reasonable aspirations and economic problems of the rest of the world.

As regards the domestic changes and the Minister who might be in charge, I do not think that it could all be given to one single Department—certainly not at this stage. The Fabian pamphlet, to which the noble Baroness, Lady White, referred and which I agree sets out many of the subjects extremely clearly, suggested that it might be the Home Secretary and the Home Office who should take over maritime affairs. Then, I understand that others have suggested the Department of the Environment. I hope that I shall not be regarded as a chauvinist Scot, when I say that both of those suffer from the same defect—that their relevant functions do not apply North of the Border; and, of course, most of the hydrocarbons found so far have been around the coasts of Scotland.

There is a great deal more that can be said on this subject, but I do not want to take more of your Lordships' time as this debate has a time limit. But I hope I have said enough to indicate that there are great opportunities for a country with Britain's experience and maritime potential. We should be preparing now to seize those opportunities, and to seize them with both hands.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, a former Member of your Lordships' House once introduced himself to an audience in the county of Pembroke with the words: "I am a baron. You all know me. My grandfather was a baron. My father was a baron". At that point one of his audience shouted, "It's a pity that your mother wasn't barren, too ". I rise in this House at this time and am unable to use those words because all of your Lordships do not know me. My grandfather was not a baron, my father was not a baron and I have been a baron for such a short while that it would be presumptuous of me even to enter into this debate if I did not feel that it was so important. Therefore I take readily the kindness and courtesy of this House in giving me the opportunity to speak today.

I want to underline two points among the many which have been made to the House in this debate. I wish to take up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, who pointed to the British indigenous fishing industry and the difficulties it faces, and to take this opportunity of thanking my noble friend Lady White who sponsored me when I was introduced into this House. At the same time may I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor who, in welcoming me to the House, greeted me in my own native tongue.

It is true that the British indigenous fishing industry is in grave plight. It is true that a number of factors have combined to rob this country, and particularly Wales, of a resource which was worth a great many millions of pounds but which at this time is unable to compete with the many factors that limit the skills and energies of those involved in the trade and the courage of the men who go to sea in ships to bring ashore the fish. My first point, then, is that the British indigenous fishing industry has declined throughout my lifetime. For example, I have seen the Welsh fishing industry decline from having fleets sailing from Cardiff and Swansea, from almost every minor port around the coast of Wales and from Milford Haven in hundreds, to the point where the Milford Haven fleet is only 12 in number and where the men who try to bring the fish ashore—those responsible for management and working in the ships—are desperately worried that, as your Lordships consider this matter, their industry is dying.

First, we have a crisis in an existing indigenous industry. Secondly, we have a challenge in the development of a new industry that is using an asset which for too long we have disregarded. Around the shores of Britain there are many great harbours, such as Milford Haven, which for too long have been underdeveloped because successive Governments of many different political colours have, during times of war, used them in order to tide them over an emergency and then, in times of peace, forgotten them. Therefore, I say in this non-political setting at this non-political moment in my life that there is a double challenge in this debate. The use of the sea is part of the heritage of our nation. It is part of that which made our nation great and we neglect it always at our peril. I believe that we should be looking at these two problems out of the many outlined by the noble Baroness, with a sense of urgency because I wish to see not simply the development of ports which will bring in giant tankers.

May I give your Lordships the figures of development which are little less than dramatic, and I find this exciting. I found exciting what the noble Lord opposite said; namely, mining under the sea and getting that great element under control by man's ingenuity. To this generation of ours I find the conquest of inner space as exciting as any conquest of outer space. As to the port of Milford Haven—I am not being parochial but many times during my life I have quoted the words of William Wordsworth the poet who, in his prelude to the Lyrical Ballads, said that it was the duty of the poet to seek for truth. That is also the duty of both the politician and every other individual. In this House I have been impressed by the manner in which the debates have, for the most part, sought for truth. Wordsworth warned that there was always the danger of searching for that truth which was local and particular rather than general and operative. In this debate I believe it is important that in order to understand all these problems we should put the emphasis on local and particular truths but should move from those as quickly as possible to the general and operative ones. This is why I am sure that the noble Baroness will welcome, as I do, the emphasis that was placed by the noble Lord opposite on the extension to all mankind of the rights which we seek for ourselves in the use of the sea.

There is, then, this about Milford Haven which is local and particular. Last year Milford Haven handled 4,200 oil tankers, of which about 200 were what are called VLCCs—very large crude carriers. They are 1,140 feet long, 160 feet wide and they bring oil from the Persian Gulf: between 200,000 and 280,000 tons of it at a time. That was the 1974 figure. Milford's exciting and increasing importance as an oil port is part of the challenge of the development of oil which is too often expressed in narrow terms rather than in the general and operative ones' of a great natural resource being brought to the service of man.

I have a very limited mandate. All that I have the time and right to do in this maiden speech is to underline those two problems which I particularly understand. May I give one instance of the difficulties of the law of the sea, a law which is as old as any that noble Lords here practise in relation to things on land, yet an incredibly difficult one. When the tanker "Donna Marika" went on shore on Longberry Point in the Dale Roads in Milford Haven, carrying on board 5,000 tons of highly inflammable petrol, she presented, not as the Press at that time emphasised, a floating time bomb or a stranded time bomb but a great legal difficulty within the context of the rule of the sea. This one ship, owned by one company, registered under a Liberian flag of convenience and insured with a British-based company, was, in fact, a sovereign State of another land while she sat on a rock in a Welsh harbour. Here is a great problem which we have to solve and it is one to which the Government have to address themselves. How does one resolve a situation like that when a company can move off, leaving a stranded hulk if it wishes to do so? —although in this case fortunately it did not. Let me complete the tale and say it was a history of magnificent effort in saving the contents of the tanker and removing the tanker, and an exercise in international co-operation.

I have exhausted my time, and I hope I have not exhausted your Lordships' patience. In future times I hope I may join in your Lordships' debates, and that when I do so I shall have even more time.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great personal pleasure to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on a most remarkably efficient maiden speech. He made two very valuable points and I am sure that your Lordships hope to hear frequently from him. My Lords, I believe it is fair to assume that within the next two or three years the 200-mile economic zone will be established in law. Therefore, I am certain that our planning should start from that premise. Of course, planning is merely one of the three stages required. The second is legislation. The third, which is the most important, is enforcement of that legislation. In this context it seems to me that if we are to patrol all of the 200-mile zone, and safeguard all the 23 interests (I think the noble Baroness said) within that zone, we shall require some very special form of united command. I do not know what it will be. There is the example of the United States Coastguard service. On the face of it, it has the disadvantage that it has 40 Admirals and 40,000 men, which seems rather a lot. But if we scale down to our coastline and to the area that is to be policed, something along those lines is a possibility and might be examined.

Next, there is absolute certainty that we must carry out the hydrographic surveys which were mentioned in a recent debate, and I hope we can soon get some assurance from the Government that that will be done.

I should now like to turn to shipping and fishing. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Parry, said. Our fishing industry is in a parlous state. I hope the Government will consult the fishing industry when formulating plans for our 200-mile zone, which will make a tremendous difference to that industry. For instance, unless we have an efficient national plan for our fisheries we shall be in great trouble when we negotiate within the European Community. Your Lordships may remember that when we joined the European Community we obtained special immunity from joining the common fisheries policy. That immunity expires in 1982. It is therefore most important that our national policy should not only take into account the fact that we have to negotiate with the EEC before 1982, but should also take account of the 200-mile zone limit.

