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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I shall attempt to be brief. I do not have many questions to add to the large number which have already been asked. We welcome the first two draft orders relating to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Sea-Bed Tribunal. I too should like to know how soon we are likely to complete our accession to the convention.
On the merchant shipping order, I understand that in relation to the North Sea lines will be drawn on the map which will divide the North Sea into regulatory zones according to each nation which borders onto the North Sea. I managed to get in touch with one of the Minister's officials. I wonder whether there is going to be a hole in the middle of the North Sea. I hope there will not be. One could imagine a sort of doughnut of orders with a gap in the middle. I hope that that has not happened. I imagine also that there will be a much greater
I welcome the fact that we and other nations will be able to exercise greater control over pollution by merchant vessels at sea. I support the power to fine up to £50,000 which I gather to be attached to the order. The important matter which was referred to earlier is the prevention of such merchant vessels from discharging at sea by encouraging them to discharge at ports. However, I am not satisfied with the idea that ports will not be obliged to make a waste disposal plan. A large number of other companies--a port is a large company--are obliged to do so in the context of local government and so on. The disposal of waste is a serious issue, no matter where it is generated. It is becoming more and more serious with every day that passes. So I hope that we can move to a satisfactory regime in that respect.
The one question I have to ask is whether it is presently in the Minister's mind to enable ports which have such regimes to charge vessels entering their ports in such a way that vessels are encouraged, because they have had to pay for the discharge process in any case, to discharge their waste inside and not outside the port.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, in the end, we have had a rather different discussion from that which occurred in Standing Committee in another place. I welcome that, because we have had an opportunity to discuss a number of important issues surrounding marine pollution and the measures that we are taking to prevent it. I welcome the remarks on that subject made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas.
The noble Lord asked me a number of questions. He was good enough to let me know in advance the subjects that he wanted to raise in the debate. It might be helpful if I said in the first instance that the package of measures that we have announced will go a great deal of the way towards addressing the problem of pollution from vessels. A number of intricate questions were asked. Some were to do with charging and some to do with the facilities being provided. I hope that I shall be able to deal with them during the course of my remarks.
The important point is that ships should discharge their waste, be it garbage, oily waste, chemicals, noxious substances, or whatever, in properly provided facilities in port rather than chuck them over the side when they are at sea, which is always the easy option. Our enforcement to stop that so-called easy option will be a major plank of the regulations.
The noble Lord raised the issue of whether some of the provisions contained in the convention are not already part of the legal system, agreements or arrangements. The noble Lord is right. Many of the provisions are now customary in international law, but the law is obviously much more certain when agreed internationally by the convention. It confirms a number
The noble Lord also asked me whether we would establish the exclusive economic zone. The rights and obligations given by the convention are more important than just the name. As the noble Lord said, we have had a 200-mile fisheries zone since 1976. The Continental Shelf, which extends beyond 200 miles, is regulated by its own Act--the Continental Shelf Act 1964.
The prevention of pollution order will allow the UK to declare jurisdiction over marine pollution out to 200 miles. We are considering the case for the declaration of a zone. I believe that is the answer to the noble Lord's question. We shall, of course, keep that firmly under review. We have already exercised most of the rights covered by that zone.
I was asked by both speakers when we will accede to the convention. We have, of course, already announced our intention to do so. The Government will be in a position to accede to the convention once the remaining necessary procedures have been completed. Most of the legislation to give effect to the convention is already in place. The consideration of these orders this evening is an important part of that process.
The noble Lord inquired about sources of pollution. He welcomed what we are doing to address pollution from vessels, but asked about pollution from land. That is a different and bigger subject, but I happened to glance at a few figures which were incorporated within the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. I understand that an estimate has been made about the sources of pollution. In that document we see that waterborne land source pollution accounts for about 44 per cent. of the total; airborne land pollution some 33 per cent.; marine transportation some 12 per cent.; marine dumping, which is mainly land source waste, some 10 per cent.; and offshore oil production some 1 per cent. That reinforces the point which the noble Lord made about the degree of the problem from pollution coming from the land. It is an issue that we address on a number of different fronts. That is not to say that the 12 per cent. which comes from marine transportation, according to this particular estimate, is not important. We must do everything we can to address that matter.
The noble Lord asked me about enforcement, which is a key issue. It is vital that we enforce the provisions effectively and a number of tools are available to us. Aerial surveillance is extremely important. It is not the only method but it is one of the tools at our disposal. Masters of ships should be aware that the whole of our sea is regularly patrolled by remote sensing aircraft and we will continue to pursue aerial surveillance. It is an extremely good deterrent and it is also helpful for distinguishing the various vessels which are responsible for the pollution.
The other aspect of enforcement relates to the Marine Safety Agency, a matter that was raised. I believe that the agency has a good record in port state control which is an issue that we pursue according to the provisions of
The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, invited me to give an assurance as regards the continuing effectiveness of both the Marine Safety Agency and the Coastguard Agency. Of course I can give that firm assurance. Both agencies do a splendid job and I can give an absolute assurance that they will continue to perform their roles, which are safety and pollution related. The Coastguard has a marine pollution control unit which is a valuable resource in combating pollution.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I expected him to give that assurance, but how does it weigh against the serious depletion in the numbers of an already depleted MSA and Coastguard? It is difficult to reconcile the further incursions as regards the number of people employed against the essential criteria of safety, which I know the Minister respects. However, I fear that the Treasury may have a serious effect upon his thinking.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we must judge by results, and the results put out by both agencies in terms of the work that they have done over the past years show that they have been extremely good at their jobs of enforcing safety measures and of co-ordinating search and rescue. In consideration of the budgets, at the top of our list of objectives is to maintain an efficient and proper service for people who go to sea and to prevent pollution. That will continue to be the case and, as requested, I can give an assurance about that.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised the issue of fines. It is important that we seek powers to raise the level of fines. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, referred to Draconian penalties but I believe that a big stick is indeed required in this case because we have often seen some serious incidents. Having the ability to fine people a large sum of money is extremely beneficial in terms of the tools at our disposal.
I turn to the waste management plans. Of the package that was announced, that is the key measure, and where we see planning between all the bodies involved. On a number of occasions insufficient information is available about the facilities provided at each port; for instance, whether there is a facility for receiving oily waste, noxious substances, chemicals or whatever. The consultation that was undertaken with the industries--and I stress the plural--was long and took into account a wide spectrum of organisations. It was considered to be the most effective method and I believe that it will produce major benefits. We have said that initially the plan will be introduced on a voluntary basis and at the earliest opportunity we will be seeking powers to make a mandatory requirement for the facilities and the planning stage that we have spoken about. I referred to the earliest opportunity and we will have to see when that is. There are a number of issues in the merchant shipping world that can perhaps be brought together with legislation. I believe that the issue of waste reception facilities is important and it should have its due priority.
The best way to answer the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, is to send her a map. It is not easy to describe accurately any potential holes about which she might be concerned. I will write to the noble Baroness with a map. I hope that that will give her confidence but, if not, perhaps she will be good enough to come back to me.
I hope that I have covered the majority of the points. If I have not, and I will look through the record, I will write to the noble Lords concerned. I believe that the orders we are considering tonight are important. They add a great deal to our ability to govern the sea properly and to ensure the minimum pollution possible. I commend the orders to the House.