THE second pair of condemned US warships heading for the North-East are due to arrive within the week, officials said last night.

The Canopus and Compass Island, now being towed across the Atlantic, will dock at the Able UK yard on Teesside until a court decides their future.

A scheme to dismantle them has been delayed by a court wrangle over planning.

Later today politicians are expected to clash over the controversial deal in the House of Commons.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee will question Hartlepool MP Peter Mandelson, Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young and Environment Minister Elliot Morley.

Committee chairman Michael Jack, Tory MP for Fylde Lancashire, has vowed to get to the truth behind the £11m plan to scrap 13 disused US naval ships in the UK, which protestors say breaches international law.

Mr Jack said: "We can well understand why people are confused. We will attempt to get on the record why the Environment Agency said 'Yes' then 'No' and we want to know the views of the local MP whose constituency this is happening in."

Key figures such as Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond and Stockton North MP Frank Cook have submitted written evidence, stating their views on the aged vessels.

Environmental campaigner group Friends of the Earth has also submitted written evidence on the issue.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Governor of Virgina, where the ships have been stored for decades, said the US might have to accept the ships back on the James River if Friends of the Earth wins next month's High Court case.

Ellen Qualls, press secretary for Governor Mark Warner said: "We would have no legal recourse but to allow them to come back."

* The Federation of Small Businesses, which has 720 members in the area, says Able UK's contract to scrap the rusting hulks will mean spin-off work for its mem-bers.

John Wright, the federation's Middlesbrough advisor, says the campaign to stop the ships being scrapped at Able UK, Hartlepool, was "short-sighted''.