I do not know what is the form of the Government's thinking. It could be that we shall have a European Parliament. I am not quite certain what that means, but that is what is being discussed internationally. While I cannot possibly give advice, I know that it is terribly important and if the noble Baroness who is to reply could give me an assurance that industry will be consulted by the Government when formulating a national plan, I shall be glad. If our negotiations with the EEC fail it will be a disaster for 23,000 fishermen and their families, for 100.000 other people who arc actively employed in the fishing industry, and for every housewife in the nation. It will also be a major blow to our economy. That is the measure of the importance of the fishing industry.

A year ago we had a short debate on the future of fish farming and I should like briefly to refer to it. I rather hoped that as a result of that debate the Government might find time for a very small Bill which would remedy some of the present deficiencies. For instance, the salmon now being farmed in our sea lochs—who do they belong to when they are in their tanks? There is no law and anybody can come and "pinch "them. As to the oyster beds, now instead of having oysters on the shore we have them floating in trays. Under the present law those trays belong to no one. There are various such matters which could be legislated for in a short Bill, but I understand that the Government cannot find time, except for some legislative amendment which will affect the measuring of lobsters, which is not very important. I believe the Government are going to produce this little mouse. It seems to me odd that there is plenty of Parliamentary time to introduce legislation which will probably in law prevent a rodent operator from advertising for at assistant as a "Tom cat ". Equally I think he could not advertise for a "pussy in boots ", and I believe he could not even advertise for a neutered variety of either sex, whose mind would probably be more on the job. It is a pity, and I wonder whether we have our priorities right.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, first, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on the most eloquent maiden speech I have heard. I look forward to hearing him often in your Lordships' House. I shall be unashamedly parochial, no matter what Wordsworth said about it. Twice in the last seven years I have instituted a debate in your Lordships' House on the problems of the South-West. On both occasions I have drawn your Lordships' attention to the problems of our fishing industry, and since our last debate on the subject I have asked a Question concerning the Russian "hoovering "of fish —if I may use the expression which I used at the time—of the English Channel. In the earlier debate I drew particular attention to the fact that the French, having fished out their side of the Channel, were increasingly poaching on our side, to the ruination of our inshore fishermen, who were voluntarily organising their catches so as to preserve breeding stocks and conserve future supplies. At that time the Government gave no sign of support for our South-West fishermen.

On the second occasion I brought the subject to the attention of Her Majesty's Government in order to emphasise the colossal Russian fishing flotillas which were removing not only our fish but also our breeding stock and mining the breeding grounds into the bargain. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, barely touched on the matter in reply and certainly gave no assurance that the Government were prepared to do anything to come to our aid. I sometimes wonder whether our Government are prepared to fight for our interests anywhere, let alone on our own doorstep. I suppose they have a lot of excuses about law, and so on.

The Russian fishing fleet alone is over 2½ million tons and the next largest—that of Japan—is only 200,000 tons. The Russian fishing fleet is equipped with all the latest fishing devices, using ultrasonic waves and light to drive or attract the fish into their scoops, which themselves break all the accepted rules. This is excused by Admiral Guryunov because he says that it will raise the living standards of the workers. When a Russian or a Communist talks about "the workers "we know what that means—up Russia and ruin the rest. They add to our South-West fishermen's problems by removing the North Sea herring and so the Scots now send their large sophisticated trawlers with purse seine nets to our part of the world. These Scottish trawlers can take up to 200 tons of fish in a single cast and one can see why their method of fishing has been banned in other parts of the world and should be banged in the Western Approaches. This method decimated the Californian and South African pilchards, the British Columbian, Icelandic and North Sea herring and is now in the process of doing the same to our South-West mackerel.

In the South-West our fishing industry employs 2,000 men, is worth £10 million a year and depends largely on the mackerel season from September to March; but by purse seine fishing the Scots are cutting our throats and will end up cutting their own, unless we can do it for them. The fishermen of Devon and Cornwall have been and are being nut out of business, added to which the Scots are undercutting us in selling their catches to France; when not satisfied with the standard of their catch they jettison so many dead mackerel that the local fishermen who are after bottom-feeding fish like plaice get their nets "gummed up "with dead mackerel. The Scottish fishing industry received massive Government help for the herring boom. Your Lordships may remember that on two occasions I asked for that aid to be applied to our smaller boats, but to no avail. The herring boom is over, others are to blame for that, as doubtless we shall hear this evening, and we in the South-West are left holding the baby.

But to return to the Russians; I am by way of being a bit of a yachtsman, and twice in the last two years, I have had a hair-raising journey from the Channel Islands or from Brittany, back to Dartmouth through the unlit—navigationally, of course, not otherwise—Russian fishing fleet. It is dangerous to say the least. We all know what happened last season when one of them was armed. The Navy and the coastguard were not allowed to do anything. The Russians got away with murder, not only of our fishing stocks but a lot more. Let us set the North Sea and the Channel median line; let us agree our 200-mile limit and then police and plan it adequately. If Canada can save her fishing grounds, in the name of all that is reasonable, why cannot we? If we do not do it now, we shall have left no stock, no fishermen, and no fish.

6.1 p.m.

The Earl of KINTORE

My Lords, first of all I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on what I thought was a fine maiden speech, and I am sure he will not mind me telling him so. I hope we shall hear him many times in the future. I must apologise for inflicting myself upon your Lordships twice on the same day. That is because of the draw, as a result of which the two debates in which I wanted to speak came up at the same time. I have a special interest in the North Sea. The Grampian Region roughly has a 300-mile coastline on the North Sea. I am an elected member of the Grampian Regional Council and of its public protection committee. I am also an associate member of the Society for Underwater Technology, which gives me a particular interest.

I intend to speak on two aspects of the many problems arising from the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea, and among the subjects mentioned in the opening of this debate, security and pollution, two matters of extreme urgency at this moment. Our small but extremely efficient police force has to maintain civil law and order over all the rigs, barges, platforms and so on which are serviced from the ports of Aberdeen, Peterhead and the Orkneys and Shetlands. There are between 20 and 30 rigs working in the North Sea. It is not generally realised that the distance from Aberdeen to the Murchison, Thistle and Magnus fields, is the same as the distance between Aberdeen and London. To get there, our chief constable has to thumb a lift from a passing helicopter. I do not mean that he stands on the roof and waves his arm; I use it as a figure of speech. There is nothing official. He has to get his police force there as best he can and, of course, he does. But this is something which should be looked at.

My Lords, Aberdeen is an open port. When I am wearing another hat, I have to supply water to any foreign boats, including the Russian fishing fleet or that part of it which comes to Aberdeen. Since Aberdeen is an open port, their crews can get through easily and, indeed, roam about Aberdeen. If they wanted to get on a train at Aberdeen station there is very little to stop them, and they could then get anywhere else quite easily. At the helicopter port at Dyce, from which there are 50 or 60 helicopters operating at this moment, searching of people and baggage is only voluntary, not mandatory. At all main airports it is mandatory I think it should be made mandatory tomorrow, because if there is no search going on it would be the easiest thing in the world to hijack a helicopter, and having done that one could sabotage a rig. I do not want to give people ideas, but this is an urgent matter.

If I may become parochial, for supplying this major policing service our region gets no benefit from the rates; nothing is rateable. We get no financial benefit at all. It is true that our expenses are paid. but the fact is that we have to dilute our already under-strength police force and send policemen at considerable risk over these long distances at sea by helicopter, and we receive no recognition for this. The feeling is fairly strong, both among the police and ourselves, that the United Kingdom is living off our backs to this extent.

