THE government has defended the decision to allow the operators of Poole Bay’s oil rig monitor their own compliance with environmental regulations.

Bournemouth council leader Cllr John Beesley has called for independent oversight of the rules on discharging spoils and chemicals into the sea.

Operator Corallian was originally given a licence to drill for 38 days ending on February 28, but that was extended to more than 50 days lasting until the end of March.

Councillors and MPs were angry that industry regulator OPRED did not consult with them before extending the licence.

Cllr Beesley said the council was “not confident that that monitoring is taking place independently in the way it should be” and there had not been any feedback from the regulator.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Companies involved in offshore drilling are required to report any breaches of legislation to the regulator, and the industry has an excellent track record of doing so. In addition, OPRED’s Offshore Environmental Inspectorate has visited the rig undertaking the drilling operations in Poole Bay and is content that operations are being undertaken in a responsible manner and in compliance with regulatory requirements.”

The department says it relies on self-regulation, but that any failure by drilling companies to report breaches of the legislation would “probably be reported by whistle-blowers on the installation”.

The sector was “very compliant” and even reported trivial incidents which would probably be ignored by other industries, it argues.