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Offshore Oil (Dumping Of Debris)

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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45.

asked the Lord Advocate how many prosecutions have been initiated against oil developers for illegal dumping of debris in the sea to the most recent convenient date for which figures are available.

Is the Lord Advocate aware that his reply will cause astonishment and anger among the fishing community in Scotland? Is he further aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland regularly receives representations from the fishery officer in Peterhead giving instances and details of cases where fishing gear is being lost through the activities of oil developers? I am sending him yet another representation which I received from Peterhead, in respect of a fisherman who lost £1,275 worth of gear, in a case in which there was grave danger to the safety of the vessel and its crew.

I see that the hon. Member has put down a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealing with this matter. In so far as his Question was addressed to me, I must confine my attention to prosecutions and complaints which might give rise to prosecutions. I assure the hon. Member that no complaints which might give rise to prosecutions have come to my notice or that of my Department.

I emphasise that the scope for prosecutions is limited under existing legislation. The discharge of oil, for example, is covered by the legislation, as is the dumping of debris if that debris is waste. However, I think that many of the things to which the hon. Member objects do not legally come within the category of waste and therefore are not touched upon by the Dumping at Sea Act 1974.

Will the Lord Advocate pass on my sincere thanks to the Secretary of State for his part in helping to set up a compensation fund, and, in particular—and perhaps more important—to the oil industry for agreeing to this? However, appreciative though the industry is about the fund, the prime problem remains of getting it to stop flinging debris overboard before any prosecutions can begin. The fishing industry still has the growing problem of drifting oil buoys and suspended wellheads.