As I understand it, we are responsible locally for pollution within one mile of the shore. We are organised and equipped to deal with any minor incidents. We have already dealt with one or two small ones. But with pipe-lines coming ashore, production platforms off- shore, giant oil tankers going north about, dodging supply boats, of which there are a whole host, and getting out of the way of another tanker, they have a first-rate chance of running into another platform. Sooner or later there is going to be a major incident. Surely, the place to deal with oil slicks and oil spillages is at sea and not after they have come ashore.

My Lords, there appear to be a number of Ministries with a finger in this pie. I hope that if the noble Baroness, Lady White, reads this debate, she will write to me because she knows most of the answers. I would like to know what the latest approved techniques are. Is Warren Springs Laboratory responsible for the scientific advice? How much approved detergent is stored at the ports of Aberdeen, Peterhead and Lerwick, for example? How many of the large number of workboats working out of these ports are equipped with pumps and spray booms and what might be described as sea harrows for dispersing oil slicks? How many sets of this type of gear are available on site? Is there a single production platform with a set of this type of gear stored on the platform? If not, this should be looked at because in an emergency the sooner one can start things, the better. The distances are very great and the rate at which an oil slick travels in the sea is astonishingly quick.

I have mentioned a few of the points which worry us. Surely it is high time that, as an emergency measure, there should be established in Aberdeen an overall co-ordinator with a small staff and office which is in the centre, and the nearest one can get to any of the rigs. We have telephone numbers, but it is possible that when one phones someone in Edinburgh one will be told, "I am sorry, he has left; his address is some-where else." Even by our normal United Kingdom standards this seems a little slap-happy. Fishery protection, military security, civil security, pollution control, fire and hyperbaric problems should, for a start, be dealt with at once under an overlord in Aberdeen so that one can get at him quickly and not have to chase people through the telephone directory to find out who is responsible for what, and then be told "Awfully sorry, he is at a conference ", which is the state of affairs at the moment.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on an absolutely brilliant and most inspiring speech. I look forward to hearing from him when the subject under discussion is a little more argumentative to see how it comes out against that background. We heard from the noble Baroness, who so wisely introduced the debate, how many Government Departments and external bodies have responsibilities for bits of things in the sea. It seems to me that the most important thing, which indeed the subject of the debate makes clear, is somehow to invite the Government to find a method of co-ordinating the planning of the work associated with the sea between all these various bodies. I am sure that they are aware of this need, but perhaps it is somewhat difficult to find the right solution.

It could be argued that we ought to have a special Ministry, but I think we would all agree that yet another Ministry would be most undesirable at this time. Everybody says we are overgoverned, and I rather subscribe to that view; so, not another Ministry. Another possibility which has been suggested to me and to which I have given a lot of thought is that it might be an opening for an outside agency, on the lines of the Manpower Services Commission, for example. But, giving thought to that, it seems to me that an outside agency of that sort—as, if we are to believe what the noble Baroness, Lady White, told us, there are 22 Departments of State involved, and some of them, the most powerful in the land—would not command the authority in Whitehall which would be necessary for it to exercise its co-ordinating role.

I should have thought, therefore, that we have to look to the possibility of some particular Ministry or Department which might be charged with the function of managing the planning, albeit leaving the execution of the different bits, as I describe them, in the hands of the people who are currently dealing with them. This sort of solution was suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady White, and indeed touched upon by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, but I noticed, very interestingly, that neither of them referred to what is to me the obvious Ministry; that is, the Navy Department of the Ministry of Defence. I would hate your Lordships to think that, because it has been my privilege to serve Her Majesty in the Royal Navy, I am unduly biased towards the Navy Department of the Ministry of Defence. Indeed, in earlier times I was wont to attack it rather than to support it, seeing myself more as a seagoing officer than somebody who sat at a desk in Whitehall.

But, if you come to think of it, in history, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, we were, of course in a much more minor way, in much the same quandary as we are now as to what to do about the sea. It is now much more complicated, but there are two points which are common to this country's attitude before the present century and at the present day. One is that the international acceptance of the protection of shipping at large was somewhat nebulous, and in the case of this 200-mile zone it is now, as we have been told, becoming nebulous again; so there was not really too much hesitation in using, in a sensible fashion, warships in the employ of Her Majesty to support the seakeeping activities of the Merchant Marine of those days. The other point that is similar is that we knew at that time very little about the sea. That great institution, the Hydrographic Service, was started in that period, and what it has achieved during the last 200 years or so has been to discover all that until recently we thought we needed to know about the sea. We were happy to allow the Admiralty to manage and administer the Hydrographic Service for us, even though it is in practically every respect a civilian type of operation.

There is another area in which the Ministry of Defence is currently operating and, over centuries, has operated in support of civil activity; that is in the Fishery Protection Service. And, of course, though it is not something they have to do very much now, in the early part of the last century they were much employed in supporting the preventive service in chasing smugglers. There is, therefore, quite a strong and honourable tradition of the Royal Navy acting as a co-ordinating link of both civil and military operations within sea areas. I suggest that what we need to do is to think of some way by which we could charge the Ministry of Defence Navy Department with the management of the planning of sea resources.

What will be troublesome about that —I trust that the Government would look into this, too—is that, as we found in our recent debate on the Hydrographic Service, we are so narrowminded about how we allocate resources of essential sums of money that we find ourselves parcelling in our minds as a defence issue anything to do with defence. Therefore, all the people who would like to spend all the money on hospitals, et cetera, say, "Take it off Defence; nobody wants Defence ". When that happens—regrettably it has happened a lot in the last 25 years—activities such as the Hydro-graphic Service suffer in proportion.

There are probably lots of other areas with other Ministries required to be the lead Ministry. What I feel we need is some means by which the appropriate Ministry could be responsible for the management of the planning, and the charge for that should be isolated from the main Vote which supports the Ministry concerned. Accordingly, I would ask the Minister who is to reply, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whether she could indicate to us if the line of thinking which I have put across and which other noble Lords have put across is one which commends itself to the Government. It seems to me that, above everything else, we must have some co-ordinating body; it must be Whitehall-based because there are so many Ministries involved, and it must get going jolly quickly.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on his admirable maiden speech, which I much enjoyed. I look forward to hearing him frequently in the future. I should, first, declare an interest in this topic. As chairman of the National Water Council I have some responsibility for the water industry, and the water industry is responsible for the prevention of pollution of our rivers, the discharges into our rivers, into our estuaries, and from there into the sea. When the second part of the Prevention of Pollution Act 1974 comes into operation the regional water authorities will be responsible for all discharges within a three mile limit of the coast. There is, therefore, a general responsibility for the prevention of pollution from the landward side.

In Lady White's speech, with which she so interestingly opened the debate, I was relieved, when she spoke about the need for the prevention of pollution in the sea, that she made no reference to my particular neck of the woods because evidently she did not feel that there was any great danger there; in other words, that the matter was reasonably under control. I think that that is indeed so. The 10 regional water authorities have ongoing policies for the prevention of pollution; spending large sums of money. Their capital programme on the dirty waterside is about £400 million per annum. Although most of that goes on keeping the system going, there is a useful on-going programme (a minor part of their capital expenditure) on improvement, and there are such notable improvements as the Thames Estuary and the Tyne Estuary very soon to come along.

I should add a technical comment about the kind of pollution which could come from the landward side. First of all, so far as our pollution is concerned, there is no harm in remembering that no substance is of itself polluting. It is concentration that makes it toxic. This, of course, particularly refers to Lady White's point about the disposal of radioactive waste, but I am not concerned with that. What I am principally concerned with is the disposal of sewage and sewage sludge, and this is largely degradable. Seawater is a strong oxidising agent and the potential dilution of the sea is almost unlimited. We are fortunate in these Islands to have the Atlantic Ocean sweeping our coasts and the strong tides which wash our shores, so that dilution is really on a very large scale indeed, and our problem here, fortunately for us, is in no way comparable with the Mediterranean problem to which the noble Baroness, Lady White, referred, where there is, practically speaking, no tide and there really is a major problem of the build-up of pollution.

