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Donaldson Report: Sea Pollution

3.50 p.m.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport. The Statement is as follows:

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    detained and vessels at anchor have been told that deficiencies must be put right. However, the problems and the risks remain.

    "The Scottish Office has brought forward proposals to improve fisheries management by limiting the number of fish transhipment licences issued to Klondikers and by introducing an advance notice period for licence applications from May this year. We are considering a number of options for further action, under merchant shipping powers, such as preventing loading or unloading and requiring vessels to leave our waters. These should help to ensure that Klondikers meet agreed safety standards and carry adequate insurance. We will issue a consultation paper shortly with proposals for possible legislative action, including the extension of our powers of inspection and detention to ships in United Kingdom waters not on innocent or transit passage.

    "The report recommended that a statutory obligation should be placed on ports to provide adequate and convenient waste reception facilities which should be free at the point of use. Before deciding on the form of legislation we need to establish the scale of the problem. Those with responsibility for ports should be consulted on specific proposals. Research is already being conducted to address these issues. Results will be available soon and we expect to consult interested parties shortly thereafter. As part of our initiative against pollution from ships we will also bring forward regulations defining our exclusive economic zone which will extend our jurisdiction over pollution from ships up to 200 miles from our shores. We are considering how best to enhance surveillance and enforcement of this extended area.

    "The inquiry also made recommendations on responsibility for clean-up operations in harbour areas and on the coast. We will consult interested parties on these recommendations and on possible courses of action.

    "We are determined to continue working towards the elimination of poor operational practices on ships. In line with Lord Donaldson's recommendations we are strongly supporting the IMO revision of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention which should be completed in June. We also fully endorse the IMO's International Safety Management Code and are encouraging its widespread use on United Kingdom ships in advance of its mandatory introduction in 1998.

    "The shipping industry has expressed concern about Lord Donaldson's recommendation that shipowners should pay into two funds for port state control inspections and the United Kingdom's standing counter-pollution capacity. We have long supported the "user pays" and "polluter pays" principles and are keen to explore new options for funding. These need to be consistent with a competitive, as well as a safe fleet. We are clear that there may be problems in seeking to establish United Kingdom funds without first seeking regional agreement. We will work to develop funding

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    proposals and to securing agreement on them with our regional partners. But it would not be right to close the door forever on a unilateral approach if regional agreement cannot be secured. We intend to consult on possible regional and unilateral approaches.

    "Madam Speaker, in the time available I have highlighted the key elements of our response to the major issues raised by the Donaldson Report. We have accepted and acted upon many more recommendations, as outlined in our detailed response, and we will continue to take forward initiatives to implement the remaining recommendations. Lord Donaldson's report has set the agenda; we intend to follow it. My department's marine safety and coastguard agencies will play a key role in this process. Like all sensible people, we want a safe and pollution free marine environment".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.58 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I thank the Minister on behalf of my colleagues for repeating the Statement in this House. I share his view that the Donaldson Report is a remarkable report of great scholarship. It assimilated a great deal of evidence and all that clearly has major national and international maritime and environmental implications.

We shall clearly need time to absorb the Government's conclusions in this document, which was issued this afternoon. I confess that I have not had time to read it all. It is evident that today's Statement should not be seen as a substitute for a full debate on the Donaldson Report. The conclusions reached by the report and the Government's responses deserve that.

I can only focus this afternoon on what I consider to be the priority areas for action, many of which were underlined by the Government and we support them as far as they go. In particular, I welcome the greater transparency regarding accident information, which is of critical importance. The Donaldson recommendations were effectively split into two areas—those recommendations regarding deterrents and the detection of wrongdoing and those recommendations requiring the dissemination of information to ships' masters concerning the planning of a voyage. Perhaps I can deal first with the role of the port state, which was given some emphasis by the Minister's Statement.

What specific action are the Government taking to include the Donaldson recommendations in the draft European Union directive on port state control, to get them incorporated into the Paris Memorandum of Understanding and to highlight these issues at the North Sea conference in June? How will the Government, through the IMO, seek to enlarge the scope of their own powers under port state control? Have they any plans to increase the number of surveyors required to undertake the necessary investigations in port; and if so, what training provision do they have in mind? Or is it that they propose to continue with the delegation of powers to classification societies which they intimated in the recent debate on shipping and also in their deregulation proposals? How does that stand alongside the view, as

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expressed in the final paragraph of the Statement, that the department's marine safety and coastguard agencies will pay a key role in these processes? Is it not a fact that the Government have plans to reduce the Marine Safety Agency by 14.8 per cent., the Marine Accident Investigation Branch by 7.4 per cent. and the Coastguard Agency by 6.4 per cent.? Why should that proceed when the Government are now saying that they have it in mind that people who use these facilities and polluters who have to pay for clearing up their pollution will have to pay towards the inspection of their ships?

I welcome what the Minister said about Klondikers, but is he not aware that recommendation 77(f) of the report states that the Government should,

    "declare straight away that from a specified date, well before next Winter [1994-95], the Fisheries Departments will not consider any application for a transhipment licence unless the Master concerned produces evidence that his vessel is adequately insured and reaches minimum safety standards. Any licences issued under existing rules before that date should not run beyond that date".

Why have the Government prevaricated on that recommendation? The are now seriously in arrears.

On the question of emergency towing, the Minister said that there are now two tugs in place. Is it not a fact that the tugs are flag of convenience vessels, crewed by non-English speaking Croatians? Is that a satisfactory way of proceeding on a matter where a common language is a rather important issue, as underlined by the report?

I turn from that issue to the marine environment in high risk areas. The report highlights the need for greater willingness on the part of the coastal state to intervene to protect areas especially vulnerable to the risk of exceptional damage through concentration of shipping or marine environmental damage. What initiatives do the Government propose as a matter of urgency to take in the IMO and at EU level in that regard? Is it not desirable, too, to rationalise the burgeoning use of special areas in some way, as not to do so could cause confusion?

I welcome the Government's undertaking in relation to the exclusive economic zone. That is absolutely right. But can the Minister state what options are being considered to enhance surveillance and the enforcement of the extended area? The Statement is very vague on that matter.

Many years ago, in 1977—I raised this point in our recent debate on shipping—the Labour Government introduced into the International Maritime Organisation the idea, which was adopted, of a marine safety corps, the idea being that developed shipping companies would help developing countries to establish more effective flag state control, which goes to the heart of this issue. That idea, which was supported for two or three years by the developed shipping nations, seems to have fallen into desuetude. Do not the Government agree that it would be quite a good idea to return to that concept as a way of effectively dealing with some of the lacunae of flag state control?

Regrettably, too many ship owners involved in the international business of shipping are prepared to cut corners and take chances with safety and damage to the environment. I believe that it would be appropriate if

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the Government were to respond to those activities by disregarding their own deregulation proposals which place their protestations about safety, which have been made clearly today, in jeopardy.

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