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MSC Napoli

Volume 455: debated on Tuesday 23 January 2007

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to discuss a specific and important matter, which I believe should have urgent consideration, namely,

“the situation surrounding the wreck MSC Napoli now lying off the coast in Lyme bay in my constituency of East Devon”.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) for his courtesy in keeping me informed at all stages. I should also like to record my thanks to the Secretary of State’s representative, Robin Middleton, and his staff at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, to Devon and Cornwall constabulary, to the Environment Agency and others in the emergency services who are working tirelessly to mitigate what could have been a far worse situation.

The sensitivity of all this is exacerbated by the fact that the Jurassic and Triassic coastline in east Devon and west Dorset is a UNESCO world heritage site. The coastline also includes a number of sites of special scientific interest.

The media images from the beach in Branscombe show that some members of the public are behaving in a dangerous free-for-all and quite unacceptable manner. The police have felt disempowered at times, not least in their inability to close off the beach straight away. Ministers need to revisit the legislation when events of this nature occur. Although 103 containers have been lost from the ship, to date only 53 have been located on shore. Fifty tonnes of dirty fuel have been washed ashore. Although clean-up operations have commenced and work has begun to discharge the bunker fuel into a reception vessel, that could take a week, during which time the ship, which is between 17° and 25° down at the stern, depending on the tide—is at the mercy of the weather. I am travelling to Brussels tomorrow to meet Jacques Barrot, the Transport Commissioner, to see what lessons can be learned from this incident and to find out what help can be provided to clean up the environmental damage.

My constituency is largely dependent on tourism and we will need assistance to deal with the fall-out of this incident—in the short and long term—particularly when the wreck is likely to remain where she is for at least a year. My constituents need to be reassured that none of the costs of cleaning this up will have to be met by the council tax payers of East Devon. They also seek reassurance that no more damage will be done to the environment from any protracted clean-up operation and that every step possible is being taken to protect the wildlife affected by the spillage.

Many questions surrounding the beaching of MSC Napoli need to be answered and I believe that the House should have the opportunity, at the earliest time available, to question Ministers about the events surrounding that unfortunate incident.

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Member has said and I have to give my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24, so I cannot submit the application to the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you can indicate whether the Secretary of State for Transport has said that—at the appropriate time, when all the appropriate information has been gathered—he will make a statement to the House on the grounding of the MSC Napoli.

It is up to the hon. Gentleman to ask the Secretary of State for Transport. As I have stated, I have not given any reason why I have refused this matter, and I do not want to say any more about it.