Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Tuesday 10 February 1987



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

(Chairman: Mr. DONALD COLEMAN)

Arnold, Mr. Tom (Hazel Grove)

Aspinwall, Mr. Jack (Wansdyke)

Brown, Mr. Michael (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Hamilton, Mr. Neil (Tatton)

Hawksley, Mr. Warren (The Wrekin)

Hordern, Sir Peter (Horsham)

Litherland, Mr. Robert (Manchester, Central)

Lofthouse, Mr. Geoffrey (Pontefract and Castle ford)

Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)

Michie, Mr. Bill (Sheffield, Heeley)

Nellist, Mr. Dave (Coventry, South East)

Portillo, Mr. Michael (Enfield, Southgate)

Rathbone, Mr. Tim (Lewes)

Ridsdale, Sir Julian (Harwich)

Speller, Mr. Tony (Devon North)

Spicer, Mr. Michael (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)

Stott, Mr. Roger (Wigan)

Wallace, Mr. James (Orkney and Shetland)

Mr. J. Rose (Committee Clerk)

3 Sixth Standing Committee Tuesday 10 February 1987

[Mr. DONALD COLEMAN in the Chair]


10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Michael Spicer): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Order 1987. This order, which is required to be laid under the affirmative procedure by section 20(6) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1979, enables regulations to be made to give effect to annex II of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, as modified by the protocol of 1978 known as MARPOL 73/78 and as amended by the Marine Environment Protection committee of the International Maritime Organisation. The regulations also give effect to protocol 1 of MARPOL, again as amended by the Marine Environment Protection committee of the International Maritime Organisation. They will in general apply to United Kingdom ships wherever they may be and to other ships while they are in the United Kingdom or in our territorial waters. Four sets of regulations will be necessary. The first set is concerned with the reporting of pollution incidents arising from ships and will require reports to be made on all actual or probable discharges of marine pollutants in packaged form and of oil or noxious liquid substances in excess of permitted quantities. The second set of regulations will cover the prevention and control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk by ships. These substances are mainly chemicals but include many other noxious liquids. These regulations will include prohibitions and restrictions on discharges of cargo tank washings into the sea and the approval of the necessary procedures and arrangements by my Department, as well as the methods of control, construction, equipment, survey and certification for ships carrying these substances. The final two sets of regulations will, as required by the MARPOL convention, make it mandatory for chemical tankers carrying these noxious liquid substances in bulk to comply with codes of construction and equipment for such ships which have been agreed through the International Maritime Organisation. When making regulations under this order, the United Kingdom will fulfil its international obligations with respect to the prevention and control of marine pollution. The regulations have the support of the shipping industry.


10.33 am

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan): I do not wish to impede the Committee's progress, so my comments will be brief. Any measures to control and limit pollution at sea and of our natural environment are to be welcomed. The order is a package of measures which seek to do just that. I am sure that I speak for my hon. Friends when I say that we welcome this measure. I want to ask the Minister one question. I noticed that the explanatory note says that these regulations extend to dependent territories. It refers to "the issue of certificates, the application of the regulations to the Crown, the extension of the Order or regulations to dependent territories, the imposition of penalties and the detention of ships." All those things are welcome and necessary if ships' captains discharge pollutant material into the sea in contravention of the order. What worries me, however, is that increasing tonnage has been flagged out from the British flag to dependent territories' flags such as the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. As the Minister knows, I am worried about safety standards on board these ships and the ability of the marine division of the Department of Transport to monitor them. I do not want to prejudge the inquiry now taking place in Gibraltar about the Syneta, but it leaves doubts in many people whether these ships are up to standard and regularly surveyed. If the order extends to dependent territories, I hope that the Minister will be able to convince me that the powers that he and his Department have will be rigorously exercised in respect of some ships in dependent territories which may not conform entirely to what we are trying to do this morning.

10.35 am

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland): I shall not detain the Committee, except to indicate my support for the order, which implements international treaty obligations. I want to ask the Minister one question. I apologise for not giving him advance notice of it, and if he cannot answer it readily, perhaps he will write to me. It relates to the importance of detecting oil spillages. In shipping lanes that are used frequently in the English Channel, it might not be difficult, but I am especially concerned with spillages in the Minch or the North Sea. It is some 16 months since the Earl of Caithness wrote to me saying that aerial spraying aircraft were being fitted with sensory equipment which could in some circumstances sense oil, although there were problems about whether it could operate day and night and in all weather conditions. Tests were being carried out to see whether such equipment would prove a useful weapon in detecting oil spillages at sea and in linking an oil slick wth a ship. I should be should be grateful if the Minister could tell me now, or in writing later, how the investigations into the equipment have progressed, because aerial detection is important. It is all very well having the rules, but if we cannot detect the oil, their effect if minimised.


10.37 am

Mr. Spicer: As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) rightly says, we are experimenting with better sensory equipment. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman immediately about it. I know that some months ago progress was fairly advanced, but I am not sure of the present position. I thank the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) for his support for the general tenor of the order. As he knows, the shipping industry also supports it. He will accept that I do not wish to generalise at this stage about our powers with respect to dependent territories as there will be other opportuni 6 ties to do so, but I understand his worry about our relationship with them. In answer to his question, yes, the order enables the regulations to be extended to dependent territories. It would be done by Order in Council, and the territory's local authority would make the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Merchant Shipping (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Order 1987.

Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Coleman, Mr. Donald (Chairman)

Arnold, Mr.

Brown, Mr. Michael

Hamilton, Mr. Neil

Hawksley, Mr.

Hordern, Sir Peter

Portillo, Mr.

Rathbone, Mr.

Ridsdale, Sir Julian Speller, Mr.

Speller, Mr.

Spicer, Mr.

Stott, Mr.

Wallace, Mr.