HC Deb 24 July 1985 vol 83 cc550-2W
Mr. Ward

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has completed his consideration of the responses to the consultation paper and proposals to control the supply and use of anti-fouling paint containing organotin compounds; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave

I have received about 1,000 responses to our consultation paper and draft regulations to control the supply of these paints for use on small boats, which we issued last February. Despite many objections to the proposals, no serious challenge to the scientific evidence has been made.

The Government remain convinced that measures must be taken urgently to protect shellfish, plants and other marine life from dangerous concentrations of this poison. The paint industry needs a reasonable time to develop improved and alternative products which are acceptable to boat owners and thereby ensure that any controls which are introduced are effective. We have, therefore, decided on an approach which it is intended will lead to an environmental improvement and which will include an assessment of the effects on the environment whilst allowing the paint industry and its customers time to adjust.

The Government intend to ban the supply of "free association" organotin-based paints to small boat owners. In addition, maximum levels will be set for the organotin content of "copolymer" paints and of other anti-fouling paints using organotin compounds to boost their performance. These will be based on the lowest levels of organotin present in such paints generally available to boat owners at present. These levels will be reviewed in time for the 1987 painting season with a view to reducing them in line with advances in paint technology.

With effect from 1 January 1986 we intend to introduce controls to prevent the supply of the following types of anti-fouling paint to chandlers and other retailers.

  1. (a) those copolymer formulations containing more than 7.5 per cent. organotin (measured as tin in the dry paint film); and
  2. (b) those paints based on copper or other anti-fouling systems containing more than 2.5 per cent. organotin (measured in the same way).

In effect (b) will ban the supply of existing "free association" paints while allowing the minimum use of organotin compounds as a performance booster in other anti-fouling systems.

To aid our consideration of future action, the Government propose to consult the water authorities as soon as possible on the establishment of an ambient water quality target. The existing monitoring programme at the Fisheries Laboratory, Burnham-on-Crouch will be supplemented and my Department will set up machinery to co-ordinate this and related work being carried out by other agencies. I would welcome co-ordination of this programme with work commissioned by the Royal Yachting Association and by the paint industry.

In order to avoid repetition of the serious problems which have arisen in this case, the Government will invite

Regional capital grant and loan expenditure 1980–85
Region 1980–81 1981–82 1982–83 1983–84 1984–85 Expenditure per capita 1980–85
£ £ £ £ £ £p
Northern 426,050 563,711 511,437 467,385 552,888 0.81
North West 874,520 915,208 864,657 876,421 845,081 0.68
Yorks and Humberside 661,256 841,901 639,654 742,878 698,236 0.74
East Midland 503,568 515,835 480,495 554,320 499,516 0.67
West Midlands 578,421 624,437 459,934 551,958 575,988 0.54
Eastern 391,878 643,092 473,520 549,045 417,518 0.51
Greater London and South East 1,054,980 1,618,091 1,272,476 1,237,352 1,154,988 0.60
Southern 297,559 391,304 348,031 398,695 297,366 0.52
South West 398,626 430,209 548,440 403,770 634,079 0.56
England 5,186,858 6,543,788 5,598,644 5,781,824 5,675,660 0.62

Twelve major projects, that is those costing more than £0.75 million, have been grant-aided by the Sports Council in the eastern region since 1980. Details, highlighting those in Suffolk, are as follows:

the paint industry to co-operate with the Government in a screening procedure for all proposed anti-fouling agents in future so that these can be assessed for environmental safety before they are introduced into use.

Finally, to minimise the impact on water quality in sensitive areas of scraping down and repainting, I will be seeking the co-operation of boating interests, the paint industry and others in preparing authoritative guidance on these operations, giving particular attention to the proper disposal of residues.

The effectiveness of these actions and the progress made towards achieving the water quality target will be reviewed before the end of 1987 to determine the extent to which further controls are needed. The Commission of the European Communities has informed the Government that it intends bringing forward a proposal for Community action. The Government welcome this and will support appropriate action through the European Community which would complement action taken nationally.