HL Deb 07 July 1994 vol 556 cc1382-4

3.20 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether special arrangements are being made to screen or inspect foreign factory ships proposing to visit Ullapool or Shetland to check adequacy in safety, insurance and resources.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

My Lords, following last year's inspections, and in the light of the recommendations concerning klondykers in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, Safer ships, Cleaner Seas, the Marine Safety Agency is putting in hand arrangements for inspections of klondykers as they arrive for the herring season.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Although those vessels greatly assist Scottish fishermen by buying their mackerel and herring, has not the report of the noble and learned Lord revealed serious inadequacies in ships coming from countries which were formerly part of the Soviet Union? Is it possible for us to help those countries to improve their vessels through some of the schemes that are now in operation which help with technical assistance?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord's report rightly drew attention to the problem of the klondykers, as did the inspections last year by inspectors from the Marine Safety Agency. We intend to do this year what we did last year. We have produced guidelines for klondykers covering especially the safety of vessels at anchor—the vessels spend virtually all of their time at anchor—which have been translated into Russian and will be given to all klondykers on arrival. In addition, Lerwick Harbour Trust produced an updated multi-lingual information pack also for distribution to the klondykers through their agents. I hope that by those methods we shall be able to communicate to the klondykers the kind of safety arrangements that we wish them to have in place when they come to our waters.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, have the Government investigated and made an analysis of the possible impact on the pollution of the waters of places such as Loch Broom, where the klondykers are at anchor just outside Ullapool? Is it possible that the pollution that is created through discharges from the klondykers is responsible for the reduction in fish stocks in places such as Ullapool?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I do not think that there is any evidence at all on the latter part of the noble Baroness's question. This is the first time that I have heard that suggested and I cannot think that there is a link between any decline in the fish stocks of, for example, salmon and sea trout in coastal waters and any pollution that is caused by those ships. When they board such ships, the inspectors are careful to ensure that the klondykers are dealing properly with the effluent. However, it is also fair to point out that the klondykers play a very important part in the fishing economy. Some 40 per cent. of the United Kingdom's mackerel catch and some 75 per cent. of our herring catch are sold via the klondykers. Therefore, while one must ensure that they enter our waters safely and efficiently, we must also remember their vital importance to the UK fishing industry.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, will the Government please make sure that the guidelines apply not only to klondykers visiting Ullapool and Lerwick on Shetland but also other ports in Scotland and the United Kingdom?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I can give the noble Lady that assurance. In particular, I can give her an assurance about Fraserburgh, with which she has a particular relationship. The klondykers are situated principally at Lerwick throughout the season but, as she knows, a fair number of them are moored off Fraserburgh and Peterhead, and the inspection will include klondykers off those two ports.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we fully support and commend the action that is being taken by the Marine Safety Agency? Can he indicate under what powers the inspectors are acting? Is it under the Paris memorandum of understanding or is it under any other powers? Will the Minister be kind enough to address himself to the second question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, about whether any international funds are available, par-ticularly through the European Union, to enable the deteriorating standards of vessels to be dealt with at an international level?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I know that some Community funds are available to help in marketing food in Eastern Europe. Equally, I know from previous experience that those funds are extremely difficult to unlock. I do not know whether the herring and mackerel industries in the United Kingdom have managed to unlock them yet. I shall have to look a bit more carefully into the question of know-how. However, I can advise the noble Lord that the powers vary a bit. If the vessel is in port, as is defined by statute, we can inspect it and detain it if it is unseaworthy. However, vessels which are not in port but which are in our territorial waters—and most of the vessels that we are talking about do not come right into port at, for example, Lerwick, but moor outside the port—can be inspected but not detained.