Minister motions to allow tanker transfers off Southwold and Lowestoft

The saga of allowing ship-to-ship oil transfers off the north Suffolk coast took another turn this week when Labour MPs made a renewed call for the practice to be totally banned from UK waters.

Thomas Docherty, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, has submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM) urging the House of Commons to overturn shipping minister Mike Penning's recent move to delay his decision on the transfers.

The minister is currently deciding whether transfers should be completely prohibited, allowed to continue in certain zones around the UK coast or restricted to Sole Bay between Southwold and Lowestoft where the Marine Coastguard Agency can regulate the practice.

Mr Penning was due to make an announcement on April 1.

However, at the end of last month, he issued a delaying order - giving him more time to make a decision - after huge number of local people objected to the proposal that transfers should be restricted to Sole Bay . Mr Penning said it would take until May to make a final decision, meaning very earliest that a restricted zone could be created in Sole Bay would be October 1.

Mr Docherty has now tabled an EDM calling for the delay order to be annulled - allowing an outright ban on the transfers which would have come in on April 1 to come into effect.

The motion has been co-signed by Alan Meale, Labour MP for Mansfield.

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If the formal motion attracts more than 200 signatures - and it currently has just two - the ban, which was drawn up by the previous government, could come into effect immediately.

EDMs allow MPs to express opinions on a subject and to canvass support for their views. Only six or seven a year will attract more than two hundred signatures - the amount needed for the issue to be debated in the House of Commons.