I should mention that where there are unsatisfactory sea outfalls round our coasts, it is invariably because the outfalls are too short. They are often not even down to low tide level, and this is the reason why they are unsatisfactory. So long as sea outfalls are carried far enough out, probably one mile or more, well beyond the tidal reaches, they are entirely satisfactory. Perhaps I should add that where the discharge is into an enclosed water like the Solent, of course again there are problems because there is not a complete scouring and there can be a build-up there, and there is just no alternative to treatment on the land before the discharge goes into the sea. There is one other proviso in order to get satisfactory disposal, and that is, of course, that where there are wastes which are heavily toxic, especially metallurgical wastes, pre-treatment is desirable before these wastes go into the treatment works, into the rivers and into the estuaries. In the main, these matters are being adequately dealt with.

The disposal of sewage sludge is another matter with which we deal, and sewage sludge is disposed of in sludge ships which sail from our estuaries. They are then allowed to deposit this sludge at a chosen spot some miles from our shores; a spot chosen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as one being suitable for the purpose. These areas are carefully monitored to ensure that there is no build-up of toxicity there. On the whole, fish seem to thrive and multiply there, so evidently we arc not doing too much harm. Our research station at Stevenage, a part of the Water Research Centre, has done some pioneering work in this field in order to determine just what adequate monitoring methods there may be to ensure that there is not a build-up of toxicity.

The picture I wish to leave is that the new water industry is effective in administration and scientific strength to manage the discharges from our shores in a fashion which is not significantly polluting the sea round our coasts. At the same time, I should mention—and this particularly will be music to the ears of the noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate—that our relationship with the D of E is excellent in our working relations, and similarly with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. So when saying that my interest in this debate is marginal, I hope I shall leave the impression that at least this is one aspect of the management of the sea which does not need any new planning arrangements.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, may I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Parry. In congratulating him I also find great pleasure in welcoming another Welshman to the House, and in particular one who comes from my favourite geological hunting ground, Pembrokeshire. I am grateful to him too for freeing me of the responsibility of talking about the importance of Milford Haven. If I may sweepingly make this statement, it is going to become the focal point of the geological projections of new oil fields, not only within the so-called Celtic Sea but beyond on the shelf to the West of Eire.

Having said that, the theme that I should like to follow is that in formulating laws connected with natural processes one should not go into antagonism with nature; one should try to formulate laws which imitate nature. This planet has been endowed with many riches, and the greatest of them all has been the molecule of water. If we add all these molecules together they would envelop the earth with a layer of liquid over 1,000 feet thick. By the laws of nature this volume of liquid has been divided into several parts; part has been fed into the atmosphere to protect the earth from the lethal rays of the sun; part has been consolidated into ice; the remainder has been dedicated to the oceans. With this tripartite division, about a quarter of the crust of the earth has been allowed to become exposed, and this is essential for the natural process we are discussing.

The earth is a thermostat. The earth exposed also provides the sediment, and this sediment is delivered into the sea at an erosional rate necessary to sustain life in the sea. I humbly suggest that it is extremely important to remember that the amount of sediment that enters the sea is just more than sufficient to provide the marine organisms with the trace metallic elements they need for life, and, in addition, to absorb the excreta and deposit that excreta on the sea floor to create future oil-bearing deposits. This, in principle, is how a source for oil is created. The finer the sediment, the greater its capacity to absorb and its ability to create a source rock for oil. Having said that, I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that pollution is a capricious and possibly accidental over-concentration of certain materials. However, if that material can receive sediment in suspension fine enough to carry it to the ocean floor where it belongs, it will be fitting into the balance of nature which I have tried to outline.

I now turn from theory to pragmatism. The land is not producing for the rivers sufficient fine sediment to deposit the effluents that man is ejecting into those rivers. They are incapable of taking these pollutants out to sea because of the lack of sediment. Man, in his activities beneath the crust of the earth, produces mine wastes which are the kind of sediment we could use to fill in the gap which I have described—that is, make up the optimum required to deposit this excessive quantity of pollutants in the sea.

In my humble opinion, the greatest enemy of the sea at the moment is the use of detergents. They perform the reverse function. They spread particles. They prevent them from sedimenting. It may look nice to spread an oil slick over thousands of square miles, but the detergent will remain in the sea and will have an insidious effect in the long term on the planktonic life of the sea. Without the plankton, the fish will not live. Without the minerals, the plankton cannot have its skeletal structure. Without the minerals, the fish cannot have its bones and its scales. It is all part of a picture. My appeal is, do not introduce detergents to tamper with this picture. They are antagonistic to the natural cycle of events.

Having said that, I suggest that we in this country have at our disposal a new industry. We produce literally millions of cubic yards of ultra fine dust in our solid fuel power stations. This, mixed into a colloidal condition and tanked and sold to ships, could be exactly the coagulant which would take the bilge water and the accidental oil slicks down to the sea floor where they belong. An even better product is to be found in the effluents of the kaolin mines of Cornwall. We could utilise those mines now and make them into a profitable organisation selling what might be called "kaolin milk "for the deposition of oil slicks. Thirdly—and how blessed these Islands are—we have chalk in vast quantities. We know from our examination of chalk using the magnificent microscopes which we now have at our elbow, that chalk has a high absorptive capacity due to the way in which it was formed. It was formed by deposition out of the sea floor. Therefore, it is the medium to use to deposit oil slicks.

I could perhaps have gone on talking about the exploitation of minerals from sea water, because one cannot manufacture sea water. It is one of the fundamental units in the natural cycle of events and, when everything is balanced on either side, the greatest asset of this Island is the sea that surrounds it.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on his maiden speech. I feel that many Scots envy the Welsh their powers of rhetoric and we heard an excellent example of that in the speech of the noble Lord, which also contained two very important and illuminating lessons which I hope we shall take to heart.

I am not sure whether this debate is meant to ginger up the Government, but I hope to do a little of that myself. However, before I do so, I should like to say that things are happening in the technologies which are connected with the sea. I believe, however, that what is happening largely results from a greater awareness on the part of what one might call the lower levels of the administrators. These people are awake to the problems and arc co-operating with each other where Departments tend to clash. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, who gave us an excellent example of the lower levels of Departments working together. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, that we do not want another Ministry nor an overlord to fuse matters together. However, we do want a joining up of the groups of related industries and enterprises at lower levels so that we shall get a better spirit of co-operation for the future, if that should be necessary.

An example of that is the importance of fusing the food from the sea into aquaculture, as it is called, and of establishing an aquaculture section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I believe that cohesion there could do nothing but good, and I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whether any progress is being made along those lines. Your Lordships may recollect that we had a debate some months ago on this point, to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, replied and it is being taken arizandum by the Government.

On fish farming, may I ask the noble Baroness whether any progress is being made about the derating of the buildings used for marine farming or for fish farming in general? It seems to me to be iniquitous that farming buildings should be de-rated but that fish farming cannot benefit from de-rating. If one studies the arrangements in other parts of the world it will be seen that fish farming in most countries receives some degree of Government help through de-rating concessions or others of a similar nature.

