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9 Mar 2010 : Column 49WH—continued

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Let me make it clear that the Government, particularly the Department for Transport, seriously take on board the issues that the right hon. Member for West Dorset has raised, and that if there were no provisions and no monitoring of the situation, I would concur that action needed to be taken immediately. However, it is worth laying out clearly the provisions within UK legislation and international conventions that apply to shipping, which, obviously, is an international business. Let me, without disagreeing with the right hon. Gentleman, set out the situation.

Yesterday morning, eight oil tankers were anchored in Lyme bay. In addition, two general cargo ships and a tug were at anchor. Just to help the right hon. Gentleman, he might find that the terminology is "at anchor" rather than "parked". At any time, there are vessels in Lyme bay which are under way-they are moving about, and departing.

The right hon. Gentleman and others will know that Lyme bay is a body of water close to the English channel, which is one of the biggest and most heavily used shipping seaways in the world. It is an accepted fact that ships take advantage of the sheltered waters at Lyme bay in anticipation of, for example, bad weather, and that they wait at the designated western end of the bay for the embarkation and disembarkation of deep sea pilots. It is also normal for vessels to wait there for instructions from their owners or operators to go elsewhere. I understand that many of the tankers that were waiting there yesterday were doing just that: waiting for instructions to move on.

Why are ships allowed to do that in part of the UK's territorial sea, and why can they stay there for longer than just days? It is true and absolutely right, in terms of merchant shipping operations and so on, that there are no valid grounds for making ships go away if they are not acting unlawfully or demonstrably posing a threat to the UK's seas and coasts.

Mr. Letwin: Will the Minister give way?

Paul Clark: Before the right hon. Gentleman jumps to his feet, I will deal with the threat issue.

There are a couple of points that I would make about Lyme bay. First, there are designated anchorages within the limits of Tor Bay harbour that are controlled by the harbour authority. They are primarily used by ships waiting to enter the harbour. Yesterday morning, there were three such vessels: two cargo ships and a tug. Secondly, outside the Tor Bay Harbour Authority limits, there is a deep-draught anchorage that is used for shelter, and for ships waiting for deep sea pilots. The situation in Lyme bay in areas other than those is that, subject to good seamanship and provided that ships keep clear of obstructions, wrecks, cables, pipelines and, of course, each other, there are no statutory restrictions on anchoring, nor are there any statutory restrictions on the number of ships that can be in an area at any one time.

However, I would not want this House to believe that there are no safeguards or protection for the UK's seas and coasts. I want to set this in context. We must remember that from a long way back in our history-I shall not necessarily go back to Jurassic times-we have been a maritime nation. Therefore, we have to work within a recognition that the importance to us of maritime industry and shipping is second to none.

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Mr. Letwin: Does the Minister accept that what he has just said amounts to saying that, as things stand-I am not suggesting that this would occur at any time in the near future-if 100 large tankers decided to spend a year stationed outside Lyme bay, he would have no basis on which to prevent them from doing so?

Paul Clark: I was coming on to this. International guidance on the proximity of vessels to each other would provide cover in that regard. I will mention the role of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in maintaining and keeping a close eye on the necessary provisions in respect of ships at anchor for any period, whether for a day, a week, a month, or whatever. I shall also mention some points that are covered by various conventions.

Let me put on the record that I recognise the fundamental ecological importance of the Lyme bay coastline and its complex geology. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned old fossils found there that help us to understand a great deal about our development. I recognise that it is a world heritage site: it is commonly known as the Jurassic coast because of the rich finds that he mentioned. The last thing that any Government, including this Government, would want is to put that area at serious threat. Therefore, I will run through some of the protections that exist in respect of our coast, particularly Lyme bay.

I have mentioned the role of the MCA, which monitors the situation around our coastline, including the conduct of ships at anchor, especially in known anchorages-and Lyme bay is one such area. If the weather or the condition or conduct of the ships give cause for concern, there are procedures in place under which the MCA takes advisory and warning action.

Mr. Letwin: Does the Minister accept that the MCA's supervision of Lyme bay, although no doubt welcome, was already in place in the not-too-distant past when a minor disaster happened involving a cargo vessel, not a tanker? He will be fully aware of that. Does he accept therefore that it must be the case the MCA cannot be wholly relied on to prevent all disasters? If a tanker was involved, the disaster would be on a different scale from those that we have so far witnessed.

Paul Clark: As I was saying, it is not just one process that is relied on to ensure that the protection and procedures that are needed are in place: there tends to be a multilayered or multifaceted process. The MCA is an important part of that process. I accept that there can be times when things will not go as planned-that is so in any walk of life and in any aspect that we look at-but it is worth noting, equally, that, as part of the international safety management code, shipping companies provide guidance to masters on how close vessels should be to each other. That relates to the numbers that could be in any given space, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in his earlier intervention.

