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Mr. Knight: On that point, can the Minister confirm that those regulations are designed to affect only ships currently being used on a commercial basis and that they would not affect historic ships that may be used in a regatta to celebrate the second world war, for example? Will he confirm that the powers will not be drawn so widely that they prevent the use of historic vessels for celebratory purposes?
The pollutants that I mentioned have been identified as causing environmental degradation and damage to human health. Nitrogen oxides react with hydrocarbons at ground level to form ozone when exposed to sunlight. Ground level ozone exacerbates pre-existing lung complaints including asthma and has been demonstrated to increase hospitalisation and use of medication.
When released into the atmosphere, sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides react to form acidic compounds. Those can fall as acid rain or be deposited as dry particles and cause localised acidic damage. Acid deposition in both forms can cause severe damage to forests and water bodies and damage man-made structures.
It is important to tackle emissions from shipping through internationally applicable technical standards. By 2020, the total number of ships worldwide is expected to be double what it was in 2000. That growth will be reflected in increasing traffic calling at UK ports and transiting UK waters.
Generally, shipping is a friend to the environment, but there is considerable room for improvement in atmospheric pollutant emissions from ships and implementation of the annexe would be a positive step towards greener shipping.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): I thoroughly agree with the Minister about the green credentials of shipping. Does he agree that more needs to be done to extend port capacity around the UK to ensure that, as well as the large ocean-going vessels that come into certain ports, mainly Felixstowe and Southampton, we have smaller feeder vessels using the many existing ports throughout the UK to get container shipments as near to their final destination as possible?
Dr. Ladyman: There is considerable work to be done on port capacity and on facilities for trans-shipping using in-shore waterways to provide a greener form of transport for many of the goods that are brought into this country. We will shortly launch a ports policy review that will look at exactly those issues and at how we can plan appropriately for port capacity of all types.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):
Can the Minister explain what in practice it will mean once
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the UK has signed the annexe? What action may we expect to see at UK ports or against vessels in UK waters?
Dr. Ladyman: We will inspect to ensure that all the ships that are affected by the provision are properly maintained, operated in accordance with international technical standards and certified as meeting the criteria set down in the MARPOL convention. Essentially, that is what would be seen at ports. We expect the people who are responsible for inspecting ships at British ports to ensure that ships that use British ports are in accordance with those conventions.
Dr. Ladyman: I will have to reflect on that and perhaps answer in my winding-up speech. It would be unusual for us to board ships at sea, but I will need to find out whether that is possible under the legislation.
I am pleased to say that the proposal to implement the annexe of MARPOL that we are discussing has been welcomed by the UK shipping industry and by marine engine manufacturers in their response to consultation. It is important for the UK economy that the UK introduce legislation implementing MARPOL annexe VI as soon as possible. If the UK does not do so, UK-flagged ships will be at risk of detention or delay in ports of states that have implemented it. Needless to say, that could have a severe impact on the UK merchant fleet.
Above all, it is important for the environment both of the UK and the wider world where UK ships ply their trade that the UK should implement MARPOL annexe VI. The Bill will enable the Government to implement it by secondary legislation. Draft secondary legislation containing the detail of the regulations contained in annexe VI has been prepared and copies have been placed in the Library.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): I understand why the Minister is introducing the Bill and the urgent need for it, but he has talked a lot about the environment. He will be aware that the Government in the Queen's Speech mentioned a draft marine Bill. Has his Department been talking to other Departments about the need for that and is there any news on when it may appear?
Dr. Ladyman: I can confirm that we are talking to other Departments about that legislation. It is not for me today to give an indication of when it may be forthcoming, but I am sure that the ministerial colleagues concerned will have heard the hon. Gentleman's question.
James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con):
Will the Minister confirm to my constituents that the Bill applies not only to ships at sea, but to ships
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coming down estuary areas such as the Thames? Furthermore, will the compensation arrangements include ships once they are docked and static?
Dr. Ladyman: I think it unlikely that we would have an accident in estuarial waters that required the use of the supplementary fund because of the scale of accident required to trigger the use of the fund, but liability arrangements are in place to compensate people who are affected by pollution in those areas.
I reiterate that the Government are determined that the UK should have the best possible financial and environmental arrangements available to protect our coastal interests from the effects of oil pollution from tankers and from air pollution from ships. Recent oil pollution incidents in France and Spain have demonstrated that costs of major spills can far exceed the compensation that is currently available. The additional sums available through the supplementary fund should ensure that, in virtually all circumstances, compensation can be paid promptly and in full. We wish to have that protection in place as soon as possible.
Mr. John MacDougall (Glenrothes) (Lab): I am grateful for the meeting that we had on ship transfer in the River Forth. As my hon. Friend is aware, the main concern is that should an incident take place, albeit that the likelihood of that happening is minute, the scale of the problem would be enormous. Is he satisfied that the range of compensation suggested in the Bill would meet such a situation? Is there any way in which further compensation can be offered should an incident cause a much larger problem than the scale of liability covers?
Dr. Ladyman: I am confident that were an incident to occur in the firth of Forthlet us hope that we are never in that positionarrangements are in place that would adequately compensate people, or that would require those making oil shipments there to have liability cover such that they can provide compensation. Although such an accident would be devastating, I doubt whether one could occur of sufficient scale to trigger the supplementary fund that we are discussing today. But I am confident that the range of provisions that will be available once the Bill is enacted will be sufficient to compensate people. That does not detract from the seriousness of the issue facing people in the firth of Forth. As my hon. Friend knows, consultations are under way on what may or may not be allowed there.
The Bill allows the UK to implement two important international treaties that will benefit both the environment and the financial protection of UK coastal interests. It is also important for the UK to be seen to be actively adopting these measures, especially bearing in mind the prominent role that we played in negotiating them. Many Members may wish to comment on measures not in the Bill that we could have taken to protect the marine environment and to deal with marine pollution, but as I said, including them would have delayed the Bill. Urgency is appropriate here to get these provisions into place, so that we are fully protected. I
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shall do my best to answer Members' detailed questions in the winding-up speech, if the House grants me leave to give it. I want to be as helpful as possible in order to encourage consensual and rapid progress. I look forward to the debate today and in Committee, and I commend the Bill to the House.
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