A point to which I should like to draw the attention of the Government is the good work which is being done at Stirling in the Unit of Aquatic Pathobiology. That sounds rather wonderful but the unit is there to deal with the diseases of fish, and anybody starting fish farming knows how dreadful it is to get diseases in stock. This Unit of Aquatic Pathobiology is the best, at any rate in Europe, and it has been going for only a short time, entirely on a grant from the Nuffield Foundation. Its director's advice and guidance is sought by other nations in Europe, and he is shortly to pay a visit to advise the Russians on disease problems in their fish. The Nuffield money comes to an end in about 18 months. There is the Unit. Will it have to be disbanded? If so, the disbandment must be the responsibility of the Government in not coming in to help.

Things are happening in the development of the technology in the North Sea. It is some years since I drew your Lordships' attention to work on offshore engineering at the Heriot-Watt University. This has got going very well indeed. The money for the offshore engineering was provided by the Wolfson Foundation; but the School of Petroleum Engineering, which is now coming into action, has been provided by Government funds from the Department of Energy. That is going to do postgraduate work, as well as train for higher degrees, so that our young men can go forth and find jobs in the oil industry.

Work of this nature is being done in other parts of Edinburgh. There is some extremely interesting work taking place at Edinburgh University on the utilisation of wave power. So far it is a dream of people who try to look far ahead for sources of energy. With the financial support of the Department of Energy, British oil technology is at present being exported by missions which are working in Singapore and in Brazil. We are sending out there both brains and material. There has been some disputation, or some talk, today about pollution. I should like to give another example of technology relating to pollution. At the Occidental terminal in Scapa Flow tankers come in to collect the oil from the pipe from the field. Those tankers have to come in in ballast. That ballast is water, and that water has to be disposed of. Scapa Flow is a relatively constricted area, and in order to ensure that the methods of disposing of that water are correct and adequate, a survey has been started by the biology department of Heriot-Watt University to monitor all forms of marine life and the composition of the water, to see what is happening. This information will be of considerable value in relation to pollution in other parts.

The noble Earl, Lord Cairns, spoke about the need for more information from the hydrography department. The hydrographic survey is non-existent in Scapa Flow. It has been done in other parts, but if there is any place where it is important to get it going it is in Scapa Flow. I hope that the Government have had second thoughts and that they are now not scrapping any of the hydrographic survey ships.

My Lords, things are happening, perhaps rather slowly, but I believe that a good deal of the progress that is taking place is due to debates such as this in your Lordships' House, and I feel that we are right to go on prodding the Government. There is revolution on the sea, in the sea, and under the sea. Things are happening, and just as there was the big Industrial Revolution, now there is the big revolution in the sea. This revolu-is moving faster than the Industrial Revolution moved, and we must keep up with it.

6.46 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, first I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on his excellent speech. I was particularly struck with one point, which I think I have got down rightly. He said that sea planning is extended for the benefit of all mankind, and I think that that was a very good example of what we are talking about today. But I should like to talk about something completely different from what has been proposed to date. I wish to mention the question of farming on the edge of the sea. This is not a new idea. It was done at least 100 years before Christ by the Romans. In Java in 1400 there was so much aquaculture and fish breeding that it was necessary to bring in a law to prevent thieves stealing from the fish farmers. Marine and brackish-water farming is very neglected in many countries. It is known that in the poorer and developing countries more trouble is taken with aquaculture than is taken in this country. At present Japan is the leading country in marine aquaculture.

The area of the sea is so much greater than that of the land. It is estimated that at least 400 billion tons of organic material, net weight, are produced annually in the sea, and only a very small proportion of this is harvested for the use of man. Aquaculture has benefit over agriculture, because in agriculture it is necessary continually to replenish plants with fertilisers and artificial manure, whereas in the ocean the nutrients are replenished by a natural process, such as regeneration due to microbiol activities, and the inflow of fresh water from the land, including agricultural fertilisers. Strange to say, sewage does not seem to do them any harm—as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford—provided it is not in too large a supply.

With the death of animals or plant life in the sea, organisms sink and are decomposed, releasing other nutrients. I suggest that there are opportunities to enrich and amplify man's food supply by this method. Fishing in the open sea is significant, as has been mentioned several times. However, it may become increasingly limited. Aquaculture offers new opportunities these days for employment, and with so many people unemployed I wish to suggest that many people might be encouraged to take up this work in the future. I do not want a committee set up, because there are plenty of marine laboratories which can give advice to anyone who would like to start on this kind of job.

But if the Government gave encouragement, for example, by making it easier to obtain licences, and by offering loans, which could be repaid after a period of time (as is often done in other countries), I think that many people would like to take up this work. More people are regretting having to live in towns, and particularly in areas like Devon and Cornwall, where there is great unemployment, people would be only to happy to consider this type of work. It is suggested that the oceans might in the future become controlled by the Soviet Navy, and it looks as if this might happen. After all, we remember what happened in the last war;how it was so difficult for our merchant ships to get through. Our food supply would be considerably enhanced by farming of the type that I am mentioning. Also, for those fish that need warm water we could use quite a lot of the warm water coming from the power stations. There is plenty of algae, seaweed and carrageen, and the algae produces chemicals for about 300 different types of industrial applications. In fact, noble Lords who drink beer may be interested to know that almost every pint that is drunk in the United Kingdom has some fraction of algae in it. It is also used for ice-creams, dental moulds and many other things, including canning food. So I think we really ought to continue to try to do more in this way, encouraging people to take up this type of work.

The ecology of the sea has become a topic of widespread interest only recently, and as arable land is becoming more and more insufficient for our ever-increasing population I think we should continue to study this. In fact, at the time of World War Two we in Britain did study the question of using garden algae, and during that same war the German scientists, too, attempted to strain out plankton from the North Sea water for supplementing the diets of their people. So I would hope today that we might consider this side of it, too—farming on the edge of the sea. It would not be expensive to start, it would give employment to quite a lot of people and it would increase the amount of nutrition we have to offer to people—nutrition which I think would be of good quality. I therefore hope that when the noble Baroness comes to wind up she will say that this point will be considered in the future.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, my only excuse for intervening for three or four minutes in this debate is because I have been closely associated with the fishing industry in the North Sea for over half a century. All I want to say is that I was very satisfied with the reply of the Government to a Question I put the day before yesterday about the herring fishing industry. It was that they are going to have a conference and that they are going to try to stop industrial fishing of herring. What I am frightened of is that the North Sea fisheries industry is dying at the present time, and that would be a disaster for this country and, indeed, for the whole of Western Europe.

My Lords, I just want to say that I think the Government should now call off what I would describe as their blackmail of Iceland, because I think the Icelanders are right. I think they have got right on their side. We have got to face up to the fact that drastic reductions of catches, not only of cod but of herring, mackerel and other fish in the North Sea, will be necessary for the next two or three years if the North Sea fisheries are to survive—and I think the survival of the North Sea fisheries is absolutely essential. I really have nothing more to add except that I wish the Government would realise the gravity of the present situation, because the fisheries industry in the North Sea is to my certain knowledge—and I went to look at it the other day—dying. That is due primarily to over-fishing of all stocks of fish, largely for industrial purposes, for which they were never intended.

So I hope that something will come of this international conference; and I hope the Government will not be too hard on Iceland, because there is a lot to be said on the side of Iceland. We cannot carve into the cod industry in the way we have been doing for the last few years without destroying it, and my whole purpose in rising to speak in this debate tonight is conservation. We must, by international agreement, conserve the fish in the North Sea. It is essential for this country, it is essential for Europe. I remember the days when we exported well over a million barrels of salt herrings to the West European continent and to Russia. Where have those days gone? Mr. Khrushchev once said to me, "Your herrings are no good without vodka." I said to him, "I entirely agree. You give us the vodka and we will give you the herrings." He put in an order for the herrings but we had not got them, so we did not get the vodka. So we missed a lot.