Anchored vessels must be maintained in a fully operational state. They cannot be left in a state in which they are not able to move on immediately and they must comply with internationally agreed safety and pollution prevention standards under the international convention for the safety of life at sea, commonly known as SOLAS, and the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, commonly known as MARPOL. Work has been going on, through the international forums and the International Maritime Organisation, to strengthen those processes and ensure that they get
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stronger and better. Various changes have happened to MARPOL, including annexe VI, which is to do with sulphur emissions, and so on. All that work goes on. It has invariably to be done at international level, because we are talking about an international business. Many of the vessels in Lyme bay are not under the UK flag but are under the flags of other states, which is why an international position is needed. When UK-flagged ships are in other ports, they need to be covered by the same protections as the right hon. Gentleman wants to see at Lyme bay.

If the material condition or readiness of a ship causes concern, the MCA can conduct an inspection, subject to weather conditions and safety, and undertake the necessary work. Where anchoring has the potential to interfere with the right of innocent passage and other freedoms of navigation, the MCA issues navigation warnings to affected mariners.

We need to put this matter in context. At any time some 1,400 vessels can be within 30 miles of the UK coast, most of which are under way, but some are at anchor. Yesterday, in addition to the vessels at anchor in Lyme bay, a number of vessels were under way, moving to and from the bay. They are all monitored under the UK's vessel traffic monitoring regulations. The MCA monitors UK waters using resources that include the automatic identification system, commonly known as AIS, routine surveillance and communication systems to allow us to monitor not only shipping movement, but ships at anchor, which are a cause for concern for the right hon. Gentleman.

The Government have a highly developed strategic approach to protecting the UK's seas and coasts from pollution from ships. I shall list the elements of that approach, because they are important in understanding, as I said earlier, that there is not just one approach and it is not about using one organisation: there is a multifaceted approach. A number of provisions are in place, including the following. There is a network of shore-based stations around the UK coastline to monitor vessel traffic using AIS. We have achieved agreement in the forum of the International Maritime Organisation on ships' routeing measures, which will reduce the risk of groundings and collisions. We are ensuring that powerful tug boats are available to go out and assist ships, particularly those that can no longer manoeuvre under their own power. We have established arrangements under which a ship that requires assistance and whose condition needs to be stabilised can be brought into a place of refuge. We also have a highly effective structure for command and control of an accident and incident, were it to happen, in which the Secretary of State's representative for maritime salvage and intervention plays a major role. We have fully developed the national contingency plan for marine pollution from shipping and offshore installations, which ensures the UK's preparedness and response to a marine pollution incident, if it should happen. We participate actively in international assistance and co-operation arrangements of a bipartite, multipartite or regional nature, which, again, is consistent with the oil pollution preparedness response and co-operation convention.

I would not want right hon. and hon. Members to believe that there is not a monitoring process to ensure that the rules are properly followed so that ships are not threatening the ecological base of, or the safety of other
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vessels using, the facility in Lyme bay. The provisions that we have made in legislation in respect of looking after the environmental aspects of maritime matters provide other options for consideration as they roll out. The key thing as far as the Government are concerned is ensuring that we have a safe, effective, efficient merchant shipping industry, as a maritime nation, and protecting major heritage sites such as Lyme bay.

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2012 Olympics (Employment)

12.59 pm

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce a debate on a matter that is important to me, my constituents and everyone in the east end of London: the level of local employment at the Olympic park. This year-2010-is crucial for construction at the park. It is already the biggest construction site in Europe, with 9,000 workers employed there. Building work is set to accelerate this year, and the work force will grow to 11,000. The Olympic Delivery Authority estimates that 30,000 workers will have worked at the Olympic park alone between 2005 and 2012.

Hon. Members will realise that while we are still coming out of the credit crunch, that windfall of jobs represents a tremendous opportunity for the adjoining boroughs in the east of London and the country as a whole. Unemployment in Hackney means that we have a particular focus on the issue, and I have raised it consistently for more than two years. I raised it over and again with the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and I secured an Adjournment debate on it two years ago. In private and public meetings, I have stressed the importance of ensuring that my constituents and the people of the east end generally are given a fair proportion of the thousands of skilled jobs that will become and are becoming available at the Olympic park.

Hon. Members will be interested to hear that I visited the site in Stratford this morning and met, among others, Lorraine Martin, the ODA's head of employment skills, equality and inclusion. The burden of my comments will be about employment, but I was impressed by the progress being made at the Olympic park and to see the buildings taking shape. I have no doubt that 2012 will be a wonderful and spectacular event for Londoners. However, I am obliged to look beyond what happens at the Olympics and to consider the long-term effects for my constituents. Having met top people at the ODA this morning, I am reasonably confident that the figures that I will set out are correct.

The Olympics are of national significance-they are a national event. They are hugely important to everyone throughout the country, and everyone should look for economic regeneration effects from them. However, Londoners in particular are contributing to the Olympics, and we were sold the idea of hosting them on the understanding that as well as being an amazing, historic sporting event, they would provide the opportunity for regeneration in a part of London that has historically not had the jobs and investment of west London and the outer boroughs. The 2012 games represent the single biggest opportunity in recent history to enable us to realise the long dreamt of regeneration of the east end.

