HL Deb 21 October 1971 vol 324 cc484-7

3.24 p.m.

THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL) rose to move, That the Bill be recommitted to the Select Committee (which reported specially on the Bill on the 8th July last) with an Instruction to the Committee to consider further evidence tendered by the Promoters relating to oil spillage. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Bill, in connection with which I am moving this procedural Motion, seeks to authorise the construction by Shell (United Kingdom) Limited of two single buoy moorings about two miles off the coast of Anglesey to be used for the discharge of oil into pipelines for the conveyance to that Company's refineries at Stanrow, in Cheshire. The Select Committee, who considered the Bill and Petitions against it, heard evidence as to the likely extent of oil spillage resulting from the operation of these moorings. This evidence was of the operation by the Promotors of similar installations throughout the world and it showed that while there might be a risk of spillage, the probability of a large amount of oil escaping was remote and indeed the escape of a small amount would be rare.

The Select Committee made a special Report to the House last July, summarising the evidence on oil spillage and giving their conclusion upon it. It was originally proposed that the Bill before the House this afternoon should be read a third time to-day. However, since the Committee reported, the Promoters have submitted to me further evidence on the question of oil spillage from single buoy moorings similar to those proposed in the Bill. This question is of importance, because one of the objections to the Bill raised by the Petitioners was a possibility of serious pollution. To enable this new evidence to be evaluated, I am proposing to the House this afternoon that the Bill should be recommitted to the same Select Committee, with all Instruction from the House as set out in the Motion; namely, to consider further evidence tendered by the Promotors relating to oil spillage. beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be recommitted to the Select Committee (which reported specially on the Bill on the 8th July last) with an Instruction to the Committee to consider further evidence tendered by the Promoters relating to oil spillage.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, it may be thought fitting if I said a few words with regard to this Motion in view of the fact that I had the privilege and responsibility of being the Chairman of the Select Committee. I want to make it as clear as I possibly can, in as few words as possible, that the Motion to recommit the Bill concerns one issue and one issue alone—that is, the risk of beach pollution and of harm to flora and fauna in the Anglesey area through sea pollution.

Under examination and cross-examination in Committee, the experts of the Shell Oil Company gave figures of spillage and certain assurances with regard to spillage. These are contained in a Special Report by the Select Committee, which was in the hands of your Lordships, as the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees has pointed out, so long ago as last July, and many of your Lordships must have seen and studied that Report. The particular assurances and the estimation of spillage is contained in paragraph 10 of our Report. If I may, I would read the words which seem to be the nub of the situation: …. in 1970 the Shell Company handled 65 million tons of oil, involving 1.000 ships, through 16 single buoy moorings around the world with two recorded incidents of spillage … there had been only one incident of beach. pollution owing to spillage which occurred in 1968 in Muscat. During the same period, some minor spillages had ocurred at other ports owing to misjudgment in handling pipes … We wont on to say that the Committee were informed that in Sarawak, between 1966 and 1970, there had been 24 incidents involving the cleaning of spillage. They were loading incidents and not discharging incidents.

Since we reported and suggested that the Bill should proceed, we have received some other detailed figures. They came to light only early last week and copies of these new figures, which are being submitted to a local planning inquiry at present taking place in Anglesey, were sent to the members of the Select Committee as a matter of courtesy to us because, after all, we had completed our task. To save time, I have looked at the figures carefully (I hope I am right in my arithmetic), and I will try to summarise them in order to show your Lordships the difference between what was submitted to us at the time of our hearing evidence and what they are now.

The new figures deal with spillages in connection with Shell activities and are limited to single buoy moorings as envisaged in Anglesey. These are all discharged from tankers. In Japan, over a period of six years there were 47 spillages of under 0. 5 tons, with 812 ships handled and 80 million tons of oil involved. There was no beach pollution. In Malaysia, over eight years there were three spillages under 5 tons, one between 5 and 30 tons,583 ships handled and 24½ million tons of oil involved, with no beach pollution. In Durban, over a period of a year there were 23 spillages,13 under 0. 5 tons,5 under 5 tons and 5 between 5 and 30 tons; 91 ships were handled and 7½ million tons were involved. Again there was no beach pollution. This is in accordance with the latest. figures submitted by the Shell Company.

My Lords, in view of these apparent differences—and they are pretty large differences—between what was given to the Committee and what has now come up; in view of the fact that the Select Committee was not unanimous in recommending that the Bill should proceed; in the light of our special Report and also, if I may say so, what I have had to say to-day, I feel that it would be a mistake to proceed to Third Reading of this Bill without hearing sworn evidence and examination and cross-examination. Therefore, for myself, I agree that the Bill should be recommitted; and, again speaking for myself, I am at the service of your Lordships' House to hear further evidence under Select Committee conditions.