Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not aware of any such proposals. If there are, I shall write to my noble friend.

Yorkshire Coast: Oil Pollution

3.11 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, no. Samples of oiled feathers were sent for analysis but there is insufficient information to identify the polluter.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. I extend good wishes to him as this is the first occasion on which he is replying to Questions for the Government. I am sure that there will be many future occasions. Since the Marine Pollution Control Unit is reported to have taken samples from the slick, what progress is being made with the method known as fingerprinting, introduced some years ago, whereby an individual vessel's cargo of oil, and its oily wastes, can be identified?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his kind words.

As he said, fingerprinting can identify the area of the world from where the crude oil comes. The Marine Pollution Control Unit and the European Union are carrying out a project to compile a database at the Institute of Offshore Engineering at Heriot-Watt University.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, since there is a suspicion that on this occasion the pollution was caused by deliberate discharge, is the Minister satisfied that the port facilities available to ships wishing to discharge oil are satisfactory? Have the Government considered including the cost of discharge in other port fees so that there is less incentive for ships to discharge at sea?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, regarding port waste facilities, consultation is being carried out between the ports, shipping and waste industries as well as with representatives of environmental concerns on how best to reduce waste discharges from ships. We hope to announce a decision shortly.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, perhaps I may echo the good wishes of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, to the Minister.

2 Nov 1995 : Column 1499

Is the Minister aware that out of 139 illegal discharges around Britain's coasts over a period of four months up to September of this year, only three ships were detected? Does the Minister agree, therefore, that some urgent action, preferably through the International Maritime Organisation, is required, first, to enable us to designate these particularly sensitive areas; secondly, to engage in rather better and more effective aerial surveillance; thirdly, to ensure that there is a better means of identifying the ships in question, including numbering, the identification of the owners of cargo who could have an effect in this regard and the involvement of insurers, which is also required?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I shall try to answer all the noble Lord's questions. Aerial surveillance has been increased by 25 per cent. following the Donaldson Report. There has also been more aerial surveillance at night when most of the incidents occur. We are looking at the possibility of transponders being used. However, that is another area where full international co-operation is required and that all takes time.

Successful prosecutions depend upon securing good evidence; and that is what we hope to obtain.

OSCE Mission in Grozny

3.16 p.m.

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports they have received about the work of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission in Grozny.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, we have been kept fully informed of the work of the OSCE assistance group in Chechnya by the OSCE Chairman in Office and by the leaders of the assistance group who report to the Permanent Council in Vienna.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, what information do the Government have about the circumstances in which the Russian appointed mayor of Grozny incited 150 people to attack the OSCE mission and the mysterious car accident in which a truck rammed the vehicle in which the chairman of the OSCE mission was travelling? Does the Minister know whether those attacks on the OSCE mission have caused us to downgrade our presence in Grozny? In those circumstances, are we able properly to view the mounting violence which is taking place on both sides? How do we judge that in the light of the Russian decision to denounce the treaty that they signed only in July on force reductions and demilitarisation?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I believe that I counted five questions from the noble Lord. However, I shall do my best to give him the feel of the answers, and to answer the most important two. The decision by Mr. Gantimirov, the mayor of Grozny, to surround the OSCE mission and prevent staff leaving

2 Nov 1995 : Column 1500

caused the federal authorities great embarrassment, as we know. The Russians have apologised and the Chechen Provisional Government annulled Gantimirov's order to suspend the work of the mission. It is quite clear that the Russians want to get the OSCE mission going again.

There have been various incidents, including the grenade attack in Grozny on 7th October on the Chairman in Office. That is why the Chairman in Office and the EU presidency reminded the Russians of their responsibility for the safety and welfare of all members of the assistance group. Three members of the group were removed as a precautionary action. We are reviewing whether OSCE has done enough on security to allow our member of the group to go back. When we come to a proper decision—and we have sufficient information, I can assure the noble Lord—we shall see whether it is possible to participate again, as we wish, in this mission.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, are the Government satisfied that free and fair elections can be held in Chechnya next month, given the deteriorating situation there? What position will the Government take should the outcome of that election be a vote for independence? That was one question in two halves.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Baroness is getting canny! Obviously we cannot be satisfied yet that there will be free and fair elections. However, further work is being done on that at present. We have to look very carefully at what is going on there. There is no way in which the kind of attacks on civilian life which have become commonplace can be allowed to continue with free and fair elections being held at the same time. We continue to support every effort to secure a negotiated settlement. I hope that we shall soon see a greater degree of abiding by the ceasefire by all parties.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton: My Lords, in the interests of negotiating a settlement, will my noble friend and Her Majesty's Government be prepared to suggest to the Russian Government that a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya would be the best way of restoring peace and tranquillity to the area?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I do not believe that we are in a position to judge the matter. We have said that there is, of course, a role for the Russian Government because there is a role for keeping peace. But the way in which actions are continuing there at the moment give us great cause for concern. We all wish to see the formal negotiations on the implementation of the military agreement start as soon as possible.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister think that, in the light of the serious developments and the continuing violence in Chechnya, the Council of Ministers of the OSCE should take notice of the situation? It should ascertain whether there are any

2 Nov 1995 : Column 1501

further actions which it should take, either generally or specifically under the Budapest Declaration issued by the OSCE last December.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I understand that that is exactly what they are doing.

Bananas: Retail Pricing Policy

3.21 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, in asking the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, I wish to declare that Lady Waverley is the High Commissioner for Belize, a Caribbean banana-producing nation state.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the loss-leading banana pricing strategy of United Kingdom supermarket multiples undermines the policy of the Government and the European Union on the banana regime.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the retail price of bananas is a commercial matter for the supermarkets themselves. We are watching the situation carefully. We will continue to support the banana regime of Lomé.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for replying to the Question at such short notice. Within the European Union, Her Majesty's Government are stalwart supporters of the Caribbean countries and are to be congratulated on that. Is the Minister aware that the banana market is being manipulated by supermarkets in a cavalier fashion? That is a total disregard for the consequences and undermines the good work of the Government. It is only a matter of time before low prices will be borne by Caribbean farmers, so spreading social and economic disaster for the Caribbean nation states. Does the Minister agree that economic development, through fair trade not aid, is the long-term solution for the promotion of democracy, poverty alleviation and sustained growth?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page