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Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, perhaps I may point out that I was talking about the professional fishermen and not the sporting fishermen. We must put our professional fishermen first in the North Sea.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, mentioned technical advances and was right to comment on the recent achievements of the offshore industry. They are significant. I am certain that, when he returns to the House, my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser will be happy to bring the noble Lord up to date on the skill and quality within the industry. I shall certainly point that out to my noble and learned friend.
My noble friend Lord Gisborough mentioned the IMO guidelines and the fact that they refer to removal rather than to disposal. We expect all the light platforms to be brought to shore because that is the BPEO on such installations. My noble friend also pointed out that the fact that platforms can be lifted does not mean that the balance of advantage will show that they should be lifted. That too will depend on the BPEO. I agree with my noble friend and acknowledge the contribution that has been made to our economy by the yards in the north east of England and elsewhere.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that, although the DTI leads the decommissioning policy, many other departments, including the Department of the Environment and the Health and Safety Executive, have a strong interest in the final fate of the disused installations. I have never found the noble Lord to be cynical but I was surprised by some of his remarks today. I believe that the report is positive and we recommend it. The Government's response is positive and I believe that all who read it properly can see that. I suggest that the noble Lord has another little look at it and thinks again.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I mentioned the fact that I found the report positive but said that it was not very concrete in its proposals for the future. If the Minister can indicate that the Government will carry out all the proposals I shall be happy.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord does not expect me to comment in that respect at this moment. We welcome the report and I believe that we are going ahead on practically every part of it. As I listened to the noble Lord it appeared to me that he did not agree with all of the report.
I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was correct in suggesting that my honourable friend Mr. Tim Eggar did not understand very much about the feasibility of removal: he understood it very well indeed. It must be technically possible but the BPEO will always be the way to guide any decisions.
I conclude by saying that we welcome the committee's report. It is an important and timely contribution to the debate on decommissioning which was given an impetus by the events surrounding "Brent Spar" during the summer of 1995. The Government acknowledge that further steps are needed in transparency and consultation. We are committed to the scientific approach to decision making, which takes full account of potential effects on the environment as a whole. We are continuing to press home that point of view in all our international discussions. When the international discussions are concluded, we shall be in a better position to issue guidelines for industry.
Meanwhile, we remain committed to taking decisions on a sensible basis. The committee's report reinforces our commitment to that approach. I thank the committee again for all its hard work in producing the report and I thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, for chairing the committee.
I hope that I have answered the concerns which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, raised towards the end of the debate. If not I shall write to him. Before I sit down I wish to make one short comment. I believe that the report is first class and we welcome it. I did not think that the discussion was to descend into anything political and I was amazed that the noble Lord believed that after 17 years of Conservative government there is something wrong with our economy. We inherited the title "The poor man of Europe" and now we are a country which everyone emulates.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, spoke of the industry being young. When it comes to the disposing of installations it is positively in its infancy. I was rather distressed to learn that it will take so long to issue the guidelines on how to carry on the disposal. It makes the gestation period of the elephant seem meteoric.
The "Brent Spar" has figured greatly in our discussions and no doubt it may hit the headlines again. However, as so many noble Lords have stressed, openness is an important part of the ongoing business of educating and informing the public. Research was mentioned by several noble Lords and I am sure that their points were well made.
I do not wish to prolong the debate and I thank all those concerned, in particular for the kind remarks which noble Lords made about my chairmanship. I am grateful and I commend the report to the House.
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