HC Deb 26 January 1996 vol 270 cc428-9W
Mr. Luff

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the conclusions of the review that the Government have been carrying out into oil dispersant policy; and if he will make a statement. [12065]

Mr. Baldry

The hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) announced to the House in April 1993 that the Government would conduct a review of oil dispersant policy. Two scientific reports were commissioned and published and we prepared a consultation paper setting out proposed improvements which was circulated to over 600 bodies. Sixty-four responses were received. We have responded on issues where suggestions were made; in general, there was broad agreement to our plans and we have now prepared a final report completing the review. We have concluded that it would be fully justified to retain oil dispersants as the UK's primary means of combating oil spills at sea in order to protect economic and environmental resources, although oil dispersants may not be appropriate in all instances. All products will continue to be required to pass efficacy and toxicity tests. These tests will, in future, incorporate some minor improvements designed further to protect the marine environment. I have initiated the development of protocols, in conjunction with the industry, that will enable bioremediation products to be licensed in the UK. These could, in due course, make an important contribution to clean-up operations. There will also be new arrangements for labelling products in line with our policies on openness. In carrying out the review, I have also managed to achieve modest deregulatory gains by enabling manufacturers to submit their own test results. Finally, I intend to publish a booklet explaining the approval process which will include a code of good spraying practice. A copy of the final report has been placed in the Library of both Houses.