Waste Reception Facilities at Harbours

Part of Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:29 pm on 17th March 1997.

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Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 8:29 pm, 17th March 1997

I also commend the passage and Third Reading of the Bill. Subject to some reservations that the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) mentioned—not least the absence of any significant progress in designating marine environmental high risk areas—many of the Bill's provisions implement the recommendations of Lord Donaldson's report, "Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas". The report was commissioned following the grounding of the Braer in my constituency in January 1993, and my constituents remain concerned about the absence of salvage tugs, for example. Although many—if not most—of Lord Donaldson's recommendations have been implemented, gaps remain in the area of marine pollution prevention. I am sure that the House will return to those issues regularly.

The Braer incident gave rise to Lord Donaldson's report and to many compensation claims that have been processed by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. Under clause 26 of the Bill, the fund will continue to enjoy the exemptions of the International Organisations Act 1968, although the United Kingdom's membership of the 1971 fund may terminate. I understand that that fund will be superseded by a 1992 fund, which implements British protocols that came into force on 30 May last year—regrettably, too late to increase the amount of compensation available for victims of the Sea Empress or the Braer incidents. As the House is continuing privileges by virtue of that clause, I wish to register the continuing unhappiness and dissatisfaction of many of my constituents at the way in which outstanding claims, still unpaid by the 1971 fund, are being protracted.

In many cases, the claims and the amounts have been agreed, yet the moratorium means that people cannot be paid. In the past fortnight, one constituent told me that his business was threatened as a result of the delay. Another constituent wrote to me last week to say that she cannot reroof her house as the money has not come through, and her property is deteriorating. The Government believe, as all hon. Members do, that the polluter should pay. Unfortunately, in this case, those who have been polluted are paying the penalty.

While the 1971 IOPCF is operating within its legal rights by enforcing court orders for expenses at interim stages, my experience of the Scottish courts is that that right is not usually exercised. All questions of expenses are usually settled at the end when the case is finally determined. That is proving to be a particular financial burden on many of my constituents. I pay tribute to Viscount Goschen, the Minister for Aviation and Shipping in another place, to his officials and to those at the Scottish Office who have worked co-operatively on those matters. I hope that, when the executive of the 1971 fund meets next month, representatives of Her Majesty's Government will confirm that we intend to continue the privileges, although we may terminate membership of the fund. As we are doing it a favour, the executive might wish to address the continuing concerns of many of my constituents.