I hope that no one doubts that the area is in need. Hackney is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Unemployment rates are higher than the UK average, and in the wards closest to the Olympic site, claims for jobseeker's allowance are nearly twice the London average. Hackney and the Olympic boroughs are young boroughs, and youth employment is a problem in all of them. It is high in Hackney, where the percentage of young people not in education, employment or training-NEETs-is about 10 per cent. The latest figures
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show that 2,145 people aged 16 to 24 are claiming jobseeker's allowance in Hackney, and I emphasise that Hackney's recorded figures for unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, do not capture the large number of young people who do not engage with the authorities.

Given the economic context, the problems in the economy overall, and the need in the adjoining boroughs for jobs and regeneration, it is important that the Olympics leave the east of London and its people genuinely regenerated. Perhaps the most important way of doing so, apart from through infrastructure improvements, is by boosting local employment, which in turn will boost the local economy, local housing and local morale, and deal with the underlying causes of crime, and the gang and knife culture that we have so often discussed in this Chamber.

The Minister will be aware of the latest figures, but I will set them out. The recent ODA figures reveal that 6,277 people are working at the Olympic park, of whom 20 per cent.-some 1,230-are registered as living in one of the five Olympic boroughs. Already, 20 per cent. is on the low side, but the breakdown of the figures will show the Minister why I am so alarmed. Seven per cent., or 439 workers, are registered at an address in Newham, while just 4 per cent., or 250, are registered in Greenwich and Waltham Forest. Only 3 per cent., or 188 workers, are from Tower Hamlets, and 2 per cent. of local workers at the Olympic park are from Hackney-just 2 per cent., or 126.

Hackney-the constituency that I am privileged to represent-has the lowest number of workers employed at the Olympic site. It has half the number from Greenwich and Waltham Forest, and more than three times fewer than Newham. Hackney has consistently had the lowest number of workers at the site since I first engaged with the issue, yet Hackney houses part of the Olympic park. One third of it falls within our boundaries, and local residents have made sacrifices to make the Olympics happen. Houses have been demolished, businesses have been uprooted, and communities have had to put up with the noise and disturbance of building work. Although people have sometimes put up a fight, the general consensus in Hackney is that the Olympics will be worth the sacrifice in the long run, not just because they will be a spectacular event, but because of the long-term benefits for the area.

If we drill down into the statistics, they become even more depressing. The park is situated just a few miles from the City of London and in an area with a high number of working-age people, so we should be pushing more, given that the opportunity is on the doorstep of the east end. The employment figures quoted by the ODA are widely circulated, but they take into account only the workers at the Olympic park. When one tours the park, as I did this morning, one is shown the Olympic village as a matter of course, but there are no figures for the number of local people working at the Olympic village, although 2,887 people are working there-nearly half the number working on the park proper. There are no statistics showing where they come from or their race and ethnicity. It is as if we are supposed to believe that the 2,887 people working at the Olympic village come from nowhere.

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It is not acceptable that we lack a proper breakdown of the people working at the Olympic village by gender, race and locality, because for most people-and certainly for my tour guide this morning-it is an integral part of the Olympic park. I urge the Minister to ensure that, in future, employment figures for the Olympics take account of not just the park, but the village.

Apart from the unfathomable exclusion of information about people working on the housing, I also want to raise the definition of a local resident. The ODA defines a local resident as someone who declares a permanent address that is in one of the five host boroughs. However, the authority does not require the worker to have lived in that borough for a minimum period of time before they can be classed as a resident. Pathetic though the figures for Hackney employees on the Olympic park are, as I have said, many local people believe that they overstate the position because they include workers living in houses in multiple occupation who moved to Hackney specifically to work on the park.

Another issue surrounding employment on the Olympic park cuts across some of the processes and aims that the ODA has told me about for more than two years. As contractors moved on to the park but building work on their other sites across London slowed, finished or was halted because of the credit crunch, those contractors simply switched their work forces to the Olympic park. Therefore, the number of jobs that are vacant on the Olympic park is much smaller than the overall employment figures would suggest. Even at this late stage, I would like Ministers to put more pressure on construction and fitting-out companies to fill a specific quota of jobs from the local area.

Over the past year, the work on the Olympic park has changed from earth moving and large-scale construction to a fitting-out stage requiring the employment of builders, carpenters, plasters, electricians and other skilled tradesmen. It is simply not correct to say that those tradesmen are not available in the east end of London, and it would be appropriate to have more focus on filling the jobs associated with the fitting-out stage with people drawn from the east end.

The ODA's definition of a worker is somebody who spends at least five days working on the Olympic park. That means that a number of the workers counted in the figures, including some of those from Hackney, might include people who have moved on and no longer work on the site. Although it is commendable that the ODA has produced some figures, we have reached a point at which those figures create more confusion than light. The authority needs to go back and look at some of its record keeping so that we can have transparency about the issues that concern me and my constituents.

I want to touch on issues relating to women and ethnic minorities. Although the ODA's benchmark is to have 11 per cent. of women in the work force, it has achieved a figure of only 6 per cent. Years ago, when I worked for the Greater London council, we showed the way in proving that there were ways in which women could be brought into traditionally male jobs such as carpentry or building. I do not think that the ODA is making enough effort in that regard.

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