My Lords, all I want to do before I sit down is to repeat that conservation of fish stocks in the North Sea is now absolutely essential. I hope the Government will take up this point, and will stop the fight with Iceland, because the Icelanders are right.

6.56 p.m.

The Earl of INCHCAPE

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for initiating this debate, and I am extremely sorry that he was unable to be here today to introduce it. It is of profound interest to the shipping industry, in whose affairs, both as vice-president of the General Council of British Shipping and as chairman of a large shipping company, I am closely involved. The noble Baroness, Lady White, in introducing this Motion, has clearly outlined the many different uses to which the sea is now put, and I need not add to the full description she has given us. At this stage, the only point I would make is that this conflict of use is not peculiar to the North Sea. It is a problem which has arisen in other parts of the world and which will arise elsewhere in the future. We can learn from the developments in the Gulf of Mexico which started about a quarter of a century ago, and we must consider what will happen in the next Quarter of a century in such areas as the Persian Gulf, South-East Asia, the waters of the West African coast and, indeed, in many other areas.

Noble Lords will forgive me if I approach this problem of sea use planning purely from the shipping angle. I can explain the conflicts which arise between shipping and other users of the sea, and how these have been resolved, or at least how we have attempted to resolve them. From that practical experience some lessons can perhaps be drawn. This is an area where it is tempting to produce policies based on theory, but there is much to be said for a pragmatical approach. We had a very interesting debate before Christmas about hydrography, and during that debate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said that the hydrographer's work was itself a sine qua non of any sea use planning framework. I agree with him completely. The report on hydrography gave many good reasons why the hydrographer's work should be continued and, indeed, expanded, and not least of the reasons is this matter of providing the facts upon which sea use planning can be based. That debate showed the great importance that Members of your Lordships' House attach to the Report, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who will be replying to this debate, will take the opportunity to give us some encouraging indication of the action that the Government are taking on the Report. We appreciate that there is a financial problem in so far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned, but the Government can presumably impart the necessary degree of urgency so that we can be assured that the hydrographer's department will, somehow, from some source, obtain the necessary funds.

Shipping, my Lords, does not use the sea in quite the same way as some other interests. We do not consume the resources either of the seabed or of the sea itself, and as far as possible we do not damage those resources. Oil pollution has in the past given shipping a bad name; but in the last five years the number of oil slicks officially sighted in British territorial waters has fallen year after year and it is now only half of what it was five years ago. There are more measures to reduce pollution still on the way, and while I am not complacent I believe that in a few years' time oil pollution will not be a significant factor in discussions such as this.

My Lords, the use of the sea for shipping can be in conflict with its use for oil and gas exploration. In 1970 the former Chamber of Shipping, mindful of the problems that had arisen in the Gulf of Mexico, initiated proposals to establish certain "clearways "for shipping around the coast. The intention was, and is, that drilling operations should not nor mally take place in the area of the clearways which are essentially the routes usually followed by shipping; if an oil strike makes it necessary to change the clearways then reasonable notice is given and the necessary adjustments are made. Any applications to place a rig or a structure outside a clearway do not need to be referred to the shipping industry. The shipping industry is also asked for its views, from the safety of navigation standpoint, on applications to dredge for aggregate. The system works well, with the Energy Department dealing with applications for licences for oil and gas, the Department of the Environment acting similarly over licences for dredging and the Department of Trade maintaining an overall interest for the safety of navigation on which ship owners are closely consulted. This system involves no new authority or Ministry, but the interests of the various parties are effectively coordinated and we have all learned to work together.

My Lords, I do not wish to imply that every conflict of use is invariably resolved to our satisfaction. There are some places where improvements would be possible. I wonder, for example, whether it would be an advantage to look at the areas where the major yachting races take place. I am not a yachtsman, but is it necessary that the Dover Strait should be used for this purpose? There is plenty of more open sea room elsewhere. I understand that the Royal Yachting Association is reviewing the problem and I hope it will come up with a solution. As noble Lords know, there have also been problems in relation to fishing vessels in the Dover Strait; but it is probably fair to say that these have been mostly foreign fishing vessels. This emphasises the international nature of some of these problems of the competing use of the sea.

We cannot solve our problems in isolation. We must take account of the fact that not only are our seas used by international shipping but our ships use international seas. It is in our interests that no exaggerated claims are made for coastal State Powers. Happily, the British delegation at the Law of the Sea Conference is aware of this problem and is pursuing a line which I believe to be for the benefit not only of this country but of international trade generally. In matters of maritime law, the Briitsh Government have traditionally taken the lead and I hope that at the next session in New York they will continue to do so.

Now for the conclusions, my Lords, which I draw from our experience in shipping, As I hinted earlier, my basic belief is that although a number of Ministries can be involved in these problems, that is not a conclusive argument for adding yet another one. A fifth wheel on the coach makes it no easier to drive. So far as shipping is concerned, such conflicts as arise can, we believe, be resolved satisfactorily without complicated new machinery. I appreciate the case for a system of planning inquiries ashore, but because the conflicts at sea are between interests rather than individuals I doubt whether we need a system as expensive or as time-consuming as that. I mentioned the case of new oil installations in the North Sea outside the clearway lines. All the other interests can be consulted and approval obtained within a matter of weeks. I do not believe that anything would be gained if some new machinery protracted that process of consultation into months or years.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am not an expert in the uses of the seabed and my presence here is really due to the fact that I am the President of the David Davis Memorial Institute. That Institute has recently published a book which I think worth reading, about the challenges and opportunities presented by the North Sea. I do not suggest that the noble Baroness should have to read it herself but that someone could read it for her, for it contains a great deal of information. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, on his maiden speech, and furthermore to express my pleasure to see Lord Boothby here again. This fishing business has been almost a disease with him for years. He has been talking about it for nearly all my professional life.

I myself would like to add such slight weight as I can to the emphasis already placed on the fishing industry. The fishing industry is obviously in a very difficult position, and one point, which I suppose is a fairly obvious one, is that an enormous amount of money is spent not only in buying ships but in fitting them out with technological equipment, so that the unfortunate trawler captain has to go to sea and then come back again with enough fish to make it worth his while. The result is that we have been over-fishing. It is difficult for the commercial fisherman to do otherwise.

That leads me to the second part of my theory, which is that we really must —and I know that it is not easy—look after our fish farmers. That is an industry (if it is an industry already) which I think we may have started here, but I understand that, other countries have made greater advances than we have. I know that it is difficult to farm certain fish, that some can be farmed and some cannot be farmed. Some demersal fish may be difficult to get hold of at all. That is a matter which is of vital importance.

I know that this problem is being considered by the Government. It is an extraordinarily difficult problem because, as is obvious to all of us, the fish and the waters move. They are not affected by men's desires or men's activities, and to control the waters when you have a 200-mile limit or any other limit, is quite impossible. We are met with an entirely new situation when we try to go further and further afield to get our fish. It is probably true that this 200-mile limit is coming. That will be valuable. In the end, the alternative to the 200-mile limit seems to me probably disorder and possibly anarchy. We cannot go on as we are now. The freedom of the seas is no longer with us; it has been eroded by modern developments.

