HC Deb 01 November 1995 vol 265 cc308-9W
Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will increase air surveillance resources to combat illegal discharges at sea; [40411]

(2) how he will improve the policing of vessels at sea to combat illegal discharges. [40407]

Mr. Norris

We are working closely with other states which are party to the Bonn agreement to make aerial surveillance an even more effective deterrent against illegal discharges by ships. The number of hours flown this year—1995–96—by Coastguard agency aircraft has been increased from 800 to 925 on a trial basis, and the benefits will have to be assessed.

The Marine Safety Agency is taking forward work on transponders which identify a vessel automatically. We are also working with our Bonn agreement partners to find other ways of making it easier to identify and prosecute offenders.

Mr. Allen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many prosecutions have been brought in each of the last five years in respect of illegal discharges of oil or other pollutants in United Kingdom waters; and how many were successful; [39767]

(2) whether his Department has yet located the container of toxic lindane which was lost in the channel several years ago; and if he will make a statement. [39618]

Mr. Norris

These are operational matters for the Coastguard agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from C. J. Harris to Mr. Graham Allen, dated 1 November 1995:

The Secretary of State for Transport has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions as these deal with operational matters, for which I have responsibility as Chief Executive.MV PERINTIS, a Panamanian registered and Indonesian owned general cargo container vessel, capsized and sank in UK waters in the English Channel on 13 March, 1989. The lindane container had been stowed on the upper deck and its contents of 5.8 tonnes was packaged in 50 kilogramme sealed polythene bags inside fibre board drums.The container was located in French waters during this early afternoon of 15 March, and by early evening, a French tug took it in town bound for Cherbourg. From that moment, it became the responsibility of the French authorities. At 11.45 on 16 March, the French authorities reported that the lindane container had been lost under tow some 15 nautical miles north of Cherbourg. It was never relocated.Over the next few weeks, the French Navy carried out very extensive surface and sub-sea searches for the lindane container but without success. In addition, seawater monitoring was conducted over a much longer period, however, only normal background levels of lindane were ever detected.There have been 38 prosecutions brought in respect of illegal discharges by vessels in UK waters since 1990, these were brought by MPCU and Port and Harbour authorities, 36 were successful. There were 16 in 1990, 2 in 1991, 5 in 1992, 2 in 1993, and 11 in 1994.During this period the MPCU referred 23 cases to the Treasury Solicitor for prosecution action if appropriate. Of these, 8 are still open.Since 1990 55 cases have been referred to vessels' flag states for further action. Of these 9 were prosecuted and fined and 32 are still open. Of the 9 prosecuted 3 had been referred to their flag state before 1990.
Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will make a statement on British reception facilities within ports and their operations within the Marpol convention; [40409]

(2) if ships failing to discharge waste at British ports will be notified to the next port of call with details of waste volume at time of departure; and if he will introduce penalties for discrepancies which occur between the ports; [40404]

(3) if he will include reception facility fees within harbour dues; [40410]

(4) if he will place a statutory duty on port authorities to develop waste management plans, certified by the Marine Safety Agency. [40408]

Mr. Norris

My Department is undertaking a consultation exercise to consider these and a number of other initiatives to reduce the amounts of waste discharged into the sea from ships and to increase the amounts discharged into port waste reception facilities. We will announce our conclusions shortly.

Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will increase penalties for illegal discharge by ships in British waters. [40406]

Mr. Norris

The penalties for illegal discharges by ships are a matter for the courts. The level of fines is not restricted by statute, except on summary conviction in magistrates courts or their equivalent, where the maximum is kept under review. In 1994, we introduced legislation imposing strict liability on all shipowners for pollution damage caused by persistent oils in United Kingdom waters.