§ Mr. Benn
The function of Ministry of Technology establishments has been to support with expert knowledge and technical resources those departments having the responsibility for executive action.
In dealing with the "Torrey Canyon" emergency, it was more important to apply existing proved methods with the maximum speed than to conduct research on new ones. These methods are the detergent technique and the placing of booms, and in each case immediate action was taken by the appropriate Mintech station.
The work of the Warren Spring Laboratory in 1960–63 forms the basis of the whole of the detergent spraying operations.
The results of Warren Spring Laboratory's work on cleaning oil from beaches were made available to all coastal local authorities in 1962, and much advice has been given since then. The Laboratory's report on the disposal of floating oil was made available to River Authorities and Harbour Boards in 1963.92W
Warren Spring Laboratory have carried out laboratory tests, and in some cases field tests, on many new emulsifiers submitted to them since the "Torrey Canyon" disaster. The results show no reason to amend the conclusions of the earlier work. A senior scientist from the Laboratory joined the team of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy in the South-West on 20th March, 1967, and has been advising since then on remedial measures.
The Hydraulics Research Station has advised on the siting of boom defences.
Work is in progress at Hydraulics Research Station, Wallingford, to test different designs of booms under the various conditions which they may have to meet in tidal inlets. A senior scientist of the H.R.S. joined the team on 26th March to advise on the siting of booms.
The Fire Research Station has advised on the burning of oil.
A mobile laboratory from Fire Research Station is currently in the South-West with a team of five. They are investigating the possibilities of burning oil on beaches and rocks with the aid of oxidising agents. The mobile laboratory moved into the South-West on 3rd April.
Fire Research Station carried out work on the controlled burning of oil in tanks, and on the surface of the sea. (The large scale trials on Langhouse lake were carried out by Ministry of Defence.) Their advice on methods of burning oil in tanks to achieve complete combustion was made available through M.O.T. to the Zuckerman Committee on 26th March.
U.K.A.E.A. have carried out experiments to test the possibilities of using chrome leather waste as an absorbent of oil on the surface of the sea. This has not so far proved satisfactory and has been discontinued. The Authority has also tried strewing straw on the oil and gathering it up. This shows much more promise.
I am sure the House will want me to express its thanks for the work done by these establishments and their staffs.