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Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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Oil Pollution Convention


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the results of the International Conference on the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil; and when it is anticipated that the agreed Convention will come into force.


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement about the results of the recent International Conference on the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil.

The Conference prepared a Convention providing for the establishment of zones within which certain oils should not be discharged. The Convention will come into force 12 months after acceptance by 10 Governments, including five with not less than 500,000 gross tons of tanker tonnage. A further Conference will be held within three years to consider the question of the complete avoidance of the discharge of certain oils anywhere at sea.

The texts of the Convention and the resolutions adopted by the Conference will be laid before the House as soon as possible. Her Majesty's Government will consider urgently formal acceptance of the Convention and the introduction of the necessary legislation. It will be some years before the effects of this Conference are fully apparent, but the adoption of the Convention will undoubtedly lead to considerable lessening of the evil of oil pollution of our coasts and waters.

In congratulating my right hon. Friend on the success of this Conference, may I ask him whether he can say if Her Majesty's Government will ratify the Convention?

I cannot at this moment add to what I have said, but I think I made it plain that we clearly envisage that legislation will be necessary after ratification.

I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend, not only because of the success of the Conference, but because of the energy he has devoted to this matter from the start. Might I ask him whether any country has yet signed the Convention, and whether there was any discussion at the Conference about the use of oil separators or any question of that policy being universally adopted by the countries concerned?

Perhaps my hon. Friend will await the fuller statement I shall make in regard to the need for 10 Governments signing the Convention within 12 months before it can come into force. I think the Conference has been successful, but clearly I would have liked it to result in a total prohibition. I think more education is necessary in this important field before we can reach that happy solution.

Missing Engineer (Disposal Of Property)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now authorise the payment of wages and transfer of the effects of Mr. T. G. Thorpe, late second engineer of s.s. "Teespool," who has been missing from the vessel since December, 1953.

I have no proof that Mr. Thorpe is dead. Unless I have this, I cannot authorise disposal of his property. In accordance with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, it is for Mrs. Thorpe or her legal representative to produce Probate or Letters of Administration.

What period must elapse in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman before death has been presumed, and -is the right hon. Gentleman aware that evidence has been produced to the effect that Mr. Thorpe was on the vessel when she sailed and presumably, if that is so, he must have disappeared when on the vessel? Will the Minister recognise that Mrs. Thorpe, who is now suffering inconvenience if not hardship, is finding difficulty in meeting the demands on her?

I have every sympathy in this and similar cases, and would gladly help, but the question of how death can be proved, or how quickly it can be assumed after disappearance, is a matter for the courts, and under the Act I cannot interfere. I hope that those concerned will read my answer and will take the necessary steps consequent upon that.

Ss "Sheldrake" (Arrested Seamen)


asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement regarding the recent arrest of the crew of the Liverpool ship, s.s. "Sheldrake," in Canada.

Reports from the Canadian authorities state that 18 deck and engine room ratings of the s.s. "Sheldrake" refused to carry out their duties on 7th May at Montreal. All efforts at a settlement failed and the men were duly charged with wilful disobedience to a lawful command and taken into custody on 8th May. After two adjournments the men were released on parole on 12th May for trial on 18th May, and were being cared for at the Sailors' Institute. Full reports and the result of the proceedings have not yet been received, but I understand that the 18 seamen have been sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, unfortunately, I have received reports that this crew received unsatisfactory treatment whilst under arrest, and as one is aware that any such reports will cause concern to the Canadian authorities, will the Minister investigate that aspect of the matter?

I will certainly look at that if the information is given. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the circumstances were fully explained to the men before sailing, namely, that they would be subject to receiving British National Maritime Board wages. However, I will at once look into any suggestion which the hon. Gentleman makes.