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Oil Pollution

Volume 961: debated on Monday 22 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will ensure that adequate reserves of equipment for dealing with oil pollution are immediately available in cases of spillage at Sullom Voe and Flotta.

Local and port authorities have accepted responsibility for oil pollution clean-up in the areas under their control so far as it lies within their capability, and I am satisfied that they have provided reasonable reserves. The Scottish Development Department is reviewing the oil spill contingency arrangements with representatives of regional and islands authorities this week and any lessons to be drawn from the recent Sullom Voe incident including the scale of provision for equipment will be discussed.

Is the Minister aware of the grave concern in Shetland over the failure of the equipment and over the time that it took to get any reserve equipment up to Shetland? Is he saying that there is still no reserve equipment available in Scotland? If so, is this not intolerable, considering the time that has elapsed since oil was first landed in Flotta and now Sullom? Will he give an undertaking that in case of oil spillage adequate reserve equipment will be available immediately in Shetland and in Orkney?

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman a blanket assurance in those categorical terms. However, discussions have been arranged for this week. We have, in general, confidence in the ability of the Shetland Islands council and the industry to work in co-operation with all Government Departments to provide the cover that he seeks.

In a system by which the major oil companies are making many millions out of oil, why, when there is difficulty, is it always the Government who have to come forward to clean up the mess? What is he doing to ensure that the oil companies put money into cleaning up the pollution which they cause?

The original Question was about what steps were being taken to prevent such spillages and what action was taken in the unfortunate event of any spillages. I am satisfied that the industry is playing its part in taking the required steps.

Is the Minister aware that there will be widespread support for the view expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) that the polluter should pay? Will he bring the attention of the Sullom Voe authorities and everybody concerned in his Department to the existence of equipment manufactured by a company called Oil Recovery International in my constituency which has just been given an outstanding report by the Department of Industry's Warren Spring laboratory? Could this be brought into use very quickly, as requested by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)?

This is not the commercial break in this programme. However, if there is a company which has equipment available and has a service to perform, it will be considered.