asked Her Majesty's Government:
Which statutory and voluntary bodies were consulted about the danger to seabirds from oil spills in United Kingdom waters, and to fish from the use of dispersants, before the new Merchant Shipping Bill was drafted; what advice was received; and whether they are satisfied that the Bill will result in more effective safeguards against oil spills and appropriate penalties for breaches of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
The proposed Merchant Shipping Bill would enable the United Kingdom to ratify the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL 1973); the 1978 Protocol to that Convention; and the 1978 Protocol to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974. Once brought into force internationally, these Instruments are expected to reduce the risk of tanker casualties, and with it accidental oil pollution, and the pollution resulting from routine ships' operations, notably tank cleaning.
The Bill does not relate to action to deal with oil spills once they have occurred: consequently, it was not thought appropriate to consult with fisheries or wildlife interests. The Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971 already provides for fines not exceeding £50,000 on summary conviction and unlimited fines on conviction on indictment for unlawful operational discharges of oil: these provisions, which will still apply to the stricter discharge requirements under MARPOL 1973, are judged to be appropriate.
House adjourned at seven minutes past eleven o'clock.