Shell played by the rules

Shell played by the rules

As an oil industry professional, I was interested to see the article by Mark Saunders "Brent Spar – a debate that's all at sea" (The Lawyer 8 August).

The article revealed a possible lack of balance in the author's views. For instance, while reasoning that Shell had done everything legally required, Mr Saunders made the statement: "In a neat piece of legal footwork, the company placed an offshore installations manager on board the Spar who was empowered to evict people under the Mineral Working Act". This seems as neat a piece of footwork as a security guard on a building site to keep out intruders.

I was further surprised to read the concluding paragraph which effectively reads: "The biggest tragedy would be if it was concluded the best option for the Spar would be deep water dumping 6000ft down on the UK abyssal plain beyond the reach of trawlers' nets." Mr Saunders' qualifying clauses are: "in the absence of any measured debate" and "balancing all the environmental, safety and cost considerations".

How can he make this comment when there was a measured debate which balanced the considerations and which concluded that deep water dumping was the best option?

If the Brent Spar is so dangerous, how can he condone disposal ashore, with all its attendant risks? If the Spar is not dangerous, why is he opposed to dumping in an area where there is no danger to shipping and very little marine life? After all, ships with more toxic cargoes and fuel, sink at one loss every three days, often because environmental and safety issues have been over-ridden by economic arguments.

What Shell has done during the consultation period is: to comply absolutely with the letter of the law as it stands; to make available in the public domain the status and contents of the Brent Spar; to conduct a "measured debate" with those best qualified to contribute; and to balance all environmental, safety and cost considerations.

If the law is inadequate, then it should be changed – by petition to the Government, not by action against those who seek to obey it.

John Ridehalgh

Noble Denton Europe

London EC1A 4EB.

Work for the common goal

I admire the effort and initiative of John Edge's solutions to the conveyancing problem (The Lawyer 22 August) but don't entirely agree with him.

I do not believe the public and consumer watchdogs would accept fees effectively doubling overnight. Fees must be increased to a reasonable level and solid financial reasons must be given for this with salaries and all other overheads explained. It must also be made clear what a busy yet safe workload should be – five completions a week, 10 completions a week or whatever. It must not appear that fees have only been increased to cover the drop in the amount of work.

Although the threat appears to have disappeared for now, excessively high fees may rekindle the Banks and Building Societies' interest in conveyancing services.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders must also make every effort to streamline. The lenders should pay solicitors a sum for the work carried out on their behalf when all documentation is sent. It seems fair to put two reasonable conditions on this: the documents are received by lenders within six months of completion; they are all complete and correct. Lenders should then receive a consistently good service due to the long-overdue financial incentive for solicitors.

Mr Edge's comments about estate agents are potentially dangerous. Estate agents have been treated badly over the years by many solicitors. Solicitors, lenders, estate agents and other parties involved in conveyancing usually have a common goal. Surely they should all work together not fight with each other.

Robert Hailstone


Exeter EX4 4EF.