Ex-police chief in pledge over Suffolk oil tanker transfers

A FORMER Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has pledged to ensure that ministers are held to account over ship-to-ship oil transfers taking place off the Suffolk coast.

Lord Condon, who was Britain's top police officer from 1993 to 2000, said he will monitor the controversial practice, which is set to be restricted to waters off Southwold from April.

The peer, who has been visiting the Suffolk coast for 40 years and has a holiday home in the area, has been asking questions in the House of Lords about why the Sole Bay area was selected for the oil transfers to take place and the level of emergency planning in the event of a spillage.

'I have a keen interest in environmental issues and friends and neighbours of mine had become increasingly concerned over whether there was adequate consultation prior to this decision,' said Lord Condon, 63, who is a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

'I have also asked about emergency planning and I have been partially reassured by the Government's responses, but I will certainly continue to monitor these issues.'

Lord Condon, who sits in the House of Lords as an independent member, said: 'I have a great love of the Suffolk coast but this is not a NIMBY and I'm not saying 'this shouldn't happen because I live in Suffolk'.

'There are broader concerns about why this is taking place here and how it is going to be monitored. It is not a clear-cut issue and the arguments are fairly balanced. In an ideal world, we wouldn't want this to happen anywhere but I appreciate there is a need for it to take place.

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'I will continue to tease out why ship-to-ship transfers were restricted to Southwold, who has been consulted, what are the benefits and the disadvantages and what emergency planning has been made.'

The Government is carrying out a public consultation into the oil transfers, which ends on March 10.

The area off Sole Bay is used by small tankers bringing oil from Russia to transfer to larger vessels unable to negotiate the Baltic Sea.

People in Southwold have raised fears about the practice and hundreds have signed a petition against the move. They fear the tankers could have an adverse impact on tourism while an oil spill would devastate the coast.

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