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Mr. Greg Knight: I hope the Minister will pursue the matter of historic vessels and if necessary raise it in the appropriate international meeting. I am sure that other nations would not want to affect them unintentionally. Will he please answer my second question about the scope of the definition of a polluting oil?
Dr. Ladyman: Yes, I can answer that. The Bill deals only with hydrocarbon-based fuel oils, so olive oil would not be included in the measure. However, negotiations are taking place on that type of cargo to put in place measures to deal with it. I can clarify that further for the right hon. Gentleman in writing. I assure him that I will look into the historic vessels issue. Clearly, it is more complicated than I suggested it might be in my opening speech. If historic vessels are not affected, fine, but it might be difficult to negotiate an exemption for historic vessels without creating a loophole that would allow other ships to sail through it.
Several hon. Members mentioned the experiment that P&O is conducting on vessels sailing out of Dover, which is an excellent initiative. However, if the company did not retrospectively have to address the regulations, would it be doing that? It is important that we do not rule out retrospection. We need to find a way that will allow historic vessels to sail when necessary without creating a loophole. I will write to the right hon. Gentleman about this.
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The provisions of the Bill relating to oil pollution compensation will greatly improve the protection that we can give to those who suffer the consequences of tanker disasters. The experience of dealing with the effects of tanker incidents on our shores has ensured that the UK is an attentive and active participant at meetings of the International Maritime Organisation and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. Through the work conducted by its technical committees, the IMO provides the framework of international standards that apply globally to maritime activities.
Working collaboratively with our maritime industry partners, we will continue to create the conditions needed to provide, in the words of Lord Donaldson, safer ships and cleaner seas. Our goal should be to encourage the highest technical and human standards in the transport of oil by sea, so as to prevent shipping incidents from happening in the first place, and to prevent the operation of substandard shipping. Whatever mechanisms are put in place, and no matter how safe modern ships and navigation systems have become, we must accept that the sea can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, and that, by force of nature, accidents will occur from time to time, some regrettably affecting our seas and coastlines. When they do so, we must ensure that the communities, businesses and those engaged in clean-up operations are not subjected to needless difficulties when recovering their legitimate costs. The Government are determined to ensure that we provide our citizens and our coastal environment with the best legal and financial protection available.
It is also important that the UK implement annexe VI of the MARPOL convention, which the UK played a key role in negotiating at the IMO. Major oil spills are a rare occurrence, but atmospheric emissions from ships are constant. The new international standards and requirements are important because they will help to reduce air pollution from ships trading worldwide.
The UK coast is interspersed with both large and small ports. The large ports are mainly concerned with international trading ships such as container ships, tankers, bulk carriers and cruise ships. The smaller ports deal with passenger and cargo ferries and fishing vessels, and are predominantly used by domestic trading ships, although some have international trade routes to the continent. This results in many ship movements every day. Clearly, if those ships were required to make fewer polluting exhaust emissions through the use of cleaner fuels or improved technology, the air quality around UK sea ports, and hence around the UK coastline, would be improved.
For those reasons, the measures in the Bill relating to the MARPOL convention are essential. There is a vital need to provide proper compensation to our citizens in the event of oil pollution and to ensure that we are adequately covered in that regard. I look forward to engaging with hon. Members on these matters in Committee, and to working together to get the Bill on to the statute book so that our citizens can be protected as quickly as possible. I commend the Bill to the House.
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Merchant Shipping (Pollution) Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by a Minister of the Crown by virtue of the Act.[Tony Cunningham.]
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Merchant Shipping (Pollution) Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise the making of provision under the Act requiring the payment of contributions to an international compensation fund.[Tony Cunningham.]
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con):
It is with a mixture of joy and humility that I rise to present this petition calling for much-needed improvement in the funding of children's hospices. The people of the United Kingdom
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are deeply concerned that the hospices caring for the country's sickest children get, on average, just 5 per cent., with some getting only a miserly 2 per cent., of their budget from the authorities while adult hospices get about 30 per cent. Even that is extremely low.
I have campaigned for 15 years for fair funding for children's hospices, with the support of Members of Parliament on both sides of the House. I pay tribute in particular to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Flello), who is doing great work on this, along with others.
I hope that we are, at last, on track to success, greatly helped by the massive and timely hospice petition organised by The Sun and its online reporter, Dave Masters. It has been signed by more than 220,000 caring and thoughtful people. Presenting such a massive petition to the House would give me great difficulty, so we shall shortly present it in bulk at No. 10 Downing street to the Prime Minister, direct. Meanwhile, I present this proxy petition. It represents that of The Sun newspaper, which teamed up with Somerfield and Kwik Save supermarkets to collect the signatures. I pay tribute to those three excellent organisations and all petitioners.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Government to drastically improve funding for children's hospices and further urge the Government to do all within its power to ensure that children's hospices are, at the very least, funded at the thirty per cent. level awarded to adult hospices.
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