I do not want to say any more about the various uses of the sea which the noble Baroness mentioned when she opened this debate. I think that waste disposal has been dealt with, mineral resources have been dealt with, the oil situation and marine transport; but we have not spoken much about defence and strategic use. The Royal Navy is a navy of which we are proud. In connection with that I think it would not be out of place to say that the responsibility in making charts is the responsibility of the naval hydrographer. My information (and I have not read the report myself) is that the 1973 report of that hydrographer stated that the charts were mostly out of date, that many large parts of the sea arc completely uncharted. I do quite know what the answer is going to be. We seem to be continually cutting down our Navy and I am sure that we shall cut down the hydrographers, too. That will not do any good. If anything is going to be preserved in connection with what has been discussed tonight, it is most important that that department should, if necessary, be reinforced and given the means to carry out their duties. I will not take up your Lordships' time any further; it is time we all stopped talking, for we are all waiting to hear what the noble Baroness has to say in reply.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has graciously allowed me to steal three minutes of her time to make three points, to none of which I hope it will be necessary to make a reply. First of all, I recognise absolutely the need for co-ordination in the activities to which reference has been made. I had more experience of lack of co-ordination than most people when, in my official capacity, I was charged with dealing with the "Torrey Canyon "on those rocks. I will not say any more about that. I agree firmly that we do not need a new Ministry.

Secondly, there is a need for realism. We have to separate the short-term from our long-term concerns, both national and international. In the short-term I put the problems about which my noble friend Lord Boothby has spoken; our dispute with Iceland; conservation of fish; problems regarding pollution, which was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. There is the question we are dealing with now, which is oil. We can deal with those with difficulty. But I am afraid a lot of the long term problems belong to the dream world. We are not going to deal with them as an independent, national entity. This business of grabbing manganese nodules from the seabed has to be an international effort if it is ever going to work. We have to realise that there is an energy balance in which the question of national resources comes in. Unless we know exactly what we are up to, we may embark on more ground nuts schemes. We have to be careful about this. Somebody said the resources of the seabed are reproduced. If they are, I do not know where they are reproduced. Manganese nodules certainly are not. What is required is to get the molecular biologists, supported as they are by Her Majesty's Government, to tailor make a nitrogen-fixing organism for the sea. Then the food problems will be solved overnight. At the present moment the nitrogen in the sea comes mostly from run-off.

My third point is that in dealing with these long-term matters and the need for realism we have to deal internationally; but equally it seems very important that Her Majesty's Government keep the matter up to date. In keeping it up to date, may I plead for a use of the best ascertainable facts, even in your Lordships' House. It creates certain misconceptions about our capacity to deal with some of these matters when we talk about matters such as the conservation of fish stocks in the same breath as we talk about mineral explorations or getting ships, let us say, to work 2,000 feet below the surface of the sea. That is not done yet and we have to be careful. I listened with admiration to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Parry. I wish I could quote the words of a great Welshman, Aneurin Bevan, whom I knew very well. He said he wondered how it was that we shivered through the winter and starved in the summer in an island made of coal surrounded by seas full of fish. I think he used a similar phrase. I hope that, in contriving not to do things which he spoke about there, we understand that we will have to play the whole of this game from the long-term point of view internationally and not nationally.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, may I first say how sorry I am that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, is ill, and how admirably I thought my noble friend Lady White stepped into the breach. The interest in this subject has been indicated by the tremendous number of people who have spoken and who have exercised such enormous self-restraint and self-control in this wide-ranging area. My own interest has been one almost of sitting in at a high-level seminar, because I have learned a great deal from the debate. I should like to add my praises and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Parry, in what was, as we have all agreed, an outstanding maiden speech. I particularly liked his phrase in referring to the sea as part of the heritage of this nation. As we draw to the end of European Architectural Year it is nice to turn to another part of our heritage, and to extend the idea.

I cannot attempt to answer the many individual points in the limited time available to me, but I undertake to reply to every noble Peer who has spoken and I will do my best to pick up all the matters which were raised. I am glad that I handed over a little of my time at the last moment to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who put the subject into the right context for all of us. This is something which was put across in different ways by other speakers: the structure of Government. This particularly fascinates me and I want to concentrate on this.

What is clear is that there is not any real definition yet of "sea use planning ", as Elizabeth Young said in the fascinating Fabian tract. Primarily, I understand it to mean that what we do on, in, or under the sea should be done by design, in accordance with a positive and cohesive approach, rather than dictated solely by the accident of immediate pressures. Further, our decisions about the use of the sea should be based on consideration of all the relevant factors and forward projections in order to take ample account of future developments. I also understand it to mean that, in our relations with other countries, we should be guided by a balanced appreciation of all our various interests in the seas.

In other words, we have to have an international as well as a national approach. The fundamental question which has been raised tonight is whether the Government have the body of information, including information about future developments, and the necessary machinery of co-ordination between different Government Departments, to enable them to achieve these objectives.

Some important measures have been taken by the Government, and as this was mentioned by many noble Lords, I feel I should refer to the second United Nations Law of the Sea Conference, where changes will probably give all coastal States increased powers in respect of a wide belt of the seas around them, and the conferment of these powers will be accompanied by the acceptance of liabilities to preserve rights of freedom of navigation and by the acceptance of internationally agreed standards for the control of pollution by ships.

In those few remarks there are a number of "crunches". I think noble Lords appreciate the difficulties. The Government's principal objective—and the noble Earl, Lord Inchcape, touched upon this—is working for agreement of a convention which will be widely acceptable. We have made some significant modifications in our position in the interest of working towards compromise, and have urged other States to adopt a similar approach. When agreement is reached, it will no doubt have consequences for our law, rights and liabilities. Having said that, it would be unwise to reach any premature conclusions.

In 1972, my Department promoted a global convention on dumping of wastes at sea, and the United Kingdom has played a significant part all the way through in the Law of the Sea Conference. This has involved close cooperation between a number of Government Departments, and there has been continuous co-operation rather than the remoteness that may perhaps have been implied in some of the speeches. The global convention has been ratified by many countries, and came into force at the end of August last year. This convention, among other things, covers the problem of dumping of radioactive waste at sea, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady White. In particular, it prohibits the dumping of high-level radioactive wastes, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Authority.

There have been numerous measures taken in response to the challenge of North Sea oil, even though certain aspects have been criticised tonight. Here again, I must refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said and say that in regard to the sea—and this is why it is so important for us to be discussing this tonight—we are in danger of doing the same thing as we have done for centuries on the land; in other words, trying to have it both ways. It really does not work. The Department of Trade has been given the overall responsibility for marine safety and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Industry announced on Monday in another place that the maritime science and ships division of the National Physical Laboratory are to be brought together in a new National Maritime Institute. Research is continuing and I could send details of this to the noble Lord. It is being carried out by the Departments of Energy and Industry, by my own Department and by the National Environmental Research Council. Information which is not available has a very limited scope, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Laboratory at Lowestoft is compiling an atlas of the United Kingdom's Continental Shelf, in which all the available information will be plotted.

The key question which kept on arising tonight—a fascinating one, I think, when we are taking a long, forward look—is whether our administrative machinery is really adequate to cope with this dimension of our society. For we must start now if we are to find the right solution for the future. The analogy between the kind of machinery necessary for sea and land use planning is a seductive one and has been referred to by several speakers. It is possible that one day we might need a "Community Sea Act ", although I only hope that I do not have to pilot it through your Lordships' House! I see, as other speakers have also, important differences as well as similarities between the two elements. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, who reminded us of the Industrial Revolution. It is perfectly true that the absence of a system of land use planning which permitted all the dereliction arising out of the Industrial Revolution, together with the more contemporary aspects of the short-sighted planning from which we are still suffering, should pressure us into the avoidance of equivalent errors as far as possible during the second industrial revolution which is to be based on the sea.

