Caroline Lucas: I will keep the spotlight on Trafigura

Cahal Milmo
Friday 28 May 2010 00:00 BST

Caroline Lucas used her maiden speech to raise concerns that the British media are unable to fully report legal proceedings involving the commodities trading company Trafigura.

The Green MP pledged to use her new position in Parliament to raise the issue after legal claims were launched in the Netherlands against the company, which chartered the ship whose toxic sludge was illegally dumped in the Ivory Coast in 2006.

The Dutch-based oil trader caused outrage last year when a High Court injunction issued on its behalf had the effect of blocking coverage of parliamentary proceedings involving its activities. The "super-injunction", obtained by the law firm Carter Ruck, was amended after it was accused of infringing the supremacy of Parliament by preventing the reporting of a question tabled by an MP. Politicians from all sides criticised the legal manoeuvre.

The law firm agreed to change the injunction and insisted there was no question that Trafigura had sought to gag the media from reporting parliamentary proceedings.

In her maiden speech to the House of Commons, Ms Lucas said she was still concerned that proceedings in foreign courts were not being reported in Britain. She said: "Last year honourable members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

"There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly. This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here. And these are the kind of issues I would like to pursue."

In unrelated proceedings, a court in Amsterdam is due to start hearing the trial next week of Trafigura for the alleged infringement of Dutch waste export laws relating to the Probo Koala, the chartered tanker whose waste was dumped at sites around the Ivorian city, Abidjan.

The company is accused along with the captain of the vessel, the municipal authorities in Amsterdam and a waste treatment company of breaking rules when the ship attempted to offload the waste in the Dutch city before it then departed for West Africa. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

Trafigura last year agreed to pay compensation of £30m to about 30,000 people who said they had fallen ill as a result of fumes from the "slops". The company said it regretted the incident but did not accept legal liability as the dumping was carried out by a local contractor who had acted independently and without any authority from Trafigura.

In a statement issued last night, the Trafigura said: "Trafigura has always made clear that... the press should be able to report on the matter. So far as we are aware, there are no 'new legal actions' in Holland, as Ms Lucas suggests."

A joint statement released after the settlement said it was recognised that the slops could have caused a range of short-term "flu-like" symptoms but underlined that no link had been identified with more serious effects such as birth defects, miscarriages or deaths.

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