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Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to draw attention to the work that has been done. I believe that the clean-up operation has been extremely successful. Huge amounts of resources, equipment and personnel have been involved in making sure that the beaches are as clean as possible. A concentrated effort was made before Easter which I believe has been effective, although some residual work remains to be done. Generally, there has been a huge improvement in the quality of the beaches and most of the pollution has been dealt with. I shall investigate the noble Lord's first point and write to him about it.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that too frequently our coastline suffers from a major oil tanker disaster; that the present penalties are not enough of a deterrent to prevent such disasters from happening; that prevention is much better than cure; and that perhaps the time has now come for science and technology to be enlisted to prevent ships which might do damage from going anywhere near our coast?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that prevention is much better than cure. A huge amount of effort has gone into just that. The comprehensive report produced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, raised 103 recommendations on how we could improve maritime safety and anti-pollution measures. We have

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accepted the vast bulk of those recommendations--over 91 measures. My noble friend wants to ensure that such vessels do not come near the shore. The fact is that there is an oil terminal at Milford Haven. Vessels therefore have to come into shore to deliver fuel. What we have to ensure is that all the necessary safeguards are there to prevent accidents.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is it not a sad commentary upon our times that we should be importing that filthy fuel at the same time as closing coalmines in South Wales and elsewhere?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, as the noble Lord well knows, economic decisions have to be taken on such industries. We want our industries to be as fit and competitive as possible. Part of that is making sure that power is available at the cheapest possible price.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that orimulsion comes from Venezuela; that Venezuela's coastline is incredibly clean; and that orimulsion is far cheaper than other fuels?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend is right to point out the cost benefits of orimulsion. Indeed, no doubt those are the same considerations as National Power has gone through in deciding to apply for permission to burn it.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, have any of the tanker accidents which have caused pollution around our shores involved ships flying the British flag?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Lord offhand how many accidents there have been involving ships flying the British flag. The vessel which I am sure that the noble Lord has under consideration was flying the Liberian flag. No doubt there have been a number of problems with substandard ships. However, the initial reports suggest that in this case the quality of the vessel was not the issue. I am sure that the investigation that is currently under way will throw more light on that.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the Lloyd's open form salvage conditions take sufficient account of the need for looking after the environment as opposed to merely salvaging the vessel?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, clearly, salvaging the vessel is of major importance, as is salvaging the cargo and preventing its loss into the environment, thereby causing pollution damage. The issue of salvage procedures and the way in which we carry them out will be examined by the Marine Accidents Investigation Branch and will be carefully considered in any recommendations that it might make.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, can the Minister explain to the House the difference between Britain not using its own indigenous energy resources and buying in fuel from Venezuela and Britain buying beef from Argentina and closing down our beef industry? I should

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not like to see that occur but I shall be interested to hear the Government's explanation of the difference in treatment.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I believe that the rest of the House takes maritime safety extremely seriously and the noble Lord's question has nothing whatever to do with that.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the promise given by the Government in the recent Welsh rural White Paper that they will listen and respond to people at grass roots, because in the case of the "Sea Empress" and orimulsion it would appear that that promise has already been broken?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I do not accept that. We stand by the statement made in the White Paper; and the public have been able to make representations on the planning application and to the Department of Transport in connection with its consent on the jetty and the navigational circumstances concerned.

Recurring Unemployment

2.52 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What policy proposals they have to reduce recurring unemployment, and with whom they are discussing their initiatives to that end.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): My Lords, government policies work to secure lower unemployment and a sustained improvement in labour market efficiency, so that unemployed people can compete effectively for jobs and unemployment will be for shorter periods. Policies to help unemployed people return to work are the subject of continuing debate both at home and abroad, and the Government play their full part.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and I welcome the decrease in unemployment. Nevertheless, widespread unemployment among young people usually contributes to a feeling of insecurity and often they turn to crime. Can that be taken into consideration and appropriate action taken to ensure that there is no increase, because the more young people who are unemployed, the higher the crime rate among young people? I am sure that the Government will take note of that and will act to alleviate the problem.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing the attention of the House to the further fall in unemployment, which was announced by my department today. There has been a fall of some 25,700 on the month and a fall of 165,200 over the year. That brings down unemployment to some 7.6 per cent.

The noble Lord rightly referred to the problems relating to youth unemployment and he is right to draw attention to the dangers of that. However, I would not necessarily accept his link between youth

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unemployment and crime. Perhaps I may remind him that while youth unemployment in this country is high at some 15 per cent., in countries such as France and Spain, which have signed up to the Social Chapter and have a minimum wage, the figures are higher. In France it is some 25 per cent. and in Spain some 40 per cent. I recommend that the noble Lord does what he can to persuade the party opposite to drop all its suggestions that we should sign up to the Social Chapter and introduce a minimum wage.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, am I right in believing that there has been published today a new set of unemployment figures showing that they have reached a five-year low, or very nearly?

Lord Henley: My Lords, my noble and learned friend is right; the latest figures are the lowest since April 1991. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, we have seen a further fall of 25,700 this month, making a fall of 165,200 over the year. It is a fall of some 7 per cent. and brings the figure to some 7.6 per cent.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, does the Minister agree that he has not answered my noble friend's Question? He asked about recurring unemployment; in other words, the way in which unemployment varies. When this Government came to office our figures were the third lowest in Europe and the fourth lowest in the OECD. By 1982 they had doubled and we were the ninth lowest in Europe and the twelfth lowest in the OECD. Now we have returned to a figure half way between the two. The fact is that under this Government unemployment has gone up and down and up and down and now it is hardly moving. During the past four months it has gone up, down, up, down and at the present annual rate it will be about 50,000 a year. That is what my noble friend Lord Molloy is saying and the Minister has no answer.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord's Question refers to recurring unemployment, which is what I addressed in my original Answer. Obviously, we recognise that there are problems for people who experience recurring spells of unemployment, but we pursue policies which ensure that there is a flexible labour market which will allow people to find jobs. Whereas some 300,000 people--there or thereabouts--lose their jobs every month, some 300,000 people--there or thereabouts but on this occasion 300,000 plus 25,000--find new jobs. The noble Lord will be pleased to hear that of those who become unemployed some 50 per cent. find a new job within three months and a further two-thirds find a job within six months. The way in which to address the problems of recurring unemployment is to ensure that there is a flexible labour market.


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