I think I am right in interpreting the feelings of noble Lords who have spoken that the proposal for a giant Ministry has not met with general approval. Certainly, it is not something that I would go along with at the moment. It is not surprising that the responsibility for so many of the matters connected with the sea should be spread among a number of Government Departments. Even if we had a Ministry which was comparable to, say, the Department of the Environment, we should still have to deal with other Ministries. For instance, as regards the Department of Energy, in some instances planning permission rests with the Secretary of State. Personally—and I emphasise that I am speaking only for myself—I believe that before we embark on, or increase, any of these giant structures of government, they must justify themselves beyond any doubt. The justification for the DoE is that it is concerned with the whole of the environment and the improvement of the quality of life. To justify a similar influence at sea, one would have to look at this matter very carefully, because big is not always beautiful, nor, indeed, efficient. A more attractive proposal, certainly for me, was the idea of a Minister of the Sea, who would have a personal co-ordinating role in relation to the whole of the issues. I was fascinated by the notion put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Kintore, of an outside agency. That is another alternative, but one I am afraid that there is no time to deal with in detail tonight.

But whether there be an agency or a Minister—and my personal inclination is towards a Minister who would have some political "clout "in this field—if it is to be a viable starter the area of coordination must be precisely defined and positively integrated into the Government structure. One does not want a gimmicky appointment or somebody there with a title but with no powers or influence to do an effective job. The Government recognise the need to co-ordinate discussions and decisions in relation to the different uses of the sea and, in cases of potential conflict, to consider carefully which area should be used for which purpose. This is a matter which has already been touched upon in this debate.

The traditional uses of the sea are ongoing, and I do not think there is one which has not been mentioned, starting with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I shall not enter at the moment into what appears to be the war which is about to break out between Scotland and England, concerning the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I think that war had better be settled outside at the bar. The traditional uses of passage by ships, fishing and national defence are on-going. Other uses of the sea are now becoming environmentally critical, and the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, were extremely interesting, as were some of his other points. Waste disposal is the prime example here. New uses are emerging such as the exploitation of seabed minerals, sand and gravel, gas and oil; and there are more to come. We have to assess the possibility of accidents: their prevention must always have a high priority, otherwise we shall end up in the sea with the same congested situation that we have on land on our roads.

New forms of traditional uses are emerging, such as fish farming and also the use of the sea as a recreation area; this aspect is becoming more popular all the time. At the same time, increasing pressures resulting from all these uses have led to growing concern about conservation and the preservation of scarce marine species and uncommon marine habitats. However, we still believe that it is possible to overstate the degree of conflict which arises in practice, since different uses are often compatible—though I am by no means underrating the economic and environmental damage which could result from a maritime "free for all ", which is something that every-one in this House wants to avoid.

The Government are aware of these problems and are reviewing the adequacy of present arrangements to deal with conflicts between the different uses of the sea, in order to take account of the relevant interests and to achieve an ecologically satisfying solution. One problem is that when Governments do this, they do it in such a sotto voce way that they do not often get the credit for many of the things they are quietly undertaking. At the same time, the Government are reviewing likely future scientific and technological developments. This involves long-range forecasting in the light of the Law of the Sea Conference. This debate, I believe, has therefore come at a very apposite time.

I intended, but there is not much time to do so, to comment on the decline of the fishing industry, which Her Majesty's Government recognise and are attempting, so far as we can, to deal with, and also on the points that were raised on fish farming. I would say only that at the moment shellfish farming is allowed under statutory order by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but farming of the open sea type is still very much at an experimental and research stage and, of course, suffers from prohibitive costs.

Several noble Lords asked about the hydrographic survey. I really cannot say very much about the difficult problems there, except that the ship and marine technology requirements board of the Department of Trade is helping the hydrographer by funding the development of an advanced sector scanning sonar for his use, which device is aimed at reducing the cost and improving the effectiveness of hydrography. I agree that it is a very small drop in the barrel, but at least it is something in the right direction.

A number of very interesting and constructive points have been made. I was rather surprised that the question of structure plans being produced for sea use, which I thought was one of the most important, did not arise during the debate. But I can assure the House that I shall draw the attention of my right honourable and honourable friends to what has been said, and it will be taken into account in the current reviews. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for having initiated this debate and wish him well very soon. It is essential, in my opinion, that Governments should be pressured into taking a look into the future, particularly when so much of our time is taken up with day-to-day affairs that what today appears to be long-term catches up with us so quickly tomorrow that we are then ill prepared for it.

The seas, in particular, are so vast and mysterious that we cannot appreciate them just in a romantic or literary manner, though we should do that as well. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we have to plan ahead and use this not as a new dimension—because the seas have always been there—but as a dimension that needs planning and a great deal of thought given to it. All the various factors that have been put before us tonight must also be weighed, so that what we finally plan and do will be for I the benefit of the whole community, and for the enhancement of the whole environment of our society, whether it is on land or in the sea.

In conclusion, I would say only that preparing for this debate has certainly increased the knowledge of one Minister in Her Majesty's Government. To those people who, quite rightly, are pressing that thought should be given to this subject and to the possibility of diverting resources at some time to the study of how we can make the best, the most healthy, the most economically viable and the most environmentally viable use of the seas, as well as of many other aspects in the environmental field, all I can say—and it may be only a small crumb of comfort—is that they certainly have a friend at court.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, I have the honour to speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Henley who, unfortunately, was stricken yesterday with a severe bout of 'flu. But I also speak, I understand, according to the technicalities of this House, on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady White, who this afternoon so ably and cogently moved the Motion on behalf of my noble friend Lord Henley. In her opening of this debate, she certainly showed what a wide and extensive scope this debate had. I telephoned my noble friend Lord Henley this afternoon and, with difficulty, he spoke to me, and your Lordships will be pleased to know he confirmed that, in view of the expansive nature of this debate, he thought it would be totally inappropriate for anybody to spend time at this late hour, and in a limited debate of this kind, in attempting a full winding-up speech. He explained about his purpose at those meetings with his technical experts, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kennet, and Commander Rankin, to whom, had he been here, I am sure my noble friend would wish to pay tribute for the help they gave in the preparation of what would have been his opening speech.

I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Parry, of Dyfed, on his admirable and able maiden speech. I do so with very great pleasure, but I combine that pleasure with a great deal of humility, because in his title the noble Lord has the geographical designation of Dyfed, which is all-embracing of the little Welsh village which is to be found in my title. We shall look forward to hearing him again when he is dealing with matters of land, in addition to those in relation to the sea with which he dealt this afternoon.

I have congratulated the noble Baroness, Lady White, on the way she opened this debate. I think your Lordships will agree that the debate has been most useful, which was shown in the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who kept so well to her time in summing-up the comprehensive matters which have been under discussion. She certainly made it clear to your Lordships that the Government are not unaware of the serious and novel problems associated with this subject.

If I may, I should like to raise a small matter of procedure. The noble Baroness was so kind as to say that she would not answer all the points raised by so many noble Lords, but would write to them about those questions which she was unable to answer in the course of a debate on this difficult subject. Therefore, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she will find it possible to communicate the information which she supplies to certain noble Lords to all the other noble Lords who participated in this debate? All of your Lordships, particularly my noble friend Lord Henley, consider that this is a matter of great importance upon which the Government should be pressed, and no doubt sour Lordships will concur with me that if it were possible for the noble Baroness to undertake that task it would be useful. In these circumstances, acting for my noble friend Lord Henley this evening, I do not think it would be helpful of me, even if there were more time, to do more than beg leave to withdraw this Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before eight o'clock.