As I stated on 19th June, the Government's decision to extend public ownership in the ports stands. Detailed proposals, which will take account of the consultations we have had and include proposals as to compensation, will be announced as soon as possible.—[Vol. 766, c. 1100.]
Is this yet another version of the menu without prices? Is it not time that the country was given a much clearer indication of what this will cost; and, if so, how can the Government possibly justify expenditure on this scale at this late stage in the decline of their reputation?
As the hon. Gentleman is not aware of what the scale of the expenditure is, I do not know why he is getting so heated about it at this stage. The organisation of the port industry is a very complicated one and the problems are very great. That is one of the reasons why it is important to take the ports into public ownership and why it is taking a long time to work out the best way.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that as already so much expenditure in our ports is public expenditure a great deal of the compensation that is to be given is to be given only to those who actually use the men in discharging the cargo? As dockers are not yet slaves, the amount of compensation is not likely to be all that great.
My hon. Friend is right to draw a distinction between public ownership in this field and public ownership in, for example, the steel industry. Much of the investment is already public investment.
Everybody accepts a very heavy degree of public ownership in the ports industry. This has been so for many years. The hon. Gentleman is being unusually doctrinaire on this issue.