THE COMPANY responsible for the oil spill in Poole Harbour will pay for the damage caused, a Defra minister has told Parliament.

Perenco, which owns the oil field at Wytch Farm in Dorset, will be responsible for paying for the consequences of a leak which saw 200 barrels of reservoir fluid – which is 15 per cent oil – enter the harbour on Sunday.

Defra minister Lord Benyon told the House of Lords the Government will make sure the firm responsible will cough up for damages.

He said: “There are overlaying environmental designations, it’s a very special area indeed.

“It also has an enormous amount of human activity, not least of which is for the tourist income for the local area.

“And we want to make sure that not only are we containing this, but we’re finding out what caused it and doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“The recovery operation now has sealed the pipe. It will be replaced and we will monitor the company that is doing that, that owns this very large facility – and make sure the polluter is responsible for the damage caused.”

Tory peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering asked what compensation there might be for fishermen and tourist businesses for potential loss of income.

Lord Benyon responded: “The compensation is a very clear line of process and that is that the polluter should pay.

“We will assist anyone who feels they have a legitimate case to make to follow that process through.

“But at this stage, it is unclear whether there are significant losses and we’re working with organisations like the Food Standards Agency to make sure that food is safe and that people will be able to continue to produce high quality shellfish from that area.”

A number of different agencies are working on the recovery of the area, including the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Food Standards Agency, the local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority and the Dorset Resilience Forum.

Independent crossbench peer Baroness Boycott asked whether Perenco may be liable to pay for the work of these agencies, as they would have been diverted from other important projects to deal with this emergency.

She said: “It’s really good to hear that you’re going to have the ‘polluter pays’ principle, but I can see that being over specific things like tourism.

“What about the time for the Food Standards Agency and all the other agencies that are going to have to stop doing other work to go down to Poole Harbour to sort this out?

“Is there going to be any compensation from the owners of this oil towards them, towards their time?”

The minister responded: “I think the baroness makes a very good point and I’m not entirely sure what the precedent is in such circumstances.

“But undoubtedly an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money is being spent with all the agencies I listed, and I will have to reflect on that and talk to colleagues.”